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It’s that magical time of year again: Apple’s 2016 launch announcement took place on September 7th. After months of speculation on what the iPhone 7 would bring (or if it would come at all), Apple put the guesswork to rest.
The company also had news for Apple Watch lovers, as well as an announcement about its headphones. And… that was it. No new iPads, which had been the focus of many a rumor. Maybe more surprisingly, no word on MacBooks either.
Let’s take a closer look, starting with what did get announced, and how useful it is for travelers.
The most-predicted announcement did come true: Apple’s newest iPhone version will be hitting stores mid-September. Just like its predecessor, it will come in two sizes (iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus), The latest version brings a slew of upgrades, including some we never thought would see the light of day.
An iPhone that doesn’t break at the mere sign of water? That you can safely take with you on a beach day? That can take a beer or two being spilled over it? Is this real life?
Apparently it is. The new iPhone 7 will be “splash, water and dust resistant” to IP67 standards. This means it is completely covered against dust, and can be submerged in up to a metre of water for thirty minutes. Sure, you still shouldn’t go swimming with it, but at least it will no longer fall to pieces at the first raindrop.
However, keep in mind that Apple doesn’t replace any iPhones for water damage. Keep experiments to a minimum.
Apple continues to spruce up its Photos feature. WWDC paid attention to existing images with new organization options, and the iPhone 7 turns its focus to taking better images.
The new model has improved optics, adding features inherited from professional DSLRs. The Plus version will come with two cameras, one wide-angle (going down to f1.8) and one telephoto. The regular version has one camera as usual, but it will also allow apertures down to 1.8 too.
The flash is also getting a revamp. Four LED tones, two warm and two cold, give more natural tones and flexibility when shooting.
Another promising update in the iPhone 7 is LTE Advanced, which allows data download speeds up to 450 Mbps. That’s three times faster than the iPhone 6.
Of course, this will only be useful if you’re in a country with an LTE Advanced network available (69 as of July 2016,) but still, we’ll never complain about faster downloads and clearer video calls. Apple also promises better Voice over LTE (VoLTE) connections.
More Battery Life
Just like with virtually every new launch, Apple promises longer between charges. The batteries in both devices have got bigger (14% in the case of the iPhone 7, five percent for the Plus model). That’s good news for heavy users.
The iPhone 7 will last up to two hours longer than an iPhone 6, especially when browsing the Internet and playing video. For the iPhone 7 Plus, the battery is expected to last an hour longer than its predecessor overall.
In other instances, though, battery life is expected to last about long as the iPhone 6, including standby and talk time.
No Headphone Jack
You read it right: there’s no headphone jack in the latest iPhone. Wired sound now comes through the Lightning port.
If you want to listen to music without annoying everyone around you, you’ve got three choices. Use the new Lightning earbuds that replace the older type, buy a pair of Bluetooth headphones, or connect the Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter that comes in the box. Because we all love adapters.
Apple’s come out with its own Bluetooth “Airpods” that we talk more about below, but given pretty much every set of Bluetooth earphones has poor battery life and mediocre sound, we’d suggest sticking with wired options for your next long bus or plane ride.
Apple Watch 2
No, we aren’t big Apple Watch fans. That said, the latest model does have some interesting new features, especially for fitness enthusiasts and active travelers.
The Apple Watch also benefits from the new “splash, water and dust-resistant” mantra, with an extra kick: it will be submersible up to 50 meters depth, rivaling that of the upcoming Fitbit Flex 2.
While the improvement is directed towards pro and recreational swimmers, travelers can take advantage of it as well. If you enjoy water sports, particularly snorkeling or diving (a PADI Open Water certified diver can go down to 18 meters), this is something to get excited about.
In another useful update, the Apple Watch 2 will have built-in GPS, intended for runners and bikers so they can leave their iPhones at home. The Watch will now log progress, show variations in speed and count all daily activity, whether you’ve got your phone with you or not.
What if you aren’t that much of a sporty traveler? Built-in GPS can also be useful as you wander the city, showing your route as you explore and calculating total distance walked. Your stomach might appreciate the watch as well — pair it with its calorie counter, and maybe you can justify another local treat at dinner.
The downside, as usual, is battery life. The Apple Watch isn’t exactly renowned for having a long-lasting battery as it is, and it remains to be seen how GPS will affect that.
Ok, this might not be the most professional of new features, but the craze over Pokémon Go has spread so fast it merits a mention. After all, Pokémon Go has brought new communities, new forms of exercise, even new dating apps, and it will now be available on the Apple Watch.
It can even be useful for travelers. Pokémon Go provides a new way of discovering a city, with walking around a city taking on a whole new purpose. It’s no longer aimless wandering, it’s a scavenger hunt.
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Extras: Wireless Headphones
This year’s product launch might have been short on announcements, but one of them did get people chatting: wireless headphones, aka, the AirPods.
The idea is this: picture the last version of Apple’s headphones. Now, Photoshop the wires out of the image, and you’ve got the AirPods. According to the presentation, as soon as they’re in your ears they’ll start working, connecting to any devices nearby.
They will also identify your voice, filter out noise, and let you automatically control the volume. One cool feature? Taking an earbud out automatically pauses whatever you’re listening to.
Does it sound to good to be true? I thought so too. For me, lots of questions arose about the AirPods.
The first one: if you have more than one device nearby, which will the AirPods choose? This one has an easy solution, as it turns out. You can pick which device to connect, since they will ask you as soon as your AirPods are activated. Ok, this makes sense.
My second, more-important question, wasn’t so easily answered. What if you lose one? The AirPods aren’t linked by anything, to anything or to each other. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen? I checked Apple’s warranty on them, and there’s no word on whether Apple will replace a lost pod, either one or both.
At a retail price of US$150, buying new ones isn’t something you’ll be doing willy-nilly. Sure, they come with a little case to protect and charge them, but that’s something else to carry at all times. And not lose.
Where Are the MacBooks? And the iPads?
We have been asking about them for months, mainly because the MacBook range is in desperate need of an upgrade. The last update was over a year ago, and much longer for the Air and Pro models. Is the Air going to survive? Maybe a new line of Pros is on its way? Or is Apple really saving its love for mobile?
More surprising is the lack of news on the iPads, even though there had been rumors about a new Mini version or even a brand new Mini Pro. Alas, no dice, at least in this announcement. Prices dropped slightly, storage was increased a little, but nothing more.
Some say these updates will come in October, though Apple has stayed mum on the topic. Once again, all we can do is wait.
Will you upgrade to the iPhone 7? Are you also waiting for an update on MacBook? Do you care about Pokemon Go on Apple Watch? Sound off in the comments!
Images via Apple.