Bryan Smith argues that Apple’s ‘best-ever’ iPhone 7 owes large amounts of its success to the heavyweights of the Android world.
It’s always fun to poke at the rivalry between Android and the iPhone. Most tech writers have built a career and enormous fame around their ability to stoke coals, and more than once I’ve waded into the debate to field my position. After Apple took to the stage to announce the iPhone 7 yesterday, I’m placed back in batting position. I feel there’s something that needs to be said.
I’m expecting to be torn apart regardless here just on the rise someone might get from this piece’s headline. From one camp, the Android faithful will exclaim ‘duh’, while on the other, rabid Apple fans are going to tear into my ankles. Read: It‘s here! Apple announces the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
But let’s not beat around the bush – my task as a writer is to provide the comment, and if you disagree with my sentiments, let’s get some healthy discourse going in the comments below.
I use an iPhone 6s as my daily driver, and in my line of work I’m given the unique challenge of reviewing some of the best Android phones out there. I call it a challenge because, more often than not, they’re difficult slabs of tech to let go. This year alone, I’ve had the Galaxy S7 Edge, Xperia Z5, Galaxy Note 5, and Huawei P9 on my hands. It’s been a wild ride, and 2016 isn’t over yet.
Where the Galaxy S7 is sleeker, sharper, and sexier, the Xperia Z5 is what I termed a ‘gentleman rockstar’. The Galaxy Note 5 gave license to thrill, and the Huawei P9’s camera alone broke new ground.
The thing is, I could put all of those descriptions together in a jar, shake it violently, and expel my synopsis of the iPhone 7. It’s a sleek, sexy slab of thrilling tech that dances like Angus Young on new territory.
All-in-all, that’s a good verdict. But, for the first time in ages, I was left with the feeling from Apple’s September Event that the iPhone 7 is the most defensive iPhone yet.
Let’s rewind the clock. The original iPhone was – undoubtedly – a groundbreaking product that changed the definition of touch altogether. As Steve Jobs exclaimed, the iPhone was an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator.
The 3G and 3GS built on that legacy. The iPhone 4 introduced the concept of the aluminum unibody; the 4s brought Siri. The 5 and 5s brought a larger display and Touch ID respectively, while the 6 and 6s arrived with two variants and iOS 10’s latchkey feature, 3D Touch.
All of those developments, more or less, prompted a spoken response from the Android world. Android smartphones have become better looking, grew into larger form factors, got fingerprint scanners, 3D Touch, and even Google Now to boot.
Now, in 2016, we’ve got the iPhone 7 – and this is the first time the Android world doesn’t have to respond – at all – to the iPhone.
Let’s run through the major features. Water resistance? Sony’s been doing it for years, and now Samsung are on board. Dual-camera technology on the 7 Plus? Take your pick from Huawei and LG. Stereo speakers? Choose your weapon from HTC’s BoomSound arsenal, and keep the headphone jack.
The fact of the matter is, the iPhone 7 is pretty exciting – as an iPhone. But there’s little here that can make Android smartphones tremble anymore. The iPhone’s strength is it’s platform, true – but to compare Android to iOS is another debate entirely. In essence, the singular stranglehold iOS retains is the fact that Apple remains in complete control of their mobile operating system and can let guests into the walled garden where and when they choose.
Yet, to revert to my point, iOS wasn’t the major announcement last night – the iPhone was. And while the two might be intrinsically tied together, the fact remains that the hardware platform iOS runs on doesn’t have the edge any longer. If this were a storm of swords, the iPhone has quickly become a blunt instrument in a theater of modern warfare.
The iPhone 7 owes nearly every one of its hardware improvements thanks to the successes of the Android world. What was announced last night has been done before – and what hasn’t (the removal of the headphone jack) – was largely met with an eye-roll when Phil Schiller called the decision to excise that all-important port ‘courageous’.
The iPhone 7 is undoubtedly the best iPhone ever. I’ll stand by that statement until the day I die – but I’ll also maintain that the reason it’s so great is thanks to the successes and failures Android smartphones have been gambling with over the past couple of years.
Sure, my argument can be nitpicked – one could argue that what makes the iPhone great is that Apple can refine every failure and success and make something awesome. To that, I respond that one day we’ll only get to Mars because SpaceX has the gall to try, fail, and try again as it pioneers developments as crazy as reusable rockets in the present day. The achievement of getting to Mars will be remembered, but it wouldn’t have been possible had someone else thrown their hat in the ring and gazed up at the stars. Read: Apple announces the Apple Watch Series 2; its second wearable
To that end, I want to know your thoughts. How do you feel about the iPhone 7? Were you left cold, or was this the best thing to happen to Apple’s smartphone since its inception? Drop a line in the comments below and let’s talk.
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA