5 minutes with Apple's new iPhone 7 Plus

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The iPhone 7 Plus black version sports a nice matte finish. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN
Dual-lens camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus enables you to take photos of up to 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN
Media representatives trying out the iPhone 7 at the hands-on area after the special event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Sept 7, 2016. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

SAN FRANCISCO - By now, you have probably heard that Apple has launched its new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at a special event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

With so many media representatives wrestling and elbowing one another to get to the few iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models available at the hands-on area, I managed to get only a good five minutes with the iPhone 7 Plus black model.

In form, both new iPhones are similar to their predecessors. They are still as sleek as ever. I always have a soft spot for sleek black items. Thus, I like the inclusion of the two black models - black and jet black.

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Black is more of a matte finish, while the jet black has a glossy finish. I would prefer the black model, as any glossy finish means it is a smudge and fingerprint magnet. But it is down to individual preference.

The iPhone 7 Plus is the model with the rear dual-lens camera system with two 12-megapixel image sensors having different focal length - one wide-angle and the other telephoto - to provide up to 2x optical zoom.

A man tests out an iPhone 7 Plus during a media event at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Sept 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

During the presentation, Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller said that the telephoto focal length is 56mm, which makes the wide-angle's focal length 28mm.

The camera app has a 1x icon just above the shutter release. Tap on this icon and you get a 2x zoom. Press and hold the icon, and then swipe to the left or right to go up to 10x digital zoom. It feels really intuitive to use.

But what I am looking forward to is the depth-of-field effect, which is supposed to be available later this year. The dual camera allows for bokeh effect - out of focus area in a photograph - to create beautiful portraits.

I didn't get to try this, but it is interesting that Apple seems to be using this bokeh mode only for portraits. It could very well be used for macro shots as well.

But the headline will be the lack of the 3.5mm headphone jack in the new iPhones.

Never mind the fact now that the new iPhones are water and dust resistant. Or that they have new faster processors and stereo speakers. No headphone jack and that's the end of the world.

Maybe Mr Schiller should not have used "courage" as the reason for making the change. It just makes headphone jack lovers more angry and many will be turning up with their pitchforks to confront Apple.

But for someone like me who rarely listens to music or videos on the iPhone, the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack is not much of a loss.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during a media event at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Sept 7, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Plus, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will include new EarPods with Lightning connector and a Lightning-to-3.5mm headphone jack adaptor for use with normal headphones.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to try the new EarPods to see if they are of better audio quality. But I did try the new Apple AirPods wireless earphones ($238, available in late October). They seem easy to pair and sounded great. But I will take everything at the demo area with a pinch of salt.

My only disappointment with the new iPhones is the lack of wireless charging. If the Lightning port is used for audio, I think Apple should at least give users the option of wireless charging while they are listening to music.

Not everyone likes to use Bluetooth headphones, as the music quality through them is rarely as good and reliable as a cabled one.

The Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be available in silver, gold, rose gold and black in 32GB, 128GB and 256GB models. The jet black version will be available only in the 128GB and 256GB version. Yes, I will definitely go for the 256GB version, as I have way too many photos in my iPhone and will probably have more in time to come.

Pricing starts at $1,048 for the iPhone 7 32GB model, while the iPhone 7 Plus 256GB model will cost $1,588.

Pre-order of the new iPhones starts on Sept 9 before being available on Sept 16.

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