Hands on with the iPhone 7, new Apple Watch, and AirPods

Apple's latest hardware wasn't supposed to be all that impressive, but as it turns out, Apple's Sept. 7 event was fairly... eventful.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

As you may already know, Apple announced a wide range of new products at an event in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday.

After the keynote ended, I was able to carve out some hands-on time with both new iPhones, Apple's new AirPods, and the new Apple Watch Series 2. Here are some of my first impressions of Apple's latest and greatest.

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple added a new color to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus lineup. Actually, make that two new colors. Jet Black is a glossy finish, much like the iPhone 3G of years back, while the standard Black color is more of a matte finish. The Jet Black finish is a fingerprint magnet, but the standard Black seemed to ward off my greasy fingers.

Beyond the subtle changes to the antenna lines, the most notable visual cue of the fact you're holding an iPhone 7 instead of an iPhone 6S is the camera bump. On the iPhone 7, it's slightly bigger and far more rounded. On the iPhone 7 Plus, there are now two lenses with Apple's True Tone flash sandwiched between the two.

I wasn't able to test out the new depth-of-field feature on the iPhone 7 Plus, resorting instead to previewing hand-selected demo photos from Apple. Naturally, they looked stunning. If I'm able to pull off the same results (you can see one in the video above), I'll be happy. Unfortunately, the software to enable the new camera feature isn't quite ready. Apple expects the update to come out later this year.

For me, the biggest adjustment I'll have to make when upgrading is the new home button. Instead of the tried and true mechanical home button, Apple has replaced it with its Force Touch technology. That is to say the home button no longer moves. Much in the same way 3D Touch detects how much pressure you're applying to the screen, the new home button does the same. The Taptic Engine provides feedback, letting you know when you've pressed hard enough on the button.

At first I found myself trying to tap on the home button to go to the home screen, instead of pressing on it.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The Apple Watch Series 2 looks and feels identical to original Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch bands will still work with the new model. Internally, everything from processor speed to screen brightness on the Series 2 watch is double that of the original Apple Watch.

You can now swim with it on, and the Activity app is updated to track your swim workouts. A new GPS chip means you can ditch your iPhone when on a run or walk and still record your route.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

By far the most impressive thing I saw in the demo area revolved around the AirPods and its W1 chip. Apple not only got rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but the company is in the process of killing Bluetooth. I could be wrong, but today's announcement and the implementation left a big impression on me.

To pair AirPods with the iPhone 7, you open the headphone's charging box and wait for a prompt to display on the iPhone's screen. You tap "Connect" and you're done. Not only does that complete the pairing process to your iPhone, but using your iCloud account lets every Apple device you own -- be it an iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac -- know which pair of AirPods are yours and will show up as an audio output.

During one demo, I listened as an Apple representative switched the audio streaming into my ears from an iPhone 7 to a different song on his Apple Watch to a movie on an iPad. If you've ever used the AirPlay option on your iOS device to stream audio to an Apple TV, you already know how to switch between devices with your AirPods.

If you've ever experienced the frustration that goes along with switching Bluetooth headphones from your iPhone to a Mac, you know just how impressive the ease of use is here. Instead of turning off Bluetooth on the first device -- or sometimes being forced to "forget" a Bluetooth accessory -- in order to connect it to another device, you tap a couple buttons.

I wasn't sold on the idea of AirPods before the event. Heck, I wasn't sold on the $159 headphones during the event. But after seeing the demo and just how easy they will be to use, I'm buying a pair as soon as they go on sale in late October.

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