Well, now we know all about the iPhone 7. Having watched the announcement this morning, I am left with more questions than I had beforehand, however. First and foremost, why does the iPhone 7/7 Plus not include iris recognition? We’ve seen this feature added to several Android phones over the past year and a half or so. I think it’s time for a premium phone like the iPhone to have this feature. It was great that Apple inspired widespread use of fingerprint authentication on smartphones, but it’s time to catch up with iris recognition. It is, after all, a more secure biometric method; if you’re interested in learning more about biometrics and sensors, Semico just released a report on the topic.
The headphone jack is gone, which is no surprise to anyone. What is a surprise, to me, is that they have announced their own custom wireless chip, the W1, that will power the AirPods (Apple’s own wireless earbuds were also part of the announcement). I want more information about the W1; is it a new wireless technology? How does it compare to Bluetooth, which is also on the iPhone 7? The W1 is likely the result of the 2013 Passif Semiconductor acquisition. If it is true that the W1 is based on Bluetooth Low Energy, that means the AirPods will use much less power than other wireless headphones based on the previous version of Bluetooth. Three new models of wireless Beats headphones were also announced; these will also include the W1 chip. The AirPods will deliver 5 hours of listening time, each. You can use one at a time if you prefer, which I think is an interesting feature. These things are packed with sensors. They have optical sensors to tell when they are placed in the ear; that is their cue to start playing music. Voice accelerometers recognize when you’re speaking and then focus on your voice for better sound quality. There are no buttons, pairing, or switching; they just work with all Apple devices. They will retail at $159, $40 less than Samsung’s Gear Icon X cord-free earbuds, released last month. A key difference between the two is that the Gear Icon X’s battery life is much shorter than that of the AirPods, but Samsung’s devices also work as a standalone music player.
It remains to be seen whether consumers will go for the AirPods, which are unusual-looking, to say the least. Higher battery life for the earbuds will definitely be a selling factor. We’ll be looking for more details about the W1 chip and how it differs from standard BLE chips.