Ziggy Zapata Title

IPHONE 7 PLUS

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iPhone 7 Plus

TOP SMARTPHONE

ZIGGY'S REVIEW

I have to say from the start that although I have been involved in computers and IT for well over 35 years, a lot of this time being a professional consultant, computer builder and repairer, I have never been a fan of Apple computers. Sure, Apple computers are excellent and beautifully constructed, but I always found that I preferred the far more technically accessible Windows platform. Apple does not allow people like me to build computers using the Apple operating system iOS, so I have always left Apple products alone, until I bought an iPhone 5.

Up to the start of 2013, I had used a variety of PDAs and smartphones. In fact I had actually brought from the USA to Australia a Palm Pilot Professional when these devices were originally made by the long-defunct US Robotics back in 1997 and that was the time when my paper diary, paper notebook and paper address book hit the garbage bin, never to be used again. Since that time, I have used a variety of PDAs, then integrated PDAs and mobile phones that morphed into what we now know as smartphones. However, I preferred the Windows Mobile platform on these devices, because it was far more versatile than any of the operating systems on other smartphones at that time.

Windows Mobile 5 and 6 were fabulous operating systems and there was a mountain of mostly free applications available for them. I was most happy with my Windows Mobile smartphones until Microsoft announced the release of Windows Mobile 7. I eagerly waited for all the new smartphones with this operating system, thinking that if it was as good as Windows Mobile 6, I would rush out and get one. Unfortunately when Microsoft introduced Windows Mobile 7 in 2012, it was a complete crock, full of bugs, rife with problems and many of the applications were full of bugs or just did not work. So I was faced with a dilemma. Which smartphone with which operating system would I buy, because Windows Mobile 6 on my HTC Touch HD was already 5 years old and ready to be scrapped? So I started investigating the current smartphones on the market.

ANDROID OR iOS?

Nokia, which was the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer, was tanking, because its Symbian operating system was lagging far behind virtually all of its competitors. Research In Motion (RIM) with its Blackberry mobile phones was still very popular with the business crowd, but was doomed to die out because of the lack of functionality.. Windows Mobile 7 smartphones were sitting on shop shelves and not moving and also copping horrendous reviews in the press. The best-selling smartphone at that time was the Apple iPhone and a range of Android-based smartphones were making a large impact. So my logical choice for a new smartphone rested with either Android or Apple products.

I initially liked the idea of an Android-based smartphone, because Android was an open-source operating system and there was a massive variety of Android smartphones on the market, whereas at the time, the Apple iPhone had just one model with three levels of internal memory. The other things I liked about most Android smartphones were that they had user-replaceable batteries and expandable memory (RAM). But my extensive research uncovered a lot of factors that would make me go in the other direction.

WHY NOT ANDROID?

The Google Android operating system is fabulous. It is strongly supported by a huge base of developers, who work tirelessly to improve and upgrade it. But the problem with Android is that its versatility is also its major weakness. Because there are so many different Android smartphones on the market, with different screen sizes and resolutions, different processors, different levels of memory, different physical architecture, different buttons and other features, that designing applications that function exactly the same on each and every Android smartphone is impossible.

I discovered that a lot of applications for Android worked well on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, but would fail miserably on a Motorola Razor or LG smartphone. Then there was the security issue. Because Android is an open-source operating system, any good hacker can manipulate it. Thus scammers and hackers have flooded the Android world with malware, viruses, Trojan horse programs and other nasties embedded in rogue applications that have necessitated Android smartphones to require anti-virus software, just like Windows computers. This adds a lot of overhead to any operating system.

On top of all these issues, the major phone vendors tend to load their particular Android smartphones with all sorts of useless applications as part of their own version of Android, so their products carry piles of what can only be referred to as crapware or bloatware. Initially setting up an Android smartphone can become complex and different on every version of Android smartphone with different vendors. So it is not very straightforward and often leads to problems, especially for users who are not technically savvy.

WHY iPHONE?

So after owning an iPhone 5 for four years, I turned my attention to the iPhone 7 Plus in October 2016. Although my previous iPhone had synchronised with Outlook's Contacts, Calendar and Notes, the mainstay of my business operations, Apple saw fit to disable iTunes synchronisation with Notes, which I found to be a vital requirement. This really annoyed me, but I found a good workaround with a free application called Evernote, which did the same as Outlook Notes, but had many more enhancements.

Apart from that, the massive number of free applications gave me every conceivable facility that I could employ in business and pleasure. I did purchase a couple of applications, but they were more than worth it. Firstly, I bought MetroView, which for me was the best GPS smartphone software that I had ever seen. MetroView also has speed and red light camera warnings, active school zone warnings, as well as a massive database of Points Of Interest and other features. That alone is one of the prime reasons that I own a smartphone and for the measly price of a once-only $6, MetroView can be installed on up to 5 devices. I have it on my iPhone 7 Plus, my iPad Air and my partner's iPhone 7 Plus and I could put it onto another two Apple devices if necessary.

But the other critical application was Backtrax, the simplest and probably the best backing track player around. It is ludicrously easy to use, but the one-off cost of $5 is the best bargain of all time. I use Backtrax on every gig where I need backing tracks and it has well and truly earned its keep thousands of times over and over again. I also have BackTrax on my iPhone 7 Plus with the same set lists as a backup, so that even if my iPad dies on a gig, I can merely connect my iPhone to the PA within a few seconds and keep performing.

One other nice feature is the ability to use the iPhone 7 Plus to store credit card information and be used to pay money literally anywhere that takes a credit card. My iPhone 7 Plus is linked to my Apple Watch that has the same feature, so I literally never pull my credit card out of my wallet anymore. I just double-click a button on my Apple Watch and hold it close to the credit card terminal and the payment is made. I find this to be very convenient and I wouldn't go back to the old way of fishing my credit card out. It's only a matter of time before this function is extended to transport cards such as Opal and Myki.

CONCLUSIONS

So overall, my previous iPhone did everything that I needed. But the iPhone 7 Plus is a real revelation. The dual 12 megapixel camera takes fantastic photos and my old digital camera has been retired. It's so convenient having a high resolution camera always available in the pocket. My iPhone 7 Plus has more than enough memory to store thousands of photos and songs, as well as all the applications I need and more. I bought the 128GB model and although my mantra has always been that there is no such things as too much memory, with my usage, the 256GB model could not be justified.

The best thing about the iPhone 7 Plus is the sheer ease of use. You can put an iPhone into the hands of a complete Luddite and he would be able to set it up and operate it without reference to any instruction manual. For a very technically advanced piece of equipment, the iPhone is exceptionally easy to use and everything works seamlessly. The other noticeable thing is the quality of construction. There's not a better made mobile phone on the market in terms of build quality. Many Android phones are flimsy plasticky devices that feel like toys in comparison to the solid metal and Gorilla Glass construction of the iPhone, which is built like a fine piece of jewellery. The sound out of the stereo speakers on the top and bottom is superb, considering their size.

Setting up a Wi-Fi Internet connection is easy. The applications all work excellently because they have been developed for one platform and one operating system, unlike Android devices. Doing anything on the iPhone is simple and that's the way it should be. After all, at the end of the day it's a mobile phone with a raft of really good functions, but it should be able to be set up and used without constantly referring to a manual or calling a helpdesk. The iPhone ticks all those boxes and it does everything that I want and a lot more.

There are far more accessories for the iPhone by far than for any other smartphone. Cases, sound docks, desk docks, external battery packs, car cradles - the list goes on, but one thing for sure is that if you need an accessory for the iPhone, somebody out there will be making it and you won't get the same variety with any other mobile phone platform.

The iPhone 7 Plus is very easy to live with and the synchronisation and backup with my computer is faultless. If I lose my iPhone, I can literally go out, buy another one, restore everything from my computer and I'm back in business as if nothing had happened. But if somebody finds my iPhone and tries to turn it on, he will only have 10 attempts at entering the passcode before the iPhone wipes all the data on it completely. So I can rest easy, knowing that my confidential data will be reasonably secure.

Sure, Android smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy and HTC One have a plethora of other features, but I can't think of any that I particularly would want on my iPhone, as it is already crammed with so many built-in functions and features that I will not ever use some of them. Of course Android smartphones also have a myriad of problems, such as security vulnerability, application compatibility and synchronisation issues. So after my comprehensive research, I know that I made the right decision and for the time that I have had the iPhone 5 and then the iPhone 7 Plus, I have been ecstatically happy. My kids nagged me to get an iPhone for years and I have to admit that they were right - it's a fantastically good piece of equipment and I would rather have it than any Android devices.