When mobile carriers quit subsidizing smartphones, most of us quit upgrading them as frequently. According to Gallup, just 44% of users in the U.S. upgrade every two years while most of us now keep our phones until they stop working or become totally obsolete. I’m with the majority.
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So when I heard that all four major wireless service providers were bringing back subsidies for Apple’s new iPhone 7, I got pretty excited. According to the reports, if you trade in your old iPhone and sign up for two years, you get a free iPhone 7. It sounded too good to be true, and, for many, it was.
The deal requires you to hand over an iPhone 6 or 6s in good shape. If you’ve got a 5th generation phone – which the Tobaks were unfortunately still stuck on – you’re out of luck. Sure, you can get a nominal trade-in value for the older models, but that’s peanuts compared to the iPhone 7’s $649 base price tag.
Granted, we could lease, but like many families, we were already spending a fortune on monthly service fees and an additional $27 a month per device adds up pretty quick. Besides, you and I both know that, once you go down that path, there’s no turning back. There had to be a better way.
Then I thought, I’m a loyal customer; that’s got to be worth something. So I called my mobile carrier and, sadly, they did not agree. But I refused to give up and, on the fourth customer service agent – actually a “loyalty program” supervisor – I found someone who understood what a win-win meant.
Turns out our plan had way more data than we used or needed. After some creative finagling and number crunching, I ended up getting all new iPhone 7s for the same total monthly fee. Of course, there was the up-front sales tax, but I’ll get that back when I trade in our old phones. And the supervisor waved the activation fees.
Everyone got what they wanted in the end. Win-win. And three days later, the phones arrived.
I quickly figured out that the easiest way to transfer settings, content, apps and data from the old phone to the new is to do an iTunes backup on the old phone and restore on the new one. The cloud takes too long. That, along with the automated setup assistant and a quick call to the carrier, had each restored and activated in less than an hour.
After setting up Touch ID, Apple Pay, Siri and other tweaks to the settings, apps and what have you, I’ve had a couple of days to play with Apple’s most advanced iPhone yet. Here are my initial impressions, not least of which is that the rose gold is striking.
One of the reasons I balked at the iPhone 6 is that, unlike most people, I wasn’t all that excited about a bigger phone. After spending some time with the 7, though, I found the improved usability of a 38% larger screen (versus the 5s) is well worth hauling around a slighter larger device. And the width is nearly the same, so it feels good in your hand.
Overall performance is vastly improved, courtesy of the 4-core A10 processor. The brightness and color reproduction of the display is hands-down the best I’ve ever seen. The 12-megapixel camera offers better sharpness, image and color quality than its predecessor, and the photo editor supports hand-drawn markups, which is lots of fun.
3D touch definitely enriches the experience in most apps. Battery life seems longer – by how much, I’m not sure. As for the phone’s much-advertised water resistance, I don’t intend to find out, but I doubt if it’ll pass the all-important toilet test. And I have no idea why users are so up in arms over the deleted headphone socket. I don’t miss it one bit.
I instantly noticed some cool new features in iOS 10. The phone instantly wakes up when you raise it. And you can now get way more information from notifications and apps on both the lock screen and by swiping right from the home screen if you enable widgets for third-party apps that support them.
Last but not least, the all-important case. After destroying the screen on my first iPhone, I learned my lesson, tested some cases and settled on Tech21. After countless drops of my 5s without a crack or a dent, its drop protection technology clearly works. And the new Impact Clear case for the 7 is thinner and lighter with a nice grip feel.
What’s the downside? Versus the 5s, nothing yet. But if you’ve got an iPhone 6 or 6s, it’s sort of a toss-up between trading up or holding out for next year’s 10th anniversary phone. And even if you can’t get a subsidized trade-in, now you know there are ways to finagle an essentially “free” new smartphone.