The new iPhone 7 costs $649—that’s more than a running, driving Jeep Cherokee off Craigslist. So really, you should probably not buy one (a new iPhone, that is. You should definitely buy an XJ). But there are still a lot of new features this iPhone offers over its predecessors that gearheads might find incredibly useful.
As much as I hate the fact that the new iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack, and will require a special adapter to work with existing auxiliary jack-based sound systems in many of our cars, there are some things about the phone that actually make me want to own one.
1. Optical Image Stabilization
OIS isn’t a revolutionary technology in a smartphone; in fact, it’s been around in cell phones since at least 2012, when Nokia launched its Lumia 920. But Apple has been very slow to introduce the lens-stabilizing tech in its products, only offering it in the larger iPhone 6 Plus. But now it’s standard in both the iPhone 7 and Phone 7 Plus. And that’s a big deal.
OIS makes small adjustments to the position of a camera’s lens to compensate for shake, ensuring that high-exposure night pictures turn out well, and videos are nice and smooth.
It’s a big deal for people who frequently find themselves trying to take in-car video, and who’d rather not have the fixed field of view of a mounted GoPro.
I took the in-car GT350R video above with my OIS-equipped Nokia Lumia 1020, and that video turned out far better than it should have, considering I was struggling to keep my arm steady as the G-forces tugged at me through the turns.
So if you’re an Apple fanboy who doesn’t want to lug around an iPhone 6 Plus and who loves recording in-car footage, this should be a welcome addition to the smaller iPhone 7.
If you’re not an Apple fanboy, you’ve had plenty of options for OIS-equipped phones, so this means nothing to you.
2. Water Resistance
I like to work on my cars a whole lot, and that puts me in contact with all sorts of fluids, including coolant, engine oil, transmission fluid, gear oil, washer fluid, brake fluid, brake cleaner, power steeirng fluid, penetrating lubricant... the list goes on and on.
But since I keep my phone on me when I wrench—it’s useful when I have to look up a torque spec, and also for safety reasons—my phone tends to get soaked in all sorts of nastiness. I’ve killed multiple devices thanks to this abundance of liquid chemicals in my garage (and I’ve also probably reduced my life expectancy markedly) but the new iPhone is IP67 water resistant, meaning it’s rated to be submerged in one meter of water for up to a minute.
Who knows, maybe it could handle being covered in oil like the rest of my stuff.
3. A 50 Percent Brighter Flash
Wrenchers like me often use our phones as flashlights when we’re working in a dark spot like under the car or underhood, or if we’re trying to peek into a deep, dark engine coolant passage or transmission case.
I’ll admit that a flashlight is a better tool for the job, as it’s more durable and fits in smaller spaces, but I usually don’t have one on me in a pinch, so my phone gets the important task of making sure I don’t drop something heavy on myself at night.
The new iPhone 7 has a 50 percent brighter “quad-LED True Tone” flash (whatever the hell that means) that’s supposed to throw light 50 percent farther.
That might come in handy if you’re trying to fix a junky Honda at night, or if you don’t want to pay too much for a 1948 Willys because the dark barn makes it hard to see the flaws. These are purely theoretical examples.
4. Larger Aperture, Wide Angle Lens, Depth-Of-Field Mode
The new iPhone has a more impressive camera than the outgoing model, because how else are they going to get you to dump your perfectly functional iPhone 6 for the new one?
Probably one of the most notable upgrades is the larger aperture. It’s an f/1.8, which should theoretically allow in more light than the outgoing model’s f/2.2. Combined with the phone’s OIS, this theoretically will make for clearer pictures when it’s dark, which would be great, because pictures I take underhood or under my car tend to be really grainy.
Another cool feature, on the iPhone 7 Plus at least, is the dual-lenses. There’s a telephoto lens and a wide angle lens, the latter of which could really help when taking pictures in tight spots. I myself would appreciate a wider angle lens on my smartphone when taking video in little nooks under my hood (often times to show to a friend so they can help me diagnose a noise).
And then there’s the new “Depth Of Field Mode,” which Apple says it will release later as a software update on the 7 Plus. They say it uses both lenses to produce a nice blurry background and a fine crisp subject.
Why do we care? Well, because I take pictures of beautiful cars all the time at car shows and on the street, and depth of field can be a beautiful tool for that kind of photography. Here’s a good example from Jalopnik’s talented photographer and video director Mike Roselli.
The shot above shows a fairly deep depth of field, with everything from the car to the mountain in focus. The next photo, while not framed exactly the same, demonstrates the beauty of a shallow depth of field—the car’s wheel is crisp, while the background assumes a mysterious, blurry look.
This could be a better phone for a car enthusiast than the outgoing model, even if there are other non-iOS phones out there that have most of the new iPhone’s features and much more. But if you do stuff in cars and can deal with the lack of a headphone jack, it seems to be a good buy.