The Jet Black iPhone 7 looked virtually seamless as I held it at the T-Mobile store in Manassas, Va. It really was hard to tell where the glass ended and where the gleaming black aluminum case began. But I knew this version of the iPhone wasn't for me.
"That one will scratch too easily," I said to Jacqueline, the sales staffer who was saddled with the task of helping me buy an iPhone 7. She told me that they had sold out of the sleek Jet Black version anyway, but that she could sell me a regular black phone with a matte finish. That would do. In a few minutes, the iPhone 7 was mine and I headed back to the office to try it out.
It turned out that not much trying was necessary. The latest iPhone functionally is very similar to the iPhone 6s that preceded it and the learning curve was slight. The biggest part of the iPhone 7 that took some getting used to was the new home button. Or, perhaps I should call it a "home button-like screen area."
Where there was once a physical button in the lower part of the screen that served as both the home button and the fingerprint reader, the button is now gone. In its place is 'a recessed area on the glass'.
Press it and it will act like the home button did on previous models, except that instead of hearing and feeling a click, you'll feel a brief buzz that Apple calls Taptic feedback.
The idea behind the Taptic feedback is that when you press the area, it's supposed to feel as though you'd pressed a real button and thus confirm that you've pressed the button successfully. While it works, it doesn't really feel as if you've pressed a button that clicked; instead, it feels like a brief vibration of the entire phone.
When you set up the phone, Apple's installation software gives you a choice of three different sensations for the Taptic feedback. None of the three actually feels like a solid click, but you can choose what you like best and then at least know what to expect when you press the home button.
The use of a simulated button actually has a good reason. The new iPhone 7 is water-resistant, and having a large home button would be an obvious entry point for water. The new design avoids that, and eliminates the mad rush to get the phone under cover when it rains.