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Quick take: The iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black really shines

The iPhone 7 series was supposed to disappoint. It didn’t look much different from the last two iPhones — a break from update tradition by Apple — and wasn’t expected to offer any wow features that could stir buyers.

But when Apple CEO Tim Cook and other execs unveiled the latest iPhones on Sept. 7, they revealed a slew of lust-worthy features. Housed in silver, rose gold, gold, black or the new Jet Black casings, the new iPhones include a blazing fast architecture; a notably better display; waterproof housing; a new haptic-based Home Button; a dual-speaker setup; and a revamped camera system that in the larger models offers real optical zoom.

img 0020Michael deAgoniaThe iPhone 7 Plus has a new screen that displays a wider gamut of colors.
The only potential for user backlash came in the form of a missing headphone jack, replaced by the Lightning connector.

Despite pre-release angst that the new models wouldn’t sell, the initial batch sold out in minutes on Sept. 9 and delivery times for tarrying buyers slipped into October.

Early bird special

I did not tarry. I was up at 3 a.m. ET on Sept. 9 to order my iPhone, as I’ve done every year since online ordering became available. (Before that, I used to stand in lines all night with several hundred other buyers in Orlando malls.) I managed to get in my order by 3:07 a.m. By then, ship times for the Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus model I wanted were already two weeks past the official Sept. 16 launch date. I opted for the top-end model with 256GB of storage.

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While the iPhone 7 is essentially all-new under the hood, aesthetically, the new kid on the block is the Jet Black model. It’s the one that offers the biggest visual differentiation from last year’s iPhone 6S — the shiny surface finish is the result of a nine-step anodization and polishing process lovingly spelled out at the iPhone launch event.

As I read early reports that these models were magnets for fingerprints and smudges — and saw the ominous statement from Apple that the finish was susceptible to micro-abrasions — I began to doubt my choice. I don’t use a case for my iPhones; what’s the point of getting this year’s must-have model only to cover it up?

As it turned out, worries about the finish were the least of my concerns. I used the Apple Upgrade Program to purchase my iPhone 7 Plus (the program comes with the AppleCare extended warranty and lets you trade in the device for a new one every year). Turns out the Upgrade Program uses the address on file with your carrier, something that cannot be changed. My old address is in Florida. I now live in Rhode Island. See where I’m going with this?

Like other obsessive Apple fans, I tracked my phone as it bounced around Asia, sat for several days with no shipping activity then arrived earlier than expected last week — in Florida. (The renters of my house in Florida were kind enough to overnight the iPhone to my current address, where it arrived after its Where’s Waldo trek yesterday.) Even with all the sight-seeing, my iPhone still arrived two days earlier than the initial estimate.

iPhone 7 Plus Michael deAgonia
The iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black has a mirror-like finish that looks stunning in person, but will quickly become a fingerprint magnet.

The shining

Let’s get this out of the way first. The Jet Black iPhone is indeed mirror-like, with a fit and finish so dramatic that I’ve felt the need to really, really baby it. For the first time ever, I’ve looked into cases. Speaking strictly in aesthetic terms, the Jet Black iPhone is lust-inducing. Its housing is a real-life version of what I’ve always wanted an iPhone to be: sleek and reflective, with a display that shines from the inky abyss like a sci-fi prop come to life.

Sadly, I expect all too soon that the ultra shiny Jet Black finish will be marred with scratches ruining the black jewel. That’s to say nothing about the accumulation of fingerprints and dirt. I know there were other color options, and I refuse to carry a case. So I have decided to accept my fate. Some say that wear adds character to a device, but I wish I could freeze the look of the device directly out of the box.

Somehow, I will adjust.

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