Credit for this review goes to By Evan Kypreos
WHAT IS THE IPHONE 7?
The iPhone 7 entered the world with a bang, thanks to headphone controversy and a price hike seemingly in the wake of Brexit.
But at first glance you’ll wonder what’s changed – it looks pretty much the same as an iPhone 6. I loved that design, but then I loved the design of the iPhone 4 – that doesn’t mean I want a phone that looks like that in 2016. Still the 6 design was good, but would any other company get away with a two-year-old look for its flagship phone?
Get past this and the iPhone 7 delivers a unique experience among iPhones, which is both a good and bad thing. The new features – water resistance, an incredible quad-core processor and, crucially, a 32GB starting storage capacity – are all very welcome. So is the excellent camera that’s had the right upgrades to make photos look better.
But like the eponymous Batman villain, the iPhone 7 has two faces. The removal of the headphone jack feels unnecessary and restrictive, the handset costs more than the 6S did when it was released last year (in the UK at least), and the iPhone 7’s battery life is a real problem.
If you want a small Apple phone you’d be better off opting for the iPhone SE. Alternatively check out our iPhone 7 Plus review. Yes that phone is even more expensive, but it lasts a lot longer and has an even better camera that offers proper zoom. There’s is one other option to consider too if you’re hooked on Apple. The iPhone 6S Plus remains a great phone, has strong battery life and costs exactly the same as the iPhone 7.
IPHONE 7 – DESIGN
There’s not much to talk about when it comes to the aesthetics of the iPhone 7. If you’ve used an iPhone 6 or 6S you’ll feel like you’ve returned home after a long holiday and the window curtains have been changed.
For standing out from the iPhone crowd, the new Jet Black finish is really your only option. A Jet Black iPhone 7 looks like no other handset. It’s not like the plastic iPhone 5C – this is a phone made out of metal, but which is smooth to touch without being slippery. Yes, it attracts fingerprints, but who cares when it looks this good? One not of caution, though. It does mark up a little easily so you’ll need to treat it with care if you want it to keep looking good.
The second new colour on offer is simply called Black. This replaces the Space Grey of previous models and makes the iPhone 7 looks like a mean machine. The other versions available are Silver, Gold and Rose Gold.
The iPhone 7’s size and shape is almost identical to the previous models, however the antenna bands that formerly ran across the back now tastefully curve around the ends, and the camera nub is more rounded. These changes are small, but welcome, although it does mean you won’t be able to use an old 6 or 6S case.
The iPhone 7 retains those chunky top and bottom areas of its bezel and this means it offers less screen space for its size than the HTC 10, LG G5 or Samsung Galaxy S7. The latter has very similar dimensions but comes with a 5.1-inch screen, compared to the 4.7-incher on the iPhone 7. It feels like some other brands have overtaken Apple when it comes to phone design.
That’s all there is to discuss about the aesthetics. However, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to design. Apple’s made some fundamental changes to the iPhone 7 that will affect the way you use your phone for better and worse.
Let’s start with the missing headphone socket. For some people this is going to be a big issue, but it hasn’t been a problem for me.
There are a number of potential reasons why Apple’s decided to remove the 3.5mm socket from the iPhone 7, but the company won’t outright tell us why.
Space seems to be the primary factor when you look at the internal design. The new Haptic engine is a lot chunkier and takes up some of the space, as does the louder speaker that’s been crammed into the bottom. Apple has clearly decided improved features on the iPhone 7 are better than keeping a 50-year-old connection, particularly since wireless headphones have become increasingly popular over the past few years. In fact, Apple has launched its own wireless headphones, called AirPods. Shame you’re going to need ‘courage’ to wear AirPods outside…
That’s all well and good, but for many who own a great pair of wired headphones this will prove a problem. Apple has resolved it to a great extent by providing a pair of Lightning Earpods and a small adapter in the box with the iPhone 7. The adapter lets you plug wired headphones into the charging port. It works well, but you won’t be able to charge your phone and listen at the same time, plus it’s small and easy to misplace.
There are some neat third-party Bluetooth aptX headphone adapters available, such as the £69 Noble Audio BTS, but be prepared for an inevitable drop in audio quality when used with high-end headphones.
I haven’t been too affected by the lack of jack. Having bought into the convenience of wireless headphones a few years ago, I now favour them over my better-sounding wired pairs. It’s a transition I expect many of us will make over the coming years.
The other design change I got to grips with quickly is the new Home button – if you can still call it that.
Gone is the iconic click; it now has capacitive touch sensitivity. That means it works using the tiny bits of electricity in your fingers, just like the screen does, so if you’re wearing normal gloves it won’t function.
Incredibly, I could’ve sworn that the button had some give to it until I turned the phone off and realised that I’d been duped. That’s how good the new Haptic engine is. The feedback it offers tricks your brain into thinking the button can actually be pressed. This isn’t just smoke and mirrors; it feels real. I thought I’d miss the old iconic iPhone Home button, but I don’t.
That Haptic engine is used for more than just the Home button, though – the iPhone 7 now feels like it talks to you by vibrating at key moments. Whether you’re scrolling through the timer or getting a call, the refined buzzes tell you a lot more than the iPhone 6S ever did.
IPHONE 7 – WATER RESISTANT
One of the reasons the Home button has been changed is because of the iPhone 7’s headline feature: water resistance.
Apple may not be the first to create a water-resistant phone, but it’s a brilliant feature to have nonetheless. That’s because one of the main reasons people ruin their phone is through water damage. I’ve broken a phone or two by dropping it in the wet stuff in the past.
The iPhone 7 is hardy enough now to withstand a moderate dunk in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. The iPhone 7 manages an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance, which is a little less than the certification achieved by the Galaxy S7 and Sony Xperia Z5. Don’t let that bother you, though. The difference is small and I’ve used the iPhone 7 in the shower and left it in water for 30 minutes and it still works just fine.
Water resistance is an added level of insurance for flagships that cost a lot to replace. It certainly came to my rescue when I dropped the iPhone 7 in a puddle while camping on a wet weekend.
IPHONE 7 – SCREEN
The iPhone 7’s screen is the same 4.7 inches in size as the one on the iPhone 6S, and doesn’t pack any more pixels. So it has a resolution of 1334 x 750 and a pixel density of 326ppi – what Apple calls “Retina”.
Essentially what this means is that the iPhone 7 is plenty sharp – you can’t spot any blocky pixels unless you plonk it in a VR headset, just a couple of inches from your face.
I’m fine with the current resolution, especially since everything else Apple has done to the screen makes it a real winner.
The iPhone 7’s display is richer than ever before, without looking at all fake. Apple now uses the wider DCI-P3 colour gamut that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iMac and Hollywood filmmakers use, and that’s a very good thing. It means more colours, so everything looks more realistic and nuanced.
It’s perfect for a Netflix binge. Skin tones still look natural, but more lifelike than before, and dark scenes look very good for an IPS LCD screen. Colours are punchier without losing the refinement I’ve always liked about iPhone screens.
It’s brighter and less reflective, too. That makes it a lot easier to look at in bright sunlight. This is the best IPS screen you can get on a phone, but it still lags behind Samsung’s AMOLED screens when it comes to deep blacks.
I can’t quite decide which I prefer – both are excellent.
There’s one area of the display that I’m not quite as impressed with, and that’s with white areas. Whites have a pink tinge, and I actually prefer the old screen on the iPhone 6S when reading an eBook or websites that have a white background.
IPHONE 7 – SPEAKERS
Sound is one area that Samsung hasn’t really cracked with its Galaxy S range. HTC does a much better job thanks to the stereo Boomsound speakers on the HTC 10, and the iPhone 7 emulates these to some degree. It’s not quite as successful, though.
Let’s start with the good bits. The iPhone 7 is loud – very loud. In fact, it has double the top volume of the iPhone 6S, and that’s a good thing if you’ve left your Bluetooth speaker at home. You can happily use the iPhone 7 to listen to a few tunes around the campsite without it being drowned out by the lightest breeze or a crackling fire.
There are two speakers now: one at the bottom and one pumping straight out of the earphone slot. This means you get a little stereo separation, but they’re still too close to make it that noticeable. More importantly, the fact that there’s more than one speaker means it sounds a lot fuller.
Apple has done a great job cramming decent speakers into the iPhone 7, but it’s not performed miracles. Speaker drivers need space around them and the iPhone 7 is just too small and slim to sound amazing. There’s still a distinct lack of low-end thrills. If you like your bassy music on the go then you’ll want to invest in some good headphones or a top-quality portable speaker.
Related: Best Bluetooth Speakers
At its highest volume, the iPhone 7 sounds a bit harsh and tizzy too, while movie dialogue has a whiny edge to it. Notching the volume down a few levels helps cure this.
I am being overly picky here, though. The iPhone 7’s speakers are some of the best on any phone. There’s a whole lot more depth and detail than you got from its predecessors, and the move away from dull mono sound is a welcome one.
IPHONE 7 – PERFORMANCE
This is the most powerful phone I’ve ever used – a statement borne out by some incredible benchmark results.
The iPhone 7 may have kept the same 2GB of RAM as the 6S, but this seems more than adequate. You can have plenty of apps open at the same time and switching between them is fast and slick. That’s where RAM helps.
However, it also packs the new A10 Fusion core and it is a blinder. There’s a reason for the “Fusion” moniker. Apple is using a quad-core CPU for the first time, but it doesn’t use all four of them at once.
Two of the cores are powerful and used for the heavy lifting – 3D gaming, multitasking and the like. The other two are low-powered and much more efficient – perfect for light tasks such as sending texts or using the email app.
If that all sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not new. It’s based on ARM’s big.LITTLE design, and plenty of phones have been using this method to help preserve battery life. I’ve generally been impressed by phones that use it – and the iPhone 7 is no different.
The iPhone 7 is 30% faster than the iPhone 6S. It’s also 12% more powerful than the Galaxy S7.
It’s in the graphics department that the A10 really shines, though. The new six-core GPU scores a massive 37,349 on our standard Ice Storm Unlimited test – 30% better than the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S7. This really is incredible performance.
The question it begs is: does it really matter? I always like having a powerful phone, but flagship devices are so powerful now that there aren’t hugely noticeable differences in use. Sure, some games can jack up the polygons and look slicker, but other than that there’s not a huge amount to do on an iPhone that the A9 couldn’t handle. The iPhone 7 only feels a little faster than an iPhone 6S with both running iOS 10. The 6S opens apps – including the camera app – just about as quickly, although it’s slower to minimise them when you press the Home button.
Of course, the A10 does future-proof the iPhone 7 somewhat if you intend to own it for more than two years.
I’m looking forward to seeing the A10 processor in the next generation of iPad Pro, which is where the benefits should be even more noticeable.
IPHONE 7 – IOS 10 AND APPS
The iPhone 7 comes bundled with the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 10.
Don’t expect a huge change here – Apple’s great at maintaining a consistent user experience through each upgrade and iOS 10 is not different. You’ll get to grips with it right away.
All the improvements are positive, so let’s start with the headline grabbers.
iMessage comes crammed with more features than you can shake a stick at. It’s like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger all rolled into one. You can draw little pictures to send to your friends – before you ask, yes, inappropriate drawings were sent – as well as search for funny GIFs or even send the track you’re listening to on Apple Music.
Apple Music has also had a nip and tuck. It was perhaps the weakest of the music streaming services around, but can now hold its own thanks to a better layout and simpler way to download music to your device.
I’d already given up on iOS Photos in favour of the excellent Google Photos app you can get from the App Store. That automatically groups photos by scene, location and time, as well as creating fun animated GIFs and stylised photos.
It’s no surprise, then, that Apple has taken a few dozen leaves from Google’s book and iOS Photos works in a very similar way now. It’s all the better for it.
However, it’s the less glamorous lockscreen, Control Center and Notifications that I’ve been most impressed with. They’re getting closer to Android in usefulness, so Apple users no longer have to feel like they’re missing out.
There’s a whole lot more to iOS 10 than I’ll go into here, from Siri updates to finally being allowed to delete useless apps such as Stocks. If you want to find out everything about iOS 10, and how to use all the features to the maximum then read our iOS 10 review and guide.
One area I will mention here is how much better 3D Touch is. 3D Touch was a feature first demoed on the iPhone 6S that offers more options depending on how hard you press the screen. I loved it to start with when reviewing last year’s iPhone, but it quickly became irrelevant in day-to-day use.
Thankfully, it does a lot more now. You can hard-press the Torch icon, for example, to offer three levels of brightness. You can also get better quick access to apps and news. 3D Touch has finally grown up and is a feature that’s unique to iPhones.
IPHONE 7 – CAMERA
The new iPhone 7 feature I’ve been most anticipating is the upgraded camera.
Like many things Apple, the results of the photos taken by the iPhone 6S and its predecessors belied the specs of the camera. A whole lot of software cleverness goes into the pics, yet they remain natural-looking. It’s something I’ve always appreciated, even though top-end Samsung and LG smartphones have performed better in some scenarios.
The iPhone 7 comes with a new six-optic lens, OIS (optical image stabilisation) and a wider f/1.8 aperture. All this leads to improved low-light performance. If you like taking photos in dingy restaurants or bars, or out and about at night, you’ll really appreciate it.
There’s more detail captured by the iPhone 7 compared to the 6S Plus, and colours are more realistic, even if the red in the iPhone 7 shot looks like it has a tad too much magenta to it
Getting OIS on the smaller phone is great. It was a feature reserved for the bigger Plus models in the past. This reduces the minor shakes and judders your hands make when holding a phone, which means there’s less chance of blurry shots in poor light – as long as your subject isn’t moving around, of course.
The wider aperture provides a shallower depth of field, so the background blurs more on close-ups
It’s the wider aperture that makes even more of a difference, though. A wider aperture lets more light into the sensor, leading to more detailed photos with less noise when it’s dim. It also reduces the depth of field, so you can create nice soft-focus backgrounds more easily.
There’s even a decent level of detail captured in darker shadowed areas, such as the memorial to the left of this scene
These are the improvements I was hoping for, and they really deliver great shots.
So far, though, I find it doesn’t quite live up to the exacting standards set by the Galaxy S7 in well-lit conditions. I’ve chosen to compare it to Samsung’s flagship, as we think it’s offered the strongest phone camera around, until now.
The iPhone 7 treats the sky better, but the Galaxy impresses with greater contrast and detail
In good light the iPhone 7 performs well, but not quite as impressively as the Galaxy S7. In very low light or tricky mixed lighting, it’s the iPhone 7 that stands out.
There are no manual controls to tinker with like you’ll find on some Android phones, however the iPhone seems to take good pictures regardless of the settings. There are a few inconsistencies, though.
These photos were taken less than a second apart, but note how much brighter the baby is on the left, as well as the clipping at the top where the sun hits the grass
I found the exposure to vary from picture to picture taken one right after another. One picture would overexpose and blow out the surrounding sky and clouds, while the next would be spot-on, providing more equal exposure across the board.
Apple has doubled the brightness of the flash too, so if it’s really dark you can still take some good shots. It still uses the True Tone system which attempts to adapt the colour of the flash depending on the ambient lighting. This helps provide more realistic skin tones as opposed to the ghost-like quality some LED flashes bestow.
Taking video using the iPhone 7 is also a joy. You can shoot at 4K or 1080p if you want a higher framerate. Slo-mo is still as delightful as the first time we used it, and it’s dead easy to select which bit of a video goes slow and which moves at a normal pace.
The front-facing camera, or FaceTime camera, has also had a boost. It now has a 7-megapixel sensor and selfies look a little better than before.
IPHONE 7 – BATTERY LIFE
I’ve already mentioned that the iPhone 7’s battery life is a problem, and it really is. I’ve found myself constantly out of juice before getting ready to hit the pillow, even on days when the phone’s only been used moderately.
In fact, I’ve found myself abandoning Pokémon Go entirely – some might say that’s a good thing – since any apps that use the GPS seem to drain the battery even faster.
It’s a little strange that this should be the case. The iPhone 7 actually has a larger battery than the iPhone 6S and a processor that should help with efficiency. And in some cases it does last a while. For example, it hardly drops any charge at all when not in use.
However, in practice, I’ve found the iPhone 7 has the shortest battery life I’ve experienced on any mainstream phone over the past couple of years. The larger iPhone 6S Plus or Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge are miles ahead of it, and it doesn’t even come close to the tiny iPhone SE.
Apple claims the iPhone 7 has a longer battery life than the iPhone 6S by two hours, but I’m not sure under which circumstances. I’ve been so surprised by its lack of stamina that we tested a second iPhone 7 just in case there was something wrong with my review sample, but the results were the same. It lasts a little over 6 hours of constant use.
I have found myself compensating for it. I rarely need to charge a phone during the day, but I realised I’d been borrowing a colleague’s Lightning cable regularly since I started testing the iPhone 7. When I’ve been out and about all day I’ve been using a battery pack to stay juiced. It’s not ideal by any stretch.
The below battery-drain test was conducted with the screen at a comfortable 60% brightness and the speakers on halfway, where appropriate.
- 2 hours of Netflix using speakers: 100% to 72%
- 1 hour of web browsing over Wi-Fi: 72% to 58%
- 30 minutes of gaming (Clash Royale, sound off): 58% to 46%
- 1 hour of Apple Music using Bluetooth headphones (screen mostly off): 46% to 38%
- 15 minutes of video and 50 photos: 38% to 23%
- 20 minutes of call time: 23% to 16%
- 20 minutes of Google Maps (screen mostly on): 16% to 10%
- 38 minutes of web browsing over 4G: 10% to 0%
You do get some more life out of it if you turn the screen right down. Leaving the iPhone 7 at quarter-brightness gives you almost 15% more life, but it’s too dark for my eyes. That great screen is there to be enjoyed and whacking the brightness right down makes it lose its sparkle.
A minor saving grace is that it charges reasonably quickly. It gets to 81% from empty in an hour and is fully charged in less than 90 minutes. It’s not quite fast-charging – the Galaxy S7 charges in 75 minutes and the OnePlus 3 in just an hour – but it’s not too bad either.
If you don’t use your phone much – just browse the net, make a few calls and texts, take a few pics, listen to some music and don’t play games – you’ll be alright. Anyone else might want to wait for our review of the iPhone 7 Plus as, based on previous Plus experience, it should last a lot longer.
I only hope that the battery problem is a software issue and can be remedied in future updates. I’ll update this review if that’s the case.
IPHONE 7 – CALL QUALITY
I’ve been happy with the call quality on recent iPhones. Generally, all phones have this down these days, thanks to noise-cancelling microphones that cancel out general hubbub.
The iPhone 7 deserves a special mention, though, since the ear speaker can be very loud if you want it to be. That means if you’re a little hard of hearing or work in a noisy environment you’ll appreciate it even more.
SHOULD I BUY THE IPHONE 7?
Barring its battery life the iPhone 7 is a great phone. Its camera, screen and performance are awesome, and the water resistance is a real boon.
While the starting capacity of 32GB isn’t exactly massive, it’s a lot better than the piddly 16GB we’d become so used to. The jump is big if you need more – up to 128GB and then a ludicrous 256GB for the top-of-the-range model. I’m not sure who’d need that much storage on a phone that can’t be used as a hard drive, but the option’s there.
- Great screen and speakers
- Incredible performance
- Water resistant
- Excellent camera
- Clever Haptic engine
- Poor battery life
- Looks the same
- Where’s the headphone jack?
- 4.7-inch 326ppi wide-colour-gamut display
- 32, 128 and 256GB storage options
- Water-resistant IP67
- A10 Fusion chip
- 12MP camera with OIS
- 7MP front camera
- Taptic engine with 3D Touch
- Manufacturer: Apple
Read the original article at TrustedReviews