Apple iPhone 7 review
|Review: September 2016|
In a nutshell: The Apple iPhone 7 keeps the same look as the previous model, but is now water-resistant and comes in a Jet Black colour option. The iPhone 7 is faster, with more memory, a better camera and longer battery life, but the price has gone up again. Oh, and the headphone jack has been removed.
Design & looks
Surprisingly, the Apple iPhone 7 looks almost exactly the same as the iPhone 6s, which in turn was almost the same as the iPhone 6. Is it the perfect design, or has Apple run out of ideas?
One thing is new - there's a different choice of colours. Space Grey has gone, and in its place comes not just one black, but two different blacks. Available in Jet Black, Black, Silver, Gold and Rose Gold, it's the Jet Black gloss finish that Apple wants everyone to see. Coincidentally, the Jet Black version is only available in the more expensive 128GB/256GB memory options - more about this later. It's also a magnet for scuffs and scratches, by the way. You could hide it in a protective case, but then why choose the shiny version in the first place?
The iPhone 7 remains a compact phone, and is a good size to handle, unlike the monster dimensions that nearly all Android phones have grown to. It's lighter than most phones too, but not that light. And it's ultraslim, at just 7mm thick. The ergonomics are superb.
Another new feature is that it's splash-, water- and dust-resistant. You can now take your phone into the bath, although we wouldn't recommend it, and be certain never to take it swimming in salt water.
The screen is exactly the same size and resolution as the iPhone 6s and 6. The 4.7 inch screen feels small by modern standards, but is necessary given the overall compact size of the phone. The 326ppi pixel density feels more and more entry-level every year Apple persists with it, and we'd have liked an upgrade to a Full HD screen a couple of years ago. Instead, Apple has given us a screen with a wide colour gamut, which most users won't notice, and an increase in peak brightness, when the screen was already bright enough. What was really needed was an upgrade to Full HD and ideally a shift to AMOLED technology, like Samsung has been using for many years. Perhaps the iPhone 7s will give us that next year.
3D Touch is still here, even though we still don't really like it. And sadly, the circular home button is no longer a real button, but has become pressure-sensitive. Why, oh why? This was one of the features that we liked about the iPhone, and we suspect that a lot of other people did too. Try using the new iPhone wearing gloves and you'll quickly start to miss the old button too. The home button still incorporates a fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone.
A10 Fusion chip & new memory options
One thing about iPhones is that they keep getting faster. The new A10 fusion chip is the fastest yet, although the RAM is still fixed at 2GB. In practice, it's hard to tell the difference the new chip makes. The iPhone 6s was already lightning fast, and apps seem to work just the same.
One thing that has changed for the better is that the 16GB memory option has been scrapped at last. 16GB has been too small for years, especially since the iPhone has no support for memory cards. 32GB is a much better starting option, although power users may still find it too restrictive. The other options are 128GB and a massive 256GB. Irritatingly, the "correct" 64GB option has been taken away.
As is the custom, a new iPhone heralds a new release of iOS. iOS 10 is quite a big upgrade, bringing in new versions of Messages, Maps, Photos and Siri. There's more integration of 3D Touch, and you can now wake up your phone to check notifications just by picking it up - handy if you're wearing gloves and that pesky home button won't respond.
New iSight camera
Both the front and rear cameras have been upgraded.
While the main camera still has a relatively low 12 megapixel sensor, it now has a wider f/1.8 aperture that helps it to capture shots better in low lighting. The optical image stabilisation that was previously only available on the iPhone 6s Plus is now available in the iPhone 7, and that also helps with shooting in poor lighting conditions. The True Tone flash has been upgraded to use four LEDs. The iPhone 6s camera was already excellent, and these enhancements make it even better.
The optical image stabilisation is perhaps even more useful when it comes to shooting video, and the iPhone 7 does an excellent job of recording video at resolutions right up to 4K.
The front camera has been boosted from 5 to 7 megapixels and now incorporates digital image stabilisation and video recording up to 1080p HD.
Connectivity - the headphone jack is no more
The iPhone 7 supports a wide range of LTE bands, plus fast Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. NFC is present, and GPS and GLONASS positioning are available.
But what has happened to the 3.5mm headphone jack? It's gone. Instead, Apple provides EarPods that plug into the Lightning Connector. There's also a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. The reason why Apple has done this is debatable, and we're not going to get involved in that discussion. One thing that we can safely say is that removing the 3.5mm jack in no way increases the utility of the phone.
Stronger battery life
The iPhone 7 has a slightly larger 1960mAh battery compared with the 1715mAh of the iPhone 6s. The new Fusion chip also uses less power than the previous A9 chip. The result is that you can expect to get a couple of hours more use from your phone between charges - up to 12 hours of internet use. That's an improvement that all users will welcome.
Reviewing iPhones is a frustrating business. For while iPhones are undoubtedly beautiful shiny things, and iOS is easier to use than Android, there's always a list of things we don't like.
Let's start with the positives. The improved camera and longer battery life are clear wins. The new choice of colours is cool, even if the Jet Black scratches so easily. Water-resistance is a feature that we'll happily say yes to, and the 32GB starting memory is definitely a good move.
There are things Apple has given us that we didn't want. The brighter screen and the faster processor don't make any difference. We really wanted a Full HD AMOLED screen and expandable memory.
We certainly didn't want the home button to lose its click, and the loss of the headphone jack benefits consumers in no way whatsoever.
So, you win some, you lose some.
But wait. We didn't mention the price yet. If you buy the iPhone 7 on contract, you're looking at £50 per month over two years. We think that's an insane amount of money to pay for a phone, and that's for the entry-level model.
Apple iPhone 7 features include:
- iOS 10 Operating System
- 12 megapixel camera with touch autofocus, quad-LED flash, HDR, BSI and optical image stabilisation
- Video camera: 4K at 30 frames per second / 1080p at 60 frames per second
- 7 megapixel Facetime camera with Retina Flash and 1080p video recording
- Retina HD display with wide colour gamut: 4.7 inch IPS touchscreen with 1334 x 750 pixels and 3D Touch
- Siri intelligent assistant
- Second-gen fingerprint identity sensor built into the Home button
- Assisted GPS and GLONASS with digital compass and Maps app
- A10 Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture, embedded M10 motion coprocessor
- Memory: 32GB, 128GB or 256GB
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO), NFC
- 4G LTE plus UMTS/HSDPA plus Quad-band GSM
- Size: 138 x 67 x 7.1 mm
- Weight: 138g
- Video playback: 13 hours
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Apple iPhone 7 user reviews
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