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iPhone 7 review

evan kypreos

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Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Great screen and speakers
  • Incredible performance
  • Water resistant
  • Excellent camera
  • Clever Haptic engine

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Looks the same
  • Where's the headphone jack?
  • Expensive

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Key Features

  • 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
  • Review Price: £599.00

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.

Related: Apple Watch 2 review – A wearable that's worth it?

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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.

Related: Best Phone to Buy

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.

iphone 7

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.

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WATCH: iPhone 7 video review

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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dave Farrington

September 16, 2016, 12:16 pm

Apple have quite clearly lost their way since the demise of a certain "Steve Jobs". Nothing innovative has come out of Cupertino in years, The invention of the ipod, ipad and iphone is what put Apple back on the map. They really need to start putting their energy into amazing us rather than reinventing the wheel over and over ......

mode11

September 16, 2016, 1:51 pm

There's always the Apple Watch if you want something new to play with, but that's a perfect demonstration of the fact that it's not just innovation that counts, but useful innovation.

The 2000's saw a wave of new categories, as process shrinks finally made CPU performance-per-watt good enough for thin, light, flat multimedia devices. People had been envisioning these since at least Star Trek TNG's PADD, and 1968's 2001: ASO.

That's done now, and it will take a while before miniaturisation advances far enough to open up significant new applications (mixed-reality glasses, local AI, real-time ray tracing etc.). Size reductions tend to work like that - something the size of a fridge-freezer is still big when half the size; it's only when it's 100x smaller that it 'suddenly' becomes portable. Progress may be continuous, but in practice there are thresholds that define sudden 'innovations' that come out of 'nowhere'.

Steve strived for excellence, was very well informed and took an unusually close interest in his company's products - he seemed unlikely to be impressed by bullshitters. This essentially made Apple a meritocracy, making the company very attractive to the brightest and best. It's possible that since his passing, these people are increasingly attracted to other companies / industries (Tesla?). But even if so, no one is really out-Appling Apple yet.

Ruru

September 17, 2016, 1:43 am

has anyone noticed that there's a strange noise on the back of iPhone 7 plus( near the camera) while using it, downloading apps, and the noise became even noticeable while charging... it sounds like it's caused by some sort of electromagnetic Interference... As I know, it's not a single case, apparently it happens to most iPhone 7 plus. However, I have checked on the other iPhone 7 from my friend, you can still notice the noise if you put your ear close enough to the phone.. I am not sure if it only happens to the iPhones in Taiwan, as I didn't see anyone talking about this problem when I check in English.... If anyone does have this problem, or can answer why there's this issue, please reply me.. I am a bit scared it could explode... p.s. I have contacted the customer service of Apple, but they could not solve this problem , the only thing they can do is to exchange it....

lezmaka

September 17, 2016, 10:14 pm

The S7 may look sharper, but it comes at a cost. Anything that has a lot of contrast has a noticeable white border. In the last picture, the entire tower in the S7 has an unnatural white border that's not present in the iphone picture, and it's not the clouds. Even in the places where there is blue sky the border is just as white as everywhere else. Once I saw it in reviews, I can't not see it.

Justin

September 18, 2016, 12:07 am

I use an iPhone 6s for work and a s7 edge for personal use, the iPhone 7 is totally pointless and a clear indication that apples mobile inovation is dead. I still cannot believe people buy these things at the ridiculous price apple charges when they are so basic and limited. No expandable storage is a joke in 2016 and that even counts on ipads which are apparently media devices! Perhaps it's time that phones are released on a 2 year refresh so that they can actually offer inovation instead of removing a head phone jack and dressing that up as forward progress. I'm sure it will sell well as the apple zombies will be camping out for its release for the amusement of the sane as usual

jay

September 18, 2016, 1:26 am

lets start with a question why apple does not do the next step? samsung working with Spen edge features GEAR VR, LG and Motorola works on modeler phones and try to find there way. forced touch is maybe good but not an innovation like fast charging wireless charging. amazon has there ECHO and google working on chromcast and bringing new things on the table and what does apple do for three generation? NOTHING. does the design need to change? NO but move on maybe a bigger screen on the iphone 7

jay

September 18, 2016, 1:29 am

apple ships gadgets with unfinish software like the watch or apple TV.

Jagan

September 18, 2016, 2:42 pm

That phone now have a tail that is longer than charizard's.

nina CHEN

September 21, 2016, 2:43 am

Hi friends,i want to buy a smartphone about $100,with a larger screen,can you introuduce some for me?

Justin

September 21, 2016, 8:12 pm

I'm no apple fan but it's fair to say all mobile phones have peaked, I mean what else can we realistically expect a phone to do that they don't already. I am suprised that this website is doing a review in progress on a device you could some up in a couple of sentences as it's such a ridiculously modest refresh. I'd prefer a bit more coverage on the lg v20, that's a far more interesting phone from what I can see

Howard Allen

September 22, 2016, 2:38 am

How about vkworld t1 plus? Just $109.99,6-inch big disply,suitable for you.You can search the aliexpress to know more

epleguy

September 26, 2016, 5:49 pm

You peeked at people's screens from afar and managed to discern how accurate they are? wow

Displaymate who did an in depth test of iPhone 7's screen wrote:

"Steve Jobs clearly always highly valued display performance and loved bragging about Apple displays, so he would definitely be extremely proud of the exceptional performance of the iPhone 7 display"

Evan

September 26, 2016, 8:44 pm

Unfortunately as far as we know LG has little interest in releasing the V20 Europe. We will try and get a review in once it is available though.

There's a bit more to the iPhone than that, and the fact is that while it might seem like a modest upgrade, the iPhone 7 is still the most read about phone in the world right now.

Paul

September 26, 2016, 10:10 pm

they all do

MontyMole

September 27, 2016, 12:26 am

Only a couple of weeks ago most sites like this were claiming the jack plug was dead. How quickly people change their minds.

LeeTronix

September 27, 2016, 6:29 am

One day but probably never on here, we will read reviews that are positive and not just about this review of the iPhone 7.

That said, if people think that the bezel is to big and they do not like a form or style that has been accepted world wide then guess what - do not buy it. Oooh that was a hard decision wasn't it. I wonder if it was a completely re-designed iPhone from the ground up if they would be any more positive - probably not. I think overall you have a choice to upgrade or wait on for the next upgrade instalment. For me I am completely fine with my 6s Plus and am happy to wait a while, and I think the new iPhone 7 looks great and I like the camera updates, either way you are getting a quality phone and OS.

Mark

September 27, 2016, 7:43 am

Poor battery life?!?! Mine is much better than my old 6S

MarmiteSoldier

September 27, 2016, 11:08 am

The first one you wouldn't recommend? I'm surprised. Since Android reached maturity with KitKat (or even Ice Cream Sandwich), Android powered handsets have consistently outperformed the iPhone in every respect. They can do far more, with greater ease, are completely customisable and aren't locked to a single manufacturer. Invariably they are cheaper too.

npenfold

September 27, 2016, 8:07 pm

Nearly every other review I have read say they have noticed better battery life than previous iPhones. Something I have also seen.

Jay Kim

September 27, 2016, 10:35 pm

it should be. the battery loses it charge. your old iphone 6s is probably at 80% from when you first got it.

Michael Garry

September 28, 2016, 6:16 am

"but would any other company get away with a two-year-old look for a brand-new phone?"

HTC, Sony, Samsung.....

Mark

September 28, 2016, 8:02 am

What I mean is that it's better than my 6S when that was new, it's immediately obvious.

Andrew

September 28, 2016, 8:44 am

I upgraded from a 6 to the 7, deliberated for a while but glad I made the switch. I personally don't see any reason to change designs every two years - just to keep the press happy.

Overall the battery life is the biggest thing I notice (contrary to this article) in a
positive way. I'm a medium user, don't play clash of clans all day or
watch Netflix, but I do use it continually for texting, calling, surfing,
financial apps, Strava, etc. With the 6 I had to recharge before the end
of the day, now I'm able to run to late evening and have 20-30% battery left. I don't
understand sites like this saying "android is better" because they
have all run articles (as have other such sites) proving that iPhones and iOS
handles it's juice way better. Making the phone huge and adding a massive
battery is not a solution for many of us that don't want a phablet.

I'm also very impressed with the camera, which I use often. The brighter
screen, that I use all the time. The home button (no longer physical) -
continual usage. Water-resistance - videos on YouTube suggest it's very
much more capable than Apple's rating. 3D Touch - Excellent and still learning all I can do with it. I even love the simple things, like the phone turning on as you lift it towards you, great for checking notifications on the lock screen. The fingerprint scanner is now stupidly fast too.

Not bothered at all about the headphone jack. There's an adapter for my
Momentum's and my others are Bluetooth.

The Black (I have Matt) is beautiful.

The argument is "wait for the iPhone 8". Well that's all well and
good, and it will be stunning, BUT. It will be generation 1 of the new
design. It will have small flaws that need sorting out at release.
It will NOT restore your beloved headphone jack. And there's nothing stopping 7 owners upgrading to an 8 either ;-)

jay

September 28, 2016, 5:47 pm

but that did not happened three years ago

Richard Spafford

September 30, 2016, 3:35 pm

First, I'm not an Apple Fanboy, so I'm not coming with that bias. After reading your review, which was very thorough and well done, I'm left wondering why a phone as great as your review reveals is a "Don't Buy." Battery life is important, of course, especially if one's phone is his entire tech setup, but there are easy and inexpensive ways to deal with that problem. After reading your review, I'd come away with the opposite of your opinion on buying. My big negative with iPhones (have owned 4 including the current 7 Plus, but am always running a pure Android phone, too) is the screen. I know they made it better, but it's still a very low rent excuse of a screen. Gorilla glass? Oled?
At least you didn't carry on too long about the headphone jack! Couldn't care less about that, and would rather have the semi-waterproof design.

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