The iPhone 7
The iPhone 7 is just over half way through its “flagship” stage. If everything follows the usual iPhone update cycle, the iPhone 8 should be announced on the first or second week of September, relegating the iPhone 7 to “last years flagship”. The iPhone 7 is still a mighty good phone, but how has it fared after just over six months after it’s release? Should you buy the iPhone 7 now, or wait for the more expensive iPhone 8 in September? We’ll find out in this review!
What’s the iPhone 7?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last nine years, you’ll know that iPhones are, and always have been one of the very best smartphones out on the market. The iPhone 7 is no exception, and although it’s design wasn’t groundbreaking compared to the 6s, it’s still a nice design, and I think the lack of change is a sign of maturity from Apple – “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. Released in September of 2016, the iPhone 7 is the latest and greatest iPhone, although the iPhone 7 Plus, which we’ll cover in another review, trumps the iPhone 7 in many aspects, including the camera and performance.
No Headphone Jack
That’s right. The iPhone 7 has no headphone jack. It’ll be an uncomfortable transition, but as people move towards wireless audio, the lack of the headphone jack won’t be so much of a big deal. Right now though, if you don’t have wireless earphones, you’ll either need to use Apple’s bundled EarPods, or the bundled Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter, to get audio to your 3.5mm plug earphones. In my opinion, although annoying, for now, the lack of a headphone jack will become a non-issue by 2018. I have Bluetooth earphones myself, and once you try the convenience of Bluetooth earphones, you’ll never want to go back to using wired earphones for casual listening.
What About High Quality Audio?
There are critics, who point out that the lack of the headphone jack AND APT-X means that the audio you can get out of the iPhone 7 is limited to the SBC Bluetooth Audio codec, which isn’t great. However, I haven’t really heard too much of a difference between wired and wireless earphones, especially if you buy good ones, like the Jaybird Freedoms. However, if you were looking for the best audio, even on iPhones before the iPhone 7, you’d surely buy an external DAC, which gets it’s audio digitally via the lightning port anyway, so lightning really is the way to go if you want high-quality audio.
Design – Overall
The iPhone 7 is beautiful. It’s possibly the best looking iPhone ever, and doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor, which is a good thing. The iPhone 7 looks roughly the same as the iPhone 6s, but hid some of the ugly antenna lines. The antenna lines are really the only thing that held back the iPhone 6s in terms of design, so the iPhone 7 just looks like a better iPhone 6s. Many will be annoyed by the similarities of the iPhone 7 and it’s predecessor, the iPhone 6s (the fronts are indistinguishable), but the iPhone 6s’s design was great, so I think it’s a sensible move.
One of the major things setting apart the 7 from the iPhone 6s is the color options. While the iPhone 6s was offered in Space Gray, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold, the iPhone 7 is offered in Black, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Product Red, and Jet Black.
Jet Black Micro-Scratches
While I’m not a fan of the new black color, I’m even less of a fan of the Jet Black version. Straight out of the box, the iPhone 7 in jet black looks stunning, to say the very least. It looks and feels like the screen is warping around all sides of the phone, and the entire phone body has one color and finish. However, a few months down the line, many people have reported what Apple calls “macro scratches”. These “micro scratches” are actually fairly visible under the right lighting conditions, so if you’re worried about scratches on your iPhone 7 (potentially hurting resale value), don’t buy the jet black version.
Another major feature setting apart the iPhone 7 and 6s is that the iPhone 7 features water resistance. This was done using a variety of different tricks, including, but not limited to, getting rid of the headphone jack. As well as getting rid of the headphone jack, the iPhone 7 replaces the physical home button with a 3d touch equivalent. The 3d touch home button does a fairly good job of tricking you into thinking you’re actually pressing it down, but since it’s a capacitive button, you can’t press it with your nail, something I do quite often. If you also use your nail to press the home button, the new one will take some getting used to.
Hardware – Overview
The iPhone 7 features an A10 Fusion Chip, paired with 2GB of RAM, the same as the iPhone 6s. This contrasts with the iPhone 7 Plus’s 3GB of RAM, though in real world usage, it doesn’t make much difference in iOS. It also has a PowerVR Series7XT Plus graphics processor, which is a six core processor. Along with it’s other slightly hidden upgrades, the iPhone 7 also sports an updated Taptic engine, which is used more extensively on the iPhone 7 throughout iOS than it is on 6s, including (obviously) the home button. It also has a new speaker. The earpiece speaker doubles as a normal one, so you can get stereo sound if you watch videos in landscape mode.
The iPhone 7 doesn’t have a dual lens camera like the iPhone 7 Plus, but it’s a decent camera nevertheless. It’s 12MP, but it’s got a relatively low f/1.8 aperture, as well as optical image stabilisation. The iPhone 6s only had software image stabilisation due to size constraints, so that also explains why the the camera hump on the iPhone 7 is much larger than the one on the iPhone 6s, although contoured better around the body. The front-facing camera has also been upgraded, from a 5MP shooter to a 7MP one. It now also shoots 1080p video, instead of 720p. It also retains the retina flash feature, which is a cool workaround instead of having an actual flash.
Colors and options
As well as having two physical sizes, the iPhone 7 also comes in a multitude of different storage sizes. They are: 32GB (Black, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold only), 128GB (All Colors), 256GB (All Colors). Unless you have a large music collection, or store a lot of photos, 32GB should be fine. If you’re thinking of keeping your iPhone for an extended period of time, 128GB would be a smart choice, to ensure that you can keep using your iPhone, even when app sizes balloon. Just think about using an 8GB iPhone 4s today. Apple claims that this iPhone will last for 14 hours browsing the internet on WiFi, up from 11 hours on the iPhone 6s. That’s a much-needed upgrade, and we’ll find out if this holds true later on in the review.
The iPhone 7 has been updated with a brand new display. It can display the new P3 wide color gamut, compared to the sRGB color gamut of the iPhone 6s. It’s a nice feature, but it’s not particularly exciting. Colors pop out a bit more, much like the AMOLED displays of the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it’s not that useful. What is useful, however, is the fact that the display is brighter than the iPhone 6s’s – 625 nits compared to 500 nits for the iPhone 6s. When using your iPhone outdoors, it can be really useful, but it also causes even more battery drain. That’s something you can’t really afford on the iPhone 7.
iPhone’s have always had the slickest and fastest UI in the smartphone world, and the iPhone 7 certainly holds that title. To illustrate the iPhone’s speed, the iPhone 6s bet the latest Galaxy S8 in a speed test, not bad for a 2 year old phone. The iPhone 7 is ridiculously fast, and although it has paltry on-paper specs, it’s currently the fastest major phone in the world right now. It just feels like a new iPhone, the feeling that there’s nothing between you and your apps, no slowdowns. After using the iPhone 7 for a while, I can say I’m very pleased with the speed. That should come as no surprise, since Apple is famous for its awesome software optimisation.
As previously mentioned, right now there isn’t any noticeable speed difference between this iPhone and the Plus version, which has 50% more ram, at 3GB instead of 2GB. However, as iOS updates, we may well find that the iPhone 7 Plus handles them better than the iPhone 7 does. Gaming on the iPhone 7 is a breeze, as it’s currently the fastest device in the iOS lineup, with the best graphics chip as well. However, heavy gaming on the iPhone 7 will still drain the battery very quickly.
This one’s a big deal. The non-plus iPhones have always been plagued with battery problems, and my personal iPhone 6s doesn’t last as long as I hoped it would. The iPhone 7 performs better than my iPhone 6s in day to day use. However, it’s far from groundbreaking, and I still had to monitor my battery usage closely on the iPhone 7 to make sure I got it through the day. It’s not that much better than the iPhone 6s, about the same as the iPhone SE. Doing any sort of gaming rapidly depleted the battery, to the point that I’d just recommend not playing 3d games unless you were plugged in. If you’re looking for maximum battery life, get the iPhone 7 Plus. The battery is almost twice as big, so there’s a lot more extra endurance packed into it.
The iPhone 7 has a great camera, but it can’t compare with the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s still the same 12 megapixels, but I think it’s a smart move by Apple to focus on the quality, instead of trying to cram more pixels into the sensor. Even at the same 12 megapixels, I found the camera to be clearer and quicker than the 12MP camera on the iPhone 6s. In addition, the iPhone 7 has optical image stabilisation, to reduce shake on photos. This is a major upgrade from the software-only video-only stabilisation on the iPhone 6s.
The camera hole has also grown in size, which is another thing differentiating the iPhone 6s from the 7. It’s a solid camera, and the only thing it’s missing is more depth-of-field. If you want better depth of field, you can use the iPhone 7 Plus’ software depth of field. This only works with the iPhone 7 Plus though, since it has two cameras to calculate the depth and blur the background.
Should you wait for the iPhone 8 or 7s?
The iPhone 7 is one of the best smartphones in the world, but also one of the most expensive. Even more expensive, though, will be the iPhone 8. Rumoured to start at $999, it’s a considerable difference. In my opinion, with only a few months left to go, I’d wait for the iPhone 8 or 7s. This is because you’ll enjoy the benefits of having the latest phone for an entire year, instead of just for a few months. If you’re not too worried about having the latest, the iPhone 7 is still a solid choice, and definitely the phone I would buy, if I had to buy one now.
The iPhone has always been the pinnacle of smartphones, and the iPhone 7 holds that title, though barely. It doesn’t have a great deal of new features, and feels more like an iPhone 6ss, but it’s raw power and awesome camera makes it a great choice for anyone with pockets deep enough to afford one.