iPhone 7 – Review

8 minute read

Introduction

Welcome everybody, to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. While they look similar to its predecessor, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, these are the best phones you’ve never had. I’ll start with the colours, configurations and prices. This year, there are two brand new colours, Black (which replaces Space Grey) and Jet Black. Silver, Gold and Rose Gold are still available.

The iPhone 7 remains the same price as the iPhone 6s at the time of release, £599, £699 and £799 for 32GB, 128GB and 256GB respectively (that’s right, Apple have finally dropped the 16GB configuration) while the iPhone 7 Plus has increased in price compared to the iPhone 6s Plus, £719, £819 and £919 for 32GB, 128GB and 256GB respectively. Note: The Jet Black is exclusive to 128GB and 258GB configurations. Another note: For the remainder of the review, I will focus on the iPhone 7 as that’s what I have.

Hardware

Apple have done something different this year when it comes to chip architecture. They have always been ahead of the competition when it comes to raw power and what they manage to extract from a chip is outstanding. Let me introduce you to the A10 Fusion chip. The chip is a 64-bit quad-core (a first for Apple) but two of them are high-performance cores and the other two are low-powered cores and only one set of cores are used at one time. The low-powered cores are mainly used for everyday tasks (such as web browsing, emails, text messages and low-maintenance apps). When you play a high-intensive game or when the phone decides it needs more power, the high-performance cores will be used instead to deliver the power required. The two high-powered cores run at 2.34GHz compared to 1.84GHz on the iPhone 6s. According to Geekbench 4, the low-powered cores run at 1.05GHz while in Low Power Mode. Apple claim the A10 Fusion chip is 40% faster than the A9 chip and while I can’t see speed improvements of 40%, it’s definitely faster. Everything just seems to load quicker, no matter what it is. The switch between the two set of cores is unknown to the user, if Apple didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know.

Here are some Geekbench Single-Core scores, just to put in perspective how powerful the iPhone 7 is.

  • iPhone 7 – 3304
  • iPhone 7 Plus – 3295
  • iPad Pro (12.9-inch) – 3013
  • iPad Pro (9.7-inch) – 2932
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 – 1806
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7 – 1786

Yep, that’s right, the iPhone 7 is twice as powerful as the S7 and Note7. This doesn’t mean that the iPhone 7 is twice as fast during everyday use. The iPhone 7 has 2GB of RAM and the optimisation in iOS is second-to-none. I can open 6-8 apps and come back to them later without them reloading from scratch and I can have 10 (probably more) Safari tabs open at once and they’ll be stored in memory and won’t need to be refreshed either.

The Home button has changed in the iPhone 7. You know the Trackpad on the Mac? That’s what it’s like now. It’s a Force Touch Home button. It did feel weird at first but now I’ve gotten used to it, going back to an actual button wouldn’t feel right. When first setting up the phone, there’s a new step called “Choose Your Click”. There are three options available, one being a soft click, two being a medium click and three being a hard click. The feedback is strange at first and it feels like the bottom 1/3 of the phone is being clicked and people have said that it feels different to the feeling you get on the Mac but remember the surface area is much larger. Apple were never going to replicate the same feeling on a much smaller surface area. Of course, as there are no moving parts anymore, the Home button will never fail now, which did affect a small numbers of users (probably due to them pressing harder than required).

Although nothing has been said, Touch ID in the iPhone 7 feels faster. It’s still the second-generation sensor but to me it feels like a third-generation sensor. I’m really glad Apple added the “Raise to Wake” feature in iOS 10 because as soon as I touched the Home button, it’d unlock straight away, that’s obviously not the case now thanks to “Raise to Wake”.

The rear camera (still 12 megapixels) has received a big upgrade and the biggest change is that the phone can produce brilliant photos in low-light which wasn’t the case for the iPhone 6s. It now has a wider aperture rate which allows more light in (f/1.8 as opposed to f/.2.2 in the iPhone 6s). The True Tone flash now has four LED’s as opposed to two LED’s and you can notice the difference straight away when taking photos in low-light. It also makes for a brighter torch! Last year Apple introduced Optical Image Stabilisation to the iPhone 6 Plus. This year however, it’s made its way to the smaller iPhone 7. Optical Image Stabilisation gives the camera lens the ability to move about so that picture and video are much more stable. It’s effect can be noticed more when recording video, everything looks much more smoother and if you don’t have a steady hand, this feature will help you. You can still record at 4K at 30FPS (frames-per-second), 1080p at 60FPS and slo-mo at either 720p at 240FPS or 1080p at 120FPS. The front-facing camera also received an upgrade (which we weren’t expecting), there’s now a 7-megapixel camera lens and the ability to record at 1080p has been added which is a nice touch. The Retina Flash remains the same.

Apple did remove the 3.5mm headphone jack (more on that later, of course) but the space inside the phone didn’t go to waste. There’s now a second-generation Taptic Engine which is more accurate than before and it’s placed horizontally to the left, just above the Home button (where the headphone jack was). The Taptic Engine is the second biggest piece of hardware inside the phone, the battery being the biggest.

Apple have added System Haptics to the iPhone 7. You get very subtle feedback when you carry out certain tasks. The tasks are:

  • When Notification Center hits the bottom of the screen
  • When Control Center fully opens
  • Entering “Jiggle Mode” on the Home screen
  • When you “Pull to Refresh” an app (like Mail)
  • Scrubbing an alphabetised list
  • Sliding through 3D Touch menu on the Home screen
  • Zooming out fully of a photo or website
  • Sliding to delete an email
  • Pressing a button in the Apple TV Remote app

If you don’t like these, you can turn them off. Head to Settings, Sounds & Haptics and toggle System Haptics at the very bottom. So, what’s taken the space of the headphone jack on the outside? A speaker grille. One that doesn’t actually pose as a speaker however. It’s an amplifier. The iPhone 7 now has stereo speakers but the second speaker is behind the earpiece at the top of the phone. The speakers are 2x louder thanks to the amplifier and they sound very clear, they could do with a bit more bass but you can’t expect much from speakers so small.

It’s been a long time coming but the iPhone 7 is now water-resistant and has a rating of IP67. This basically means the phone is dust tight and can be submerged in 1m of water for 30 minutes. People have tested this of course and the results have been amazing. One person submerged the phone in 30m of water for a short time and while some water made its way under the screen, the phone was still fully functional. If you want an example of how Apple have gone about making the phone water-resistant, eject your SIM tray and you’ll notice a rubber seal around it. If you want to learn more about the iPhone 7’s IP67 rating, click here and scroll down to the fifth paragraph.

The Retina HD screen now has a Wide Colour gamut (DCI-P3) display which is cinema standard. Older iPhone’s use sRGB (standard RGB) and while you won’t notice much of a difference if you put an iPhone 7 and iPhone 6s side-by-side on the Home screen, open the Photos app and you will. Colours “pop” more, reds look redder, greens look greener, browns look browner, you get the gist. The display is also 25% brighter but this will only come into effect when Auto-Brightness is on. If it’s off and, again, you put an iPhone 7 and iPhone 6s side-by-side, you won’t notice much of a difference.

For the first time in two years, the battery has increased in size. The iPhone 6s actually had a smaller battery than the iPhone 6. The battery in the iPhone 7 comes in at 1960 mAh and Apple say that compared to the iPhone 6s you’ll get an extra two hours of battery life. This all depends on the user of course, whether they have Location Services enabled, Background App Refresh enabled but I will say, I have seen an increase in my battery life. I’m a heavy user and with my iPhone 6s I’d normally end up charging it a little bit in the evening so I could use it later on at night, with my iPhone 7 I just make it to the end of the day.

Design

I agree that it’s slightly disappointing that we’ve had the same design for three years on the trot now but the new colours (Black and Jet Black) re-energise the design. The Black (which has a matte finish) and Jet Black (which has a mirrored finish) both look fantastic. I have the Black model and you have to see it in person to appreciate the colour, it’s darker than it looks on Apple’s website. The Jet Black meanwhile is a fingerprint magnet and asks to put inside a case. It looks good until you touch it! Note: Apple actually recommended you put the Jet Black iPhone in a case as it’s prone to “micro-abrasions” (Apple’s word for scratches) thanks to its high-gloss finish. The high-gloss finish is achieved through a precision, nine-step anodisation and polishing process. (This is why Jet Black iPhone’s are very difficult to get at time of writing, it needs to go through the process while the other colours, don’t.)

Once change you might notice is that the antenna bands have been tweaked, the ones that ran straight along the back of the phone have been removed and the only ones that remain are the ones at the very top and very bottom. The antenna bands on both of the black phones are very difficult to see and look much better than the ones on the Silver, Gold and Rose Gold phones as they remain white. There are a couple of smaller design changes. The volume buttons are now separated (not channeled like they are on the iPhone 6s) and the chassis of the phone curves up towards the camera on the back. The iPhone 7 has also lost weight, 138 grams as opposed to 143 grams which is what the iPhone 6s weighs.

My Opinion

For those with an iPhone 6s, I can see why the iPhone 7 wouldn’t appeal to you. However, the iPhone 7 is a stunning smartphone. Personally, I love the Black iPhone, I never really liked the Space Grey colour, an all-black iPhone really looks great. I can now use it in the rain knowing that it won’t damage it at all and if I did accidentally drop it in water, it’d be completely fine. The iPhone 7 is slightly faster than the iPhone 6s but when did you ever think to yourself, I need more power? They’ve focussed on efficiency this year with the A10 Fusion chip rather than power and while battery life could always do with more improvement, it’s a good start.

Conclusion

I say it every year but there’s no hiding from it. It’s the best smartphone you can buy today. What Apple have done is add a 14% bigger battery, an improved camera focusing on low-light performance, added water-resistant and a second-generation Taptic Engine while making it even lighter and retaining the same dimensions. As you saw from the Geekbench 4 scores above, the iPhone 7 is twice as fast as the fastest Android phone. Some of these phones have eight cores and 4GB of RAM. This just shows how great Apple are at optimising. The hardware and software is all done in-house which is why everything works so well together.

Some analysts have said that they’d prefer the same internals but a brand new design rather than new internals with a similar design, which is what’s happened this year. The design is known all over the world. You show people an iPhone and they’ll know what it is. Do you see a logo anywhere on the front of the phone? No, because it’s not needed. Apple has its own logo but the logo for the iPhone is the iPhone itself.

There are strong rumours that we’ll see the biggest ever design change next year as it’ll be 10 years since the original iPhone was unveiled on-stage and Apple want to celebrate this. They’ll finally get rid of the bezels and the Home button will be embedded under the screen. The phone may have an OLED display with an edge to it and feature wireless charging. Apple’s endgame is to have a phone with no buttons and no ports and essentially be left with a sheet of glass.

I remember months before the iPhone 7 was introduced that many people were not going to buy it because the design would be the same, just because the design is the same, doesn’t mean it’ll be the same phone. The iPhone 7 is sold out everywhere it’s available, I think that shows something.