iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Review

 
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iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Review

Highlights

  • iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are the fastest phones you can buy
  • They feature great improved cameras, and come in two new colours
  • Gadgets 360 rates both iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus 9 out of 10

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus launch this September represented a departure from tradition for Apple - and in many ways, a risk. Instead of the usual tick-tock cycle where each ’S’ release is followed by a brand-new design, the new iPhone models look pretty similar to their counterparts from the previous two years, and sport nearly identical dimensions.

There are more changes than there are in a typical ‘S’ cycle, but if you have a Rose Gold iPhone 6s or a Silver iPhone 6 Plus, for example, the differences may not be apparent at first glance. In a world in which a device’s reception is driven by its looks, it was no surprise that the initial reaction to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus was lukewarm.

Apple didn’t help matters with the "courageous" move of dropping the headphone port, with everyone and their friend Jack outraged even before anyone had a chance to test the impact of the move in the real world. So how do the new iPhone models stack up against their predecessors and competing flagships from the Android world? Like last year, we’ve spent more time than we do with most phones before sharing our thoughts with you, and here’s our review of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus design
As we mentioned earlier, the new iPhone models can easily be mistaken for their predecessors at first glance. The most visible change is that two of the antenna lines that marred the otherwise beautiful design of the previous iPhone models have been removed. The ones that remain are flush with the top and bottom edges, making them a lot less prominent than before; in fact, on the Black and Jet Black variants they are all but invisible.

Which brings us to another break from tradition - the launch of not one, but two new colours. Gone is our previous favourite Space Grey, replaced with two great new options – Black, and the rather imaginatively named Jet Black. While the former has the same classy, understated matte finish as before, the latter features a glossy finish that makes it a bit of fingerprint magnet.

iphone 7 jet black back iPhone 7Jet Black iPhone 7

This year, we received a Black iPhone 7 Plus and a Jet Black iPhone 7 as our review units. We spent our initial days alternating between using the two as our primary phones, before we ultimately settled on the iPhone 7.

This was down to two reasons. First, the Jet Black finish itself. As we stated in our Sony Xperia XZ review, the Jet Black finish gives the best in-hand feel we’ve experienced with a mobile device. The finish has just the right balance between grip and smoothness. In comparison, the Black finish on our iPhone 7 Plus felt a bit too boring. Of course as someone who’s looking to buy a new phone, you can get the Jet Black finish in both iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, so this won’t be a factor for you.

Second, as we will discuss through the course of the review, the differences in performance and features between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus isn’t the same as between iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, so apart from the slightly cramped typing experience (we were using the iPhone 6s Plus as our primary device before), we didn’t feel like we were ‘settling’ for the smaller iPhone. Now we admit part of the appeal of the iPhone 7 could be our nostalgia for smaller phones in a world where every other new release seems to be pushing the envelope on how big a phone can get.

Back to the Jet Black finish, and fingerprints are not the only thing it attracts - as Apple itself points out on its website, the new finish is more scratch-prone than others. Since we love the finish so much, and have never been fans of cases, we used the iPhone 7 without any protection for the duration of our testing, and for most of this time we couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Despite using it as our primary device for over two months, we didn’t notice any scratches on our Jet Black iPhone 7 - until we saw our unit under a particular light and then dozens of tiny scratches at the back suddenly became visible!

Thankfully, this wasn’t a case of not being able to un-see something after having seen it. We went back to business without really being bothered, but if you are someone who worries about the resale value of your phone, this is something you might need to keep in mind.

iphone 7 keyboard iPhone 7Typing on the iPhone 7 felt just a little bit cramped

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus display
Have you ever ordered something online only to find that the colours don’t quite match what you saw on your screen when it arrives? Don’t blame the store, blame the limitations of technology.

Not many realise this, but the colours that you see on screen - whether it’s your mobile, laptop, or any other device - are only a visual approximation of real colours. In fact, no electronic device is capable of accurately representing the entire range of colours that occur naturally. Every display and even devices like cameras, which are used to capture colour information, have an associated colour profile that defines the range of colours (aka colour space) that they can display or capture. To ensure interoperability across devices, colour profiles have been standardised, and the most popular one is called sRGB. This is used by most displays (computer and mobile), cameras, printers, and other devices.

Let’s take the example of an image where you have multiple shades of red - for example a gradient that goes from an extremely dark shade of red to the lightest possible red. While in the real world you will see this as a continuous stream of colour with virtually infinite strains of red in between, while capturing this information, your sRGB camera is limited by the number of red shades available in its colour space. This means that every pixel that doesn’t have a corresponding exact match in the sRGB colour gamut is replaced by its closest match. This is the main reason why gradients never look as smooth on our screens as they do in the real world.

Like we mentioned earlier, we haven’t been able to make devices that accurately capture 100 percent of the colour information available in the real world, but there are devices that can capture more colour information than the sRGB colour space, minimising the inaccuracies introduced by digitisation. One such colour space is the DCI-P3 colour space that has a 25 percent larger colour gamut than sRGB, which means the approximation of colours that it offers is closer to the real world than what you get with standard sRGB devices.

Now it’s important to understand that just having a display that supports the wide-colour gamut doesn’t mean you will see images and colours that are closer to the real world - the picture that you are seeing should’ve been captured using the wide colour profile to begin with. If your camera or scanner approximated the colours down to the sRGB colour space while capturing the image, there’s nothing your fancy wide display can do to offer a better viewing experience.

iphone 7 display iPhone 7 Display

This long-winded explanation is a precursor to tell you that while the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have wide colour gamut displays (as Apple calls them), it doesn’t really make much of a difference in most day-to-day situations since most visual information is still being captured in the sRGB colour space. This means that most of the time the P3-capable displays are rendering a sRGB image, and it’s no surprise then that they look pretty similar to other displays. Even when you are viewing content that’s captured using the DCP-P3 colour space, you may not really notice the differences on the relatively small smartphone screen.

This is further compounded by the fact that every smartphone out there uses colour matching techniques to display DCI-P3 content on its sRGB display, and every panel manufacturer may use a different algorithm to approximate the colours. Thrown in the differences in luminance, saturation, and other factors across screens, and there’s no saying which display will look the most ‘appealing’ to the naked eye. But Apple’s switch to the P3 colour space is about accurate colour reproduction and not how good the images look, and on that count the display on the iPhone 7 is said to be "virtually indistinguishable from perfect".

As you would expect, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus’s cameras are capable of capturing information in the P3 space. While the new iPhone models as well as the latest MacBook Pro and iMac models will show these colours off in all their glory, you may not see them the same way while using any other phone or computer, unless of course your device is also listed to support the P3 colour space, like the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. To be fair, these inaccuracies are unlikely to bother the Average Joe using any other smartphone, but purists can rejoice in the knowledge that the iPhone 7 can now accurately display 4K content that’s captured in the DCI-P3 colour space, just like many expensive new television sets.

The displays on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus continue to way behind the competition when it comes to resolution and pixels per inch, but this hasn’t bothered us in the past, and using the new models was no different. Text still appears sharp, and pixelation was never a problem. The new displays are rated to be 625 nits bright, compared to 500 nits each in the earlier models; a difference that’s clearly visible when you, say, put the iPhone 7 Plus next to an iPhone 6s Plus. Suffice to say the displays on the new iPhone models are bright enough for any situation.

iphone 7 plus black iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus performance and battery life
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus famously do away with a physical home button. Instead of a button that moves when pressed, you have a static, solid-state one that uses Apple’s so-called Taptic Engine to simulate the feeling of a button press, which makes the experience more natural for users. The change means there are fewer moving parts in the phone that can break, and Apple says this, in part, also made it possible for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to be water resistant.

While setting up your new iPhone, you are asked to choose an intensity level - 1, 2, or 3 - that determines the amount of ‘feedback’ you get from the fake button. We left it and 2 - the default - and it’s safe to say that the first few hours with the new home button were a little awkward. We weren’t quite sure how much pressure to put on the button to register a press, how to trigger the Reachability shortcut, how to double tap, etc. After missing a few actions the first day, we got used to the new home button and now we don’t feel there’s anything amiss - that is when the device isn’t powered off.

When your iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus is switched off, the ‘button’ has absolutely no feel to it, which is a bit unnerving to this day. The natural instinct is to try and press the home button, but if the device is off, nothing happens at all, and though it isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, we felt it’s worth highlighting. Another thing to remember with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is that the new way to force restart them is to hold the power and volume down buttons, not the power and home buttons as with all previous iOS devices.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have the same Touch ID fingerprint scanner as the last generation models did, which we described as too fast for their own good. We’d stated in our review of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus that it might make sense for Apple to switch to AMOLED displays to partially mitigate this problem, so certain elements like time can be visible on screen without waking up the entire display. While that hasn’t happened (yet), Apple has done something in an attempt to tackle this very problem.

The new iPhone models will wake when lifted, which eliminates the need to touch any buttons if you just want to wake up the phone’s display and see the time and notifications on the lock screen. This means you no longer have to touch the home button to see notifications. Still, picking up your phone can be more awkward than just tapping the home button in many situations, so we aren’t entirely convinced if we have a satisfactory solution yet.

iphone 7 iphone 7 plus back ndtv iPhone 7 Plus

It’s worth pointing out that with iOS 10, Raise to Wake also rolled out to older iPhone models featuring the M9 motion coprocessor - the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. An inconsistency seemingly related to the feature’s implementation across all models is that that the display doesn’t automatically wake up for all incoming notifications. We tried various combinations of apps and notifications to figure out situations in which the display wakes up automatically to show an incoming notification, and when it doesn’t, but we couldn’t identify a pattern. This was especially confusing when we were, for example, specifically waiting to hear from someone or waiting for an OTP to complete a transaction, and we had to raise the phone or press the home button to see that the message had indeed arrived without the display waking up at all.

When it comes to raw performance, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are the fastest phones on the planet, period. Day-to-day performance is a breeze, and while we did experience minor stutters on the iPhone 7 Plus in the pre-iOS 10.1 days, we have had very little to complain about since we installed the update. The iPhone 7 never suffered from any of these niggles, and despite the fact that it lacks the marquee camera features – though it packs in all the important ones, as we will see in a bit - and has weaker battery life compared to its bigger sibling, it became our preferred phone out of the duo, as we stated earlier.

This is largely down to the improved battery life on the iPhone 7 compared to the iPhone 6s, as it can last an extra couple of hours on 3G/ 4G networks. While the battery life on the latter was just about enough to last a day, we always had a certain amount of range anxiety when it came to the battery life of our iPhone 6s, and preferred the extra bit of insurance that the 6s Plus offered in that department. This hasn’t been the case with the iPhone 7, and while we would’ve obviously liked the battery life to be even better, those extra couple of hours seem to make a big difference.

Though the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus should each last you a day on a single charge, if you are a heavy user, the bigger iPhone still has clear benefits. In our battery loop test, the iPhone 7 lasted just under 10 hours, while the iPhone 7 Plus with its bigger battery but higher-resolution display lasted just over 10 hours. But in real-world usage, the iPhone 7 lasted us a day of moderate to heavy usage, while the iPhone 7 Plus had some juice left in the tank even at the end of busy days.

The two phones performed identically in all our benchmarks, and blew the competition out of the water in most of them. In AnTuTu, the two phones scored over 176,000, way ahead of the likes of Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the Google Pixel XL. Only the much newer OnePlus 3T comes close, but it still scored nearly 2000 points less than the iPhone 7 Plus in our tests. We saw similar numbers with Geekbench’s single-core test, in which Apple’s offerings were an order of magnitude ahead of all other phones (including the OnePlus 3T). It was only in the Geekbench multi-core tests that they finished second-best to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. If the browser-based tests like JetStream, Octane, and Basemark Web 3.0 had been boxing matches, they would have been stopped in round one, with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus declared clear winners.

Apple fixed our biggest complaint with the previous generation iPhone models by finally bumping the internal storage on the base model to 32GB. Interestingly, the iPhone 7 Plus has 3GB of RAM while the iPhone 7 makes do with 2GB (though you won’t find any mention of this on Apple’s website, in typical Apple fashion). This does not seem to make any meaningful difference to the day-to-day performance of the two iPhone models - in fact our experience with the bigger iPhone 7 Plus was marginally worse, as described earlier.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus now have stereo speakers, at the top and bottom of the display. The left/ right channels swap around as you rotate the phone, and the top speaker takes the role of the right channel when you are looking at your phone in the portrait mode. Apple claims that the speakers deliver output that’s twice as loud as the ones in previous-generation iPhone models, and our experience was in line with this claim.

Both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus support VoLTE out of the box and worked just fine with the Reliance Jio network for calling and data during our tests. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are "splash, water, and dust resistant", rated to survive for up to 30 minutes when submerged up to 1m deep, but the warranty doesn’t cover water damage. We’d advise you not to take them swimming with you, but feel free to use them around the pool.

iphone 7 jet black calling iPhone 7

The other big change with the new iPhone 7 models is of course the missing 3.5mm jack. Millions of lines have already been written on the subject - many of those on this site itself - so we won’t go into the pros and cons of the move, but instead focus on what our experience was like during the review period.

As far as audio quality is concerned, the Lightning EarPods are no different to the EarPods that shipped with the previous generation iPhone models. We’ve been asked whether users need to muck around with any settings to get them to work, and the answer is no - audio starts playing through the EarPods as soon as you plug them into the iPhone 7’s Lightning port, just like regular headphones.

The obvious downside of this is the fact that you can’t charge your phone and listen to music - or perhaps more significantly for some, take a hands-free call privately - if your phone is being charged. We missed this ability exactly once during our two-month old review period, and that didn’t really feel like enough of a reason to invest in third-party accessories that solve this problem. Your mileage may certainly vary, and it’s possible that you’ll end up being frustrated more frequently. If so, you will need to buy accessories, which is of course expensive, and might create new problems such as having one more thing to carry around - or you can choose to go wireless, again at a cost. If you are an audiophile, you likely already have a collection of third-party headphones, which may now need the bundled dongle to be useful.

Interestingly, our lengthy review period made us realise that the problem works in reverse as well. Once we got used to travelling with only our Lightning EarPods, we ran into a couple of situations. On a flight, for example, we found ourselves staring at a 3.5mm jack, unable to do anything. We faced the same problem whenever we sat in front of our MacBook as well. Apple ships a dongle with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which lets you use your 3.5mm headphones with the new iPhone 7 models, but there’s no adaptor that will let you use your Lightning EarPods with a ‘legacy’ device.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus cameras
Each year’s iPhone has traditionally been that year’s best camera phone, but that wasn’t necessarily true for the iPhone 6s Plus, the flag-bearer of the previous generation when it comes to camera performance. As we noted in our review, while it captured great photos in most situations, its low-light performance didn’t quite match what we got from Samsung’s competing offerings. Perhaps for the first time, Apple needed to play catch-up when it comes to camera performance, and as a result, this year’s models both have major changes to the optics.

Though the rear camera is still rated at 12 megapixels, the iPhone 7 has a brand new sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, six-element lens, and optical image stabilisation - a feature that was only present in the bigger iPhone model last year. While the f/1.8 aperture is an improvement over last year’s f/2.2 aperture, it’s still not as good as what you get with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge which can go down to f/1.7, meaning its sensor can let in more light than the iPhone’s.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard that the iPhone 7 Plus has a dual camera setup. While most manufacturers have used the additional rear camera sensor to capture depth information, and some others have used it to capture black and white information to improve contrast and definition, Apple has gone with a slightly different approach. The iPhone 7 Plus has the same wide-angle f/1.8 lens seen on its smaller sibling, but also packs a second f/2.8 telephoto lens that allows for 2x optical zoom.

iphone 7 plus 1x iPhone 7 PlusiPhone 7 Plus at 1x

iphone 7 plus 2x iPhone 7 PlusiPhone 7 Plus at 2x zoom

The camera app on the iPhone 7 Plus acknowledges this change with a new on-screen button towards the bottom. By default this reads 1x, which means you are using the regular lens. Tap on it and it changes to say 2x, which means you are now using the 2x telephoto lens. If you tap the button and hold it briefly, you are presented with a circular slider-like interface where you can choose the zoom level between 1x and 10x at 0.1x intervals (anything beyond 2x is digital zoom, obviously). Between, 1x and 2x zoom, the software supposedly combines images captured by both lenses to create a fused image, though the exact lens that is used at any zoom level depends on a variety of factors including the amount of available light.

The telephoto lens gives you the convenient option of getting a closer look at subjects you are a little distance away from, without having to resort to cropping later. We found it particularly handy when attending events where someone was presenting on a stage as we sat in the audience, and were extremely happy with the results.

As far as image quality is concerned, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus certainly benefit from Apple’s new image sensors, and the pictures we took in daylight looked natural, with best-in-class colour reproduction and plenty of detail. Low-light performance was also much better compared to the previous-generation iPhone models, but still marginally behind that of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which always manages to surprise us with the amount of light its sensors are able to capture even when it seems dark to the naked eye. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus did manage to capture more colour information compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Google Pixel XL, though overall we found low-light images taken with the Samsung phone the best.

Tap to see full-sized iPhone 7 Plus camera samples

The iPhone 7 packs in optical image stabilisation, a first for the smaller model, which means that performance on the two iPhone models is identical, apart from features that the secondary sensor enables. This means that unlike previous years, you don’t have to settle for worse camera performance when you pick the smaller iPhone.

Having said that, the dual-camera mode on the iPhone 7 Plus enables another cool party trick - Portrait Mode. Available since the iOS 10.1 update, this feature lets you blur the background of a photo to get a cool bokeh effect, traditionally associated with DSLR cameras. It’s available as one of the modes (like Photo, Video, Panorama) in the Camera app on the iPhone 7 Plus, and you can see an approximation of how an image will come out. The app also tells you if you are too close to the subject for the mode to be effective.

In practise, Portrait Mode has limitations that, while understandable, may not be evident to everyone who uses the app. For example, if the person whose picture you are trying to take is standing with multiple objects at different distances behind them, the results are not very effective. This is also the case if the subject and background are of roughly the same colour. When Portrait Mode works though, the results are quite good, and you would love to share them on social media. The app saves two versions of each Portrait Mode image - the standard image, and another with the depth effects applied.

iPhone 7 Plus regular image - tap to see full size

iPhone 7 Plus Portriat Mode effect in action - tap to see full size

The Camera app is pretty much what you’ve seen on earlier iPhone models. The one new option (introduced in iOS 10.2) that some may find useful allows the Camera app to remember the last Mode (e.g. Video/ Square etc.) and Filter (e.g. Chrome) that was applied, instead of automatically resetting the options to Photo and None respectively.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus both have quad-LED True Tone flashes, compared to the previous models’ dual-LED ones, and this is one of the most effective, least overbearing camera phone flash implementations we’ve come across. The screen flash on the front camera is another one of our favourite features, lighting up faces in a natural way even in completely dark settings.

Talking about the front camera, there are improvements like a bump to 7-megapixel sensor (compared to 5-megapixel), and full-HD video recording, compared to 720p seen on the iPhone 6s generation. As you would expect, the front camera also adds wide-gamut support, as well as auto image stabilisation.

The front and rear camera now also support body and face detection (compared to only face detection in previous generation iPhone models), and you can use the optical zoom on the bigger 7 Plus during videos too. Other than that, the experience is pretty much identical to that with the previous generation iPhone models.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus software
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus come with iOS 10 out of the box, and while we’ve explored the new features elsewhere, let’s briefly touch upon some of them here. Perhaps the first thing you will notice is that the iconic Slide to Unlock is now gone; replaced by the initially confusing Press home to unlock. While this took some getting used on our previous-generation iOS devices, it feels a lot more natural on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus thanks to the redesigned home button.

The other big change on the lock screen is the introduction of widgets. Swipe right and you will be greeted by a list of widgets, which were earlier restricted to the Notification Centre. The notifications that you see on the lock screen are also richer, letting you do a lot more than before. Whether you just want to check some information via the widgets or quickly respond to a message or an email, there are fewer reasons to unlock your iPhone.

Of course this means you are potentially exposing a lot more information than before to anyone who might have physical access to your device, even without unlocking it. Thankfully, iOS has always had the ability to control the kind of notifications that are displayed on the lock screen, and you can obviously choose the widgets you want to see as well. You can also disable lock screen widgets completely if you want.

Another big change that you might or might not notice is the ability to ‘uninstall’ some of the stock apps that iOS devices ship with. If you’ve ever looked at, say, the Stocks app or the Podcasts app, and thought you don’t have any use for them, there wasn’t really a way of getting rid of them from your device. What most people ended up doing is creating a folder (hello Apple Junk) that became the dumping ground for all such apps. Now, you don’t need the folder anymore; you can simply remove these apps like you’d remove any others.

There are still a few things you need to remember though. First, when you uninstall an app, you are not really removing it from the device - the only thing that gets removed is its icon. This means you won’t free up any space on your device, which is a bit of a shame. On the flipside, if you ever want those apps back, just search for them on the App Store and they will ‘install’ in seconds.

iOS 10 iOS 10Lock screen widgets (left) and what happens when you tap a 'mailto' link with the Mail app uninstalled (right).

Second, while you can uninstall most of Apple’s apps including the likes of Mail, some apps deemed critical to the operating system’s functioning cannot be removed. These include Phone, Messages, Settings, Camera, Photos, and Clock. While the ability to remove apps like Mail is nice, iOS still doesn’t let you set up a third-party email client like Gmail as your ‘default’ (aka handler of the ‘mailto:’ protocol), which is rather unfortunate. If you have uninstalled Mail and happen to click on a ‘mailto’ link, you will be greeted with a dialog that prompts you to again download the Mail app from the App Store. While Apple has taken steps towards opening up its mobile operating system since to the early days of iOS, it would be nice to finally have the ability to choose a default browser, email client, mapping application, and, dare we say, voice-based assistant - the latter, we realise, might be a bridge too far.

Apple has opened up iOS 10 a little bit more with Siri integration, Maps extensions, and CallKit extensions, with the latter enabling deep integrations like TrueCaller. Third-party developers can now extend the functionality of Apple’s virtual assistant in certain predefined ways, so for example, you can now use Siri to hail an Uber, or to send someone a WhatsApp message. Needless to say, developers need to update their apps to take advantage of this functionality, and a lot of popular apps have done so since iOS 10 was released.

Maps extension let Apple Maps leverage data from third-party apps and even extend their functionality. Zomato, for example, offers an extension that lets you see results from Zomato’s database while you are using Apple Maps. Both Uber and Ola offer extensions that let you book a cab from within Apple Maps. These extensions are silently installed but disabled by default, and you need to manually enable them under Settings before you can start using them. Of course none of this will really matter to users in India, since there are no signs within iOS of Apple Maps data in the country becoming anywhere near as good as that of Google Maps, or even basic features like navigation being supported.

iOS 10 brings a bunch of other features, some of which we’ve covered earlier like iMessage apps, enhanced use of 3D Touch (including the ‘X’ at the top of your notifications screen to clear all notifications), Universal Clipboard (which is a bit hit-or-miss in the real world), a revamped Music app, and enhanced QuickType predictive reactions. The Photos app has a new face recognition feature that tries to identify people and group your photos accordingly, similar to what you might have seen in other apps.

Apple takes great pains to reassure customers that all analysis of your photos and private data happens locally on your own device, but looking at the results, we have to wonder whether that’s a good trade-off. For starters, the level of recognition that the Photos app achieves leaves a lot to be desired. We were left with multiple groups of photos for the same person, which means it failed to recognise the same person in different situations. We tried to merge groups, but since these results are not synced up to the cloud, we had to repeat this process all our other devices (Photos on Mac uses a similar approach).

iphone 7 siri iPhone 7 Siri

This is in contrast to, say, Google Photos, which does a much better job of identifying individuals across different photographs and also offers much more flexible search capabilities. In the Photos iOS app, you can only search for broad categories (e.g. Beach, Ball, Sculpture, etc.), apart from Places (each photo you click on the iPhone has location data), and the aforementioned People. Though Google Photos is a relatively new app, it builds on the cloud and machine learning expertise that Google has developed over the years, and feels a lot more mature than Apple’s.

While we are on the subject, let’s thrown in another Photos-related complaint - we hate the fact there’s no way to share entire libraries between family members. Every time we come back from a trip, we find ourselves trying to remember whose iPhone we took that picture with; or at the end of the event, having to use AirDrop to quickly send photos to each other. Yes, Shared Photo Streams exist and they are great for sharing stuff selectively in certain situations, but we wish that iCloud Family Sharing had an opt-in common photo library and shared cloud storage quotas as well.

While the cloud may not be Apple’s area of expertise, iOS remains the only platform that realistically offers security and the timely release of new features via software updates. The software update situation in the Android world shows no sign of improving; a stark contrast to the Apple side of things where a four-year-old iPhone 5 today receives updates the same day as Apple’s newest flagship phones.

Verdict
It might sound strange to say this when talking about the most valuable company in the world, but Apple doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for its engineering efforts. The A10 Fusion chip inside the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is a prime example of a company at the top of its game, and the way everything just comes together, especially on the iPhone 7, is nothing short of spectacular. We’ve been using the device for over two months now, and it still manages to delight us every single day.

Yet, if you believe everything you read, you’ll come away with the impression that Apple is a marketing company that happens to be in the technology business, and its success is down to its ability to convince people to pay for its products, instead of any real technical acumen. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus cost a premium, but they deliver on almost every possible parameter, and they are certainly no stopgap before the rumoured tenth anniversary iPhone next year. Apple might of course wow us all next year by releasing something completely new and different, just like it did with the original iPhone, but that doesn’t take away from what you get from this year’s iPhone models right now - amazing performance, great cameras, good battery life, timely software updates, future-proof displays (in terms of colour, if not PPI), and a design that’s up there with Apple’s best efforts.

If you are confused between the iPhone 7 and the 7 Plus or wondering which colour to get, we would like to put our weight behind the Jet Black iPhone 7. Yes, it gets scratched, but it’s a joy to hold - and use – every single day. The smaller iPhone’s camera now packs in the all-important optical image stabilisation feature, and the secondary lens isn’t reason enough for most people to pay a premium for the big iPhone. However, the extra RAM on the iPhone 7 Plus could theoretically make it more future-proof, especially if Apple’s rumoured move into the world of AR materialises, so you have a bit of a decision to make there.

While there’s obviously a lot to love about Apple’s newest flagship phones, they aren’t perfect. The more time we spent with the iPhone 7, the more its bigger sibling seemed ungainly and just a tad bit slower in comparison. As we’ve mentioned before, Apple needs a reboot of the iPhone design to improve the screen-to-body ratio of its phones compared to other manufacturers – thankfully, rumours suggest we’ll get just that next season. We also wish the iPhone 7 had all of its bigger sibling’s features and specifications, so customers could choose between the two on size alone, and not worry about missing out on something - now, or in the future.

The missing headphone jack didn’t bother us as much as we imagined it would, and it’s clear that Apple is pushing us towards a wireless future, even though its other big push for wireless audio hit a few bumps along the way. All in all, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus set the foundation for some fundamental technology like wide-gamut displays and wireless audio that will form a key part of Apple’s ecosystem going forward, and they do that while being compelling offerings in the present.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Best-in-class performance
  • Good battery life
  • Improved cameras
  • iOS 10, timely updates
  • Bad
  • Low light camera performance not best in class

Display

4.70-inch

Processor

quad-core

Front Camera

7-megapixel

Resolution

750x1334 pixels

RAM

2GB

OS

iOS 10

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

12-megapixel

Battery Capacity

1960mAh
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Great performance
  • Dual camera
  • Excellent battery life
  • Improved cameras
  • iOS 10, timely updates
  • Bad
  • Low light camera performance not best in class
  • Expensive
  • Ungainly

Display

5.50-inch

Processor

quad-core

Front Camera

7-megapixel

Resolution

1080x1920 pixels

RAM

3GB

OS

iOS 10

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

12-megapixel

Battery Capacity

2900mAh

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4.5 out of 5 stars
Kunal Dua

Editor by day. Editor by night. Wannabe writer. Full-time cynic.

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