Apple iPhone 7 Review

Apple iPhone 7 Colour options

On the face of things, the iPhone 7 isn’t really much to write home about, for those who’ve either seen or owned an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S, you’ll probably be looking at the above press image by Apple and thinking what’s changed, and you’d be right to as for the most part the design of the iPhone 7 is more or less the same.

Whilst it’s not unusual for companies to repeat a design for over three of their devices, Sony with practically every smartphone including the new XZ, Samsung with the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S7 and Note 7, with the iPhone I guess you do end up expecting more especially from the number release rather than the [S] one, but here we are. Guess Jony Ive is still in the drawing room for next year maybe?

Regardless of physical design, that’s not to say the iPhone 7 doesn’t have a lot to offer for new consumers, it is after all still the latest and greatest Apple has to offer and even in the competitive nature of the mobile industry, still a Smartphone worthy of your consideration, and after spending a week with one we’ve found a bevy of reasons why you maybe should or might not want an iPhone 7.

First Impressions and Design

Naturally one of the easiest way to differentiate yourself with the iPhone 7 from previous models of iPhone would be to purchase either the Black (like we did) or the finger-print scratch-attracting Jet Black colour (which we’ll get to later). One thing we will say about the Black colouring, or matte black as its been known as, is it looks incredibly sleek and looks amazing from every angle, though it’s fair to say that when looking at the device head-on regardless of colour it does look just like a Space Grey iPhone 6 or 6S. Speaking of the iPhone 6, it was the same Silver iPhone 6, which we previously reviewed, which took the 4 photos above using whilst doing our testing.

Display

iphone-7-display

Yes, the resolution hasn’t changed, yes, it’s still an IPS LCD rather than OLED, but that’s not to say the iPhone 7 hasn’t got an improved display because it most certainly has. Whilst Apple claim it’s the bells and whistles, why wouldn’t they, it turns out they’re most definitely on to something, whether you ask display testers DisplayMate, or us, the display has definitely seen improvements in rendering the most blackest blacks we’ve seen on an LCD panel and the most accurate whites, this is one accurate and vivid display.

Whilst the iPhone 7 does render blacks very well, especially on this cool looking iPhone 7 wallpaper, *which you can download for yourself at the bottom of this post* we’re not going to lie and say they’re as good as the blacks produced by OLED displays from the likes of Samsung devices, that just comes with the display technology, but if you’re looking for the most accurate display on a Smartphone for colour production and vividness, look no further than the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

The only area the iPhone 7 probably can’t excuse is resolution right? Wrong. Whilst we wouldn’t stop Apple putting at least a 1080p display in to the 4.7 inch iPhone 7, the fact still remains that the human eye cannot distinguish even the 326 pixel density of the iPhone 7, plus we’d rather have better battery life than worse battery life for an un-noticable display pixel count.

Camera

NOTE: This is a review of the iPhone 7 Camera, for a closer look at what the iPhone 7 Dual Camera can do, click here.

The iPhone 7 has an improved 12 megapixel rear Camera, which has a wider aperture and optical image stabilisation over that same 12 megapixel iPhone 6S shooter to boast (remember OIS was previously exclusive to Plus models), but does that make the iPhone 7 Camera that much better?

We will say if you’ve an iPhone 6, or definitely earlier, the iPhone 7 is a big step up in terms of Camera technology, though we’ll be honest, unless it’s low light, we were hard pressed to tell the differences between the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7, that’s not to say the iPhone 7 is a bad Camera phone it’s not by a long shot, but it’s not the big wow we were hoping for.

Whilst it’s clear the 12 megapixel shooter is a fantastic shooter, one thing we were slightly disappointed with what the struggles in low light, which were hoping the wider aperture should’ve helped, and of course the inclusion of optical image stabilisation to the iPhone 7. Whilst the iPhone 7 was able to capture a much clearer image after the use of tap to focus, just know that whilst you will get the photo you’re hoping for, it does need some help.

One big feature of the iPhone 7 however is Flash, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus now feature a Quad-LED Flash set up, double that of previous iPhone models, however whilst that’s great for lighting up even the darkest of areas with the Flash light, we were left disappointed by it’s rather over Flash in many areas;

When taking the photos above, the ‘Auto’ mode on the iPhone 7 Camera app was suggesting the use of Flash, so we took the shot with both, and as you can clearly see when the Flash is used in this examples, it more than over-exposes the shot leaving the creamy natural colour of the Cat become more of a white colour, which is a shame as the True-Tone Flash of previous iPhones has done much better in this test. Whilst it’s clear the Quad-LED Flash will help in greater low light conditions, we expect it may go a step too far in lighting up the situation.

To summarise, the Camera on the iPhone 7 is indeed an improvement from the previous iPhone Cameras, and yes does have improvements over that of the iPhone 6S, but unfortunately it’s just not comparable to the bevy of incredible Android Cameras released this year from the likes of the LG V20 and Galaxy S7 / Note 7. One thing the iPhone still has over the competition is speed to shoot, and the shutter just seems to get quicker and quicker on iPhones and if you need to get that shot done as soon as, the iPhone will always have your back. One area where the iPhone 7 does completely shine is 4K Video Recording, the built in OIS plus the improved sensor allows for easily the best video recording we’ve seen on a Smartphone this year.

Stereo Speakers and the whole Adapter…thing

iphone-7-stereo-speakers

One of the biggest improvements on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 has to be the incredible Stereo speaker setup. For the first time, finally, the iPhone has an immersive audio experience when viewing content in landscape, whether that be a video on YouTube, to playback of Music, if you rotate your phone to the position shown, the audio experience is fantastic. Just like on the iPad Pro, the stereo audio will rotate with your phone position, meaning the left or right channel will always be left or right which in many examples is just incredible. The set up of one speaker at the front top and second being bottom firing is similar to that found in the HTC 10, though unfortunately like the HTC 10, we do find the speaker up top a bit quieter than the one at the bottom.

The volume output is great as well, whilst Apple’s 2x estimate, we think, is a bit steep, it’s still very loud which, naturally, is useful for Alarms or Ringtones, and, of course, adds to that awesome feel when playing games or really anything you do on the phone.

headphones-iphone-7

But, of course, we can’t continue without talking about the elephant in the room, being the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Whilst Apple do still supply their EarPods, which this year plug in through Lighting, they still sound as rubbish as every in-the-box headphones you get, so if you want to use your own headphones, you will be left with 3 solutions which we’ll run through now;

  1. Go wireless with Bluetooth headphones
  2. Invest in Lightning headphones
  3. Use the included 3.5mm headphone jack adapter

We’re not going to lie to you and say Bluetooth headphones are better than wired, they’re not, Bluetooth 4.1 still can’t carry the full bitrate of loss-less FLAC tracks for example, but if all your files are MP3, AAC / M4A files, Bluetooth is a very good solution to go down, though don’t waste your money on Apple’s very overpriced AirPods, their are many Bluetooth headphone solutions out there and naturally all work, as they would with any Bluetooth device, well with the iPhone 7.

Next up is Lightning headphones. We think you’d be surprised to know just how many Lightning headphones their are out there, and they tend to be priced at the same price plus maybe £4-5 of traditional headphones. Plus, one advantage of Lighting headphones, over say 3.5mm headphones, is they use USB Audio technology, which can also be found in USB-C, which means the Audio DAC is built in the headphones themselves guaranteeing consistent audio quality. We’ve a full written round up of USB Audio you can read about here if you need more information.

Lastly is probably the most simple and we expect most common solution (initially) with the iPhone 7, and that’s to continue using the headphones you own, with the adapter in the box (as shown on the photo above). The iPhone 7 doesn’t have a built in Audio DAC for outputting audio other than its own speakers, so you’re probably wondering how the adapter works. Well, put simply, the DAC is in the adapter, and whilst there’s been confusion over it’s Serial number, in our testing it producers greater Audio quality as the iPhone 6 headphones jack and matches that of the 6S and SE.

iPhone 7 with Lightning adapter and iPhone 6

We’ve tested the audio quality from the same pair of Sony headphones with 25 different songs including acoustic quiet songs, loud bass led tracks to those with a large level of channels in the audio and found that in 22 of the songs tested (versus iPhone 6) we gained more audio volume, but also quality, in the remaining 3 songs we couldn’t actually hear any noticeable difference between the tracks. Needless to say the quality will be great through the adapter.

Now, we know what you’re thinking and trust me, we had this initial impression, isn’t using the adapter awkward on the go? The answer is actually no, other than naturally plugging in through Lightning on the phone itself, the adapter is so small it’s barely noticeable and becomes second nature if you just leave the adapter on your headphones. For those wondering, Apple sell replacement adapters for £9 on the Apple Store.

ildock-adapter-970-80

For those looking for a Headphones plus charge solution, there’s a new adapter called the iLDOCK, which is actually priced around £8/$13 which should fill your need there. Though, we don’t know how good that DAC will be.

Performance

The new iPhone 7 is fast, but you already knew that, just like you already knew that EVERY new flagship device this year is fast, and whilst we can give you the absolutely competition destroying benchmark results, which actually give the iPhone 7 a triple score of that from the Galaxy Note 7 in Single Core and double it with Multi Core, what you actually care about is the do not the push, what we mean by that is everyday use.

Probably one of the internet’s most famous test is done by PhoneBuff, who test Smartphones not by the numbers on a benchmark list, but by launching a collection of Applications and Games, seeing how quick the Smartphone can launch them and take action on them, then finally go back on them to see which are still in memory.

If you can believe it, last years iPhone 6S actually still beats the Galaxy Note 7 which is used to compare against the iPhone 7, so you already know the iPhone 7 is going to win, but it’s when you see by how much which is insane.

iPhone 7 vs Galaxy Note 7 Speed Test

PHONEBUFF

Video provided by PhoneBuff on YouTube.

Plus, we can also vouch for some very impressive performance whilst using the iPhone 7 in real world use, however we do stick to the notion that if you’ve got an iPhone 6S, you won’t find a difference big enough in performance in our opinion.

Battery Life

Battery Rating 4
Battery Rating 4

One of the biggest touts Apple gave the iPhone 7 over the iPhone 6S was an average 2 hour extra on the 7 and 1 hour on the 7 Plus, and whilst we have seen an increase in Battery performance, we wouldn’t quite go that far in our opinions, so the battery once again remains a Battery rating of 4 out of 5. One day we will have an iPhone reach our Excellent rating, but this ain’t the one. As usual our tests included a good 4 to 5 hours of screen on time with gaming and video watching, constantly connected to an Apple Watch, plus occasional social networking with emails on push. We’d typically end a long day on 20-30%, which is an improvement, but batteries have improved across the competition as well which somewhat hampers this.

However, we will concede that the iPhone 7 Plus battery life is a battery king and expect that would do very much better, but we’re not rating that as we didn’t review the Plus model.

If you are experiencing less decent Battery life, here’s a few things we would suggest to help you on iOS:

  • LOCATION: Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Whilst you could completely turn off Location Services, apps wouldn’t benefit, so what we suggest is to basically Disable only apps you know really don’t require it, Twitter for example. In many cases, a new feature of iOS 8 allows you to select for Supported Apps “Whilst using” as an option in Location. This is really useful as it prevents apps using Battery in the background when not using that particular service.
  • BACKGROUND APP REFRESH: Settings > General > Background App Refresh. Whilst Background App Refresh has it’s advantage, some apps really take the bacon with how much they use this feature for no apparent reason, looking at you Facebook. What you can do, like with Location, is simply turn it completely off, or just select some apps you know won’t benefit from background services. Disabling Facebook on this list alone, would probably save you a ton of Battery alone.
  • WIFI/BLUETOOTH ON WHEN NOT NEEDED?: If you’re not using Continuity, or literally are out of Wi-Fi range, not using Bluetooth devices, turn Wi-Fi/Bluetooth off. You’ve got Control Centre, a simply swipe up and single tap could save you a ton of Battery Life. (Speaking of System settings, do know that if you have weak reception consistently, this can lower Battery too.) Though we will state that when connected to an Apple Watch we find battery on the iPhone increases, being the lone exception of this.
  • SCREEN BRIGHTNESS: As obvious and self-explanatory as it sounds it’s true, people put their brightness way too high! If you’re experiencing less than adequate Battery Life, lower your Brightness less than half, maybe even around the quarter level. Disabling Auto-Brightness can also help.

iOS 10

iOS 10

Naurally, the iPhone 7 comes with the latest version of Apple’s iOS software, in this case iOS 10. Whilst iOS 10 doesn’t deliver too much in comparison to iOS 9, a lot of the main focus comes with 3D Touch, which again will be a very big reason to upgrade from an iPhone 6 or earlier to take advantage of a collection of added conveniences which comes finally with 3D Touch, which was still in it’s early days.

Othewr notable features of iOS 10 include the introduction of ‘Home’, Apple’s hub for all your Home Automation applications, which whilst may not be useful today, as the wave of Home Automation begins to take over, having a way to control those simply through one Hub (and a third page on Control Center when enabled), will be incredibly useful.

Apple’s iMessage service is in some ways the single selling point for many people considering an iPhone, and in iOS 10 it gets better with the introduction of the iMessage App Store to purchase Stickers and Extensions for your iMessages, which already has seen a range of support from nearly everything … it’s clear Apple is where it’s at when it comes to developer support even today. iMessage also features Text and Full Screen effects, brings all messaging features previously exclusive to the Apple Watch to iOS and more, making iMessage more than a comparable solution for anyone.

Other notable features of iOS 10 include built in multilingual keyboard support, Apple Pay in Safari, an incredible Continuity feature allowing you to Copy something as you would normally and Paste on any iOS or even macOS Sierra device, which is creepy at first but becomes very useful. Plus, a range of stock applications have seen a redesign, which we’re mostly positive about except maybe the Music application…which may grow on you, though we must confess we tend to control our Music through the Apple Watch so it won’t bother us maybe as much as anyone else. Though, one finally feature is if you don’t like any of Apple’s stock applications, you can finally get rid of them from your Home screen.

However, whilst iOS 10 does feature a range of improvements over iOS 9, it is worth mentioning the fact that iOS 9 is already available for as early as the iPhone 5 and later, plus when it comes to comparing the features you agiants the iPhone 6S, there’s actually ZERO features the iPhone 7 can boast over 6S. Only the iPhone 7 Plus can boast the new ‘Portrait’ mode, which produces a faux bokeh effect which we won’t deny does look absolutely incredible and is built in the Camera app (after iOS 10.1 release), which you can see in action right here!

Though, whilst those features do sound like an improvement and will come as iOS 10 is pre-installed naturally on the iPhone 7, this leads one of our biggest reasons why we don’t recommend the iPhone 7 (yet, maybe) for new customers. The iPhone 7 lags, heavily through tasks, the operating systems is teeming with bugs left, right and centre, and the home-button takes a second or two longer to react in software than the 6S or earlier. Trust us, it’s not great. However, this issues may not be things you care about, if that’s you, good for you, we’d recommend trying the iPhone 7 out in a Store to make sure that’s the case, otherwise this is a poor affair.

Summary

The iPhone 7 is a fantastic Smartphone, there’s no doubt about it, everything has been improved both inside and out, though if you have previously owned an iPhone 6 or have an iPhone 6S right now, we will tell you right now the design changes are more or less invisible, so we’d at least recommend going from a white face to black, or other way around. But when it comes to inside, when you add a super fast processor which will more than leapfrog it in terms of performance for the next 12 months life cycle, a much improved Camera and dual stereo speakers, these are the areas the iPhone 7 redeems itself.

PROS

The iPhone 7 is fast, the A10 Fusion Processor more than doubles performance of the fastest Android phones on benchmarks, and that also translates to real world performance particularly in applications and games.

The Camera on the iPhone 7 now has a wider aperture and OIS for smoother video and better low light photography, even if the software (at the moment) does need some help to produce the best results. Whilst it’s also worth noting that RAW capture is possible now with the iPhone 7 models, you will need a third party app to do so.

The Dual Speakers are incredible, whilst one being on the earpiece and one shooting next to the charging point may not sound like the best option, but it most definitely delivers. Though we must be honest, we do think the earpiece speaker could be a bit louder to match the bottom speaker.

Water and Dust Resistance is finally built in to the iPhone 7, whilst it may just be an IP67 Rating, meaning submersion of up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, that’s more than adequate for accidental water slip-ups, having said that if you check our iPhone 7 Durability Report, the iPhone 7 takes much more than even an IP68 rating would ask for.

CONS

iOS 10 is a mess and we’re hoping this gets addressed sooner rather than later, as not only performance but optimisation just isn’t there on the iPhone 7, which is just unforgivable.

If you have an iPhone 6S, we’re struggling to justify upgrading. Naturally if you have an iPhone 6 or earlier it’s a worthy update, but iPhone 6S users are best waiting out on this one.

Whilst the new Jet Black and Black (Matte) colours are great looking from the back or sides, whilst using either of those models up front, you’d be hard pressed to tell if it’s not a Space Grey iPhone 6 or 6S. Speaking of the Jet Black colour, this we most definitely DO NOT RECOMMEND, as again in our iPhone 7 Durability Report the Jet Black scratched permanently to even soft contact with keys.

Whilst we praised the incredible colour accuracy of the display, we can’t help but think Apple could do a lot better, switching to OLED alone would vastly improve the display against the competition.

No Fast Charging technology or Wireless Charging standard built in to the iPhone, something which is becoming a standard. Naturally you can charge quicker using an iPad charger, but it doesn’t compare to the quicker charging solutions in the competiting Smartphones.

Price (SIM Free)

  • 32GB – £599
  • 128GB – £699
  • 256GB – £799

  –  The iPhone 7 is the first iPhone where we’ve had a struggle to sell it, which is strange as not only is the phone actually rather good, but really as we expect so much more from the company, and it’s hard to deny the great work done by Apple’s competition, a lot of which have features the iPhone 7 simply can’t compete with. Add on to that iOS 10’s garish bugs and terrible software optimisation, it’s a hard pill to swallow.


DOWNLOAD THE OFFICIAL IPHONE 7 WALLPAPERS FOR YOURSELF

Oddly, whilst the iPhone 7 is promoted using these liquid bubbles, the wallpapers themselves don’t even come on the phones, but you can get them for yourself right here, (listed below) shown alongside which iPhone 7 their used for in promotion. Right click the link to the one you want and save, or on mobile devices just tap and save as usual.

Images are 1920 x 1080p .jpg files perfect for either iPhone 7, or match the resolution of iPhone 7 Plus.

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