Apple iPhone 7 full review
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Right now, we seem to be in a period of smartphone stasis. Everyone’s excited for this year’s new model but if truth be told, changes across the board are fairly minor. They’re iterative, evolutionary. You could say the same about the iPhone 7, which can be seen as just another iPhone 6 model with a few upgrades here and there. But as you’ll see, those small changes add up to something more significant. Here we’re comparing the iPhone 7 with the iPhone 6S to help you decide whether or not to upgrade. See also: 20 best phones
Note: This comparison is based on our review of the iPhone 6S, and our early impressions of the iPhone 7 which we have not yet benchmarked for performance, battery life, screen quality and so on. We will update this review once that testing has been completed.
iPhone 7 vs 6S: Design
The iPhone 7 has the same dimensions and – as near as makes no difference – weight. Apple has managed to remove the antenna lines for a cleaner look (they’re now just around the very top and bottom edges) and there’s two new colours to choose between: Jet Black and Black. These replace Space Grey, which is no longer available.
Jet Black is the ‘signature’ finish for the iPhone 7 and is a very highly polished aluminium case (shown on the iPhone 7 in the image below). It’s only available with 128GB or 256GB of storage, which also lets other people know you’ve got a very expensive phone. It’s a finish you’ll have to work hard to protect, though, as it’s susceptible to what Apple is calling micro-abrasions.
In the fine-print at the bottom of the iPhone’s shop listing on Apple’s website, you’ll find this, “The high-gloss finish of the jet black iPhone 7 is achieved through a precision nine-step anodisation and polishing process. Its surface is equally as hard as other anodized Apple products; however, its high shine may show fine micro-abrasions with use. If you are concerned about this, we suggest you use one of the many cases available to protect your iPhone.”
The other option is to go for the matt black version, which also comes in 32GB – the new base storage option.
You might also be interested in our comparison: iPhone 7 vs 7 Plus
In other respects, the iPhone 7’s design is identical to the 6S, and we suspect many an iPhone 6 or 6S case will fit the iPhone 7.
Of course, one major change is the removal of the headphone jack, but you get a convertor cable in the box to attach your normal headphones to the Lightning port. This does mean you can’t charge the battery and listen to music without buying another adaptor, but the iPhone 7 does have stereo speakers (instead of mono on the iPhone 6S).
It does this by using the earpiece (the speaker you usually use for phone calls) as the second loudspeaker, and the overall volume is claimed to be twice as loud as the iPhone 6S.
iPhone 7 vs 6S: Price
Whether due to the change in exchange rate or something else (such as increased storage), Apple has put up the price of the iPhone 7 in the UK compared to the 6S when it launched in 2015.
You'll pay £599 for the 32GB model, £699 for 128GB and £799 for 256GB. That's thje price from Apple - you might save a little or get a longer warranty if you buy from other retailers such as John Lewis.
The iPhone 6S cost £539 for 16GB, £619 for 64GB and £699 for 128GB. They have now changed to £499 for a 32GB model and £599 for 128GB. So for £599 you can have either a 32GB iPhone 7 or a 128GB iPhone 6S.
iPhone 7 vs 6S: Home button
It sounds rather insignificant, but the home button in the new iPhone is not a physical pushbutton. It’s now like a Force Touch trackpad: you press it and get feedback from the updated Taptic engine, which is essentially haptic feedback. It’s designed to be more durable than the old-style home button, and you can customise the level of feedback you get from it.
iPhone 7 vs 6S: Cameras
Although it might seem like the same 12Mp camera as the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 7 has an improved camera with an f/1.8 lens and optical stabilisation. Those are two important updates which should lead to sharper images and fewer blurry ones. We’ve yet to properly evaluate the camera, but we’ll update this article when we do. Note that the LED flash now comprises four LEDs, versus two in the 6S, and that the camera bump no longer has the chamfered silver ring around it:
The iPhone 6S still has a great camera, but it’s not as capable in low light where it lacks that optical stabilisation and has a slower f/2.2 aperture:
On the front, the iPhone 7 has a 7- rather than 5Mp camera, and the same f/2.2 aperture as the iPhone 6S. Again, we'll have to wait until we can put the new phone through its paces properly to see how much of an improvement selfies are over the 6S's.
iPhone 7 vs 6S: Waterproof
One of the biggest upgrades is of course the waterproofing. The iPhone 7 is water-resistant to 1m for up to 30 minutes. This isn’t simply to guard against accidental drops in the bath, toilet or your pint of craft ale: it also opens up much more creativity when it comes to underwater photography and video.
Obviously you can’t take it scuba diving, but for fun shots of your kids swimming, it’s another trick to add to the iPhone’s list. Don’t try the same thing with an iPhone 6S!
iPhone 7 vs 6S: Performance and display
The iPhone 6S is no slowcoach, but the iPhone 7 still beats it thanks to the A10 Fusion chip. This is Apple’s first quad-core processor, with the A9 in the iPhone 6 being a 64-bit dual-core part.
Like most flagship Android phones’ processors, the A10 has two powerful cores which handle games and other demanding apps. The other two are lower performance and have much lower power consumption, and are used for all the other stuff, such as when you’re reading emails. A new controller decides when the high-power cores are needed and switches them off when they’re not to save battery.
We’ve not yet been able to run any benchmarks on the iPhone 7, but results from popular benchmarks have appeared online and seem to indicate that the new chip really is about 40 percent quicker than the iPhone 6’s A9.
More power tends to mean less battery life, but Apple says you’ll get around two hours’ extra use from an iPhone 7 when doing the same things as on an iPhone 6S.
There’s still no wireless charging in the iPhone 7, and no ‘fast charging’ (or at least no fancy marketing name for it.
Resolution and the underlying technology remain the same as for the iPhone 6S, but the iPhone 7’s screen is 25 percent brighter. It also has a wider colour gamut, which means that colours should be more faithfully reproduced. Plus, the phone has end-to-end colour management which means that the camera sensor is calibrated to the screen and so the colours it captures are what (in theory) is displayed when you view the photo or video on screen.
Apple calls this Wide Colour, and it’s the same as the DCI-P3 standard. This isn’t HDR, though. In fact, the iPhone 7’s contrast ratio remains the same as the iPhone 6S’.
Apple iPhone 7: Specs
- iOS 10
- 4.7in 1334x750 touchscreen, 326ppi
- A10 Fusion processor
- 32/128/256GB storage
- 12Mp main camera, True Tone flash, support for 4K video
- 7Mp front camera
- 802.11ac WiFi with MIMO
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Non-removable battery
- IP67 water- and dust-resistant