The iPhone 7 looks nearly identical to the 6s, and that’s because from the outside, it almost is. However, beneath the hood are a host of tiny evolutions that combine to make this a worthy successor. In fact, it’s the best iPhone ever.
The iPhone 7 starts at $1079 for the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and $1269 for the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus. Here’s how much the full range costs if you’re planning to buy outright:
- iPhone 7 32GB: $1079
- iPhone 7 128GB $1229
- iPhone 7 256GB $1379
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $1269
- iPhone 7 Plus 128GB $1419
- iPhone 7 Plus 256GB $1569
You can see every mobile plan for the iPhone and 7 Plus from Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone here.
First, the specs
|iPhone 7||iPhone 7 Plus|
|OS||iOS 10||iOS 10|
|Dimensions||138.3mm x 67.1mm x 7.1mm||158.2mm x 77.9mm x 7.3mm|
|CPU||Apple A10 Fusion Quad core with six-core graphics GPU||Apple A10 Fusion Quad core with six-core graphics GPU|
|Memory/Storage||32/128/256 GB, 2 GB RAM||32/128/256 GB, 2 GB RAM|
|Display||4.7-inch Retina HD Display||5.5-inch Retina HD Display|
|Resolution||750 x 1334 pixels (~326 ppi)||1080 x 1920 (401 ppi)|
|Camera||12MP rear (f/1.8, phase detection autofocus), 7MP front||Dual 12MP rear (f/1.8, 28mm and f/2.8, 56mm), phase detection autofocus), 7MP front|
|Colours||Jet Black, Black, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold||Jet Black, Black, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold|
Physically, the changes to the iPhone 6s are minimal. The antenna lines have been moved to the top and bottom of the phone (in white on the silver model, gold on the rose gold and dark grey on the matte black and jet black variants.)
The camera bump — yes, there’s still a bump — now has smoothed edges, appearing more like a mesa rising from the flatlands of the iPhone’s rear aluminium casing than a sharp-edged obelisk. And, yes, if you hadn’t already noticed, there’s no headphone jack on the bottom of the iPhone 7, only a solitary Lightning connector — but more on that later.
Two new colours join the iPhone 7 line-up, bringing the total to five. (Well, Space Grey has been deleted in favour of a matte finish called Black and a shiny, piano-black Jet Black — both of which are currently in high demand — while silver, gold and rose gold persist from the iPhone 6s. The same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screen sizes remain on the 138x64x7.1mm, 138g iPhone 7 and 158x78x7.3mm, 188g iPhone 7 Plus respectively.
It’s under the hood that the most significant changes to the iPhone 7 have been made. The new Apple iPhone uses a quad-core 64-bit processor of the company’s own design, called the A10 Fusion. With two power cores and two efficiency cores, it promises better performance for computationally intensive apps and better battery life for lightweight ones. The motion-sensing coprocessor has been upgraded, too.
The iPhone 7’s 1960mAh battery is 15 per cent larger than the 6s’s 1715mAh; the 7 Plus’s 2900mAh is 5 per cent more than the 6s Plus’s 2750mAh. Apple says that the 7 and 7 Plus get two and one hour longer battery life respectively versus their predecessors. And finally, storage has doubled in every iPhone 7 variant — the previous 16GB base model has been banished for 32GB, the 64GB variant is now 128GB, and the top model has an astonishing 256GB of internal storage capacity.
Around the front, there’s an almost-invisible upgrade: a home button that no longer clicks, replaced by a pressure-sensitive circular panel. Press and you’ll activate a tactile feedback sensation from the iPhone 7’s new Taptic engine, a powerful and customisable vibration motor that can be anything from a click to a buzz to a thump depending on its contextual use within iOS. You can adjust the intensity of the home button’s click, too.
Implicit in the release of the new iPhone is the release of a new version of iOS, the 10th iteration of Apple’s unique and bespoke operating system that runs its iPhones and iPads. If you want a new iPhone 7, you’re getting iOS 10, and that means you’re getting everything that entails.
Improvements to iOS 10 include a first-party messaging system called iMessage that lets you talk to your friends in the most diverse ways possible from text to GIF to digital scribbles to giant emoji, integration with a quickly growing smart home ecosystem, a smarter-than-ever voice-activated Siri virtual assistant, and an Apple App Store full of over two billion apps. And, of course, iOS is the only operating system that supports the Apple Watch.
Oh, and the iPhone is water resistant now! The new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are both IP67 certified to survive immersion in a metre of water for 30 minutes, which means they’re more than capable of surviving a run out in the rain, a trip to the beach, or an accidental journey to the bottom of the bath or the bottom of a beer glass. It’s the kind of feature you hope to never have to put to the test, but like insurance it only proves its value when you actually need it. Don’t go throwing your phone in the toilet any time soon, but just know that if you have to, you can.
The average user will see the biggest improvement in the iPhone 7 in two areas. The first is the iPhone 7’s massive amount of processing power, which is frankly insane on paper — equalling an Intel performance desktop CPU from 2011 in computational grunt. This translates into an utterly buttery and smooth experience of iOS, in everything from the speed with which TouchID operates to the speed with which apps launch and re-launch, to the speed with which the camera can blast through a series of full-resolution HDR Live Photos or 4K video recording. The iPhone 6 and 6s weren’t exactly slouches, but they are both solidly outclassed by the iPhone 7; if last generation was a fuel-efficient V6 cruising at highway speed, the 7 is a V12 just waiting for you to step on the throttle.
Apple continues to make incredible behind-the scenes improvements that it — surprisingly — doesn’t tell people enough about. The new home button and Taptic haptic feedback engine are a quantum leap in the usefulness of smartphone vibration, in exactly the same way that 3D Touch added another level of interaction to the iPhone 6s.
The iPhone 7’s home button doesn’t physically move or click, but the right amount of pressure triggers an appropriately powerful buzz from the phone’s Taptic vibration motor. Haptic cues now pervade the iPhone 7’s iOS 10 interface, in everything from the physical cue you get from navigating through a drop-down list of numbers to the subtle vibration bump you get when hitting the end of a page in Safari.
With 3D Touch and Taptic, the iPhone 7 is the most interactive smartphone — in the way that it communicates back to its user — that has ever existed. This may sound boring, but it’s actually incredibly useful even if you don’t notice it — probably because you don’t notice it — and it’s the kind of thing that every smartphone will have within the next few years.
The camera on the iPhone 7 is an improvement from the iPhone 6s — that much is obvious. It’s more capable in daylight and low light, with a faster f/1.8 lens and optical image stabilisation and brighter more capable quad-LED flash. It’s only an incremental improvement rather than anything ground-breaking on the previous iteration of the iPhone, but that optical image stabilisation means you’re more likely to capture a blur- and shake-free photo in low light.
Similarly, the flash makes low-light photographs of a subject against a background more realistic, especially with skin-tones — and let’s be honest, those dimly-lit pub shots are where the iPhone needed the most help, so it’s good to see improvement here. But the biggest change of the iPhone 7 is in the iPhone 7 Plus, which has a second camera module with a telephoto lens and half the field of view of the original — making it better for portrait photos and close-up shots.
Another iPhone 7 improvement is in the screen, although you’d have to compare it to the iPhone 6s to notice the difference. If you use your phone outdoors, like everyone does, you’ll appreciate the 25 per cent brighter maximum luminance. Everything from the camera through to the screen now support the P3 cinema standard wide colour gamut, too, which means significant leaps forward in the quality and gradation of colour representation.
Oranges and yellows especially are improved; you’d have to look closely to notice the extra detail in saturated parts of the screen before colours crush out to pure orange, for example, but it’s the kind of change that makes a difference throughout the entire experience of using the phone. it still doesn’t pop like an OLED — it doesn’t have those perfectly black blacks — but it gets damn well close. The 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and 5.5-inch Plus may have relatively low 1334×750 and 1920×1080 pixel resolution, but I genuinely don’t notice the difference during day-to-day use compared to a 2560×1440 pixel panel from one of Apple’s many and varied Android competitors.
So, what’s not so good? My chief criticism of the iPhone 7 is its design. While nobody can deny that it’s a beautiful piece of hardware, it still has a big chin to house that circular home button, and the top bezel — which only has a front-facing camera and small stereo earpiece speaker in it — is equally large.
When Samsung can nearly eradicate the bezel on all four sides of the Galaxy Note7, Apple’s design starts to look dated. There’s a lot of dead space around that screen, and there are thinner phones out there with equally capacious batteries. It’s hard to see how Apple is pushing the envelope when you just pick up an iPhone 7 and turn it over in your hand.
We’re also annoyed that Apple has failed to embrace some measure of fast-charging standard. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus don’t have especially large batteries and they take a long time to charge. Look at it like this — Samsung can hit 18 Watts (9 volts, 2 amps) maximum during its adaptive fast charging. The USB wall wart that Apple includes in the box with the 7 is 5 Watts (5V 1A). That’s a huge, and problematic, difference. Do yourself a favour and buy an iPad charger (12 Watts, 5 volts, 2.1 amps) at the very least. But Apple has to change this for the iPhone 8 or it will be left behind; fast charging is just as important as efficient usage of that charge by the phone itself.
While the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual camera is the best implementation of its kind in any smartphone so far, it’s missing one of the most appealing features that Apple announced during the launch. The Portrait mode — which uses both cameras’ depth-sensing focus and 100 billion calculations per snap to intelligently pick out the background from the subject and foreground in a portrait snap, and then applies some image blur in different intensities to different parts of the image — won’t be available until later this year.
The swipe-with-a-thumb zoom feature is excellent, but I wouldn’t use digital zoom unless I had the iPhone 7 steady on a tripod; I’m exclusively shooting at 1x and 2x to get that perfect optical-lens clarity in my photos and I don’t think I’ll change that any time soon. While the digital zoom is convenient, the iPhone 7’s camera(s) still have tiny sensors that inevitably lose detail and make noise more visible as you zoom in. It’s also worth keeping in mind the fact that the iPhone 7 Plus’ 56mm-equivalent lens has a f/2.8 aperture versus the 28mm’s f/1.8, so it’s letting in only a little more than a quarter of the light — which means more digital noise in low light.
Now let’s talk about that headphone jack. Yes, some people are going to miss it. I didn’t think I was going to be one of them, until I got to the gym and realised I couldn’t use the Lightning headphones while also charging (without a $60 adapter).
To be honest, it’s not a big deal — you’ll get over it! Lightning headphones will become more popular, as will Airpods — but it’s just a little frustrating. If you buy an iPhone 7 you’re at the start of the eradication of 3.5mm, and that means you’ll (probably) have to make some compromises along the way. It’s frustrating sometimes, and that’s all there is to it.
You also need to be wary of scuffs and scratches on the glossy, pianoesque Jet Black model. Indeed, Apple even goes so far as to say the finish “may show fine micro-abrasions with use”, recommending a case to keep the rear of the phone pristine. If you like your phones scuff-free, I think an alternative finish is probably a pretty good idea.
If you want to buy an iPhone, the $1079-plus iPhone 7 is the one to get. You’d be silly to buy an iPhone 6s when the 7 is available, and the SE is only appealing if you need a seriously small phone. Whether you buy the iPhone 7 against an equally high quality Android flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note7 or S7? That’s another question.
If it were up to me, I’d recommend the Android phone to someone that wants to tinker with their phone to get the best out of it, installing different launchers and adding home screen widgets. I hate to say it, but the iPhone 7 Just Works — iOS 10 is the most refined iteration of an operating system that has always been easy to understand and mostly consistent to operate, and the hardware that it’s running on is genuinely world class.
If your choice is between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, as usual we’d defer to your preference as to which size of phone you’re happy carrying around in your pocket or purse or satchel or handbag every day. Personally, I love the 7 Plus for its dual camera, which adds massively to the iPhone’s utility as a photographic tool, but the 7’s main camera is the better of the two on the 7 Plus and captures excellent images in bright and low light alike.
The iPhone 7 feels like a foundation in some ways for the next iPhone. It has dual cameras, 3D Touch, the brilliant Taptic engine, a virtual home button, waterproofing, no headphone jack. (That final one isn’t anywhere near as big a deal as you might think, by the way.) All of these are features that — we hope — will persist on the next iPhone and the iPhones after that, as the design changes and the phone’s bezels get smaller and it gains an OLED display. If you buy an iPhone 7, you’re buying a glimpse into the future, and you’re buying all the advantages and disadvantages that go along with that. Me? I’m proudly an early adopter, and I love the iPhone 7 for exactly that reason. It’s the most radically experimental, but also the most refined and streamlined, iPhone ever.
This article originally appeared on Gizmodo Australia