iphone-7-plus_review_03The iPhone celebrates its 10th year in 2017, and there’s no question that it is a huge force in the smartphone market. It is also more than half of Apple’s business, and as Apple’s flagship product, it competes at the highest level against a very strong Android competition.

If you read this review, you are probably weighing if you should buy an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus and assuming that your budget allows, your options may fall into one of those three:

  1. Should I upgrade from my current iPhone?
  2. Should I pick the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus?
  3. Should I pick this iPhone or an Android competitor?

There are other situations, but we’ll answer these common questions directly, and the review should help you make a decision even if your situation is a bit more complex. In this review, we’ll use the iPhone 7 Plus because it is a superset of the iPhone 7, but we will point out the differences (battery capacity, screen size+resolution, camera capabilities).

Industrial Design (good, classic)

iphone-7-plus_review_09

The iPhone 7 Plus with the dual-camera in the back

The iPhone 7 keeps the general “design language” of the iPhone 6/6s and its predecessor. Although there are differences, the proportions and shape are extremely similar, and if you put it in a case, this generation is hard to tell apart from the previous ones, unless you look closely.

Apple has improved antenna gaps design, making them less obvious. The iPhone 7 has a continuous metal surface in the back, and the antenna gaps are only visible from the sides. That, and the larger camera bump (for a good reason) are the most visible changes.

As usual, Apple doesn’t have any branding on the front, which is nice (this is the first design feature that every OEM should go for). In the back, the Apple logo is low-key, and these choices have contributed to the agreeable visual appearance of iPhones.

New Home button

iphone-7-plus_review_02The home button is no longer a button that you press, but a capacitive button which is capable of sending a tactile feedback like a buzz, thanks to a Taptic Engine.

This taptic feedback can emit different kinds of “buzzes” depending on the context. For example, calls may get a different buzz “rhythm” than emails. App developers could also create their buzz patterns. The new Home button is pressure-sensitive so different levels of pressure may induce different actions/responses.

The taptic feedback resembles nothing like the press of a button. Instead, it feels like the phone simply emits an ultra-short “buzz”. If your fingerprint isn’t recognized, a longer buzz happens: I feel like the phone is micro-vibrating up and down with that one. Weird, but OK.

Some people are annoyed by the new button design, but I don’t mind it much. I don’t think that it makes life better, but saying that it makes life much worse is exaggerated. However, if the taptic is “the” justification to remove the 3.5mm audio connector, then I’m not convinced by the logic or the added-value.

No 3.5 mm audio “jack” connector

iphone-7-plus_review_12The iPhone is the first major smartphone to get rid of the 3.5mm audio connector. The good news is that an adapter is included in the box ($9 if you need to buy another). The bad news is that you need an “Apple Lightning-to-3.5mm” adapter, and sometimes you won’t have it on hand because people just don’t walk around with their dongles all the time. Many will be lost as well.

By itself, the adapter is OK, and there’s an argument to say that 3.5mm had been around for a long time, and could/should be replaced by a new interface. However, it’s not something people “asked for” (what’s the immediate benefit?). Many hate it; few love it — just vote with your wallet… It is what is it, and the rumor is that more (Android) OEMs will drop the audio connector. We’ll know next month if that’s true or not.

Since the Lighting port is now used to connect headphones, you cannot charge your phone while connecting wired headphones via the adapter. For that, you need another adapter which has a second charging port. Apple proposes a Belkin audio+charge adapter for… $40 (ouch).

Water resistance: IP67

For the first time, the iPhone gets a water-resistance rating of IP67, which means that a device is dust tight: no dust can penetrate. It can also withstand up to 1-meter (~1 yard) immersion for a limited duration without harm the device (tested for 30mn). Learn more about IP Ratings.

Although some phones have a slightly superior IP68 rating, we consider that IP67 is a very good start, and should contribute to significantly avoid situations where the phone will “die” due to water exposure. The main difference between IP67 and IP68 is that IP68 phones can support underwater pressure at a depth of 3 meters (~3 yards).

Note that although not IP rated, some iPhone 6s have been seen surviving in water. Without the IP rating, the survivability cannot be trusted to be considered consistent, but it’s a good sign that a design may have “partial” water resistance.

Older iPhones had water sensors that once tripped would “kill” the phone immediately and definitively (probably to avoid short circuits and burns). It was not uncommon that people would kill their phones by sweating on them during a heavy workout, or after splashing a bit of water at the wrong place.

When it comes to real-world water survivability, there is a grey zone, and things are never black and white. Keep in mind that most phones rated for IP67 or IP68 water resistance do not have warranty coverage for water damage… so I recommend thinking of the water resistance as the last line of defense.

Jet Black Edition: beautiful, but needs care

The iPhone 7 is optionally available in “Jet Black”, a beautiful polished ceramic finish. It is expensive, but I love the finish and its intense black color. Apple isn’t the first company to do this, and others such as OnePlus have also successfully produced ceramic finish surfaces.

Price aside, this works better for people who take great care of their phones. This kind of ceramic isn’t as hard as glass. When the highly polished surface gets those little scratches, it becomes duller. Apple recommends using a case to protect the ceramic, but one has to wonder what the point is in having this beautiful surface, just to put a case on top of it, even a clear one.

“The high-gloss finish of the jet black iPhone 7 is achieved through a precision nine-step anodization 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” (Apple)

Some people have reported that the finish is holding fine, while others have reported micro-scratches, just as Apple warn. At the moment, there isn’t hard data to go by, but we encourage being cautious.

Design conclusion

The iPhone’s design is quite good, but it’s hard to be “wowed” by its novelty. The iPhone 7 looks like the iPhone 6S, which looks like the iPhone 6. There are some aesthetic improvements, but it feels the same and doesn’t improve things like Display-to-Body ratio or bezel size.

Maybe a sign of the times is that many phone OEMs are now copying Samsung’s Galaxy S6/S7 Edge design by going with curved edges and dual-sided glass over a thin layer of colored metal. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Apple has lost its leadership position.

Filed in Apple >Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Editorspick, iPhone, Iphone 7, Iphone 7 Plus, Smartphone Reviews and Smartphones.

ProductiPhone 7iPhone 7 Plus
Display Diagonal (inches)4.7" (11.9cm)5.5" (14cm)
Megapixel Count12 Megapixel12 Megapixel
Battery Capacity (mAh)1960 mAh2900 mAh
Processor/Soc NameA10A10 Fusion
RAM Options2 GB,3 GB,
Street Price$565 iPhone 7 on Amazon$730 iPhone 7 Plus on Amazon
Link to full specsiPhone 7 Full specs and detailsiPhone 7 Plus Full specs and details
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