Once again, the fastest phone with the best camera has an Apple logo on its back cover.
Apple may not have astounded us this time around, but that doesn’t make the iPhone 7 any less desirable. Despite its flaws, it’s still one of the best smartphones money can buy.
It has a spectacular processor, a stunning camera, a great operating system and much-improved battery life. It rightfully earns our highest accolades.
If you’re debating whether or not to buy an iPhone 7, our review is here to help. We test and rate the iPhone 7’s design and build quality, features, tech specs, speed, camera capabilities and value for money. And we’d like to give a special mention to Mobile Fun for lending us the iPhone 7 we used to write this review!
Is the iPhone 7 incredible? For sure. It’s well worth your money, especially if you’ve ever been an Apple fan and love the idea of bucking trends. But it’s not as effortlessly usable as the iPhones that came before, and that sets a startling precedent for the future.
Onstage at Apple’s annual Special Event in early September, the company revealed a new color option for the iPhone 7: jet black. Dark as a grand piano and polished to a gleaming shine, the new color scheme is intensely elegant and demands attention. It also scratches like a furious kitten and picks up fingerprints faster than a detective, and Apple knows it: There are disclaimers on its site pointing it out. If you buy a jet black iPhone 7, you almost assuredly want to keep it in a case. But what’s the point of getting the fancy coating if you can’t look at it and appreciate it?
That choice, elegance versus usability, permeates every aspect of the iPhone 7’s design. The home button is a great example: No longer a button, Apple switched out moving parts for a capacitive pad and the company’s Taptic Engine, a magnetic vibrator that can give the illusion of a click – though now it feels like the entire chin of the phone is clicking, rather than just the home button. The change keeps the phone water- and dust-resistant and minimizes moving parts that have the tendency to break. It’s a cool and futuristic approach to a button, but it’s still not a button, and your mind kind of knows it. It’s not as instantly understandable or actionable. Is it functional? Certainly. An elegant design? For sure. But definitely not as usable.
It isn’t just standard aluminium, like the material used by its competitors, either – the iPhone 7 features 7000 Series aluminium, making the iPhone more durable without adding much weight and giving the device more of a premium feel.
Even the phone’s size and shape point more to elegance than usability. There’s a lot of history to the layout of the iPhone’s front, with its large bezels above and below the screen, but there’s also a lot of wasted space. Most modern flagships minimize their bezels as much as possible. The Galaxy Note7, despite its huge 5.7-inch screen, feels barely bigger than the iPhone 7 with its relatively small 4.7-inch display, because of how much Samsung has shrunk the bezels. A bigger screen in a smaller form-factor is simply more usable, but Apple hasn’t made that move.
Whatever reservations you might have about the iPhone 7’s design, they fade away when you fire up its camera. It is positively superb.
As mentioned, the size of the camera on the rear of the iPhone 7 has been increased, and although it still protrudes from the back of the phone, it bulges out more seamlessly now that Apple has removed the aluminium ring around the camera you’ll see on older examples of this design.
This is one more element contributing to the clean look that Apple was chasing with the iPhone 7, and although it initially took some getting used to, we love the look of the new camera.
The wait was worth it this year because the iPhone 7 did indeed make waves; it’s unquestionably the fastest phone we’ve ever tested, breaking 5,500 in Geekbench 4 and managing over 37,800 in 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test. These are insane numbers, and they owe their size to the new Apple A10 Fusion chip.
The phone’s 2GB of RAM, working in conjunction with iOS 10’s optimizations, are more than enough to keep things snappy. You’ll also find a sizable increase in internal storage. Basic iPhone 7 models start at 32GB, but they jump up to 128GB at the next storage tier and top out at 256GB. This is the first phone we’ve tested with a 256GB variant, and we’re a bit surprised it took companies this long to start offering up that much storage. Granted, most Android phones have SD card support, something the iPhone has never had. Without external storage, there’s no expanding if you run out of room, so keep an eye on your downloads and consider springing for at least the 128GB model.
According to Apple, the larger battery cell is feasible because of the removal of the headphone jack. When it comes to portable batteries, more space always means longer life, and with the removal of the 3.5mm jack and some rearranging of components inside the phone, Apple was able to move up from a 1715 mAh cell in the iPhone 6s to a 1960 mAh cell in the iPhone 7. That might not match the 3000 mAh batteries you can find in competing phablets, but it’s a sizable jump in its own right.
The iPhone 7 made it nine hours three minutes in our web browsing battery test. By comparison, the iPhone 6s made it just six hours 46 minutes. Of course, phablets like the Galaxy Note7 still take the win, but for a non-big-screen phone, the iPhone 7’s battery really lasts.
If you’re about to buy a brand-new flagship phone, then you care about what it feels like to own one. You care about the day-to-day experience.
So, is the iPhone 7 worth it? While we think the iPhone 7 is a sleek, gorgeous and generally fantastic phone with enhanced cameras, an improved design (with beautiful new colour options), better battery life and a supercharged quad-core A10 Fusion chip, we think it’s a more appealing upgrade for iPhone 6 (and earlier) users. We don’t think we could justify the upgrade from an iPhone 6s to an iPhone 7, especially with the price hike in the UK, as the changes aren’t as groundbreaking as some we’ve seen in the past.