Apple iPhone 7 Review: One Small Step Forward

Posted on September 30, 2016 by Brad Sams in Hardware, iOS with 16 Comments

iphone-7-hero

Jet black or matte black, iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus; these are the likely questions that many prospective iPhone buyers are trying to decide between when buying the newest phone from the folks in Cupertino. For me, it was easy, matte black and while I toyed with going for the larger Plus for the better camera, I decided that the smaller phone is the better option for me. Besides, the jet black option has a warning from Apple that it is easily scratched and considering I don’t ever use a case, I headed the warning and went the safer route.

The phone has a couple of difference from the 6S: faster CPU, no headphone jack, improved camera, and no home button. The home button is now a simple pad that you press to go to the ‘Home’ screen and I’ll have more on that later. I wanted to define the differences as that will be the focus of my review as the exterior is nearly identical to the past few generations of this phone.

I was upgrading from an iPhone 6 which means I am getting two years of refinement with the device and the processor speed improvements are noticeable. On my 6, apps were starting to feel a bit sluggish and opening the camera and switching between the camera modes highlighted this issue. With the 7, as you would expect, everything is faster but at the same time, it also heats up more. The 6 would get hot under load too but it feels like the 7 reaches higher temperatures faster than the older phone.

The big controversy with this phone is that there is no headphone jack. For me, this isn’t too big of an issue but I completely understand for some why this would anger them. I only use one pair of headphones with my iPhone and it’s when I am on a plane. So all I did was attach the adapter to that pair of headphones and that’s the end of it. If you do have multiple pairs of earbuds that you use, this would be frustrating and I don’t really buy the fact that Apple is pushing the industry forward with this move.

camera-hero-iphone-7

With that being said, after traveling with the device to Ignite, as I was sitting in the airport charging my phone, the lack of a headphone jack did become a problem; I was charging my phone and I could not listen to music. Sure, I could spend a stupid amount of money on some Airpods that I would likely lose in 10 minutes after opening but personally, I like the wired setup as it’s one less device I have to charge.

If Apple really wanted to push everyone forward, they would have dropped the headphone jack and their proprietary connector and gone with USB-C for both headphone and charging; this is a change I would fully support. Instead, we have Apple pushing headphones that are either wireless or use their own adapter which is convenient since they recently bought a headphone company.

Apple has made a big deal about its cameras over the past few generations of devices and the 7 is no different. While the 7 Plus gets the better update with two cameras, the 7 gets optical stabilization and a larger sensor. The ability to take photos in low light is easily accomplished with the 7 and pictures in broad daylight look great. Honestly, it’s a good camera and it does what it needs to do but I can’t tell a huge difference between my old phone. The sample images below are cropped to 16×9 but are otherwise untouched and the photo of the planes in the Delta hanger is at 100% zoom.

The colors are likely a bit richer and video a little sharper but I bet the average person could not tell the difference when looking at images on Facebook if I put up two photos with one taken on the 6 and one taken on the 7. That being said, the camera works well and won’t let you down which is a good thing for me as I take a lot of photos with my phone.

ip71 ip75 ip74 ip73

I was a bit worried when I saw the changes to the home button. Switching to the taptic engine instead of an actual button made me nervous at first but it’s not an issue and actually it feels quite natural. Apple did a good job with this change and for anyone who was holding off on purchasing this phone because of the home button changes, go ahead and buy the phone as you won’t regret it.

Battery life with the phone is average and it can easily last a workday but I would happily take a slightly thicker phone for significantly longer battery life. As I noted above, I did have to charge my phone at the airport (around 9PM) which means on an average day of use, the battery is fine. But, on a long day at a conference that has heavy use of my phone, the battery life still comes up short.

I have often described iPhones as the Toyota Camry of phones. If you buy an iPhone, you know you will get a quality piece of hardware/software that will get you from point A to point B. It may not be the most exciting phone on the market but it will sell in the millions because it does a great job of doing everything well and maybe one or two things exceptionally well.

headphone-jack-hero

You can find an Android phone that has a better camera, or one that has a faster fingerprint reader and another with a better display or longer battery life. That’s the beauty of Android but what you will have trouble finding is one that beats an iPhone in every category and that’s what the iPhone is good for. It’s a good, all-around device that keeps it stable and relatively simple without trying to push too many boundaries with each iteration.

With that being said, I was hoping that I would love the 7 as I really liked the 6 and with two generations of refinements over the 6 I expected the 7 to be something wonderfully more but it’s honestly not. It’s a good phone but if you have a 6, it may not be worth upgrading and if you have a 6S, don’t upgrade.

Tagged with ,

Premium Comments (14) Comments (2)
Elevate the Conversation!

Join Thurrott Premium to enjoy our Premium comments.

Premium member comments on news posts will feature an elevated status that increases their visibility. This tab would allow you to participate in Premium comments with other premium members. Register to join the other Premium members in elevating the conversation!

Register or Subscribe
14 Comments
Sort by Votes | Date
  1. 0 | Reply
    awright18 Alpha Member #405 - 2 months ago

    Its nice to see an honest review that ends in you probably don't want to buy this device unless your phone is a dinosaur. I was thinking a cool subtitle to the article would have been "Taking one for the Team".

  2. 0 | Reply
    lightbody Alpha Member #2190 - 2 months ago

    I can't do it.  In 2016, I can't buy a phone that won't last an entire day, even if I hammer it.  If something goes wrong in your life - there is a family crisis, or a travel disaster - you need to be able to rely on your phone ALL day.

    I bought a Sony Xperia Z2 which (in Stamina mode) manages this.  It never lets me down.  The trouble is, I now need to replace it with a phone with not worse battery life.  There aren't many contenders.

  3. 0 | Reply
    LordPhantom Alpha Member #2445 - 2 months ago

    Thinking about my next phone; Don't really want the iphone, as it's hell expensive and not going to integrate with my Microsoft stuff as well as other platforms will. But then, I looked at Android, and Google's refusal to support handsets for very long, and the pixels iphone price tag, put me off them too.

    I guess I will have to stick with what I have until someone releases a phone that ticks all the boxes.

  4. 0 | Reply
    Siv Alpha Member #451 - 2 months ago

    Did anyone notice the UFO in the picture of the golf course and the lake.  It's in the top right quadrant!

  5. 0 | Reply
    lenh51 Alpha Member #544 - 2 months ago
  6. 0 | Reply
    Delmont Alpha Member #167 - 2 months ago

    How low do you let your battery go in percentage before charging it or having to?  I"ll let mine get down to 20% before i start to panic :-)

  7. 0 | Reply
    Delmont Alpha Member #167 - 2 months ago

    I too just upgraded from an iPhonen 6 to a 7.  Me too, my 6 was getting very sluggish... the camera would take quite a few seconds to open and take a photo to the point I was missing many photos.  I do like the 7, it is MUCH faster... it got hot during initial setup, downloading - restoring from iCloud and setting up for the next 45 min.  Hasn't gotten warm for me since... but i'm not gaming on it. What apps are you using to make it heat up? I could do a test on mine too. I too went with the flat black. I ordered mine direct from Apple. took about 1.5 weeks to show up at my front door. I'm still using my Apple silicon 6 case on my 7. I took an exacto knife and carefully cut the camera opening larger to exactly fit the new 7's camera and flash.  The new home button is cool. I sometimes hit it twice, thinking I stll need to actually depress a button. I like the phone for being much faster.

    1. 1 | Reply
      lightbody Alpha Member #2190 - 2 months ago
      In reply to Delmont:

      At the price of the iPhone, it should last more than 2 years before you feel forced to upgrade.

    2. 0 | Reply
      FreeJAC Alpha Member #1723 - 2 months ago
      In reply to Delmont:

      To those that say their older device is sluggish, did you try to do anything to resolve the sluggishness? I have a 5th gen iPod that I use every night before bed. It too ended up being sluggish after a while. It seemed to correspond with O/S updates. After I reset the device to factory and restored from backup, it has been running like new ever since. It is now stuck on iOS 9 but that suits me just fine.

  8. 0 | Reply
    dcdevito Alpha Member #220 - 2 months ago

    Thanks Brad.

     

    I sold my shamu Nexus 6 and eagerly awaiting the Google event Tuesday. But based on the leaks and rumors I'd say the phones are going to be a bit of a disappointment, especially at that price. I may actually go back to an iPhone, my first since the 3G (!).

    1. Brad Sams
      2 | Reply
      Brad Sams Alpha Member #2 - 2 months ago

      Looking forward to the Pixels as well...pricing is what I will be really interested in.

    2. 0 | Reply
      jaylesh27 Alpha Member #1586 - 2 months ago

      I see a lot of discontent with the (leaked and uncomfirmed) pricing of these upcoming Pixel phones...$649 for the base model Pixel is pretty high, and I can see how this departure in pricing can throw off a lot of the long-term Nexus fans.  My thoughts on this are that I would be willing to pay such a high price primarily because of the promise of security through guaranteed monthly security patches.  Security is such a big deal to a lot of people these days, and for me as well, and that is why I don't plan on buying any phones besides iPhone and Nexus/Pixel devices because you are guaranteed the best support from a security perspective.  The hardware features of these Pixel devices may not be up to snuff to those of their competitors (water-resistance, SD card) but I expect Google to make a strong case of differentiation through software.  Hopefully they make a convincing enough case so people choose a Pixel over an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device.

  9. -1 | Reply
    Narg Alpha Member #420 - 2 months ago

    As I've posted before, I agree the audio jack removal is bad, and it does upset me.  I've been forced to use dongles in the past on early smartphones, and hated them.  Though I can see it on smaller variants of smartphones, as space is and always has been an issue there.  But on the "Plus" versions, it's just dumb.  Even the few Android smartphones that have tried the sans-audio jack route have done it this much smarter way.  Take it off the small version, leave it on the Plus version.  That gives the market more choices and truly makes a premium device.  You just can't have a premium device with workarounds.  That doesn't jive.

    1. 0 | Reply
      lightbody Alpha Member #2190 - 2 months ago
      In reply to Narg:

      Wait until the USB-C headphones start to arrive.  "Works with any phone except iPhone".  That doesn't look good, does it?