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Apple iPhone 7 Review: In Depth

4.5

The Good

  • Water resistant
  • Strong all-round camera
  • Decent battery life
  • Solid performance

The Bad

  • No expandable storage
  • No headphone jack

iPhone 7 Review: Apple’s latest iPhone sports several improvements over last year’s iPhone 6s, but is it still worth an upgrade? Here’s our full Apple iPhone 7 review.

When Apple revealed the iPhone 7 in its massive Cupertino launch event, Cook and co. gave us a comprehensive ten-point list explaining why this is the most resplendent of all iPhones so far. Ten improvements that make this the ultimate mobile phone, from a water-loving redesign to a sexed-up camera that’s made for low light photography.

There’s no denying that the iPhone 7 is the best iPhone to date. Of course, with every new iPhone that comes out, the question is: should I upgrade? It’s easy to recommend each new Apple handset to iPhone noobs who don’t already have a recent device, but what happens if you already have the iPhone 6s or iPhone SE? Is it still worth a purchase?

Read next: iPhone 7 and 7 Plus vs every other iPhone

Here’s our full iPhone 7 review, where we dissect every new aspect of the latest Apple blower and see if it’s really worth that steep asking price.

Apple iPhone 7 Review: Design

Stick the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 6s side-by-side and you’ll really struggle to tell the difference, at least from the front. They’re both 4.7-inch phones with a glossy front end, sporting more or less the same girth and weight. However, there are a fair few differences once you look a little closer.

For one, the aerial bands that previously stretched across the rear end have been exterminated for the iPhone 7. That makes for a cleaner finish, with seemingly no impact on function.

Flip to the bottom edge of the iPhone 7 and you’ll notice something that’s had a lot of Apple fans up in arms, namely the lack of a headphone jack. If you want to keep using your old wired headphones, you’ll have to use the bundled 3.5mm to Lightning adapter. However, you can also use any headset with a Lightning connector, or upgrade to a pair of Bluetooth wireless ‘phones.

For pure convenience, we’d recommend the latter. Sure, audio quality isn’t quite as crisp, but the convenience alone makes it more than worthwhile.

That lack of jack means the iPhone 7 sports an extended speaker which stretches from both sides of the Lightning port. More on this in the ‘screen and media’ section below.

Another big change to the iPhone design that you can’t actually see is Apple’s all-new water-resistant build. You can dunk the iPhone 7 in a pint glass, take it into the shower or leave it outside in the pissing rain without worrying about a nervy trip to the Apple Store. It still feels wrong to drench the handset, of course, but you don’t need to worry about the thing sputtering and dying.

As usual, the iPhone 7 is pleasingly rugged. That metallic finish is resistant to scratches and scuffs, while Apple’s colour range has been expanded with a new Black model. You can even pick the iPhone up in a new glossy Jet Black finish, but we reviewed the standard Gold version. Be aware that Apple itself has pointed out the Jet Black model’s vulnerability, with the handset apparently picking up scratches rather easily.

Still, no matter which version you stump up for, you’re getting a comfortable one-handed experience and a typically good-looking mobile.

Apple iPhone 7 Review: Screen and media

Apple’s screen tech is always solid and the iPhone 7 doesn’t change things up much. Once again you have a 4.7-inch Retina display with a 1334x750 resolution, which offers pin-sharp visuals.

However, the colour gamut is now wider than ever, which means even more realistic images than before. You won’t notice any difference unless you stick this phone next to an older iPhone, and even then it’s barely worth mentioning - but it’s nice all the same. The screen is also ever so slightly brighter now, but as we didn’t have any issues with reflectivity and so on before, it’s again a bit of a moot point.

All you need to know is that the iPhone 7’s screen is as crisp and attractive as any out there. Of course, you can get screens with more punchy colours, such as the Galaxy S7’s Super AMOLED panel. But which you prefer will be down to your own personal tastes.

With Apple’s Night Shift mode, you can make the iPhone 7’s panel warmer in the evenings or whenever you find yourself in a dark environment. This eases things for your eyes, making for more comfortable viewing. It’s something many rivals such as the OnePlus 3 are now copying, and it’s a decent little feature.

As for audio, the iPhone 7 now boasts some powerful stereo speakers which easily rival HTC’s BoomSound blowers. These are positioned in the ear piece as well as the bottom edge of the phone and they produce some seriously loud sound, which can happily cut through piercing background noise and fill a small room.

That said, they’re still phone speakers. Audio quality leaves something to be desired, and you’re best off connecting a Bluetooth speaker if you want to really rock out.

If you like carrying around a big media collection, then good news. Apple has finally ditched the crappy 16GB base model and the iPhone 7 starts off with a more impressive 32GB of storage space.

Of course, there’s still no support for microSD memory cards, so you’ll need to make full use of that space. We’re not sure why Apple is so averse to expandable storage (although the premium price on the 128GB and 256GB models might go some way to explain it). It’s a serious pain in the arse though, when pretty much every rival has long embraced memory cards.

Apple iPhone 7 Review: Features and OS

Beneath the iPhone 7’s screen you once again get a nifty TouchID fingerprint sensor. This hasn’t changed at all, proving just as responsive and accurate as ever - unless your digits are wet or mucky, of course.

However, it is marginally irritating that you need to push the sensor to activate it. Other phones like the OnePlus 3 simply allow you to lay your print on the sensor to turn on the phone, which is particularly handy when it’s sat on a desk or table. Still, that’s a minor gripe at best, and hardly a deal breaker.

The home button itself is no longer a button, but rather an indented surface that offers vibration feedback when tapped. You can actually change the strength of this vibration in Apple’s settings menu, which is a neat little touch. After a while you don’t even notice/think about the fact that it’s not a button, and there’s potential to add some useful shortcuts depending on how hard you push on this button in the future.

Of course, Apple’s 3D Touch screen makes a return and it’s still not quite as useful as we’d like. You can quickly jump to some regular features with a hard push of your app icons, such as smashing out a new message in Mail. However, try moving or deleting your apps and it’s often a lesson in patience. You have to push on them with just the right amount of pressure, otherwise you end up activating the 3D Touch menu by accident.

Still, iOS 10 adds loads of cool features to the iPhone, while also updating plenty of existing apps. Check out our guide to iOS 10 for an overview of most of these features. Suffice to say, the improved notifications menu, the handy Today View screen and a boosted Command Centre all make for a much more streamlined iPhone experience.

Read next: The best hidden iPhone 7/iOS 10 features

Apple iPhone 7 Review: Performance and battery life

The iPhone 7 packs in Apple’s super-hardcore A10 Fusion processor, backed by 2GB of RAM. This apparently offers a serious step up in performance compared with the iPhone 6s, and in the time we used the iPhone 7 as our full-time handset, it certainly impressed.

Like the iPhone 6s, you get a pleasingly smooth everyday experience. Those lovely iOS 10 animations and transitions look great and you won’t see a single stutter as you zip through Apple’s menus and sweep from app to app.

That said, iOS 10 is still a little buggy at release. We had to reboot the iPhone 7 a couple of times in just a few days and also reinstall some apps which refused to play ball. This is the same with every new major iOS release, so it’s not a surprise. Apple should release a couple of quick succession updates to make things run better, so keep an eye out.

Battery life is better than ever thanks to the iPhone’s boosted battery size. You’ll comfortably make it through a full day even with pretty regular use, and most likely make it to the 36 hour mark before the battery demands a charge.

If you start shooting lots of video and streaming a bit of Netflix, of course, then that performance will be impacted. But you’ll still happily get around nine hours of video playback on a single charge, which is better than most modern mobiles manage.

Apple iPhone 7 Review: Cameras

Although the iPhone 7 once again rocks a 12-megapixel camera like the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus and SE before it, there’s some significant changes in those mobile optics.

For one, the iPhone 7 packs a new wider-aperture lens which can soak up more light for brighter shots. You also now get built-in optical image stabilisation, something previously only found on Apple’s bigger ‘Plus’ handsets. And then there’s the new 4-LED flash, which is more powerful than ever before.

In combination, those new elements make for stronger low light operation. If you like shooting yourself and your buddies in the club, then this is going to be a serious improvement over previous iPhone cameras.

Check out our full iPhone 7 camera review for photo and video samples.

Apple iPhone 7 Review: Verdict

If you already own last year’s iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, there’s little reason to step up to the seven. Sure there’s a fair few improvements, such as the water resistant design and new better-in-low-light camera, but nothing that’ll blow your mind.

Once you get down to the iPhone 6, there’s more reason to update here - mostly that super-nippy performance from Apple’s A10 Fusion processor. And if you’re jumping into the wonderful world of Apple mobiles for the first time, then this is undoubtedly the handset to spring for. A lack of expandable storage aside, it’s one of the best blowers of 2016, standing toe-to-toe with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7.

Check out our iPhone 7 hub for full comparisons, features and more. You can buy the iPhone 7 from a range of UK networks right now. Special thanks to Three for providing our iPhone 7 sample; you can grab the iPhone from Three in Black, Rose Gold, Gold and Silver, with all storage options available, from £36 per month. Check out Three's iPhone 7 page for more info and tariffs.

Key Specs

  • 4.7-inches
  • 1334x750
  • 138g
  • iOS 10
  • 12MP
  • 7MP
  • A10 Fusion
  • 2GB
  • 32/128/256GB
  • Yes
  • Fingerprint sensor, water resistant

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