Pros: The iPhone 7 still has the biggest key features you’d want: a fast processor, water resistance, a more durable solid-state home button, and still really good cameras with rear optical image stabilization. iOS 12 should help this phone perform even better than on iOS 11.
Cons: Lacks the extra speed and improved camera quality of the iPhone 8. No fancy Face ID or other iPhone X-type designs, which will likely spread to other iPhones soon in the fall. No headphone jack (an adapter comes in the box). No wireless charging.
In General: The gap between iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 isn’t as great as you think, and for the right price, this is still an excellent pick if you’re not chasing the latest bleeding-edge iPhone and want to save some money.
The iPhone 7 isn’t a bad place to land if you’re bargain shopping and want the basics, as it starts at only $549 for 32GB. It has a nearly identical physical design to the iPhone 8, water resistance for spills or pool drops, a solid haptic feedback home button…and no headphone jack. The iPhone 7 doesn’t have wireless charging like the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
This could also be the best time to consider older hardware, as Apple’s upcoming iOS 12 software update promises big performance boosts on years-old phones and iPads. The iPhone 7 already has a really good A10 processor, and it could run even better by the fall.
The 7 Plus has the added advantages of a larger screen, a bit better battery, and dual cameras, which add extra zoom and that snazzy depth-of-field Portrait Mode. Those are nice extras, but if you’re already bargain shopping for an iPhone, or want something small, the regular iPhone 7 is just fine.
The iPhone 7 was released in September, so you’ve certainly heard by now that it has no headphone jack and it looks almost identical to the 2014 iPhone 6 and 2015 iPhone 6S.
There are plenty of good or even great Android phones to choose from now, from the 2017 Samsung Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5 to the 2016 Google Pixel. The iPhone 7 beats these on speed, but not on battery life. Its size, performance and camera are unique features — along with being a way to use iOS, of course — but the iPhone’s unique qualities are, this time, improved in many subtle ways.
But there are still compelling reasons to consider an iPhone 7, even if you own one of those recent iPhone models… provided you have an affordable way to upgrade.
- The iPhone 7 is now fully water-resistant.
- The camera takes notably better photos, especially in low light, and adds the optical image stabilization feature previously restricted to the 5.5-inch Plus model.
- The battery lasts a little bit longer — sometimes it’s notable, other times it feels just slightly better than the iPhone 6S.
- The processor is definitely faster, although keep in mind that last year’s iPhone 6S has more than enough speed for most people’s needs.
As with 2015’s iPhone choices, you can also opt for the step-up iPhone 7 Plus, which offers a larger screen (5.5 inches vs. 4.7 inches). But that model’s big attraction is the dual rear cameras, which enable 2x optical zoom and a cool in-camera “bokeh” effect portrait mode, which blurs the background while keeping the foreground in focus.
Let’s not diminish the missing headphone jack. The loss will hurt, especially while other iPhones exist that still have a headphone jack onboard. If you want to plug regular headphones into your new iPhone, a process that seemed simple and uncomplicated before, you now need to consider whether you brought the included dongle, or have a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
Design: Black is the new black
In a world of curved eye-popping displays, the iPhone now looks a little old-fashioned. It’s slim and attractive and still very well-designed, but the iPhone 7 looks just like the iPhone 6 and 6S. It’s like the MacBook Air, or the iPad: A familiar, old form. Maybe more durable, but it’s mostly the same. Apple smoothed out the seams that used to hide the phone’s antennae, so the aluminum around the back looks smoother. The camera bump is larger, by just a bit.
Apple added new colors this year, too. Now the phone comes in two versions of black in addition to the existing silver, gold and rose gold colors. Regular black is matte, while jet black is a high gloss. Jet black, it turns out, is a fingerprint and scratch magnet.
Other small perks: Stereo speakers, a slightly improved display, buzzier haptics
The speakers sound louder. They surround the left and right sides of the iPhone now, instead of a single speaker down by the home button. It’s better for casual game playing or movie watching.
The best improvement of all might be haptics: the vibrations, or rumbles, or taps, or throbs the phone makes in response to your actions. Apple updated the “Taptic Engine” in the iPhone 7, which makes all the vibrations seem sharper and more defined. The silence mode is now a quick tip-tap. Pushing in on 3D Touch icons throbs more readily. Some sounds and settings now come with phone-rumbling enhancements. Change the clock time, feel the click of the wheel as you spin it. It means that more tactile feedback is possible, even in apps with onscreen buttons. It’s like a phone-wide Xbox One rumble pack.
The iPhone 7’s new processor, called the A10 Fusion, promises another significant set of speed bumps with two cores. There’s also a new wrinkle: A lower-power battery-optimizing mode with two other cores. In classic Apple fashion, the phone switches between these cores automatically and you can’t tweak it.
The phone is seriously fast. It’s faster than any other iOS devices including the iPad Pro, and faster than Samsung’s last batch of phones by a significant margin, faster than Google’s Pixel phone.
Battery life: Minor gains
It’s hard to judge Apple’s battery-life claims on the iPhone 7, because a lot of what’s being touted involves low and high-power performance management that happens automatically in Apple’s processor, and can’t be adjusted in settings.
The battery life test involves a video playback loop in airplane mode, which doesn’t reflect everyday use cases for how most people would use an iPhone. But on that test, using iOS 10 .1, the iPhone 7 lasted around 10 hours, 45 minutes — a bit better than last year’s iPhone 6S, but not by much.
Apple’s attentiveness to more power-efficient processing is promising. But lots of great phones now have supersize batteries in them: think of the Motorola Moto Z Play, the OnePlus 3T and Galaxy S7. If you want an even better battery, consider the iPhone 7 Plus, a battery pack, or another phone.