Apple iPhone 7 Plus review: Time-saver edition
The iPhone 7 Plus hardly needs an introduction. Apple's latest always get the attention no matter how much or how little the company has changed. An aura of controversy has always been part of Apple's marketing and some might argue that the polarized opinions actually work in their favor.
Compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a more refined design, it packs even more processing power, and ups the game with a new dual-camera setup on the back. And while the 7+ isn't the first to slap two snappers next to each other, it is the first to attach telephoto lens onto one of these.
And did we mention itís waterproof now? The iPhone 7 Plus is certainly a nice upgrade over the 6s Plus even if, the design and screen bezels are the same for a third year in a row.
5.5"1080 x 1920 pixels
2.34GHz Apple A10 Fusion
3GB RAM 256 GB memory (32GB is base now)
Indeed, a lot has changed since last year, but you can tell Apple is holding something back. Regardless whether the company is keeping its best game for the iPhone's tenth anniversary next year, or whether they just don't want to serve all dishes at once, it doesn't matter. We've got the iPhone 7 Plus as it is so let's check it out.
Design and build quality
The phone's design is the same for the third year in a row. The iPhone 7 Plus looks almost identical to the iPhone 6 and 6s Plus, and if it weren't for the new dual camera on the back, it's hardly distinguishable from the other Pluses. This particular dual-camera setup is the only thing that would prevent you from using any of the protective cases made for the previous generations.
The 6 Plus, the 6s Plus, and 7 Plus all share a similar footprint at 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm though they weigh differently. The 6 Plus is the lightest at 172g, the new aluminum alloy, and 3D Touch tech added 20g up to 192g to the 6s Plus, while the new iPhone 7 Plus has shed some of that weight and is now down to 188g.
The iPhone 7 Plus is big for a 5.5-incher mostly because of its beefy bezels and huge Home key below the screen.
Of course, there are some subtle design changes - it's not all the same. The antenna bands are no longer as obtrusive as before, and there is no longer an analog audio jack opening at the bottom. There are also two new paint jobs - Matte Black and Jet Black, replacing the previous Space Gray.
The Jet Black finish is very prone to scratching - a fact acknowledged even by Apple themselves and is intended more like a limited eye-candy edition, rather than a mainstream purchase.
The most notable design upgrade is not as apparent - the iPhone 7 Plus is fully waterproof. Taking out the audio jack and the hardware Home key from the equation has surely helped Apple achieve water-tight body easier than others.
The display on the iPhone 7 Plus still has the same specs regarding size and resolution: a 5.5" unit with a 1080p resolution (that's 401ppi). It's an LED-backlit IPS LCD screen with RGB matrix though the panel has been updated since the 6S Plus. Naturally, it is also 3D Touch-enabled, a technology we first saw on the iPhone 6s.
The iPhone 7 Plus offers a maximum brightness of 570nits at the far end of its brightness slider, which is slightly lesser than the iPhone 6s Plus. If you leave it on Auto, however, the screen will readily go as high as 680 nits in bright light conditions, which is certainly a nice perk to have.
The best part of the new screen is the fact that it's got a factory color calibration. Color calibration doesn't have anything to do with the screen covering a wider color gamut (which it does). Calibration refers to the accuracy with which it reproduces colors. In the case of both new iPhones, anything on the screen should look exactly how the author intended.
The iPhone 7 Plus is equipped with a non-removable Li-Po 2,900 mAh battery, which is marginally larger (by 5.5%) than the one in the iPhone 6s Plus, and about the same as on the iPhone 6 Plus.
The phone, however, utilizes the latest Apple A10 Fusion chip, which has two extra low-power cores for energy-efficiency. Combined with the new battery and the new optimizations inherent to iOS 10, the iPhone 7 Plus provides longer battery life than the 6s Plus.
The iPhone 7 Plus posted balanced scores across the board - it can do about 18 hours of 3G calls or 13 and a half hours of web browsing on a single charge, or you can watch videos for about 8 hours. The standby endurance turned out way above average and thus, the phone scored a very good endurance rating of 75 hours. Your mileage will vary depending on your usage but we've established a fixed usage routine for calculating this rating so the results are comparable among devices.
There is one more thing we need to address - the charging time. It's the only bummer associated with the iPhone 7 Plus battery performance - it sure does take its sweet time to fill up that tank with the supplied 5V/1A charger (4 hours). In our experience, hooking it to a third-party 5V/2A charger allowed it to charge twice as fast (2h 10min).
When plugged into an active external amplifier, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus posted mostly excellent scores, but it continues the trend from last year where stereo separation quality isnít quite perfect. The loudness is above average so that it will be enough for most users.
Rather impressively, there's no degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones. The scores in the two tests are so identical that itís impossible to tell them apart. So that's an excellent performance here. The audio output quality would have been perfect if the output volume was slightly higher. It is possible that you may be disappointed with the volume level if you are using some really big headphones.
Apple completely revamped the imaging abilities on the new iPhone 7 Plus. Like its smaller counterpart, the Plus shares the updated 12MP sensor that is reportedly 60% faster and 30% more efficient, the brighter f/1.8 aperture that should let 50% more light, and the new six-element lens as well as optical image stabilization.
Apple reserved its best innovation for the Plus model. On the back, next to the standard 12MP camera sits a secondary 12MP sensor with a whole new telephoto lens aimed at portrait shooters but not only.
There are camera improvements on the front as well with a new 7MP FaceTime HD camera, a healthy bump from the 5MP of old. The selfie snapper is aided by Apple's excellent Retina Flash as they call it - it flashes the screen to serve as a fill light when needed.
We can confirm the camera is blazingly fast. There is no pausing for loading or saving even when taking bursts of photos (even a hundred images or more). We just wish Apple would finally implement a quicker way to launch the camera with the screen off, such as a double-press on the home button or a volume button.
Even though Apple upgraded the camera with a new sensor and a brighter f/1.8 lens, it's still 12MP in resolution, and the daylight photos snapped with the iPhone 7 Plus are quite close to what we had on the iPhone 6s and identical to the iPhone 7's.
In good light the resolved detail is good, but it's not at all better (or worse) than what the previous iPhones resolved.
We spotted some softness in the extreme corners of the images, something we haven't seen on older iPhones - possibly a direct result of the new, brighter lens, but the issue rarely manifests itself.
Apple wants you to use the telephoto camera only in good light and mostly for portraits. Due to the lens' narrower aperture of f/2.8 (which gathers less than half the amount of light of the main camera), the lack of optical stabilization and its smaller sensor, the telephoto camera is unfit to capture low light images.
When the light is low and you try to use the 2X magnification camera mode (the secondary camera), the iPhone 7 Plus will resort to using a digitally zoomed photo from the main camera.
This may sound barbaric to seasoned photogs but the reality is that a digitally-zoomed 28mm image is still better than what you'd get if Apple allowed you to use the 56mm camera with its smaller, noisier and non-stabilized sensor in low light.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus is capable of recording 2160p videos at 30 frames in addition to 1080p capturing at 30 and 60 fps. The slow-mo videos can be recorded at 1080p at 120 fps or 720p at 240 fps. There is a time-lapse mode, which works quite well.
The camcorder UI is as simple as it can get, offering nothing but the flash setting. You can find the resolution switch in the Settings menu instead of having a shortcut in the viewfinder, which is somewhat annoying.
Dynamic range is once again impressive, and the framerate is pretty steady. The mono audio capture, however, has been a pain point for iPhone videos for so many years now and nothing has changed here. We do appreciate the sound quality.
The telephoto camera offers the same video capturing abilities - all the way up to 4K at 30fps. In good light, the telephoto camera matches the main one in video quality. Detail levels are high; sharpening is balanced, and dynamic range is almost as wide as on the main camera, which is impressive considering the smaller sensor size.
Apple unveiled iOS 10 last June. As part of the new update, Apple refined the lock and home screens, the notification and control centers, the 3D Touch experience, Siri, and improved the system apps.
Since the beginning, the iOS user experience has successfully revolved around a few basic premises anyone can pick up quickly, and iOS doesn't bring any changes in that direction.
First - the homescreen. All apps go there, and you can group those in folders. There are no widgets on the homescreen; there is no separate app drawer either unlike Android.
Apple did a good job refining the interface, and there are enough new features to enhance the user experience without complicating it. You may never use some of those, and you will still get to experience the iOS in its full beauty. But if you do, you may find it easier to just force press on something or ask Siri to do stuff instead of you. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's a step forward.
Apple has equipped the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus with a new-generation A10 Fusion chip. It has a quad-core CPU, a first for the iPhones, with two high-performance cores running at 2.34GHz and two power-saving ones. The high-performance ones run about 40% faster than the A9 chip and two times faster than the A8.
There's a new GPU inside as well. It's a six-core one and is 50% faster than the A9's GPU and draws just 66% of the power.
Finally, the iPhone 7 uses 2GB of RAM, while the iPhone 7 Plus will offer 3GB.
Apple made sure it has put enough novelties to make the iPhone an attractive purchase and a worthy upgrade. The lines of people and the depleted stock prove that. People are buying the Plus model, lots of people are opting for the new iPhone upgrade program, too.
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is a best-seller from its very first day. Today, a few months after its launch, the phone is still on back-order, so Apple surely has got something right. Our tests proved it's not just marketing that's driving these sales, but the company's marketing prowess is undeniable.
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LG V20 was launched just recently and this shock-proof phablet is shaping up as one of the best current phablets. The V20 has a high-end Quad HD IPS display complimented by a secondary always-on screen, a fast Snapdragon 820 chip with 4GB RAM, and the same dual-camera setup introduced with the LG G5 a while back (ultra wide angle + regular).
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is being massively produced to replace the discontinued Galaxy Note7, and you may want to give it a try. It's a great looking curved smartphone, with an excellent 12MP camera, superb performance and has one of the best screens to date - a 5.5" Super AMOLED unit of 1440p resolution. With Samsung focusing exclusively on its flagship you can be sure there is nothing but good in its future.
The future seems bright for the new iPhones and Apple has nothing to worry about. Next year is the iPhone's tenth anniversary, so we are sure we'll be treated to yet another pair of competition crushing smartphones. Until then, the iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone yet. Time for an upgrade?
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Total GSMArena score
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