Apple iPhone 7 review

Value depends on your relationship with Apple

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Apple iPhone 7
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  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Jet Black version is epic
  • Solidly-built
  • Compatible with Apple ecosystem and accessories
  • Taptic feedback is nice touch

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • No headphone jack
  • Few stand-out features
  • Larger 7 Plus is better value

Bottom Line

It's a decent phone that's very well made but represents poor value in the phone market on its own. However, buyer's relationships with Apple and its ecosystem will dramatically affect value.

Would you buy this?

It’s iPhone time again and whether you’re a fan or not the whole tech industry gets a lift and the general, less-techie populace gets a lesson on the latest technology.

Having reviewed almost a different phone a week for the past few months, we’ve been looking forward to seeing which features are genuinely great and innovative and which ones are marketing spin for what’s been on the market for ages already.

So far, the most exciting technology comes from Apple's partner products that sit adjacent to the iPhone itself: the new Apple Watch Series 2 and the wireless AirPod earbuds, both of which we’ll be reviewing soon. The former elevates itself above every smartwatch and fitness tracker on the market by a long way and though we were sceptical about the AirPods, our brief time with them showed us enough to be amazed at the technology behind. What they’re like to live with is another story that we’ll cover when we get them.

This is all relevant because you can only access these “accessories” by buying into the Apple ecosystem with one of its expensive phones and that’s incredibly relevant when you’re reviewing a $1000-plus smartphone that has a small, 4.7-inch screen. If none of these accessories existed and neither did Apple’s software, I’d tell you right now to go out and buy a Samsung Galaxy S7 or a Huawei P9 and spend the hundreds of dollars left over on something else nice.

So in reviewing an iPhone we’re looking at more than just a phone. If the phone is all you care about then paying this much is just silly. Check out our Android phone reviews. For everyone that’s left, here we go…

Key specs

4.7in, 750 x 1,334, 326ppi LCD display; 32/128/256,2GB RAM; Apple A10 Fusion chipset with quad-core CPU and Hexa-core GPU, 12/7-megapixel cameras, Fingerprint reader, NFC (Apple Pay only), 1,960mAh battery, iOS10, IP67 dust and water resistant, NanoSIM, 137 x 67 x 7mm, 138g. Full specs here.

Handling and design

The iPhone 7 is carved out of a solid chunk of high-quality aluminium and as such is incredibly tough and rigid. We’re not going to try bending it but we’d be stunned if it did. It comes in many flowery colours (gold, silver, rose gold and black) but for a bunch of reasons we suggest hanging out for the Jet Black variant.

When you’re paying a premium for a device, you want it to feel special and the Jet Black version delivers that in spades. It doesn't just look different to virtually everything else on the market, it costs the same and feels different. There are visual similarities to Samsung’s very-pretty Galaxy Note 7 with it’s glossy black finish. But whereas the Note 7 was finished in an incredibly-slippery and potentially-brittle glass, Apple has gone absolutely bonkers in how it’s achieved its finish which isn’t just very glossy but sticks to your fingers like Spiderman (ok that’s an exaggeration, but here’s a picture).

The Jet Black version is both the glossiest and stickiest phone we've seen. Looks great. Feels great. Very solid. Fingerprint magnet.
The Jet Black version is both the glossiest and stickiest phone we've seen. Looks great. Feels great. Very solid. Fingerprint magnet.

The process for achieving this finish involves a ridonculously-elaborate multi-stage anodising, polishing and painting process. There’s an impressive video of it here which we’ve set to start at a minute in so you don’t have to listen to legendary designer, Sir Jony Ive, go Full-Apple and risk you losing all respect for him. We suspect multi-coloured variants of this finish will adorn future iPhones but for now it’s all Henry Ford.

The phone is slightly thinner than the previous iPhone 6 and should be comfortable to hold even for those with very small hands. We felt confident in using it without using a case.

In terms of speed, the only real delay to app launches and comes from Apple's snazzy, screen-wipe animations. We've seen faster opening times elsewhere but with less eye candy. The new A10 chipset is very fast and powers everything along neatly including the latest, graphics-intensive games.

The new stereo speakers get very loud and crisp for both conference calls and music.

Screen

Apple doesn’t disclose which glass the screen uses but assures us that it’s tougher than ever. It’s LCD-based which will disappoint some people: despite Apple assuring us that it gets 25 per cent brighter than ever before and has a full cinema colour gamut, it’s not particularly different to the LCD screens we’ve seen on many other mid-range phones. Samsung’s OLED screens and even the OLED screen on the $599 Alcatel Idol 4S are noticeably more vibrant.

Read more: ​Huawei P9 review: lifting photography to another level... sometimes.

The resolution of 750 x 1,334 is rather low but caused few issues on a screen this small, it’s some way below Samsung’s 1,440 x 2,560 on the 5.1-inch S7 though. The pixel density of 326 pixels per inch isn’t the highest but we only really noticed a screen-door effect when using a VR headset. All in all, it’s a decent screen for most people but we expect more from a top-end phone.

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Read more on these topics: smartphone, Apple, iPhone 7, mobile phones, ios, Phones, iPhone, smartphones, phone
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