Rumours no more: the iPhone 7 has landed, and it’s… pretty much what we expected, to be honest. The headphone jack has joined the floppy and CD drives in Apple’s bin, the design has been given a tweak and both camera and battery have been improved dramatically.
The iPhone 7 may well be the best non-Plus iPhone ever made, but is it the best iPhone for you now that the 6S gets more storage too? Let’s find out.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S design
The iPhone 6S wasn’t a dramatic departure from the iPhone 6, although its less slippery aluminium case made it considerably less likely to fly out of your hands. It followed the usual tick/tock approach where the non-S models would change the overall design and the following year’s S models would tinker with the internals. It’s still a very good looking phone, although overfamiliarity may have dulled its appeal somewhat.
This year, though, it seems that Apple has tocked where it would normally tick: the iPhone 7 is clearly a refinement of the existing design. It’s almost an iPhone 6S-S. The antenna bands are almost invisible and the new glossy Jet Black option looks great, but visually the iPhone looks very like its predecessor - which is perhaps why the glossy option isn’t available in the smallest storage option, so that rich early adopters can differentiate themselves from us plebs.
There are some key changes though. There’s IP67 water and dust resistance, the speakers are now stereo and the headphone jack is gone; you do get a Lightning adapter for your existing phones but that means you can’t charge while you listen, and it makes iPhones less usable for musicians too. The Home button has been redesigned too: it’s solid state, force-sensitive and its revamped taptic engine can be accessed by third party apps for special effects. It’s a shame that when Apple ditched the headphone jack it stuck with Lightning instead of the industry standard USB-C.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S display
The display in the iPhone 6S is a 4.7-inch IPS LCD delivering 1,334 x 720 pixels at 326ppi. It’s crisp and clear but falls well behind the pixel density of AMOLED Android rivals, and at around 65% screen-to-body the screen doesn’t dominate the way Android flagships do. But unlike most rivals the screen has 3D Touch, which enables you to force-press icons to bring up extra options.
The iPhone 7 display looks identical. Once again it’s an IPS LCD, but while Apple has boosted its brightness by 25% and given it a wide colour gamut it’s the same resolution and pixel density. It’s pretty good and nicer than its predecessor, but it’s lagging behind some of the better Android displays.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S camera
The iPhone 6S has a 12MP, f/2.2 camera with phase detection autofocus - but not optical image stabilisation, which is reserved for the 6S Plus. It’s capable of 2160p video at 30fps. The front-facing camera is 5MP and capable of 1080p video at 30fps.
Sadly the new dual-camera setup is limited to the iPhone 7 Plus, but the camera in the iPhone 7 has some useful improvements. It’s stabilised for starters, and the aperture has been improved to f/1.8 for better low-light performance. There’s a new lens, a faster sensor and the front facing camera has been upped to 7MP with stabilisation. Apple hasn’t detailed the video specs yet, which suggests they’ll be the same as before, but the stabilisation extends to Live Photos and we assume it’ll work on video too.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S specs and software
Apple designs its own silicon, and in the iPhone 6S its A9 processor is a dual-core 1.8GHz processor with six-core PowerVR GT7600 graphics. There’s 2GB of RAM and a choice of 16, 64 or 128GB of storage, and there’s no microSD card to add any more.
For the iPhone 7, storage is up - 32, 128 or 256GB, unless you want the glossy black one; that’s limited to 128 or 256GB - and the processor is the new Apple A10 Fusion. It’s a four-core processor with two high-performance cores and two high efficiency cores, with the former delivering a promised 40% performance boost over the A9 chip in the previous iPhone.
The iPhone 6S shipped with iOS 9, but it’ll get the iOS 10 upgrade in a week or so and most likely the next two iOSes too. The 7 gets iOS 10 from the get-go.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S battery
The iPhone 6S battery is small by flagship standards, with just 1,715mAh. Apple claims 240 hours of standby, 14 hours of talk time or 50 hours of music.
Apple hasn’t disclosed specs for the new battery but it’s made some big promises: it says that the new iPhone 7 will get the same battery life as the iPhone 6S Plus, whose battery was significantly bigger. Expect 2 more hours per day out of the iPhone 7 than from the iPhone 6S Plus.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S features
In addition to 3D Touch, the iPhone 6S also has Live Photos, Apple’s way of turning photographs into little video clips. There’s Siri and iCloud too, although Apple persists with its infuriating limit of 5GB per iCloud account rather than 5GB per device. And in the UK at least, Apple Pay has achieved the market penetration that Google’s payment efforts haven’t. The iPhone 7 adds support for the Japanese payment system Felicia.
iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6S: verdict
Is the iPhone 7 a good phone? Yes, it is. Is it worth upgrading from the iPhone 6S? Probably not, unless battery life really is causing you problems - and definitely not if you’re still in contract with six or twelve months to go. We know there’s a more exciting iPhone planned for next year, so it’s probably sensible to hang on for that.
That’s not to say the iPhone is a bad phone, or a bad buy: if you’re in the market for a new phone there’s a lot here to like. It’s faster, lasts longer, has a better display and a better camera than the iPhone 6S. But the improvements are incremental rather than dramatic. Especially if you have headphones or an amp that needs the 3.5mm jack.
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