iPhone 7 review: better, louder, brighter, waterproof-ier

And it's got no you know what

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For

  • Finally waterproof
  • Super taptic engine
  • Awesome graphics

Against

  • Iterative design
  • Large bezels
  • We like the Plus a lot more

We're still in the process of reviewing our iPhone 7 and we'll be updating this article again over the next few days once we've spent more time with the handset.

We've also got an iPhone 7 Plus, too, which we're reviewing separately.

There's one divisive change to iPhone 7 over the iPhone 6S and you've probably heard about it. You've made your mind up about it, whatever we say in the next sentence. But the fact is the lack of headphone jack matters not. If you've got Bluetooth headphones you're sorted. Usually use the EarPods in the box? They're still in the box. If you use expensive wired cans, there's an adapter.

There is no issue (unless you want to simultaneously charge and listen via Lightning (and that’s when you need to go wireless).

The innovation curve between smartphone releases is getting flatter and this year's best phone so far - the supreme Galaxy S7 Edge - had only slight improvements over the Galaxy S6 Edge. And so it is with the iPhone 7. Gone are the type of changes we saw from iPhone 3GS to 4 or 5 to 6. Improving on near-perfection is difficult.

iPhone 7 design

The iPhone 7 does not represent a revolution in design, although it is massively cleaner than the 6 and 6S now the antenna bands are more subtle and not slapped across the back brazenly .

The new Jet Black finish is nice and the standard black is better than we'd expected, but otherwise the core design is an evolution of what exists. Jet Black is weirdly only available in the higher capacities rather than the entry level model. The polishing process might be a bit more intensive, we guess, but it's probably to encourage people to plump for 128GB.

The front of the device is starting to look a little dated in comparison with the bezel-light nature some Android rivals and if there's anything you can pick out as being a negative about this handset it is that.

iPhone 7 features

One of our favourite features of the new phone - aside from the taptic engine, more on which see below - is the waterproofing. Yeah, we know other handsets have this and we know that not all of us are going to take it in the shower. BUT it is something that's genuinely really useful. We're also big fans of the increase in capacity - 32GB as a minimum is really welcome, while the 128GB and 256GB models provide genuine options. It seems a long way from those initial 4, 8 or 16GB choices of the first gen phone.

The space where the headphone jack was is now (mostly) taken up with Apple's new 'taptic engine' to provide physical feedback when you press the home button (which no longer has a physical press, although it feels like it does) and in relevant apps, such as games where you feel explosions and so on. You can adjust the sensitivity of all this, but we're pretty amazed so far just how well this works.

The improved screen is brighter and has a wide colour gamut but isn’t a huge upgrade - after all it’s the same resolution and pixel density as the predecessor devices. It has to be said that the iPhone 7 display is lagging behind some rivals now. Does it matter? Probably not, for many.

There's a new Apple W1 wireless chip for seamless pairing. While it tolerates Bluetooth, Apple doesn’t like the way it can be flaky. Pairing with compatible devices (like the new Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones) should be seamless and we'll also be reviewing Apple's own AirPods soon. The new AirPods aren’t cheap at £160, but they’re a compelling buy and we think we’ll see a lot of them around. As we said above, Apple is also including a 3.5mm jack to Lightning adapter in the box. We give it a few weeks until we lose it!

Talking of audio, the disappearance of the headphone jack means that there's now stereo speakers, too. The result is a lot louder, but there's still the tininess you'd get from any phone.

iPhone 7 performance

In real-world use, the 7 doesm't perform that differently to the 6S. Put simply, most people who buy it (not you, dear T3.com reader) just won’t use it anything like its potential. We know from benchmarks that the iPhone's A10 Fusion chip is pretty formidable - there's genuine power here.

There are wo high-performance cores and two high efficiency cores, delivering around a 40% performance boost (according to Apple) over the A9 chip in the previous iPhone. In reality that means a little bit more battery life because the phone doesn't spin up the performance cores for a basic task like replying to a text. Apple reckons you'll get around two hours more from the battery, and we'll update on this when we can.

The graphical capability of this phone is quite remarkable and some of the challenging games we've tried so far were ran with aplomb.

We've only played with the camera at a very superficial level so far, but the results we've seen are impressive and we'll feature a lot more on this as we update this article.

iPhone 7 verdict

The iPhone 7 is what we expected - it's clearly one of the best phones around and matches the rival Galaxy S7 almost punch for punch. It's priced at a premium level - though Apple will sell bucketloads of course. So do we like it? In a word, 'yes', but we feel there's a lot more going for the iPhone 7 Plus, especially when you consider the dual camera. (We've been quite spoilt with larger phones recently, too.)

In a sense the iPhone 7's biggest rival isn't the S7, it's the iPhone 6S and iPhone SE. They're are still sticking around and are - of course - pretty formidable devices in themselves. Both give you so much and they will appeal to those sticklers who simply can't cope without the headphone jack.

If you’ve got an iPhone 6S then don’t upgrade - it’s as simple as that. If you’ve got an older handset then you’ll want to. And why on earth not.

Now why not check out Best iPhone 7 case: shroud your new hotness in a suit of awesome smartphone armour

Huge thanks to Three Mobile for their help with this article.