Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review: Evolutionary, But Still Great

by Reads (4,685)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Service, Warranty & Support
      • 9
      • Ease of Use
      • 8
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 10
      • Value
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.80
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Outstanding performance
    • Very long battery life
    • Water resistant
    • Excellent cameras
  • Cons

    • No headset port
    • Expensive

Quick Take

Although just an updated version of its predecessor, the iPhone 7 Plus is the top-of-line iOS phone with excellent performance and battery life, and an innovative camera too.


The iPhone 7 Plus is Apple’s latest flagship, and it’s a super-size version of the iPhone 7. It has a lot in common with its immediate predecessor, the iPhone 6s Plus, but still controversial because of design decisions Apple made; namely, leaving out the headphone port.

We’ve extensively tested this high-end model. Is it any good? Read this Apple iPhone 7 Plus review to find out.

Build & Design

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is not a significant redesign from its recent predecessors. This look premiered with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, and then was used again on the 6S series in 2015, and now here it is again. There are tweaks in the new version, but anyone looking at this new model could easily confuse it for one released two years ago. It’s a fine design with rounded corners and moderate screen bezels, but Apple is reportedly putting all its design efforts into next year’s model, and seems to be coasting a bit with this one.

To demonstrate, the iPhone 7 Plus is exactly the same size as the 6 Plus: 6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches. Still, this has advantages, as some cases won’t have to be redesigned, though ones made for last year’s model will have a superfluous headphone jack (more on that later). The new device is actually just a hair lighter: 6.63 vs. 6.77 ounces, but that’s not a noticeable amount.

There are a couple of new color options: black and jet black, in addition to silver, gold, and rose gold. Space grey is no longer an option, but it’s close to black anyway.

The 5.5 inch screen is what makes this iPhone a “Plus,” but it brings drawbacks. This is undoubtedly a big phone, and makes a noticeable bulge in a front pocket. Anyone carrying one in a back pocket risks breaking it by sitting on it. It’s more hassle to carry around than most of its rivals.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus colors

The iPhone 7 Plus is available in five different colors.

It’s waterproof, and that’s a welcomed change. But don’t go overboard with it… literally. This model is IP67 standard, which means it is protected against dust and can withstand immersion in water up to one meter deep. Basically, that means there’s no worry about the iPhone 7 Plus getting rained on, and it will survive an accidental drop into the pool. However, it’s hard to use the touch screen when it’s wet, and no one should even try using this phone underwater.

Display

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus display is the same 5.5 inch size and 1080 x 1920 pixel specs as its predecessor. Apple typically keeps phone screen resolutions the same for several years so third-party application developers don’t have to modify their apps with every new model. And Apple did increase the maximum brightness by about 30%, and improved the color range. This makes it easier to see outside than any of its predecessors; we were even able to read an ebook in direct sunlight with no problems.

Although Apple didn’t increase the pixel density past 401 ppi, one could argue that it didn’t need to. While the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has an even higher pixel density topping 500 ppi, Apple’s offering already has so many pixels per inch than the human eye can’t make out individual pixels viewing it from an average distance, and therefore sees text and images displayed as smoothly and evenly as possible.

At nearly 13 square inches, the display in the iPhone 7 Plus has over 35% more screen area than the iPhone 7. We find the iPhone 7 Plus to be a better option for watching video or playing games. People who need reading glasses can turn on options that will increase font sizes without overcrowding the larger display. Those who use their phone as their only mobile computer, rather than sporting both a phone and a tablet, owe it to themselves to consider whether they need the extra room.

No phone supports the Apple Pencil; that’s reserved for the company’s iPad Pro line of tablets.

Ports, Buttons, & Speakers

Apple iPhone 7 Plus camera

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus has two rear-facing cameras.

Easily the most controversial change Apple made with the iPhone 7 series is removing the dedicated headphone port, with the Lightning port taking over. A set of Lightning earbuds comes with this phablet, as well as an adapter so older headsets can still be used. There have been some complaints about the audio quality of the adapter, but we weren’t able to discern a difference between an MP3 played on the iPhone 7 Plus and the same file played on an iPhone 6S.

The Lightning port continues to be the only charging and data port. As Apple won’t put memory card slots in its phones or tablets, users will need to turn to third-party options, like the ones from SanDisk and Lexar.

Continuing with the controversies, the Home button on this new device isn’t really a button; it’s a capacitive area on the front, so it doesn’t move when pushed. There’s a slight vibration instead. This takes a small bit of getting used to, but not much. That said, using the phone while wearing gloves just got a bit more challenging.

This “button” still functions as a fingerprint scanner for the Touch ID security system, taking the place of passwords for many functions, including unlocking the phone. This is generally quite reliable, correctly identifying proper fingerprints, and rejecting others. The exception is when the fingertip is wet; almost any amount of water severely downgrades the performance of this biometric scanner.

Apple used the extra space freed up by removing the headphone port to add a second speaker. This offers stereo playback, but the speaker separation is tiny. Still, it does mean this device is capable of putting out a lot more sound than its predecessors. We had no problems hearing a TV show in a moderately noisy area, or using the speakerphone while driving.

Camera

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus has two 12-megapixel rear cameras, while the smaller iPhone 7 does not. One of these has a wide-angle lens with an ƒ/1.8 aperture, while the second has a telephoto lens with a ƒ/2.8 aperture. The inclusion of the second camera allows for a 2x optical zoom, which results in sharper images than the digital zoom provided by just about all other smartphones.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus camera specs

Dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus

One of the best photo effects isn’t available yet. Apple demoed a portrait mode in which the person being photographed is in focus but their background is blurred out, an effect typical of more expensive DSLRs and interchangeable lens cameras. This feature has been promised in a software update coming later this year.

The rear camera supports 4K video recording at 30 fps, and there’s optical image stabilization for video and still images.

The iPhone 7 Plus’ shooter functions well in dimly-lit areas, even with the flash off. The new quad-LED flash is brighter than the ones in previous iPhones, and does a nice job of lighting up dark areas.

The front-facing camera is 7 MP with an ƒ/2.2 aperture, which is better than most main cameras from a few years ago. It supports 1080p video recording.

Sample Pics
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Performance

The iPhone 7 Plus is built around the A10 Fusion, Apple’s first quad-core smartphone processor. This includes two 64-bit 2.34 GHz CPU cores, along with a second slower pair dedicated to less demanding software, extending battery life.

We ran the just-released Geekbench 4 test, and the score was 5590 on the multi-core test. This is the highest score of any Apple product, solidly outperforming even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s 4750. The iPhone 7 Plus also beat the new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and Galaxy S7 on this test.

iPhone 7 Plus benchmarks

Real world use bears up the benchmarks: the iPhone 7 Plus offers as good a performance as anyone can expect from a mobile computer.

One of the controversies surrounding this model is the reports that some iPhone 7 models have an odd hiss when performing demanding tasks. This might be emitted when the new processor when strained, but we haven’t experienced this on our test unit.

The iPhone 7 Plus has 3GB of RAM, a fairly generous amount. The smaller iPhone 7 has 2GB, and the only iOS device with more is the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Apple offers the iPhone 7 Plus with 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB of built-in storage. This is another welcome change, as it’s twice as much as its predecessor for the same prices. We feel that 32GB is plenty for people who don’t want to carry around a lot of multimedia files, but those with many MP3s or videos should choose the 128GB one at least.

Specs

  • Display:
    5.5-inch (diagonal) LED
    1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi1300:1 contrast ratio (typical)
    625 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
  • Dimensions:
    6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches (158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm)
    6.63 ounces (188 grams)
  • Processor:
    Quad-core A10 Fusion, with dual 64-bit 2.34 GHz cores
    Embedded M10 motion coprocessor
  • Camera:
    12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras
    Optical zoom at 2x; digital zoom up to 10x
    7-megapixel front-camera
  • Wireless:
    GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (some models), LTE Advanced (up to 450 Mbps)
    802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2
    GPS and GLONASS
    VoLTE
    NFC
  • Battery:
    2,900 mAh
    Up to 21 hours of talk time, Up to 16 days of standby
    Up to 15 hours web browsing on WiFi, up to 13 hours on LTE, up to 13 hours on 3G
    Up to 14 hours video playback
    Up to 60 hours audio playback

Software

This device debuted with iOS 10, the latest version of Apple’s operating system for phones and tablets. An in-depth discussion of all the new features in this version is outside the scope of this hardware review, but we will say that the iPhone 7 Plus’ 5.5-inch display makes it an outstanding platform for the new iMessage features, like stickers and hand-drawn comments.

ios10

Apple bundles its iWork suite of productivity applications with all new models, as well its iLife suite.

Battery

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus includes a 2,900 mAh battery, which Apple says is good for up to 15 hours of web browsing over a Wi-Fi connection. We put this model through our own grueling battery test, asking it to continuously stream video from Hulu over Wi-Fi with the backlight on 50%. The 7 Plus lasted 7 hours 43 minutes before the battery hit 0% and the device shut down. This is a “torture test” and is close to the shortest amount of time one can expect this model to last with extremely heavy use.

In our real world use, even on the days we heavily used our Apple iPhone 7 Plus review unit during the testing period, we never once ran out of of power, or even got below 38%.  Days with lighter use typically ended with the battery at about 60%, indicating to us that this phone could go two days without needing to be charged, as long as it was used fairly moderately.

Apple still refuses to support wireless charging for its devices, so the only way to power up the 7 Plus is to plug in a cable. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t charge particularly quickly. In our testing, a hour of charging increased the battery level by approx. 35%, so a full charge takes about three hours.

Value

The retail cost of the iPhone 7 Plus is $769 for the version with 32GB of built-in storage. For comparison, last year’s iPhone 6s Plus with the same capacity is now $649. On the other hand, the list price for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 with 64GB is between $850 and $880.

Although the iPhone 7 Plus is about $100 less than one of its top rivals, this has to be regarded as a very expensive product. Still, it is Apple’s flagship, and the best iOS phone on the market. Those who want top-of-the line will usually be willing to pay for it, but there are more affordable options.

Conclusion

Apple iPhone 7 PlusApple’s decision to forgo the headphone port has drawn the most attention, and controversy. However, there’s a lot to like in this model, such as a long battery life with speedy performance, an innovative camera, and water resistance. The new Home button takes some getting used to, though.

An unusual issue with the iPhone 7 Plus is it’s competing with a model that hasn’t even been announced yet. Rumors about the 10th anniversary iPhone are already making the rounds, and it is shaping up to be a more revolutionary model than this one, which is very evolutionary. Those who can wait might consider holding off until 2017 to see what Apple has to offer.

Pros:

  • Outstanding performance
  • Very long battery life
  • Water resistant
  • Excellent cameras

Cons:

  • No headset port
  • Expensive



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  1. SFC2371

    You do realise the second speaker is in the earpiece, not where the headphone jack was, right?