Apple iPhone 7 Plus in-depth review - Beauty, uninterrupted

The iPhone 7 Plus went on sale on Sept 16 and was sold out at pre order stage. Apparently, for the first time, sale of the 'plus size' iteration has far outstripped those of the regular sized version. Many say it is down to the dual cameras and the recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, but could it just be down to one feature and a coincidence that lead to the unprecedented sale of this handset? Let's have a look...

 Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review - Beauty, uninterrupted
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/16/2016 9:44:15 PM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

9

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

10

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Dual cameras | Premium build | Water resistant | Fantastic battery life

Cons:

Very expensive | no headphone jack | design feels a bit faded | Taptic home button is tricky to get used to

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

 Unwrap the phone and you are greeted with the same luxurious unimetal body that we have come to expect from Apple. And this time there are no antenna lines across the back to interrupt the sheet, just the bright and lustrous logo to punctuate it all.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus in-depth review: Look and feel

 Not much has seemingly changed in iPhone land between the iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 7 Plus, and as always, the changes are more nuanced than what directly meets the eye. 

The size is roughly the same and even though in a slightly smaller body on the Note 7, Samsung have managed to squeeze in .2-inch extra, the 7 Plus has plenty of tricks to keep Apple fans and those looking for a workhorse phone, happy.

Let's start with the build...

A 7000 Series aluminum alloy has been used to manufacture both the 7 series phones and whilst the matt-finish black version has been made using bead-blasted aluminum, the high-gloss jet black finish took a nine-step process of anodization and polishing to get it to gleam that way. However, just so you know...users have taken to Youtube and Twitter bemoaning how quickly the jet black version picks up prints and smudges... exactly like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

The Home button isn't a button anymore and initially, I really struggled with getting used to it... Apple called it an advanced solid-state button but what it actually is is just sensory trickery. Apple have added a bit of vibration under the area within the gold circle so everytime you touch or press it, it vibrates, simulating the feel of a physical button.

There has been speculation that Apple plan to do away wih the Home button in subsequent models and this could well be the way they start getting rid of it. Difficult to get used to but once you get it- that's it. 

With the headphone jack gone, there are more faux speaker grills at the bottom of the phone with the lighting connector still in the middle. It makes for a really streamlined and symmetrical look and is, I guess, one less port for Apple to make water resistant.

However, the onboard speakers are capable of belting out tunes quite loud and without distortion. More on this later...

Apple have also moved the antenna bands and they now run along the bottom of the silver, gold and rose gold variants while on the black and jet black versions, you will be hard pressed to find them- they are almost the same colour as the phone.

And after years of will they, won't they, the iPhone 7 duo is finally IP67 rated. This means iPhone 7 Plus can withstand a good amount of dust chucked at it as well as being dunked in upto 1 meter of water for around 30 minutes. Although Samsung's Note 7 steals a march over it with its IP68 rating which gives it the ability to withstand a dunking for more than 30 minutes, the fact that Apple have finally bowed to market pressure will come as a relief to Apple fans.

IP67 and IP68: What do IP ratings actually mean?

And while we are discussing looks, Apple have finally polished, refined and fine-tuned their flagship to perfection and it shows in the nuanced ways the handset is now one of the most beautiful handsets in the market... The camera lens doesn't look stuck-on anymore which some would accuse the previous iterations of. The aluminium body raises up slightly to hold the dual lens in place and doesn't take away from the look and feel of the phone.

 

Although bezels are still not the thinnest, and you cannot expect the kind of edge-to-edge immersive display that you get on the Note 7, the display cannot be scoffed at for any reason...

Apple iPhone 7 Plus in-depth review: Screen and display

 The 5.5-inch Retina display is the only one that can take on Samsung's Super AMOLED beauties at their game and not get obliterated. 

The display panel has a pixel per inch density of 401 with a 1920× 1080 resolution and even though this isn't a patch on the lumious and bright Galaxy Note 7 with its 518ppi, in reality it makes no difference whatsoever.

You get a very true to like colour reproduction on the iPhone 7 Plus because Apple have used a wide colour gamut with the same colour space as the digital cinema industry, images and video is more vibrant- you see more hues and shades and life-like colours.

Often display panels are tuned in a way so that displays end up looking over-saturated and zingy ( OnePlus 3, some Samsung flagships) but during the time I spent using the iPhone 7 Plus, I did not face this issue at all.

Force-touch was a great innovation when Apple launched it last year on the 6S and 6S Plus and it is present on the 7 and 7 Plus as well, giving the user the ability to deep-dive into apps, mail, messages, photos and calender with an exxagerated screen press.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus in-depth review: Audio

The fact that Apple decided to cut the cord and invest its resources into wireless audio has been reported widely, but if you are one of those people who have recently invested in a pair of wired cans, fret not. Apple supply a 3.5mm jack to lightening connector in the box with the phone and the set of earphones with the phone are wired as well. 

 

I have used Bluetooth headphones for a long time and usually prefer wired versions because they drain the battery at a slower pace. However, because the iPhone 7 Plus has a gargantuan battery coupled with several battery saving features, I went wire-free too and with great results.

And when you are not using headphones, the stereo speaker at the bottom of the iPhone 7 Plus has all the power to really blast out music distortion-free. I played music at its loudest on the phone and Apple's claim of it being able to delivery audio that was 2x louder than the iPhone 6 famile rang true, loud and clear.

Best wireless headphones to pair with the Apple iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7 Plus in-depth review: Processor, memory and battery

One of the biggest differences between the Apple iPhone 6S Plus and Apple iPhone 7 Plus boils down to internals. And by kitting out the 7 Plus with an A10 chip, Apple's best yet, they have made sure that the phone towers over its competitors.

The octa-core chip’s CPU is made up of two sandwiches with one containing two high-performance cores and the other comprising of two high-efficiency ones.

Apple's promise of the iPhone 7 Plus running at 2x the speed of the iPhone 6 is fulfilled by the high-performance cores, while the high-efficiency cores are capable of running at just one-fifth the power of the high-performance cores.

The iPhone first got the kind of prominence it did, not just because of the intuitive interface but also because the phones ran without lags, there were no juddery experiences while gaming and you never got the spinning wheel of death while apps loaded up or you switched between windows. And I am happy to report that streak of brilliance continues with the 7 Plus. Not just processor speeds, but graphics speeds are 3 times faster than previous generations of the iPhone.

Furthermore, holding it all together is the 2900mAH battery which is the biggest Apple have done till date and with night mode and low-power mode, it does last for ages. My review sample went an entire weekend between charges and I used it extensively to record and stream videos, messages and FaceTime.

In fact, the phone lost slightly less than 5 percent charge over 30 minutes of video streaming over wi-fi with brightness at 100 percent.

  

Memory-wise, the iPhone 7 Plus can only be described as super powerful with it being available with three storage options: 32, 128 and 256GB- so you will never have to worry about the number of apps, videos games and sundry on your phone anymore.

And because it is all native memory, there is no worry of memory card getting corrupted. The only buff note with this is how little cloud storage Apple offer for free. Anything over 5GB and you have to pay every month. And if you have more than one Apple device- more fool you!

Apple iPhone 7 Plus in-depth review: camera 

A lot has been made about the 12-MP dual cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus and the top three lines you need to know are: optical image stabilisation, an ƒ/1.8 aperture and a six-element lens.

Apple cameras may not have been best in class but they have always had an edge over others in the market in the form of OIS and on the 7 Plus, it is joined by an Apple-designed image signal processor built into the A10 Fusion chip which helps with faster focus, and improved local tone mapping and white balance, making the latest phone one of the best point and shoot devices in the market.

The f/1.8 aperture does low-light photography really well but cannot compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge which we ran tests against. Apple also say that the dual cameras offer up better quality zoomed in pictures but again during our tests, we found that it couldn't touch the quality we got with Samsung's Galaxy S7 edge, even though we got only 8x zoom on the Samsung and 10x digital zoom on the 7 Plus.

There is a quad-LED True Tone flash onboard which does well to light up colours without burning them off. 

But the most exciting bit for us was the fact that you can now capture video in 4K and there is a handy guide underneath that tells you how much space it will take up. As long as you have the big daddy storage version of the 7 Plus, you should be fine!

There are also the usual slo-mo video recording capabilities as well as time-lapse videos but they have been on-board Apple's cameras for a long time.

 Should I buy the Apple iPhone 7 Plus?

The iPhone 7 Plus has the biggest batteries of all of Apple's phones. It has an incredible screen and force-touch comes into its own on the large amount of real estate you get on the handset. Apple have finally listened to fans and consumers and made the 7 duo dust and water resistant. 

There is finally a dual lens camera onboard and 4K video recording...

However, the phone looks exactly the same as it did three years back, yes there are speaker grilles instead of the headphone jack at the bottom, but the footprint has reamined the same and with prices an eye-watering £150 more than the version a year back, it might not be enough to convince even the mose die-hard Apple fanboy to trade-up.

(The handset for this review was lent to us by Carphone Warehouse)

Apple iPhone 7 Plus specifications

Website: apple.com

Price: £599 for 32GB; £699 for 128GB; £799 for 256GB

Operating System: iOS 10

Dimensions:158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3  mm

Weight: 188 g

Resolution: 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi   

Display: 5.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen

Processor: A10 Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture; Embedded M10 motion coprocessor

Camera: 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, f/1.8 aperture; OIS; Quad-LED True Tone flash; 7-MP selfie camera with 1080p HD video recording. 4K video recording at 30 fps

Memory: 32/128/256GB

Battery: 2900mAH

Fingerprint sensor: Yes

Misc: IP67; Apple Pay lets you pay with your iPhone using Touch ID in stores, within apps, and on the web; EarPods with Lightning Connector