Apple is perhaps one of the very few brands in the world (and not just in the mobile phone world), that prices it’s products in a premium manner with little or no hesitation. And yet, it’s products get lapped up by in tens of millions year after year. That can be attributed to the oomph factor, customer loyalty, as well as to the value that customers derive from the products.
This year though, the newly released iPhone 7 risks going toe to toe with the latter belief. Looking almost identical to it’s last two predecessors, naysayers are having a field day, estimating that Apple “no longer adds adequate value to their products, to justify the markup they demand”.
They’re so wrong, it’s like it’s a sour grapes story!! Looks aside (and we agree, it looks dated), the iPhone 7 has a lot of new stuff under the old skin. Let’s prove that to you.
But first, let’s address some disappointments, quickly!
The 7 looks like the 6s, which looked like the 6; but it’s not the same. It’s water resistant (the first ever iPhone to be that), there’s a significantly more powerful quad-core processor, an improved camera, optical image stabilisation, and a new home button. A better screen, a bigger battery, better front camera, and a new speaker.
Oh, what the heck… let’s start the review!
The iPhone 7 comes with a 4.7 inch LED back lit IPS LCD screen with a 1334×750 resolution and with 326 pixels per inch. The spec sheet may seem familiar to you but there’s a big change – the iPhone 7 uses a wider range of the colour gamut that results in more colours. Consequently, content is richer, colours truer and much more realistic than the earlier screens could provide.
The display also feels a little sharper than before and it certainly is brighter and less reflective which translates to better sunlight visibility. Overall, everything is extremely clear and distinct.
Colours look very well balanced, the contrast is good as well however, the blacks are not as deep as that of the AMOLED panels used by Samsung (that’s another long-standing debate). Debate notwithstanding, Apple never has been about specs. It has always belittled the specs with quality and while that is not entirely true here, the fact is not far from it either.
The display is good and true and a hard one to better, all said.
To start off on the design front, let’s talk about Appearances.
If you’re someone who likes to stand out with your newest flagship phone, things do not look very promising – the iPhone 7 is not very different to look at than the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6s and this may very well be the biggest disappointment with this device. The only way that you can stand out from the crowd is by opting for one of the two new ‘Black’ colour options.
Talking about colours, there are five: Jet Black (shiny, lustrous black), Black (which is a matt version of Black), Silver, Gold and Rose Gold. The erstwhile Space Grey has been shelved now.
As far as the external design of the device goes, several things have changed on the iPhone 7.
Let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room – the absence of an audio jack. The 3.5 mm earphone jack has been culled. The iPhone 7 no longer has a separate audio jack which is a rather fundamental shift. The earphones now use the same port as the charging cable.
Refuting naysayers, there are actually four good reasons:
First, to enable more technology to be shoehorned into the lithe design;
Second, the Lightning port is a smart port (it’s always been so) and can be locked down with digital rights management (DRM); is this Apple’s way to subtly restrict audio piracy? Probably.
Third, to make room for a bigger speaker
Fourth: it probably enables the iPhone’s water resistance challenge to large degree.
Users however, will still be able to use their existing headphones (the ones with the regular 3.5 mm audio jack) as the iPhone 7 ships with a 3.5 mm audio-jack-to-Lightning-port connector included in the box.
What this change hides though is that it is a technological evolution. What Apple has done was going o be done anyway in the future. On the non-Apple devices side, the USB Type-C ports are doing the same thing too. Clearly, this it will only remain “an issue” till it becomes the new standard (which is how technological evolution works).
Another significant change is to the home button – It is no longer a press-able button, it is now a capacitive touch button. Supported by the haptic engine (first used on Apple Watch, then on the 12 inch MacBook), the button has a wonderful feedback and works really well. The haptic engine has also improved the overall feedback of the device. It now communicates to you through different forms of subtle vibrations basis different inputs you may provide the phone with your actions.
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The iPhone 7 family is the first set to officially come with an IP67 rating for dust- and water-resistance. While it is not something new in the industry (and perhaps even on iPhones – the iPhone 6s series was rumoured to be largely water resistant, but never officially declared so), it certainly is a desirable feature on expensive phones.
You’ll be surprised often it can be your saving grace and instills a huge feeling of security when you are walking outside and it starts to rain, or if you accidentally tip over your glass onto the phone!
The iPhone 7 can resist being dipped into a puddle of water to up to 1 meter for about 30 minutes! And it’s impervious to India’s dusty environs too!
Summarising: The device does look the same as he previous generation and that is certainly a downer. But here is no compromise on quality of build and hardware; in fact the iPhone 7 does add tremendous value over the 6s. And it looks sleeker round the back too, as the very-visible antenna lines have now been moved up out of sight and thus you have a cleaner back panel on the phone.
The Apple iPhone 7 comes with an all new quad-core Apple A10 Fusion chipset with 2 GB of RAM.
There’s nothing that you can do to scare or panic the iPhone 7. There’s no game, App, interaction that it breaks a sweat about.
The device performs brilliantly and easily benchmarks above everything else on the market, scientifically speaking. The CPU is a quad-core one and it certainly does not use all ts juice at once. The processor adopts the philosophy of divide-and-rule.
Two of the cores are reserved to deal with the heavier CPU-intensive tasks such as 3D gaming while the remaining two (which are more efficient), take care of the day-to-day tasks such as opening and closing of apps, switching between them, browsing and scrolling through web pages and the usual.
As a result, the iPhone 7 manages everything very well, and as is the case with most Apple devices – it does everything with buttery smooth aplomb. Anything you can throw at this device can be handled by it quite comfortably.
This was the case with the A9 chip as well but technically the A10 is 3% faster and about 12% more powerful.
Gaming too is a delight on this device as you can download and play any game available today and the device would not even flinch. Also, graphically this device is simply the best. It uses a six-core GPU which makes this device stand head and shoulders above every other device out there (except the iPhone 7 Plus).
It all seems a little insane, as it seems to me that the potential performance of the processors have started to go beyond what we can comprehend and differentiate. The A10 is more powerful chipset than the A9 and hence the performance is better. But everything that the A10 can do the A9 can do with relative ease as well. What Apple has achieved here is more on the lines of future proofing the device and ensuring that this is the best performance you get in the market today.
One of the not-so-improved aspects of the iPhone 7 is it’s battery life. It uses a 1,960 mAh non-removable Li-ion battery. While the battery is bigger than that in the iPhone 6, the battery life does not seem to have improved, significantly.
The iPhone 7 will still struggle to last through the day and if you want to it, you may have to cut down usage and keep monitoring it, or carry a power bank around.
Summarising: As far as performance goes, you really will have a tough time finding a device that performs better anywhere in the world.
The iPhone 7 comes with Apple’s latest mobile OS, iOS 10.
iOS 10 in essence has remained the same iOS 9. Again, there are not too many fundamental changes, which essentially translates to continuity of user experience from the previous iOS versions. Thus, it stands true if you are an iOS user – you’ll quickly feel at home with this OS.
There have been some tweaks though, through which Apple seeks to further enhance the user friendliness of iOS which has been argued upon in the past and also to do away with some of the iOS impairments.
We start off with a change which may not be as significant as it is noticeable. You now have the option of deleting some of the apps that you do not deem necessary. This is both huge and marginal, as it is subjective to perspectives on how useful and user friendly iOS originally was.
Also, iOS Photos which almost always has been bettered by Google photos has now improved. Certainly things have become more common between the two but the thing is, why not?
Apple Music too sees a few tweaks – it now has simpler, but better lock screen, control center and notification bar controls.
Changes to iMessage are two of the most exciting feature changes. It can now be looked upon as a mix of social apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
And, most importantly, the new haptic engine has improved the 3D Touch experience. It is now more efficient and the feedback is very good. 3D Touch itself has been ingrained for more tightly and deeper in a wider plethora of user interactions. You can do a lot more by doing much lesser!
Also, the Siri functionality has improved and covers more supporting roles than earlier.
The iPhone 7 comes with a primary 12 megapixel camera with a wide aperture size of f/1.8. The spec sheet also boasts of phase detection auto-focus, Optical Image Stabilisation and a quad LED flash.
The iPhone 7 also has a secondary (front) 7 megapixel camera with an aperture size of f/2.2.
People have been in anticipation of the iPhone 7 camera ever since the iPhone 6s was launched. In the past, Apple has always had devices that delivered on their spec sheet and then some! And Apple did it again this time around. The cameras are indeed very impressive!
First, and very importantly, Apple finally decided to provide Optical Image stabilisation (so far reserved only for the ‘Plus’ models) in the equally capable but smaller sized variants.
The iPhone 7 leverages OIS to cancel out the effects of the unstable human hand. So, if you weren’t very good at holding the phone stably enough to click a pic with steady hands, you have been redeemed!
Add to that, the auto- focus on this device works very well and quickly too. The shutter speed is fast and coupled with the OIS, you can expect more pictures to be sharp and usable and lesser wasted/blurry snaps.
This continues to not have as good an effect on moving objects, but things still have improved in that area as well. Give the small spaces in smartphones, it isn’t really possible (yet) to put in the full-function 5-axis stabilisation hardware found in full-function cameras!
Back to outcomes: The wider lens allows in more light in and produces snaps with a great amount of detail. The daylight shots are absolutely delightful with extensive detail, excellent colour saturation and the representation makes the shots look very realistic.
One down side of using this wide a lens (at any time) is the risk of overexposure which this camera does suffer from sometimes, particularly if there is a bright source of light directly in front of the sensor. But do not worry, for allowing more light in solves more problems than it creates.
As impressive as the daylight shots are, the area where the camera seems to have improved the most is in capturing low lit night time shots. This is where having a wider lens to allow more light in yields another advantage.
In the iPhone 7, the night time shots look the best I have ever seen. There is a lot of detail present here and the noise levels are fairly low too. I have had a long withstanding irritation with manufacturers not giving enough importance on night time photography to actually improve it.
For the past 2-3 years daytime shots have had a tremendous improvement in quality whereas the quality of the night time shots has hardly improved. Finally, Apple seems to have addressed this issue as there is an evident improvement in that area and this will cause other manufacturers to also work on it.
Apple really seems to have paid due attention to night time photography. I say this because all the major changes and upgrades made here directly benefit the cause. Another of these upgrades is flash that is almost twice as bright as before.
As far as the camera app goes, there is not a lot you get in term of manual settings. The software does most of the work; with the options provided in the app, what the camera does is as good as you’re going to get. That is not to say that the quality here is in desperate need of tuning manually but for those who like to tinker around with the settings for different scenarios there is not much available out of the box. But there are hundreds of apps that can help you with that.
Before we forget, with iOS 10 on your iPhone 7, you can actually use a third party app to shoot photos in RAW format (which basically takes and preserves photos exactly as your camera sensors took it, preventing the iPhone’s image signal processor from processing and adjusting the photos). This gives you much greater control over editing the photo’s light, colour, and imagery later, to your personal preference and taste. And the iPhone supports that and enables you to process the image right on the phone (most full-form cameras don’t do that!)
4k video shooting is also available and the slow motion mode is as good as before.
The front facing camera has a 7 megapixel sensor which is an improvement over the iPhone 6s. The selfies clicked here under optimal conditions may be good enough to qualify as a primary camera snap! That of course does not go to say that the quality of the primary and the front camera is the same. It merely suggests that the quality of the front camera fits into what is the acceptable quality for any primary camera.
All in all, I am really impressed with this camera. It might not be as good as the Samsung Galaxy S7 in bright conditions, but given what this camera does for night time photography, it is a very balanced and happily acceptable compromise.
The speakers on this phone sound very good. The speaker configuration for the first time on iPhones, has two speakers – one placed within the earpiece at the top and an improved speaker at regular spot at the bottom of the phone.
Consequently, audio is loud, almost twice as loud as that of the iPhone 6s! The separated speaker configuration does give the sound a fuller profile and who doesn’t love true stereo sound!
At maximum volume, while you can’t actually “fill the room” with sound, you definitely don’t need to use your earphones or a bluetooth speaker each time you want to see a watch a video on your phone.
The display too is good (as discussed earlier) and all of this combined with the performance of this phone makes the iPhone 7 a very good entertainment unit. And the fact that it rides on top of Apple’s humongous iTunes library, makes this package almost indefatigable!
Apple continues to be the flag-bearer of device and data security. Each version of iOS adds more unobtrusive layers between the device and the bad guys, and the device itself leverages Touch ID everywhere possible, to keep unauthorised fingers at bay.
With the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, while Apple has enabled many more notifications and 3D Touch interactions at the Locked Screen level itself, it has done so very intelligently. There’s no personal information that any app can reveal or provide access to from the outside in. Apple continues to take a “regulatory” stand on what and how much any app can access on your iPhone or on iCloud.