×
×

Bits & Bytes

News filtering by :

Tested: The iPhone 7

Bits & Bytesby Steven25/10/2016

Is it Apple’s true flagship?

It's October: the leaves are falling and the days are becoming considerably shorter. But it's also the time of the year in which the new iPhone is released. This year it's already time for number 7.

Normally a new number means a major external makeover of Apple's hit model. But this year things are different. Aside from a few subtle external changes and two new black variants, the new model appears to be the same. But according to Apple, there have been quite a few improvements internally compared with the iPhone 6s.

The key question I asked myself was, is the new iPhone 7 really that much of an upgrade over the 6S that it's worth splashing out on the very latest iPhone? And is it a worthy opponent of the other top-end phones on the market? To answer those questions, I put the latest flagship from California through its paces.

The result: it looks like a 6S, but has really changed on the inside
Design

There are some external changes. They’re rather minor and inconspicuous: the antenna lines on the back have disappeared and the home button has changed. But despite this, the latest iPhone looks almost identical to its older brothers, the 6 and 6S. I had secretly hoped for a proper make-over. Having said that, the design is still fine for today's smartphones. And in terms of build quality, I do get the impression that the latest iteration has become a touch more robust and reliable.

The biggest outer change is the home button, which now works with a Taptic Engine. A what? Well, basically it means it's now a sensor instead of a traditional mechanical button. This also ensures that the iPhone can give off small vibrations when performing certain actions: for example, when you set your alarm. Apple calls these "system vibrations". Although they're not really necessary, they are fun. It does feel a little different and I had to get used to it. But it's not unpleasant. More than that, after two weeks I actually found it to be one of the greatest new features of this iPhone.

Apart from that there are two new colors: matte black and glossy black. My test model was the latter variant and I have to say, it looks very stylish. The screen seamlessly morphs into the body of the phone. However - and this is less good news - it's very prone to fingerprints. Moreover, it's apparently quick to pick up scratches, although I didn't really encounter this problem myself.

Another important new feature is that this iPhone is now also water- and dust-resistant. It has been given the IP-67 rating. For us normal mortals this means you can keep it under water for half an hour up to a depth of one meter. Or use it for up to eight hours in a dusty environment.

Screen

On paper, the iPhone 7's display is exactly the same as its predecessor’s: a 4.7-inch Retina touchscreen. Nevertheless, I noticed a few differences compared with the previous generation. Some further progress has been made, especially in terms of color rendering. White is now truly white and black is truly black. Other colors have become more accurate as the color range has widened. I mainly noticed this in photos, which are rendered in particularly natural colors. Therefore, it doesn't really matter that much that Apple doesn't want to switch to OLED screens like most competitors are doing.

In addition, the brightness of the display has increased by about 25%. Truth be told, I don't really notice much of a difference. So I don't find this to be such enormous added value as compared to the iPhone 6s. That model's screen was already perfectly legible in direct sunlight, for example.

Camera

We've got to admit, the previous iPhones had good cameras, but could not quite match the competition. In my opinion that was because Apple focused too much on megapixels rather than on the camera itself. But this has now changed. The iPhone 7 takes a great step forward as far as the camera on the rear of the phone is concerned. It has a larger aperture allowing more light to enter. But above all, and not before time, it has acquired optical image stabilization.

What does all this mean in practice, I hear you ask? Well, what struck me in particular is that photos taken in low light are now really nice as well, with lots of detail. As such, this camera is now at least as good as that of a Samsung Galaxy S7. Only when it comes to image noise does the iPhone 7 continue to be a tad more troublesome, but the difference is minor. In normal daylight, however, the new system produces unbelievably true-to-life pics.

For the sake of completeness, I should briefly mention the front camera: this has now been boosted to 7 megapixels. However, in terms of image quality, I noticed little or no difference compared with previous iPhones. The colors have perhaps become a little less loud, but it's not significant.

By the way, do you want an even better camera? In that case you should perhaps consider the iPhone 7 Plus. You see, this model has two rear cameras, which allow you to zoom optically and, when taking portraits, to get a blurry background. Personally, I find the price difference a bit too steep for this, but that's a matter of personal taste. If you have the money for it, it's a great added value.

Battery

The battery autonomy has also become a tad better. The processor in particular is somewhat more frugal than the previous version. This is because it doesn't use all of its four cores, but switches intelligently between them. Two cores are specifically for simple tasks while the other two are purely for demanding work. This, along with the somewhat bigger battery, is supposed to give you two extra hours of battery autonomy, compared with the iPhone 6s.

I wasn't able to put this comparison to the test, but what I did notice was that the latest iPhone does indeed continue to function a surprisingly long time with a charged battery, especially when performing day-to-day tasks. When playing power-intensive games and videos, I found there was less of a difference compared with the iPhone 6s. But even then I managed to get through the day, if only by the skin of my teeth.

The downside is that this iPhone still doesn't have a rapid charge option. For most of us, who charge our phones every night, this is obviously not a problem. But if you think you can quickly charge your battery up fully half an hour before going out to the pub, think again. It’s still not possible.

Multimedia and games

It caused a quite a stir: as you'll have heard, the iPhone 7 no longer has a conventional headphone jack. In principle you can now only connect a set of headphones via the Lightning port, like you do with the charger cable. Don't fancy doing that? In that case there are enough alternatives. Indeed, the iPhone 7 comes with an adapter for traditional headphones. And then of course, you can always buy AirPods. One downside I found was that you can no longer charge your iPhone and listen to music at the same time.

A more substantial change are the stereo speakers. Although the sound was pretty good before, it's now superb. Above all, you can now turn the volume up without the sound becoming distorted. Not just with music, but also with videos and other things. Concretely, there are now two speakers in the iPhone: one at the bottom, which combines with the speaker you normally used to make calls. So here's a tip when watching videos: position your iPhone horizontally for the best sound experience.

Last, but certainly not least, let's take a look at the processor. This smartphone houses an A10 Fusion quad-core. On paper this looks like a big step forward. But in practice I hardly noticed a difference, except in the battery autonomy that is. That's simply because the iPhone 6s already had a crack processor. Combined with the 2 GB working memory, the iPhone 7 thus remains the fastest smartphone on the market. In my two-week test period, it never faltered and I was able to play the most resource-intensive games without a problem. The same applied to the largest video files.

In terms of internal memory, the 16 GB version has disappeared from the range. 16 GB was too little anyway. Instead, there's now the 32 GB entry-level model (except for the jet black variant), in addition to the more capacious 128 GB and even 256 GB versions. Given that the memory isn't expandable, I recommend that you choose wisely and opt for a sufficiently big memory. But should you run out of space after all, there's always additional storage available in the cloud.

In summary...

With the iPhone 7, Apple has taken another big step forward. It's even faster, takes even better pics and has a few nice new features.

Next year, Apple will undoubtedly come out with some major changes for its smartphone. Everyone is pretty much in agreement on that. After all, you can't let iPhone's 10th anniversary go by unnoticed. Maybe you really should wait another year. Personally, that's certainly what I would do if I had an iPhone 6s. But is this too long of a wait for you or do you need a top-class phone urgently? In that case, this is definitely one of the phones you should consider.

Apple iPhone 7

The latest class act among smartphones. In all respects.

9/10

Pros:
  • Now watertight as well
  • Very drop-proof
  • Excellent battery autonomy
  • Stereo sound
Cons:
  • No headphone jack anymore
  • No rapid charging function
  • More expensive in its class
Steven

Steven

I'm Steven. As a lover of technology within Proximus I found my place in the Mobile Devices team. Every day I'm busy with smartphones. Besides surfing on technology blogs I brew beer in my spare time and I go out to dine as much as possible.

I'm Steven. As a lover of technology within Proximus I found my place in the Mobile Devices team. Every day I'm busy with smartphones. Besides surfing on technology blogs I brew beer in my spare time and I go out to dine as much as possible.


Share your opinion about news

Do you want to share your opinion or comment?

To comment login to Facebook.

Contact us