Even if you want to judge these new iPhones based solely on their industrial design, the new black finishes alone would make me want to buy one. But what matters is what happens when you turn them on and use them. And in every single regard, from performance to battery life to camera image quality to haptic feedback to water resistance to sound quality from the speakers, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are impressive year-over-year improvements over the 6S/6S Plus, and stunning improvements over the two- and three-year old iPhone 6 and 5S — which are the models most people considering the new iPhones will be upgrading from.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are the best iPhones ever. And they are probably the best portable cameras ever made. The combination of wide gamut capture with wide gamut P3 display means that you have quite literally never seen images like this from a smartphone camera before. And that’s not to mention the massive front camera upgrade. The phones are fast, capable and functional, with nice upgrades to speaker audio, water resistance and a more durable home button.
The entire time I was using the iPhone 7, I felt like I had a prototype of next year’s rumored drastic iPhone redesign disguised as an iPhone 6. All those bold bets on the future are legitimately exciting, but here in the present using the iPhone 7 in a case feels a lot like using a iPhone 6S with a weirder home button and more adapters.
As always, the new iPhone is a better iPhone. Its new A10 Fusion processor is ludicrously, outrageously fast, somehow even more so than last year’s (already crazy fast) A9. It’s a quad-core processor, with two cores dedicated to running simple tasks and two to more taxing ones. That means if you don’t really game or watch high-res video on your phone, your battery life is going to be extraordinary. When I used the iPhone 7 for only simple things, I got more than 24 hours of life from the 7, and nearly 48 from the 7 Plus. As soon as I fired up Riptide GP: Renegade and streamed Halt and Catch Fire, I had to charge once during the day or be left stranded by 9pm.
What I want from Apple is to build devices that solve complex problems with simple solutions. I want them to make things more efficient for me as a user without going through any pain from using their products. That’s exactly what they provided with the iPhone 7 and AirPods.
If you understand things best when they’re phrased as tired idioms: the missing headphone jack is a fly in the iPhone 7’s ointment. Plenty of people will be happy to scoop out the fly and use the rest of the probably-fine ointment. It’s good ointment! There’s just a fly in it. And the transition from wired to wireless is going to be more painful now than it will be a year or two down the line when more accessories and devices have adapted to follow Apple’s lead. Waterproofing and better battery life have been common iPhone feature requests for years and the camera and speed improvements are nothing to sneeze at, but you’ll need to buy into Apple’s vision of the future if you want to get them.
If you can get over the all-too-familiar design and the no-headphone-jack thing, then the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are serious contenders for best smartphones, period. Note that I used the word “best,” not “most innovative” — neither of these devices is groundbreaking. We’ve seen many of these features (or features like them) pop up in rival phones already. That headphone jack thing aside, most of the choices made in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus feel like safe ones. There’s nothing wrong with that, but no matter how good the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are (answer: very, very good), Apple already has us all wondering what next year’s iPhone is going to be like.