iPhone 7 review: Does Apple’s 2016 flagship still stand up against newer models?
iPhone 7 review: Speed, performance battery life
It’s clear from using the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 side by side that the newer phone is the more rapid device. But, again, it’s not a huge difference. In day-to-day operations, apps launch at roughly the same speed, but there’s a clear speed advantage when returning to the homescreen.
This much is also clear from the benchmarks. Both in Geekbench and GFXBench GL, the iPhone 7 outstrips its forebear – and pretty much every other phone on the planet right now. That’s thanks to the iPhone 7’s new processor: the A10 Fusion, which is clearly a beast.
^ You can see from the graph above that the iPhone 7, despite the fact that it employs only two cores at once compared with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge’s four, is still slightly faster in the multi-core test. That’s due to its ridiculously good single-core performance. Apple’s iPhones have always been good in this area, and seem to have improved even more than usual this year. The Geekbench 4 single-core result is a huge 86% better than the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge’s score in 2016. That’s quite some advantage.
^ Last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were super quick in the graphics benchmarks, and this year the performance improves even further. There’s a limit, however, to how good the results can get in the Manhattan benchmark as detailed above, though, because the frame rate is effectively limited by the refresh rate (60Hz) of the iPhone’s display. Ths indicates that the phone is capable of more, but for the most part – at least today – that extra power won’t be used.
It’s so powerful, it seems, that some people have reported that their iPhones “hiss” when put under continuous load. This might sound funny, but it’s no joke. Although I didn’t experience any hissing with the iPhone 7 I tested for this review, the iPhone 7 Plus I looked at did emit a very quiet noise after a few minutes of rendering exporting a movie project in iMovie. When I say quiet, though, I mean it: you have to lift the phone right up to your ear to hear the noise in most environments. This probably isn’t anything to worry about.
Although Apple has yet to officially comment on the issue, the noise is probably some kind of coil noise, which according to Arstechnica is “produced when electrical components hit a specific resonant frequency that causes the circuit to physically vibrate”. It’s something that happens with all electronic circuits to a greater or lesser degree, and shouldn’t affect the reliability of the phone. However, if you’re worried or just plain annoyed, a visit to your nearest Apple Store may well be in order. Stephen Hackett, from the website 512 Pixels, who was among the first to report the noise, has had his iPhone 7 replaced due to hissing.
As I’ve said, though, it’s probably nothing to be worried about. What should be of more interest to you are the A10 Fusion processor’s two new low-power cores. The iPhone 7’s chip has twice the number of cores the iPhone 6s does (that’s four compared with two), and those extra two are aimed at greater efficiency with everyday tasks.
Now, all those little jobs that run in the background, such as music playback, message updates and file synchronisation, can run on a less power-hungry CPU – the theory being to save battery life without compromising peak performance.
In our battery life test, things were looking very good initially. After just over five hours or so of video playback, battery capacity had fallen by around 33%, indicating a final result of around 15 hours. Yet by the time it had run through the full cycle, the iPhone 7 had lasted a distinctly less impressive 13hrs 2mins. That’s two hours longer than the iPhone 6S lasted, which is good news, but still a long way short of the Samsung Galaxy S7, which lasted 17hrs 48mins.
iPhone 7 review: Software
As with every new iPhone launch, the iPhone 7 comes with the latest version of iOS preinstalled. That’s iOS 10, and it works here just as well as it does on the iPhone 6s I’ve had it installed on since WWDC.
There’s a new lockscreen, which now gives each notification its own bubble and more rapid access to the camera (with a quick swipe of the finger to the left). There’s extended support for 3D Touch, too.
At long last, you can delete Apple apps, and Siri has now been opened up to developers, so you should see more Siri support across third-party apps. Mail and Messages have also received small design tweaks, and the iOS Photos app has facial recognition, making it easier to create dynamic libraries for different people.
iPhone 7 review: Price and verdict
As usual with a new iPhone, there’s not much to talk about when it comes to price. Despite upping the base storage allocation from 16GB to 32GB (and about time too), the iPhone 7 costs the same as the iPhone 6s did when it launched in 2015. Well, it does in the US; in the UK, where the pound has recently crashed in value against the dollar, the new iPhone is actually more expensive.
The 32GB model is £599, then, up from £539 last year, with the 128GB version coming in at £699 while the 256GB costs £799. The Jet Black version is only available in 128GB and 256GB sizes, so starts at £699, SIM-free.
So it’s expensive, but ’twas ever thus. It hasn’t prevented people from purchasing iPhones yet and is unlikely to with the iPhone 7.
The question is, is the iPhone 7 good enough to retake its place at the top of the smartphone tree once more, ousting Samsung at last? Well, not quite: the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge still has its nose slightly out in front, with a superior camera, curved AMOLED display and storage expansion. We’re talking marginal gains here, but it’s still the best phone around.
The iPhone 7 does, however, take its place as the best iPhone yet, and for many people that will be enough. It has a better camera than the iPhone 6s, more colour options, and that luscious Jet Black finish for those who like a bit of smartphone bling. It’s faster and water-resistant, the screen is improved and the new haptic home button is a dream to use.
The jury’s still out on battery life, but it’s looking good right now, and with the long-standing storage issue remedied by the introduction of a 32GB base model, I’m happy recommending the iPhone 7. It’s an outstanding smartphone.
iPhone 7 specifications
|Processor||Quad-core A10 Fusion|
|Screen resolution||1,334 x 750|
|Front camera||7 megapixels|
|Rear camera||12 megapixels|
|Storage (free)||32GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||None|
|Wireless data||3G, 4G|
|Dimensions||138 x 67 x 7.1mm|
|Operating system||iOS 10.0|