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iPhone 7 Review: Big steps forward, but little steps back

IDG.TV | Sep 21, 2016

Apple improved almost everything about the iPhone 7, from the processor to the camera. Then they took away the headphone jack. Do the iPhone 7’s drawbacks ruin the experience?

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple doesn’t make crappy iPhones, and the iPhone 7 is pretty darn great. It’s got faster clock speed than my MacBook Air, and a better camera than I’ve ever owned. It’s definitely the most high-tech object I’ve ever stuck in my back pocket and then sat on.

But do YOU really need it? There's a lot to consider before you take the plunge. After all, this is the first iPhone that has a couple of drawbacks it didn’t have before.


Apple really upped the ante on the iPhone 7’s processor -- this thing is fast. The A10 Fusion has four cores. Two high-performance cores handle your most demanding apps, while two low-energy cores can take care of simple tasks and save you battery life in the process. I never noticed any drops in performance, though. From waking up to launching apps to installing updates, the iPhone 7 is a speed demon.


Apple also improved the camera, and even though this is the iPhone 7 and not the dual-lens iPhone 7 Plus, I’m still very impressed at how easy it is to take a good picture. Watch how seamlessly the focus changes when I get close to something, artfully blurring the background. And if I back away, everything snaps into focus. Low-light photos are much improved too. On the front of the phone, the 7-megapixel FaceTime camera takes way better selfies than before and even supports Live Photos.


Raise your hand if you’ve ever dropped an iPhone in a toilet. Luckily I’ve got two hands because I’ve done it twice. With an iPhone 7, that’s still an embarrassing mishap, but no longer a crisis thanks to its IP67 water-resistance rating.

Now, Apple says you should avoid getting the phone wet on purpose, so no pool parties. Still, people are making videos of dunking their phones in all kinds of liquids with no ill effect—kind of like this.


One of the ways Apple achieved that water resistance is with the new flat home button. Instead of being a cut-out button that can move up and down when you press it, the Home button is now fused with the rest of the iPhone’s chin. When you press it, you feel a vibration from the new taptic engine -- it’s supposed to feel like a button click. There are three clicks to choose from so you can change the effect a little, but it’s still a strange sensation that I’m having trouble getting used to.


But the biggest drawback is the thing everyone started complaining about months before the iPhone was even confirmed: NO HEADPHONE JACK. The Lightning port is the only place you can plug in headphones. Your only other option is to pair wireless headphones over Bluetooth.

Apple’s Lightning EarPods are included, and work just fine, and so does the Lightning to analog adapter. The adapter is pretty seamless with some headphones, but a little more awkward with 90-degree headphone plug like this pair from Beats that I paid good money for and don’t want to consider obsolete just yet, Apple.

It’s a shame Apple’s own AirPods aren’t on sale yet, because pairing Bluetooth headphones still requires a trip to the Settings app. And it’s a double shame that you can’t charge the phone and listen to wired headphones at the same time.


So are those annoyances enough to mar the experience of using the best iPhone yet? Nah. The speed, the camera, and the insanely accurate colors of the improved screen are consistently dazzling, which makes those little draweback seem like no big deal. But if you’re happy with your current iPhone, the 7 isn’t really a must-have upgrade, and you’re fine waiting for the iPhone 8.
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