As the iPhone 6’s design turned 2 years old the iPhone 7 was launched to continue the two year cadence for their smartphone designs. As you might expect from a phone like this, rather than maintaining the same industrial design that we saw with the iPhone 6s instead we’re looking at a new, more refined design.

To get what I’m talking about, we can start with the iPhone 7 proper, which is the 4.7 inch variant. Broadly speaking if you were to only look at the shape of the phone there isn’t a ton that has changed, but if you look at all of the design elements together it’s clear that the design has changed in a fairly meaningful way. From the front, looking at the display you still get a familiar design as far as the earpiece, front-facing camera, and other sensors on the top, with a single home button on the bottom. However, unlike previous iPhones the button is solid state. I’ll have some more thoughts on this soon, but the home button still looks like previous iPhones because the fingerprint scanner isn’t placed underneath the cover glass. It also looks like the fingerprint scanner still uses different materials as the reflectance is clearly different, so this should still be a sapphire crystal.

Moving on to the back cover of the phone the Jet Black version of the phone is clearly finished to a high gloss, despite using an aluminum back cover which usually have a sandblasted finish. This finish looks pretty nice for about the 3-4 seconds that it remains glossy, as unless you subject your hands to a bath of isopropyl alcohol I find it unlikely that you won’t immediately cover the phone in fingerprints. The high gloss finish honestly wouldn’t feel that different in the hand from hyperglaze in the Galaxy S3 other than the noticeably different heat conductivity of aluminum. Interestingly enough the new antenna demarcation lines are now running along the edges if you look at the phone from the back. When it comes to the jet black version, it’s much harder to notice the antenna lines because the color matching is fairly close and the plastic feels hard and glossy to the touch much like the aluminum itself. Of course, any other color is going to be more obvious in this regard but this phone is probably the closest Apple has gotten to replicating the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

As far as design goes, it feels like Apple’s ID team has collectively gotten over the whole idea of trying to hide the camera hump. Rather than an extremely thin aluminum surround to hold the small cover glass of the camera, the lens has become larger and the hump itself is now integrated into the chassis itself. It’s much more obvious than the iPhone 6s, but I personally think this makes a lot more sense than continuing to pretend that phones don’t have camera humps, as this kind of design makes it less likely that the phone will rock around when it’s placed on a flat table.

Along the left and right sides of the iPhone 7 we continue to have the same button layout, with power on the right and volume buttons on the left. The silent toggle switch remains identical to the one seen in previous iPhones. The main point of interest, and I suspect controversy is going to be along the bottom of the phone.

Along the bottom edge, there’s a set of speaker holes, a Lightning port, and another speaker port. I suspect at least some of these holes house a microphone rather than just being two speakers, but I guess this makes more sense as far as visual balance goes and helps distract from the space left by the missing 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s too much to be said here to just have a single sentence, so we’ll cover this later. As far as the design of the iPhone 7 Plus goes, it’s really just more of the same. However, the iPhone 7 Plus has a significantly changed camera housing to allow for dual cameras. I got to spend some time with the matte black version for the iPhone 7 Plus though, and I think this traditional sand-blasted finish is just clearly superior. The antenna lines are more obvious but the finish is less susceptible to scratches and doesn’t show fingerprints nearly as much.

As far as usability goes, it’s hard to make any snap judgments of performance, so I’m going to restrain from any commentary here until I actually get some time to sit and stare at two different phones side by side to give any thoughts here. I didn’t see any noticeable frame drops, but when you’re mostly using system applications it’s usually almost impossible to notice these things unless something is seriously wrong.

Things like the new solid-state home button are a huge step forward as far as feel and reliability goes, but in some sense knowing that this is ultimately a capacitive touch sensor with some force sensing was somewhat confusing at first because I touched the home button the way I would an HTC 10 and expected it to work off of almost no actuation pressure. If you treat this home button like a physical home button though it works just as expected, and feels just like a real button. Unlike a real button it’s unlikely that you’ll ever break this home button though, so with time I’ll probably see less people using on-screen buttons to compensate for broken home buttons.

In the case of the iPhone 7 Plus, the dual camera works well within the functionality implemented. At this time it looks like the only feature available is zooming, and it’s definitely possible to see much more detail from the zoom lens than with the wide angle lens, but I’m not really able to say much else at the time because without the ability to test the camera in a room with dim lighting or the ability to walk around with the phone at night with a tripod means that I can’t provide any meaningful commentary on the performance of the camera at this time. Similarly, things like the front-facing camera and IP67 resistance cannot be tested reasonably in the context of a hands-on lasting less than 20 minutes.

What is worth mentioning here is that the stereo speakers work quite well. Although the demo room was loud with the sound of multiple journalists trying to film and talk into a camera, it was actually possible to hear something from the speakers which is honestly quite impressive. I can’t tell whether the top speaker has a different frequency response than the bottom speaker, but I wouldn’t be surprised to know that the setup here is similar to the HTC 10’s design in that regard. The final point of interest here is going to be the 3.5mm jack, and for better or worse it’s been removed. I’m still trying to get details on the specifics of this implementation, but if you have earbuds that use the 3.5mm jack you’ll have to use an adapter that comes with the phone that plugs into the Lightning port.

Really though, it's obvious that Apple is trying to push people towards using wireless headphones of some shape or form, as there were quite a few AirPods available for demonstration.

Pairing of the AirPods was shown to just be done by holding them near the device and pressing the connect button whenever it popped up. Once paired the earbuds go into the ear, with automatic playback through the earbuds if the proximity sensor is tripped and pausing if it detects removal once playback starts. Double tapping the earbuds will cause it to activate Siri, and it looks like the microphones do some noise cancellation in order to enable better calls and voice commands. However I didn't really see any evidence that active noise isolation is active in these earbuds so they won't really isolate you from the environment.

Overall, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus look to be interesting to say the least. There are a lot of things that a hands-on can't cover like the new SoC, whether the loss of a 3.5mm jack really matters, and whether the phone represents a major upgrade overall. Regardless, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus go on pre-order on September 9th, and will be available for sale on the 16th and will be available in Jet Black, Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold.

Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • tuxRoller - Monday, September 12, 2016 - link

    DSP's trend to perform well with image processing even when compared to asics (for one, due to their arch but also the isa can provide hardware acceleration instructions). That aside, the snapdragon's isp (spectra) may include some asics. Finding detailed information about it is not easy.
    Regardless, that 4 TOps value seems pretty outrageous and I'd love to know how they came by it.
  • Lavkesh - Thursday, September 8, 2016 - link

    When the last generation year old iPhone is quicker than the latest Android flagships, you got to ask did the evolution stopped? While OS is a personal choice and understandably so, the lead Apple's having when it comes to system speed is not even challenged, let alone surpassed. Given the pace of technology and the talent, it is even more impressive.
  • Veroxious - Friday, September 9, 2016 - link

    That must be the most retarded post wrt this article. I get to use many many different brands of smartphones and for almost 2 years I have yet to come across a high end smartphone that lags or gives an unpleasant UI experience irrespective of platform. You are clutching at straws mate and come across as shallow as they come.
  • tuxRoller - Friday, September 9, 2016 - link

    Really? You've NEVER seen "lag" or dropped frames on any high end phone in the last two years?

    Are you sure you know what those things look like? Not everyone is as sensitive to these things.
    For me, I've yet to see a device, from anyone, that doesn't drop frames occasionally (honestly, that's not surprising as the only way to guarantee no dropped frames is to seriously overprovision the hardware and/or run a real-time multitasking OS --- that alone is no small thing) or where there isn't perceptible latency between touch actions and screen response.
  • watzupken - Friday, September 9, 2016 - link

    I am actually looking forward to the iPhone 7. However, I am actually very disappointed with Apple for the minimal change to the outlook of the phone. The 2 years cycle for some reason got extended to a 3rd year not sure if its purely for the sake of preparing a 10 year anniversary version. Honestly, apart from the 2 camera setup on the phone, there is pretty much not much of a wow factor.
  • Donkey2008 - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    Agreed. I almost think Apple purposely kept the same design for this cycle in order to build enthusiasm for next year's release. The iPhone still sells very well but design-wise it is definitely hitting singles now, not home runs. I just hope Apple finally shrinks the giant bezels when the 8 finally arrives. Android hardware designs are light years ahead and if Android OS wasn't such a giant turd I'd think about switching.
  • tricku2 - Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - link

    Is it really worth spending all that money when it is only faster overall...Na
    Magic oz
  • Lau_Tech - Friday, September 16, 2016 - link

    Dear Josh,

    in your review , I would appreciate if you shared whether the "water-proofing" explanation for the 3.5mm jack removal is a valid one. Particularly given that Samsung achieved a higher rating while retaining the same jack. Thanks.
  • Vulpy - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    It is mind blowing how Apple can get away with such a lack of innovation.
    The biggest change happened with the launch of iPhone 6 (larger screen and stylish design), and they were already lagging behind the industry by 3 yrs.
    Their exceptionaly efficient IOS SW and broad app ecosystem still fools people into buying 3yr old technology.

    Apple is dying, slowly but surely, tablet sales nose dived, their phones no longer excite people anymore... And their car is still nowhere to be seen...

    They should completely outsource HW design to the likes of OnePlus and focus all R&D on SW and new vertical markets.

    I do have Apple stock, but would dead worried if I had.
  • Bolang - Thursday, December 1, 2016 - link

    Look good for iphone 7.
    Get iphone 7

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now