Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Alex Kidman 23 September 2016

iPhone7Plus_front2_450

Apple’s latest iteration of its iPhone line isn’t insanely innovative, but it is exceptionally good.

If you believe the Apple hype, every new generation of iPhone is magical, wonderful and revolutionary. After around ten generations (depending on how you count the iPhone SE), we’re not so sure that every single one of those words still applies, but there’s little doubting the general frenzy that surrounds a new iPhone launch. With the iPhone 7, Apple has applied some new techniques and technology for the iPhone line to bring it more into line with its Android competitors and, in some cases, leap over them.

The A10 Fusion chip that powers the iPhone 7 Plus is the biggest new improvement under the hood of the phone, alongside improved dual-camera optics exclusive to the larger iPhone. The iPhone 7 is broadly similar in specifications, save for only having the single wide 12MP camera at the rear (and the smaller screen, of course).

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Specs

AppleiPhone 7 Plus
Screen size5.5in
Resolution1920x1080
Display density401ppi
ProcessorApple A10 Fusion
Rear cameras12MP/12MP
Front camera7MP
Storage32/128/256GB
Weight168g
Battery2900mAh
RRP$1269/$1419/$1569

iPhone7Plus_HPJ_450

Upsides: Why you’d want the iPhone 7 Plus

    • New colour range: The new Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus, available only in the 128GB and 256GB sizes, is most definitely eye catching if you’re after something that mixes both conservative and extroverted in a phone body. The matte black finish is also nice, albeit essentially appearing much as a darker tone version of the old "Space Grey" iPhones. The Black and Jet Black models are in short supply at launch, however, so if you’re keen to just have any iPhone rapidly, Gold, Rose Gold or Silver might be more immediately available.
    • Water resistance works well: It’s not a new thing for smartphones, with water resistance having been a feature on numerous phones from Sony, Samsung and Alcatel of late. The iPhone 7 Plus can now take an accidental dunking and it should still survive. Apple advises that it’s IP67 rated for water resistance, but it’s also worth noting that the warranty explicitly excludes internal water damage. In other words, it should survive an accidental immersion, but don’t go scuba diving with it because Apple won’t support you if you do.
    • Taptic engine has possibilities: Similar to the MacBook Pro and MacBook touchpads, there’s no "home button" on the iPhone 7 Plus to speak of. Instead it has a small reactive feedback engine underneath where you’d think the button is that vibrates when tapped to give the sensation of a button. This should be considerably more durable than the old home button, but the inclusion of the engine also opens up other force feedback possibilities for phone events and media such as games.
    • Processor boost: Apple always talks up how much better its new generation of processors are, but with the A10 Fusion, they’ve got a serious point. The A10 uses what’s effectively a dual, dual-core approach, with two power efficient cores for lower intensity tasks and two higher capacity cores for when you’re pushing the iPhone to its limits. The end result is a phone that’s really very powerful indeed for day to day use, even with more processor heavy tasks such as high intensity mobile gaming.It’s an approach that pays off in raw benchmark terms as well. Benchmarks never tell the full story of a phone’s performance, but they can be a useful guideline for phone comparison. Of late, Apple’s iPhones have lagged a little behind such powerhouse phones as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy Note 7 or Huawei’s P9, but the A10 Fusion sees the iPhone 7 Plus handily leap to the top of the benchmark charts. Here’s how it compares using Geekbench 4’s CPU tests against a range of premium handsets.
HandsetGeekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better)Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)
Apple iPhone 7 Plus33745649
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge13595333
Samsung Galaxy S713784718
Apple iPhone SE24494171
Apple iPhone 6s24654052
Google Nexus 6P12933594
Sony Xperia X11222626

The A10 is also a pretty handy little processor when it comes to games performance as well, taking on and beating all comers in 3DMark’s Ice Storm Unlimited test:

Handset3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result
Apple iPhone 7 Plus37956
LG G529597
Apple iPhone SE29276
Samsung Galaxy S728903
Samsung Note728646
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge28402
Apple iPhone 6s28171
HTC 1027392
Sony Xperia X Performance26125
Google Nexus 6P24703

Will everyone push the iPhone 7 Plus to its limits on a regular basis? Probably not, but it’s nice to have power when you need it, and a great differentiator in the premium phone space.

  • Good battery life: The longest running joke in iPhone circles has, sadly, been the generally woeful battery life of most iPhone models. The Plus devices usually ran a little better than their smaller brethren thanks to having more physical space to cram batteries in their frames, but they still paled next to most Android competition. Not any more, though. The combination of that battery sipping A10 Fusion processor and an even larger battery pushes the iPhone 7 Plus into the upper echelon of phone battery usage, both in anecdotal testing and using Geekbench 3’s battery test mode. Here’s how it compared against a range of premium phones:
    HandsetGeekbench 3 Battery Test DurationGeekbench 3 Battery Score
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge11:55:007150
    Huawei Mate 811:14:406659
    Apple iPhone 7 Plus11:11:206713
    Samsung Galaxy Note711:02:206623
    Sony Xperia X10:40:406406
    Samsung Galaxy S710:01:206013
    Huawei P98:26:304948
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus7:48:104681
    LG G57:36:104561
    iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case7:21:104407
    Sony Xperia X Performance6:46:514068
    Google Nexus 6P6:39:203754
    Apple iPhone SE4:27:102671
    Apple iPhone 6s3:52:102321

    Geekbench’s older test doesn’t tell the whole story, so we’ve been keenly testing the iPhone 7 Plus in an ad-hoc basis since launch, and it hasn’t disappointed us at all. A single day’s usage, even if you’re a heavy user is entirely feasible, and for the first time we’re happy to say that two days between charges is even possible. Apple’s taken its sweet time to get battery tech right, but with the iPhone 7 Plus it seems to have cracked it.

  • Exceptional Dual Camera: 2016 has been a year of great camera optics in smartphones, so the iPhone 7 Plus had its work cut out to impress us. We pitted it against the already great Galaxy S7 Edge’s camera in a straight shootout, and the iPhone 7 Plus either held its own or slightly edged out the S7 Edge in low light and general shooting scenarios. Like the Huawei P9 and LG G5, it features a dual camera array in its body, which does give it something of a bulge at the back. What it does with it is reasonably clever, because it offers either the standard wide lens (also found in the iPhone 7) or a 2x optical zoom lens for picture taking. Unlike the LG G5, the switch between lenses is quite rapid, so it’s actually feasible to switch to a zoom shot for quick opportunities. Shots taken are analysed by the A10 Fusion processor during capture for best effect, and it really does show in the end results most of the time. Naturally, you can still take bad and wobbly shots with the iPhone 7 Plus as you can with any camera, but even novices will be able to take some quite impressive snaps with it too.
  • No more 16GB: Apple held onto the 16GB entry level storage specification for iPhones for way too long, especially considering that iPhones don’t allow for expandable storage easily. Thankfully the entry level for the 7 series iPhones is a more acceptable 32GB, all the way up to 256GB for those who want lots of storage on tap.

iPhone7Plus_camerabump_450

Downsides: Why you might not want the iPhone 7 Plus

  • No headphone jack: Yes, Apple calls it "courageous", and we can see from teardowns of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus that it was in a bit of a bind when it came to packing in batteries, camera and the new taptic engine into the iPhone 7 Plus’ frame. Still, it’s a definite nuisance unless you’re already heavily into the Bluetooth audio space, because you’re going to need an adaptor for every pair of headphones you want to use, and you’ll need to remember the adaptor every single time. Bluetooth has some elegance for connectivity, but it can also have audio quality, connection and power issues. Apple seems set on this particular path, but if we had one wish for next year’s iPhone 7s, it would be the return of the reliable headphone jack.
  • It’s big: This might seem patently obvious, but the issue for the iPhone 7 Plus goes beyond the usual phablet territory. The iPhone 7 Plus has a 5.5 inch display, which makes it functionally identical to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Hold both together however, and you’re immediately struck by how much more hand space the iPhone 7 Plus takes up. This makes it less comfortable in the hand, especially if you have small hands to start with. We had the same issue with last year’s iPhone 6s Plus, but it appears Apple’s not willing to let go of that larger bezel around the screen just yet.
  • It’s expensive: Somebody has to be at the top of the pricing tree, and it’s usually Apple. The iPhone 7 Plus is currently the most expensive handset available in Australia, starting at $1269 for a 32GB model, then $1419 for the 128GB version and $1569 for the 256GB variant. Any way you cut it, that’s a lot of money to spend on a smartphone.
  • Stereo audio is underwhelming: If you’ll pardon the pun, Apple made a lot of noise about the inclusion of stereo speakers in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The issue here is pretty simple; in a frame this size there really isn’t a lot of separation for stereo speakers anyway, so the overall effect isn’t that grand. HTC arguably does this kind of thing better than Apple has done with its first attempt, and while the iPhone 7’s speakers aren’t bad for a smartphone, they’re still not truly exceptional.
  • Slow charging: It’s great that Apple’s finally delivering a premium phone with premium phone life, but there’s a catch. Unlike phones that offer fast charging alternatives, the iPhone 7 Plus still plods along with a relatively poky 5W charger which takes much longer to juice up your phone. To add a little insult to injury, without dropping extra cash on a multi-point lightning adaptor, you can’t charge the iPhone 7 Plus and listen to music at the same time as you can with older models.

iphone7plus_side_450

Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

Apple hasn’t redefined the smartphone with the iPhone 7 Plus, but it’s done precisely what it actually needed to. It’s a fast phone with an exceptionally good camera, water resistance and really good battery life, all of which were features that iPhone fans have wanted for some time now. It’s definitely an attention getter in the highly competitive premium phone space, and an exceptionally worthy contender if you’re looking for the best of the best in phones right now. The usual rule of thumb is that you should upgrade iPhones every two years, meaning that those on the "s" variant phones stick with that series while full number owners jump up to other full number phones. Even so, the jump up from the iPhone 6s Plus is large enough that we could see a solid argument for a single year upgrade in this case, presuming you have the cash to spare to begin with.

Of course, at the iPhone 7 Plus’ price point, you could have quite literally any other phone on the market with some change left over. If you’re looking to spend that much, whether on contract or outright, we’d strongly suggest looking in the premium space at competing phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge or Note 7, or Huawei’s P9 or LG G5 for a decent twin lens phone solution.

iphone7front_450

Where can I get it?

Apple sells the iPhone 7 Plus outright for $1,269 (32GB), $1419 (128GB) and $1569 (256GB) in Jet Black, Black, Silver, Gold and Rose Gold colours. The Jet Black variant is only available in 128GB and 256GB capacities.

The iPhone 7 Plus is also available on contract from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile at launch, with pricing varying by storage and contract plan pricing.

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