The newest iterations of the popular iPhone have finally been released, and the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have brought with them some incredible innovations. The question, however, is whether or not the changes are worth upgrading from an earlier version of the device. For the purposes of this review, the iPhone 7 Plus will be compared with the most recent ‘Plus’ version of the device, the iPhone 6s Plus.
Design & Architecture
Some might find the exterior of the iPhone 7 Plus to be much too similar to recent iterations of the same device, but a few minor changes have distinctly shifted the iPhone 7 Plus into a new class.
One of the first upgrades is the water resistance of the device. The iPhone 6s Plus had a decent amount of water resistance, but it was not rated specifically for such a feature. The iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, has been officially certified to operate when fully submerged for at least 30 minutes.
The iPhone 6s Plus also had an actual button for its home button, while the iPhone 7 Plus only has a 3D Touch surface with haptic feedback, creating the physical illusion of a button.
Perhaps the most controversial change to the iPhone 7 Plus is that it forgoes the standard headphone jack. Apple has released a set of wireless AirPods that work with the device, and other Bluetooth headphones will work as well. Those who prefer wired headphones can use the Lightning adapter with standard headphones, or they can purchase a set of Lightning headphones.
The problem with this feature is that it is now impossible to charge the phone and listen to music through wired headphones at the same time. This could prove problematic for Apple if their gamble doesn’t pay off.
Physically, the phones are nearly identical. They both have the exact same physical dimensions of 6.23 inches x 3.07 inches x 0.29 inches, but the iPhone 7 Plus is four grams lighter than the iPhone 6s Plus.
The earpiece for the iPhone 7 Plus is also quite a bit more powerful thanks to the addition of a second speaker. The dual stereo speakers are much more efficient than the old mono speakers in the iPhone 6s Plus.
Both phones have the same 5.5-inch 1080p LCD display, and they both share the same screen-to-body ratio. The only difference in the displays of the iPhone 6s Plus and the iPhone 7 Plus is that the iPhone 7 Plus can reach a brightness level 25 percent higher than the maximum on the iPhone 6s Plus. It also supports a wider gamut of potential colors, but the difference is hardly noticeable to the human eye.
While other brands have switched to OLED displays with 2K resolution, Apple has stuck with these LCD screens presumably to deal with the 3D Touch feature, which is most likely more stable behind the LCD screen. While 3D Touch remains a prominent feature, there is nothing particularly new to the UI at first glance. Minor changes here and there seem to be the only upgrade from the iPhone 6s Plus.
This is where the iPhone 7 Plus starts to outshine the iPhone 6s Plus. The iPhone 6s Plus only had the older Apple A9 chipset, which included a dual-core unit and a separate GPU with a total of 2GB of RAM.
The iPhone 7 Plus shifts away from the A9 in favor of the A10, which is the first quad-core unit from Apple. The unit also has 3GB of RAM instead of the 2GB in the iPhone 6s Plus, which means the iPhone 7 Plus is somewhere in the range of 40-50 percent more powerful than the iPhone 6s Plus.
Even the iPhone 7 only has 2GB of RAM, so the iPhone 7 Plus is the only model with the additional processing power. The iPhone 7 Plus modem has also been upgraded to handle 450Mbit speeds of 4G data.
If there were a single reason to upgrade from the iPhone 6s Plus to the iPhone 7 Plus, it would be the new camera features in the more recent model. Below is a list of the primary features of the two camera systems.
iPhone 6s Plus (Rear)
- Sensor: 12 Megapixels
- Aperture: f/2.2
- Focus Pixels
- Dual-LED Flash
- Video Recording: 4K
iPhone 6s Plus (Front)
- Sensor: 5 Megapixels
- Aperture: f/2.2
- Video Recording: 720p
iPhone 7 Plus (Rear)
- Sensor: Dual 12 Megapixels
- Apertures: f/2.8, 56mm & f/1.8, 28mm)
- Focus Pixels
- Quad-LED Flash
- 2x Optical Zoom
- Video Recording: 4K
iPhone 7 Plus (Front)
- Sensor: 7 Megapixels
- Aperture: f/2.2
- Video Recording: 1080p
Some of this might look like technical garbage, but the biggest takeaway is that the iPhone 7 Plus now has a dual-sensor rear camera. That allows the device to employ true optical zoom for the first time in the history of the iPhone. The processing power behind the camera hardware is more powerful as well, allowing for all-around better photos.
The iPhone 7 Plus is the only iPhone with dual rear cameras. It also has a more advanced front-facing camera, which has been boosted from 5MP to 7MP. The extra pixels mean the phone can now capture crisp 1080p HD video footage with the front camera.
Until now, Samsung has been the undisputed king of smartphone cameras, but the iPhone 7 Plus camera might give them a run for their money.
The differences in the batteries between the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 6s Plus are hardly noticeable, but they are there. The iPhone 7 Plus has up to an hour of additional battery life, but many users have criticized the difference as insignificant compared to the loss of the headphone jack, which was supposed to free up additional room for a larger battery.
While other brands use quick-charging methods that take advantage of higher amps, Apple has continued with the same charger they have always used. Wireless charging might have been a good idea, especially as a way to combat the dilemma of charging and listening to music through wired headphones.
There are third party accessories that can be used to help boost recharge speed and create pseudo-wireless charging, but it is likely those features will eventually be added to the iPhone itself. The first steps are already being made with the loss of the headphone jack, which signifies Apple’s willingness to move forward with technology.
Pricing & Storage Options
The initial cost of an iPhone 7 Plus is a bit more than a comparable iPhone 6s Plus, but that has more to do with the additional storage space that has been added from the 2015 model of the iPhone 6s Plus. Those phones were only available in either 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB models.
Those figures have been doubled for the iPhone 7 Plus, so it comes in 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB models. It should be noted that all iPhone 6s Plus devices from after the announcement of the iPhone 7 Plus have received the same doubled upgrade in storage as well. The costs for each model are listed below:
iPhone 7 Plus:
- 32GB – $769
- 128GB – $869
- 256GB – $969
iPhone 6s Plus:
- 32GB – $649
- 128GB – $749
While it might be tempting to get the iPhone 6s Plus with 128GB for only $20 less than the iPhone 7 Plus with a mere 32GB, but the added capabilities of the iPhone 7 Plus still make it the better deal.
At first glance, the iPhone 7 Plus is really nothing more than a supped up version of the iPhone 6s Plus. Apple didn’t do enough to change the appearance of the device, but its internal features make up for the lack of new aesthetics.
The new camera system in the iPhone 7 Plus is one of the most attractive features, especially for those who often use the camera. Such power is made possible with the advanced new quad-core A10 chipset found in the iPhone 7 Plus, which is another of the main selling points for this device. Additionally, the waterproof exterior for the iPhone 7 Plus is sure to provide many users with the necessary protection from the elements they require.
Apple still has a long way to go before they break through a new technological ceiling, but they are on the right track with iPhone 7 Plus. Once they add the features their competitors are currently perfecting, like wireless charging and OLED displays, they will reestablish themselves as the leading producer of smartphones in the world.