There's no going back now: Two months with iPhone 7 Plus

My reservations about using the bigger iPhone have subsided, as I've learned to fully embrace the iPhone 7 Plus.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Even before Apple announced the iPhone 7 Plus, I made the decision to go big with this year's model, despite my reservations.

Once Apple confirmed nearly every rumor we'd covered and read leading up to the iPhone 7 announcement, including two cameras on the back of the 7 Plus model and increased battery life, there was no turning back.

On launch day, my iPhone 7 Plus arrived, and I spent a weekend adjusting and tweaking how I held the phone and where I placed it while driving my car.

Fast-forward two months, and it's (mostly) as if I've always used the larger iPhone.

A bigger screen really is better

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

By far, my favorite aspect of the iPhone 7 Plus is the size of the screen. From watching videos to reading news, I appreciate the added screen real estate.

Due to the increased screen size, I've found myself using my iPhone in landscape mode more often. When Apple first announced the larger "Plus" model iPhone 6 in 2014, the company also revealed developers could create custom interfaces to take advantage of the bigger screen, even in landscape orientation.

For example, when using an app like Safari in landscape orientation, you can view and manage tabs in the same manner as on an iPad or Mac.

I'm continuously surprised each time I rotate my phone and find myself interacting with more than one column of information in Mail or an iPad-inspired look in a third-party app such as Deliveries. Even the home screen is usable in landscape.

Other than when watching a video, I don't recall ever using the standard iPhone 6S in landscape mode. Now, it's a common occurrence.

After using countless Android phones with screens larger than 4.7-inches, I knew the added screen size would be useful. I just didn't imagine it being this useful on an iOS device.

Portrait Mode is hit or miss

If you recall, one of the headlining features of the iPhone 7 Plus over the standard iPhone 7 is an additional camera lens on the back of the phone that can be used to optically zoom, and thanks to some fancy software tricks, create a depth-of-field effect on some photos.

Despite announcing it at the iPhone event in September, the iPhone 7 didn't launch with Portrait mode. It wasn't until a few weeks later that Apple released a beta version of iOS 10.1 with a Portrait mode included for the iPhone 7 Plus. A few weeks after that, the update went live for all (although the Portrait mode feature is still labeled as a beta).

The short review of Portrait mode is this: when the software gets it right, it looks amazing. You'd be hard pressed to find another smartphone camera with a similar effect that can pull it off with the same level of clarity.

However, when Portrait mode gets it wrong, it's laughable. I've taken countless photos where the top half of a glass is cut off or an entire side of someone's face is blurred out all together.

That said, after you use Portrait mode for an extended amount of time, you begin to learn situations, subjects, and lighting environments that work well with the camera's latest trick.

Having the option to optically zoom in on a photo or video has proven invaluable, as I take photos of my kids or products for work. I want every phone to have optical zoom after using the 7 Plus.

No going back now

Out of curiosity, I picked up the review iPhone 7 I have on hand and was shocked at just how small the phone felt. It was a similar feeling when Apple launched the 4-inch iPhone 5, using it for a while, then picking up the 3.5-inch iPhone 4S.

That said, I find myself still trying to figure out the best technique for one-handed use -- specifically when typing. I haven't dropped the 7 Plus yet, but plenty of close calls and miraculous catches as my phone spiraled toward the floor would make you believe my phone has nine lives of its own.

I have yet to master shuffling the 7 Plus up or down in the palm of my hand with just my thumb, while keeping it secure.

It's still a big phone, too big most of the time, but at this point I've learned to deal with the size in exchange for the larger screen, better camera, and battery life.

I'm disappointed to read rumors about next year's bigger iPhone getting a bigger screen, but leaving the overall footprint of the phone the same. That is to say, the 2017 Plus model -- whatever Apple ends up calling it -- might have the same size of housing, but thanks to new display technology, the company can increase the screen size.

I would much rather Apple use the same size of screen and shrink down the overall size of the phone. While carrying the Plus model, I am constantly reminded of its size when it's in my jeans or coat pocket, and when I'm trying to get it to sit in a cup holder as I drive, if it fits at all.

Despite my gripes, I can't see myself ever using a smaller iPhone.

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