iPhone 7 Plus hands-on: A weekend full of adjustments

Moving from the smaller iPhone 6S to the larger iPhone 7 Plus is a learning experience full of excitement and frustration. Here are my thoughts after a weekend with the bigger iPhone.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Apple iPhone 7 Plus in black.

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

As I recently declared, this year's iPhone release marked the first time I decided to purchase the "Plus" iPhone model. Normally, I prefer the more pocketable 4.7-inch iPhone. This year, however, I've decided I want a bigger battery, more screen, and yes, the dual-camera setup Apple debuted with the iPhone 7 Plus.

After waiting until almost 8pm on Friday for my matte black iPhone 7 Plus to show up, I spent the weekend adjusting, tinkering, and -- at times -- feeling frustrated with the size of my new iPhone.

I need bigger pockets

Easily the most frustrating aspect of the iPhone 7 Plus right now is just how big it is. It doesn't comfortably fit in the pockets of my jeans, and it repeatedly falls out of my pocket as I sit down.

My 2016 Honda Civic has a shelf designed for charging a smartphone just behind the shift knob, but the 7 Plus is too big for the shelf. It hangs over a couple of inches, nearly touching the knob when my car is in park.

Admittedly, my frustration is self-inflicted. With the smaller iPhone, I was able to put it in my pocket and store it securely in my car without worrying about it slipping out or sliding across my center console during a trip across town.

Eventually, I'll figure out a system for carrying a bigger device, but until then, I'm definitely going to need bigger pockets.

Remember Reachability?


Reachability on the iPhone 7 Plus is a lifesaver, of sorts.

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 2014, the company also unveiled Reachability. It's a software feature designed to make both devices easier to use with one hand. A quick double-tap on the home button, and iOS slides down the top-half of the display, putting it within reach of your thumb.

Using Reachability on the 4.7-inch model was something I did on occasion. Now that I have a 5.5-inch model in my hand, I found myself using it nearly every time I use the phone one-handed.

Navigating the iPhone 7 Plus with one hand is possible without reachability, but it requires a lot of shuffling the phone up or down in the palm of your hand. Shuffling that could lead to dropping your shiny new phone.

Reachability is hardly ever talked about, yet it deserves a lot of praise (at least from me).

Speaking of the home button

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

With the iPhone 7 line, Apple has moved away from its traditional home button. Instead of a true button that actually moves when pressed, the new home button implements the company's Force Touch technology and Taptic Engine to gauge pressure and provide feedback through gentle taps and vibration when pressed.

I'm still adjusting to the new button and have found myself accidentally triggering Siri when trying to unlock the phone or double-press for multitasking. Other times, I press the button, then feel a tap, and don't notice a difference at all.

A week or two from now, it's likely I'll have forgotten all about the traditional home button and fully adjusted to the future, but until then, it will be a source of random frustration.

Two cameras really are better than one

Apple added a second camera to the back of the iPhone 7 Plus. One lens captures wide-angle photos, while the new camera adds telephoto lens. When shooting photos or videos, you can tap on a "2X" button to switch to the second lens, optically zooming in on your shot.


Left: Standard iPhone 7 Plus wide-angle camera. Right: New telephoto lens on iPhone 7 Plus

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

I've found myself using the new 56 millimeter lens more than the wide-angle camera. Zooming in on my kids' football games without worrying about forfeiting overall picture quality is something I truly appreciate, even as I sit on the sideline opposite the action.

Not only is it useful when capturing a still image, but you can also switch between lenses in real time when filming a video. Meaning, you can start with the normal wide-angle lens and tap on the "2X" button to zoom in, then zoom out with another tap, or vice versa.

More thoughts to come on my transition to the iPhone 7 Plus -- something it appears a lot of iPhone users are embarking upon, according to a report from Slice, which claimed the Plus model is more popular than the standard iPhone this far into its release. That's a first since Apple released two different sized iPhones.

Editorial standards