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Similar to how the Galaxy S7 Edge perfected the design and features of the Galaxy S6 Edge, the new Apple iPhone 7 Plus perfects the iPhone 6s Plus design as we look to 2017 when Apple may offer a significant design change.
The Apple 7 Plus brings a faster A10 processor, water resistance, stereo speakers, more RAM, more internal storage capacity for the same prices, best LCD available on a phone, improved front-facing camera, secondary telephoto camera lens, and more battery capacity. These are all welcome improvements found in a familiar shell.
Those in the enterprise looking for a responsive performing phone with wide range of connectivity, very long battery life, ability to withstand the elements, and assurance that updates will come quickly should definitely consider the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.
Processor: Quad-core Apple A10 with 64-bit architecture and integrated M10 motion coprocessor
Display: 5.5 inch LED-backlit at 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution, 401 ppi
Operating system: Apple iOS 10
Storage: 32, 128, and 256 GB internal options
Cameras: Dual rear 12 megapixel iSight cameras with f/1.8 and f/2.8 aperture, OIS, True Tone flash. 7 megapixel front facing camera with f/2.2 aperture.
Water resistance: IP67 water and dust rating
Speakers: Stereo speakers
Battery: 2,750 mAh battery
Dimensions: 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm and 188 grams
The iPhone 7 Plus has the exact same length, width, and thickness specification as the iPhone 6s Plus. It is actually 4 grams lighter too, while having a larger capacity battery, more RAM, and another rear camera.
The addition of water resistance is welcome for those times when you accidentally drop your phone in the water, want to use it in heavy rain, or workout with it and have an excessive amount of sweat. You still should not swim with it or attempt to dump champagne all over it as water damage is not covered under warranty and it is not intended for prolonged submergence.
I always found the iPhone to have one of the loudest speakers, which were great for podcasts in the car and speakerphone calls. Apple now has stereo speakers, with the same placement as the HTC 10. Audio sounds great and sharing videos with associates is a better experience with this setup.
Let's get the headphone jack removal out of the way first since that seems to be the most radical hardware design change found on the new Apple iPhone 7 Plus. While Apple removed the headphone jack, it does provide a Lightning port to 3.5mm adapter in the box to help with the transition. It's a small adapter and if you are going to be using wired headphones it's not really an issue to extend your preferred headset a couple of inches by keeping the adapter attached at all times.
Apple also included its standard earbuds in the package, this time with a Lightning port connector on the end of the cables. While it may be a bit inconvenient, if Apple really needed the space inside for a larger battery, water resistance, a second camera, and stereo speakers then I think it was a valid design decision.
The iPhone 7 Plus looks and feels like an iPhone 6s Plus. I am very pleased to see the return of an actual black color as I never really embraced space gray. I bought the matte black one and prefer that over the jet black ones my daughters chose. Unlike my Note 7, I don't have to wipe the back clean all day as fingerprints don't show up and the matte black just looks great.
Matte black Apple iPhone 7 Plus: hardware photos and samples
The display resolution has not changed, but honestly the fonts are crisp, photos and videos look amazing, and I am fine with a 1080p display on a smartphone. To save a bit of battery life, I have my Note 7 set to 1080p and cannot tell a difference between that and 2K resolution. The iPhone 7 Plus display is also the best smartphone LCD DisplayMate has ever tested and users will be pleased with its wide color gamut, brightness, and low screen reflectance.
The power and volume buttons remain in the same place on the right and left, the SIM card slot is still found below the power button, and the Lightning port is centered on the bottom. The handset speaker serves as one of the two stereo speakers with the other found down on the bottom right where the mono speaker was previously positioned. Audio has always been loud on the iPhone and I'm really enjoying the stereo speaker experience as I share videos with family.
There are still rather large bezels above and below the display with side bezels also present. The Note 7 dual edge display without bezels lets Samsung provide a larger display in a smaller form factor. I hope to see this as one major design change from Apple in 2017.
The larger Apple iPhone battery has always been impressive, largely due to Apple's incredible standby power management. I was always able to get through a full, long day with the iPhone 6s Plus and so far am seeing about the same with the iPhone 7 Plus. It's a phone I can leave the house with at 4:45 am and then place on the charger at 11 pm without having to charge it up.
Apple's awesome battery life is one reason that the lack of fast charging and wireless charging don't concern me as much as they would if an Android smartphone did not have these functions. I would still love to see both in the next iPhone, but also prefer the metal back so can give up on my wireless charging desire.
Apple usually makes some kind of incremental upgrade to its cameras with new devices and while the 12 megapixel sensor did see an upgrade in aperature, from f/2.2 to f/1.8, performance seems about the same as the 6s Plus.
The addition of a second camera is new for Apple. We've seen Huawei, LG, and HTC include dual cameras on phones with different uses for that second camera. The second rear Apple camera, unfortunately only found on the larger 7 Plus, is also a 12 megapixel camera. It has a f/2.8 aperture and a telephoto lens. You can perform a 2x optical zoom action with this camera, which can be handy for some situations.
Check out my Flickr photo album for full size images comparing the iPhone 7 Plus with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
The second camera will also be used to capture portrait photos with bokeh effects. This isn't provided in the software at launch, but I'm also testing out the public beta to try out portrait mode.
Over the past year, I have come to the realization that water resistance needs to be near the top of my must-have list for smartphone features. I like to take photos when I run, make calls in any weather condition, and use my phone when environmental conditions may not be the best. The addition of water resistance, IP67 standard, was one reason I bought the iPhone 7 Plus and if Apple had not included it I may not have purchased the phone. These modern flagship phones are too expensive to let an accident kill the device.
Prior to the release of the iPhone 7 Plus, I installed iOS 10 public preview on my iPhone 6s Plus. There are a few usability changes in iOS 10, related to notifications, lock screen widgets, and the implementation of 3D Touch.
In iOS 9 on an iPhone 6s Plus I found the fingerprint scanner to be so fast that I never saw the lock screen and was unable to use the camera shortcut. It's a bit jarring at first to now have to press down on the new fingerprint scanner/home button to get to the home screen. The home button isn't really a button either as it is similar to the HTC 10 capacitive button, but with a stronger vibration feedback mechanism.
iOS 10 public preview: screenshot gallery
Now that a press is required, but not too much or you will launch Siri, Apple has added more to the lock screen as you will likely be seeing it more in iOS 10. Notifications can be viewed when the display turns on with a swipe from left to right taking you to your widgets and one from right to left launching the camera. You can take actions on the notifications as well, depending on your security settings.
On the main home screen a swipe from left to right takes you to the widget panel, which can also be accessed by swiping down from the top and then left to right. Notifications appear by default with a swipe down from the top. If you want to quick search your iPhone, then a simple short swipe down from an empty area on the launcher will open up the search utility.
There are many more developers providing support for 3D Touch so try it out all over to discover new functionality. Make sure to use a 3D Touch action on the blue arrow in Messages to discover new ways to interact with contacts.
While iOS 10 appears very familiar at first, there are also many changes that can make your iOS experience a bit confusing and overwhelming. The good thing is that additional functionality is not required to use the device so these advanced options should appeal to the tinkerer while the standard interface will appeal to the long time iOS user.
Pricing and competition
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus remains the most expensive smartphone available today with prices ranging from $749 to $949. Thankfully, the resale value for the iPhone line remains very high so there is a good resale market while Apple and US carriers also offer payment and contract options.
The competition for the new iPhone 7 Plus includes the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy Note7, the LG V20, and the HTC 10. Android has come a long way and manufacturers have improved the cameras while pushing the limits of mobile technology. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 suffered a major setback with the battery failure, but the devices are being replaced and the Note 7 still offers serious competition to the iPhone 7 Plus at a similar price point.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
The first thing I noticed when I opened the iPhone 7 Plus box was the black matte finish. It looks stunning, hiding the antenna lines, minimizing fingerprints, and offering a phone that appears clean and modern.
I get out of bed around 4:30 am and don't lie back down until 10:00 pm or later most nights. During these long days, I push my phones with podcasts, social media, spreadsheet use, email and voice communications, photo and video capture, and more. The iPhone 7 Plus has been able to get through a full, long day with my standard usage without a problem. It beats every phone I have tried when it comes to battery life.
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus has been a screamer, flawlessly bouncing in and out of apps with no delays or pausing. Scrolling up and down is seamless and it's been a real pleasure having such a responsive phone.
The camera has performed similarly to the 6s Plus and the beta portrait mode is providing some good results. I filmed some clips at a Train concert on Sunday and the results were great with good quality images and clear sound.
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent phone that provides users with a fast, reliable platform. The hardware may not visibly be revolutionary, but the internal improvements and the continued advancement of iOS 10 make it an amazing smartphone.
The stereo speakers, water resistance, long battery life, matte black finish, and solid third party app experience make the iPhone 7 Plus a device I will happily keep using for the next year.