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What hath Apple wrought with its new iPhones?

Time was when the iPhone was the only phone of choice for those who wanted the best smartphone, bar none. Many a competing company has risen to the challenge posed by Apple, and then some: other global brands like Samsung, LG, and now Google are crafting smartphones that, for some, are really quite compelling.

Are these the best iPhones ever? Definitely. But are they good enough to stand up to their increasingly tough competition? And are they still able to surprise and delight today’s ever more jaded tech consumer? That’s what this review is about to determine.

Check out our review of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus right here!

Subtly beautiful

First off, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus look very similar to the models they replace. Even hardcore techies might be hard pressed to tell a 7 apart from a 6s. There are a few visual differentiators, from the repositioned antenna lines to the striking new (and rather scratch- and fingerprint-prone) jet black and black finishes – but by and large these details arguably emphasize how little has changed. (Aside from the aforementioned new colors, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus continue to be available in silver, gold, and rose gold, by the way.)

Nothing bad about this at all. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are simply, cleanly, and functionally styled. Some folks might miss certain details, such as the old chamfered edges that went out the window after the 4 and 4s bit the dust, but we think this generation’s restrained styling doesn’t make it chopped liver at all. We’d say, rather, that it makes for subtle stylishness.

In the hand neither the 7 nor the 7 Plus fail to impress; Apple’s taken care to craft both with its usual attention to detail. The regular-sized 7 might be a better fit for your palm and pocket than the larger 7 Plus, but whichever you choose will of course depend on your wants and needs.

But as attractive as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are, looks are one thing, capability is another. And the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are nothing if not extremely capable.

Powerhouses under the hood

You might find their styling a bit on the simple sde, but performance-wise there’s no doubt that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are undeniable, indubitable powerhouses that leave most of the competition bobbing in their wake.

These phones boast Apple’s new quad-core A10 Fusion processor, which has gobs of power to spare yet also distributes this power intelligently – two cores are relegated to tackling simple tasks, whereas the other two handle complicated ones.

This makes for fabulous battery life for those who don’t put their iPhones through the wringer. We were able to enjoy over 24 hours of battery life from our test iPhone 7 and nearly twice that much from our test iPhone 7 Plus when we just used them for simple tasks. And even when we put them through their paces, we were really happy to see that battery life didn’t plummet – a once-a-day battery top-up was more than sufficient to keep our test phones alive until well into the evening.

Oh, and both models are waterproof, finally! Apple’s seen fit to take the 7 a step further than the 6s, which was surprisingly resistant to water despite not having a formal waterproof rating. This new one’s the real deal.

The 7 and 7 Plus also boast stereo speakers – one at the bottom, one integrated into the earpiece – and these provide far better sound than previous models could offer. And you storage junkies will thrill to hear that Apple’s done away with the base 16GB configuration, at long last; 32GB takes its place.

Standout snappers

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus come with two of the most capable cameras available in smartphones today. The cameras in the 6s and 6s Plus weren’t bad at all, not even close, but these new ones are something else.

The 12MP camera in the 7 boasts powerful features like an f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, and a much brighter flash – all helping it take better pictures and video than ever before. But the 7 Plus is the one to get for truly awesome shots – because it has authentic zoom capability.

The 7 Plus’ camera module is actually comprised of two 12MP cameras: a 28mm camera and a 56mm camera, and the camera app allows users to switch between them as they see fit, instantly. This makes for 2x optical zoom and digital zoom up to 10x – granted, a far cry from what a DLSR can offer, but still quite an achievement for a smartphone.

Both iPhones also come with 7MP FaceTime cameras to help ensure the sharpest selfies possible.

Points to ponder

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus might be terrific, but there still are a few things to consider before snapping one up.

For one, Apple’s seen fit to do away with the age-old headphone jack in these new models. Which isn’t too bad if you’ve already made the jump to Bluetooth headphones, but can be a bit of an issue if you haven’t yet or aren’t planning to. (If you aren’t, no worries, a set of EarPods with a Lightning connector and a 3.5mm headphone jack adapter for your old headphones are included in the package.)

Secondly, the time-honored iPhone home button, akin to the trackpad in Apple’s newest MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, isn’t a real button any longer – it’s now a capacitive surface that offers feedback through vibrations and taps to mimic the feel of a real button that can be pressed. For some it may be a bit strange, but we argue that it should work out fine down the line, because in our experience physical buttons tend to get worn out fast.

Wrap-up

If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are well worthy of consideration. Apple’s pulled out all the stops to take the iPhone further – it builds on its time-tested formula and adds a few noteworthy and interesting new features.

Sure, the competition is good, but these phones are their equal or better – and, yes, even the most jaded gearhead will find these new iPhones really compelling.

 

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