The iPhone 7 might not look like it's changed much on the outside, but Apple's latest smartphone is a very different animal under the hood. If you're still not sure whether or not to upgrade, take a closer look to find out why this year's iPhone makes another strong contender for the fastest, sharpest, most capable handset around.
The new iPhone comes in two models – the 7 and the 7 Plus. Aside from being considerably larger, the Plus packs an extra camera lens and a fair amount of extra resolution (at the expense of about one hour of battery life).
Otherwise, the specs are the same – both available with 32GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage and both using the same processor. Roughly the same dimensions as the iPhone 6 and just nine grams heavier (about the weight of a pencil), the 7 is still one of the lightest smartphones on the market at 138g. The 7 Plus adds a few extra millimetres to 2014's 6 Plus, and weighs a heftier 188 grams – bringing it closer to the bulk of Apple's slimmest iPad, the Mini 4.
Sit an iPhone 6 and 7 side by side and the differences are hard to spot. The changes to the home button and audio jack (see below) are subtle, and the biggest noticeable cosmetic change is that the thin antenna bands dividing the back bodywork have been moved up and integrated into the top and bottom edges.
Colour options remain mostly the same too – with "Rose Gold", "Gold" and "Silver" all still available – but "Space Grey" has been replaced by "black", and a new glossy variant has been introduced called "Jet Black" (which is only available in the 128GB and 256GB models).
Both models house the same displays as their predecessors – a 4.7-inch LED on the 7 (1334x750 pixels) and a 5.5-inch LED on the Plus (1920x1080 pixels) – but Apple has introduced wide-colour gamut support on both. This means more realistic hues in photos and videos, which, along with a 25% bump in screen brightness, should mean more in-phone editing options for photographers (and less squinting in direct sunlight for everyone else).
Thanks to the power-saving brain of the A10 chip, the iPhone 7 will give you around two extra hours of battery life a day compared to the iPhone 6 (one hour for the 7 Plus). What's more, the new phone is also compatible with the iPad Pro's 12W power adapter – which charges the battery in around half the time.
Underneath the screen, the iPhone 7 hides its secret weapon – and the one feature that really sets it apart from its older brothers – the A10 Fusion CPU. With a 64bit four-core processor, the phone can switch half of its brain off for everyday tasks (like texts, email and web browsing) and run itself on one-fifth of the power, giving you a big saving on battery life. And when you do decide to make it work for its money, the A10 runs all four cores at once – clocking the phone at 40% faster than the iPhone 6S (which makes it a staggering 120 times faster than the first iPhone).
The graphical pay-off for games is even better (50% faster than the 6S) and Apple is mooting the upgrade as revolutionary – suggesting that the upcoming racing title /F1 2016/ will be the first mobile game to match the graphical and performance power of a console.
Finally, you don't have to panic if you drop your iPhone in the toilet. As long as your toilet isn't deeper than 1 meter, and as long as you don't leave it down there for more than half an hour (and as long as you only drop it in water...), your handset should survive. Now IP67 certified, the iPhone 7 has the second highest rating for water protection – which theoretically means you can text in the shower, make calls in the rain and take photographs under the sea. Almost as useful is the top tier dust-protection rating, which is great news for anyone who’s ever had to dig bits of sand out of their speakers after a trip to the beach.
The home button has had a makeover. Now "force-sensitive" and reinforced with a Taptic Engine, the button still performs Touch ID functionality but no longer physically clicks. Instead, the home key now recognises finger pressure and offers feedback in the form of subtle beats of vibration. Capable of operating Home, Siri, multitask, Apple Pay and more (depending on how you press it), the home button will now also give you notifications through your fingertips.
According to Apple, more photos have been taken on an iPhone than any other device in history. Updating the iPhone's 12-megapixel rear-facing lens with a faster aperture, a True Tone flash and a new image processor that "learns" focus, white balance and tonal mapping, the new handsets offer a big upgrade in picture quality. Selfies should look better too, thanks to a refreshed 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera on the front of the phones, which now comes with auto image stabilization.
But the big changes have been saved for the big phone. Supplementing the standard set-up with another 12-megapixel camera, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a wide-angle and telephoto lens that work side by side. Used in tandem, they have the ability to map distance like a DSLR camera and enhance the depth of field in your photos – offering a wealth of new creative options and making your holiday snaps look a lot more professional.
Yes, the headphone jack has gone. The internet is still making up its mind whether or not Apple did the right thing, but the fact is that you won't be able to plug in your old headphones without the included adapter. In reality, it's much less of a big deal than it sounds. Every new phone comes packaged with a new set of ear buds that plug straight into the Lightning socket, and Apple is hoping that everyone is eventually going to be won over by their fancy new Bluetooth wireless AirPods (sold separately) anyway. What's more, the iPhone 7 now comes with stereo speakers – which provides a surprisingly good sound without headphones of any sort.
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