China The iPhone 7 Plus features improved specs over the iPhone 6s Plus, including a quicker-than-ever A10 Fusion processor chip and a twin-lens camera, along with two new colour options (both black – don’t worry, we’ll explain) and IP67 waterproofing. Our iPhone 7 Plus review will help you decide if Apple’s now superseded phablet is for you. Thanks to MobileFun for lending us the matte black iPhone 7 Plus we’ve been using for this review.
If you’re interested in the full current iPhone range, take a look at our iPhone buying guide 2018.
The iPhone 7 Plus is available to buy now, having been announced on 7 September and gone on sale on 16 September.
Here’s the pricing:
- iPhone 7 Plus (32GB): $265
- iPhone 7 Plus (128GB): $275
- The iPhone 7 Plus is available for direct purchase through Apple’s online store.
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Wholesale Price: $285
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Apple traditionally follows a ‘tick tock’ update cycle with its iPhones: a major, full-number update with a visible physical redesign (iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6) followed by a minor, S-branded update that looks roughly or exactly the same as its predecessor (iPhone 4s, iPhone 5c/5s, iPhone 6s). So after the relatively unexciting update last year we were expecting and hoping for a fundamentally different design.
In fact, the iPhone 7 Plus is largely the same in overall design to the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus before it: the dimensions are almost identical to the 6s Plus. And the camera still sticks out at the back, which is mildly irritating.
Try placing the iPhone 7 Plus face-up on a table and it won’t lie down flat: the back lens will prop it up very slightly. It’s particularly galling given that the iPhone SE, released back in spring 2016, has a design in which the camera is completely flush. Still, most of us will keep the iPhone cased (with one of the best iPhone 7 Plus cases), which removes the issue entirely. And even if this design has been around for a while now, it remains very smart and attractive.
There are a couple of differences from the previous generation. The iPhone 6s’s visible antenna bands have been removed, which produces a cleaner, more minimalist design. And more significantly, the headphone port is also gone, which has a similar aesthetic effect but is altogether more controversial.
Read next: iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6s | iPhone 7 vs iPhone 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 Plus is available in seven colours, six at launch. Silver, gold and Rose Gold are the same as we got on the previous generation, but Space Grey has been ditched and replaced by two different black finishes, one in matte (just called black) and the other in gloss (Jet Black).
The matt-black iPhone 7 Plus (just called “black”) strikes us as pleasantly low-key, although some may find it dull. The highly glossy Jet Black version is more obviously lovely to look at, but it picks up fingerprints like nobody’s business and appears to be scratch-prone, too.
Then, in March 2017, Apple launched a limited edition red version of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in partnership with AIDS/HIV group (Product) RED, and despite (Product) RED Apple Watch bands and iPods being produced in the past, it’s the first time the company has released a limited edition red iPhone.
The matte red finish is absolutely stunning as it shimmers in the light, and is easily one of the best looking iPhones ever released. Trust us when we say that even though it looks great in pictures, it looks phenomenal in real life and could be our favourite colour option ever.
As with everything Apple, it’s all about the small touches: the mirror-finish silver logo on the rear of the red smartphone matches the rim of the Lightning port and Touch ID ring on the front of the smartphone.
Unfortunately it is no longer on sale! But you might be able to find one second-hand.
The iPhone 7 Plus (like the iPhone 7) hasn’t got a 3.5mm headphone jack. You’ll need to either use Lightning headphones (a pair of Lightning-based EarPods are included with the phone), go wireless, or use an adaptor.
It got a certain amount of applause at the launch event (particularly when Apple bravely claimed that the move demonstrated “courage”), but in the real world this has not proved to be a popular announcement. People already own headphones, in most cases based on the 3.5mm standard, and don’t much like the idea of having to buy a new set to fit the iPhone 7 handsets. Apple fans got so disgruntled about the headphone removal ahead of the launch that a petition was set up to ask Apple to reconsider. More than 300,000 people signed.
But the headphone move being leaked ahead of the launch rather drew the sting of the online outrage, and I would say that most people have become relatively sanguine about the whole thing. In part this is because of Apple’s announcement that a Lightning-to-mini phono adaptor will be bundled with iPhone 7 handsets, and cost just £9 even if you lose it.
Sure, the idea of lugging around an adaptor if you want to listen to your existing headphones is annoying, but you can always use the new EarPods and keep your nice audiophile cans for home use with the adaptor. It feels like a retrograde step, or at least a premature one, but the inconvenience factor just doesn’t feel like that much of a big deal now.
Nevertheless, now we know there isn’t a headphone port on the iPhone 7 Plus, there’s going to be a lot of demand for three things: Lightning headphones, Bluetooth headphones (such as the AirPods), and Bluetooth speakers.
If you’ve lost an important contact from your iPhone, there’s no need to
Read next: iPhone 7 vs Samsung Galaxy S7 | iPhone 7 Plus vs Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster suggested ahead of the launch that the iPhone 7 handsets wouldn’t have a Home button, and that the Touch ID sensor would be built into the screen itself. That hasn’t happened. But Apple has substantially redesigned the Home button.
Apple has kept the Home button but modified it, changing the button from a moving to a non-moving part, equipping it instead with the haptic technology from the MacBook’s Force Touch trackpad. In other words, it ‘buzzes’ when you apply pressure to simulate a downward press, while in actual fact not moving at all. (For more on the haptic Force Touch trackpad, read 13 ways to use Force Touch on the MacBook.)
This felt odd at first, and on the whole isn’t as effective a deception as the MacBook‘s Force Touch click. This feels different to the old Home button and there’s no getting away from that fact. But you get used to it very quickly. It’s different, but good in its own way. (Also, we recommend using the most subtle number-one setting for the Home button’s haptic feedback, which seems the most natural to us. Read: How to customise the iPhone 7 Home button.)
As predicted ahead of the launch, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are officially more waterproof than any previous iPhones – although Apple is studiously using the phrase ‘water-resistant’ instead.
The iPhone 7 handsets are rated IP67 for solid and liquid intrusion protection.
The iPhone 7 Plus has a very similar screen to the iPhone 6s Plus: it’s the same 5.5-inch phablet form factor that’s been a popular choice for the 6 Plus and 6s Plus, with the same resolution (1920 x 1080) and pixel density (401 pixels per inch): the highest of any Apple product. And while rival manufacturers have gone considerably higher still – Samsung’s Galaxy S8 has an astonishing 570ppi – it’s debatable whether the human eye is capable of getting much from densities above 400ppi. At this point it’s about spec boasting more than appreciable differences in the user experience.
We find it a shade too large for our tastes (like the 6s Plus, it stretches the seams of our slim-fit trouser pockets…), but Apple has at least addressed potential problems using such a big-screen device one-handed with a feature called Reachability, which compresses the screen downwards when you double-tap the Home button. (That’s not a new feature, mind: it was announced along with the iPhone 6 Plus.) Interface touches like that are key to Apple’s appeal. (See: 7 tips for using the iPhone 6 Plus with small hands.)
There are a couple of enhancements to the screen for this generation. It’s 25 percent brighter, Apple claims (we’ve not been overwhelmed by this in practice, although it does seem a little clearer for viewing in sunlight), and has a wider colour gamut.
As expected, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a dual-lens camera setup on the back (there is no such upgrade for the iPhone 7).
This broadly fits with Apple’s past behaviour, since the company generally likes to set apart its top-of-the-line phone with at least one feature that isn’t available on any other – and it’s often something in the photographic line, such as optical image stabilisation. But this is the first time a Plus-branded iPhone has had such a conspicuous physical advantage over its smaller cousin.
The dual-lens camera offers a number of potential benefits, many of which will emerge across the coming months as app developers and Apple itself come up with new software features. The most important are optical zoom up to 2x and Portrait Mode, an arty photo mode added in the iOS 10.1 update a month after the iPhone 7 Plus’s launch.
We’re also hoping for post-shot refocusing – if you get a photo slightly off, it’s possible with some dual-lens cameras to alter the focus later using the combined data from both lenses – but this looks unlikely. However, we’re certain that app developers will come up with all sorts of clever things to do with this hardware.
The iPhone 7 Plus features two different lenses, one of them a telephoto; this is what enables the 7 Plus to offer an optical zoom by switching from one lens to the other. It also has 10x digital zoom, compared to the 5x digital zoom on the iPhone 7 and on the previous generation. We explore the capabilities of the optical zoom in the next section.
Read next: iPhone photo tips
We’ve spent a lot of time with the iPhone 7 Plus’s camera, and while not every shot has come out perfectly – photos taken in harsh electric light indoors sometimes seem to have an almost ‘painted’ finish, as if they’ve been put through a retro filter – it’s generally performed impressively. Colours are rich, detail is strong, and most of the time the shutter is faster than we’re used to.
Click to enlarge – but be warned it’s a giant file!
Let’s talk about the zoom for a moment. Thanks to that dual-lens setup, the iPhone 7 Plus is supposed to offer optical zoom up to 2x, with digital zoom taking over after that point. You’ll probably know that digital zoom isn’t up to much: essentially the phone is cropping into the picture and using software to simulate the additional detail that’s required, so photos taken with digital zoom will be that much noisier and more pixellated than a photo taken at normal 1x ‘magnification’. Optical zoom, achieved through use of the glassware, should have no such problems.
It doesn’t quite work out that way – some reviewers have speculated that in fact some element of digital zoom is combined with optical zoom before you reach 2x magnification – but the effect is noticeably better than the 2x zoom on an iPhone 6s Plus.
Here’s a shot taken with the iPhone 7 Plus at 2x zoom. Click to zoom in (be warned that it’s a very large image file).