- Taptic Engine and 3D Touch functionality
- 5.5-inch Full HD display with wide color gamut
- IP67 water resistance
- 12-megapixel dual-camera
- 7-megapixel selfie camera
- 256GB maximum storage
- Large 2,900mAh battery
- Wireless headphones
The physical design of the iPhone 7 Plus is rather similar to preceding models of the iconic series. One cannot help get the feeling when first picking up the device that this is a seriously large unit and that the smartphone marketplace has evolved significantly from its initial foundations.
The sheer scale of the iPhone 7 Plus will not appeal to everyone, but it does give the feel of utilizing a serious piece of computing, while also housing a decent-sized display. Indeed, more can be done with the larger screen than is possible with the standard iPhone 7 display.
But there is still ultimately little departure here from other recent iPhone Plus releases.
Touch ID, Home button and Taptic engine
However, the first major change in the iPhone 7 Plus centers on the Home button. It had been widely suggested that Apple would remove this feature completely, but instead the consumer electronics giant has opted to replace the standard unit with a pressure-sensitive pad.
Pressing down on the Home button now activates the Taptic engine, enabling users to access various features and feedback via short, sharp clicks and taps of the Home button. This is the most innovative physical feature that Apple has crafted in recent years, and undoubtedly a big selling point of the device.
Touch ID also survives as a security feature, fully intact from the iPhone 6S generation. There is thus a steady shift away from traditional smartphone features in the iPhone series, although the removal of the Home button and instigation of buttons embedded within the display will have to wait for the iPhone 8.
It is perhaps something of a disappointment that the still 5.5-inch display included in the iPhone 7 Plus remains Full HD. There is no doubt that Apple fans would have liked to see the Californian corporation increase the screen resolution of the handset, but other improvements have nonetheless been made.
Firstly, Apple boasts that the screen is 25 per cent brighter than the iPhone 6S, and this is indeed evident when utilizing the unit. Furthermore, the increased cinema-standard wide color gamut gamut included in the iPhone 7 Plus is rather pleasing, ensuring that the display is a significant step up from the last generation in the range.
Again, though, this feels more like an evolution of the iPhone concept rather than a significant step forward.
Performance and iOS 10
The iPhone series is always associated with particularly slick operation, and this can almost be taken for granted with the iPhone 7 Plus. This is a hugely user-friendly mobile; one which executes precisely what the user requires with the minimum of fuss.
It is also noticeable that the iPhone 7 Plus is lightning fast in terms of operation. Comparing the phone directly with the iPhone 6S Plus, it is quite clear that the new phablet races through such operations as skipping between applications, multi-tasking and gaming.
The additional cores included in the processor of the iPhone 7 Plus undoubtedly contribute to this enviable speed, while bumping the RAM of the device up to 3GB was also hugely welcome. Not only is this device superior to past generations, but it is also tangibly faster that even its iPhone 7 cousin.
It really seems that the iPhone 7 Plus deals with anything that you throw at it with aplomb. Games run particularly well on the smartphone, while the experience is also enhanced by the new dual-speaker setup, which undoubtedly delivers a better quality of sound reproduction. Music playback in general is outstanding, while the iPhone 7 Plus handles multiple apps being open simultaneously without slowing down or stalling.
Geekbench 4 documents that the iPhone 7 Plus delivers 20 per cent superior performance to the previous generation, meaning that anyone upgrading will almost instantly notice the difference. Part of this improved performance is undoubtedly derived from the new iOS 10 operating system. Apple hasn’t made massive changes to arguably its most important piece of software, but refinements ensure that it is overall a more comprehensive interface, while still retaining the trademark user-friendliness associated with Apple.
The ability to respond directly to notifications from the lockscreen is also a nifty inclusion, while more customization and intuitiveness for Control Center and Notifications also pleases. Overall, there is no doubt that the operation of the iPhone 7 Plus hugely outperforms that of the iPhone 6S Plus.
Apple continues to be subjected to criticism for the battery life in the iPhone range, and it has not really addressed this complaint with the iPhone 7 Plus. Admittedly, there is a slightly larger 2,900 mAh cell included in this phablet, but the practical benefits of this are extremely minimal. In tests, it has been demonstrated that the iPhone 7 Plus possesses a marginally longer lifecycle than the iPhone 6S Plus, but users will be unlikely to even notice this in real world usage.
3D Touch is not a new feature in the iPhone 7 Plus, but Apple has ensured that it is somewhat more functional in the latest phablet release. Thus, it is now possible to press down firmly on the torch icon to deliver three different levels of brightness, while travel times can be acquired for various favorite locations via the third-party Google Maps. Apple has worked hard on implementing new and useful functionality for 3D Touch to deliver, and this has largely paid off ensuring that the system is now a viable string to the bow of the iPhone 7 Plus, rather than a trivial gimmick.
New headphone setup
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the iPhone 7 Plus is the ditching of the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack. At one time it was unthinkable that Apple would ever remove this feature from the iPhone range, but wireless music playback, and the need for a more aesthetically pleasing design, mean that the Cupertino-based manufacturer indeed considers the jack redundant.
Lightning headphones replace the headphone jack, with a pair of Lightning-based EarPods included with the phone. However, it is also possible to listen to music wirelessly, which is clearly a zeitgeist that Apple wished to particularly embrace.
There have certainly been a number of disgruntled iPhone fans bemoaning the removal of the headphone jack. Apple perhaps diminished this reaction by announcing this decision some time before the iPhone 7 range was released, but the cessation of the headphone jack has still received a rather checkered reception.
Whether this is an entirely fair reaction, or indicative of somewhat Luddite and conservative tendencies, is open to debate. But what can be said is that the iPhone 7 Plus does an entirely competent job of playing back music. And, as mentioned previously, the stereo speakers included in the device ensures significant improvement in this area.
The iPhone 7 Plus offers IP67 water resistance, which is an almost requisite inclusion, but notably inferior to the levels delivered by Samsung handsets. The iPhone 7 deals capably with being submerged, but fans of Android devices will dismiss the capabilities of the iPhone 7 Plus as lagging behind readily available alternatives.
The iPhone 7 Plus is available in five color options. Space Grey has been jettisoned in favor of two different black finishes. The first of these, simply referred to as Black, delivers a matte effect, while the glossier option (pictured here) is dubbed Jet Black. The latter of these color choices is only available in the middle or upper storage tier options, while the simply Black version of the iPhone 7 Plus is restrained, but may appeal to the less showy iPhone purchaser.
We found the Jet Black color to deliver a pleasing, gleaming effect, and there is no doubt that it looks excellent out of the box. But this model is rather susceptible to fingerprints and scratching, so those intending to put their handset through hell, or those keen to retain the original appearance of the iPhone 7 Plus indefinitely, should probably opt for one of the other color options.
Silver, Gold and Rose Gold models are also available for those who desire something bolder. Rose Gold could easily be mistaken for pink, while Gold is not tacky, being more champagne than chintz. Silver delivers a classic elegance, and Apple must be commended for providing color choices that genuinely deliver a different feel to the overall unit.
The iPhone 7 Plus is undoubtedly an excellent phablet, even if some may believe that it is a little too conservative in some departments. What can be said with some confidence is that it does not represent a revolution or rebooting of the iPhone concept; the emphasis is very much on incremental, well-executed evolution of an already hugely successful brand.
What Apple has done with the iPhone 7 Plus is taken everything that was good about the iPhone 6S Plus and enhanced it. It has also paid particular heed to the weaker parts of the previous generation and ensured that they are significantly improved in the iPhone 7 series. Add some increased specs to the mix, and the iPhone 7 Plus undoubtedly feels like a much more powerful and capable performer than previous releases in this series.
It is also important to note that the iPhone 7 Plus is undoubtedly better than the iPhone 7. Of course, one will also pay quite a bit more in order to acquire one, but the extra spondoolicks are probably justified. The larger display and superior camera will particularly attract videophiles and visualphiles, while the style-conscious may note that this is simply the snazziest iPhone unit available.
There is a valid argument for picking up an iPhone 7, or for that matter an iPhone 6S Plus, and saving a significant amount of money. But there is no doubt that the iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone ever produced, and one that stands up against anything in the mobile niche.