The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are another feast for the eyes: brilliant design and a sublime look and feel are two of Apple's principles and important cornerstones of the iPhone's success. The new 7 models mark the first time Apple has managed to make the casing waterproof. The casing is certified with an IP67 rating, meaning that it can withstand being submerged in one metre of static water for up to 30 minutes. However, it's not advised that you try and test this protection to the limit, because Apple points out in the small print that the water resistance does not last forever and can reduce over time. Then comes the vital sentence "The guarantee does not cover damage by liquids". That means if water gets into the waterproof casing, Apple really does leave the user out in the rain.
Wide margins around the display
The California-based company has taken the casing from the previous generation with nearly no changes and has stuck with the design that's been around for over three years, which is an eternity in the smartphone world. In particular, the wide margins around the screen stick out as not modern. This is really noticeable when comparing to other current top-of-the-range models like the Galaxy S7 Edge, the front of which is almost entirely screen. However, the back seems a bit more tidy thanks to Apple tucking the plastic inlays for the antenna more into the edges so that you can hardly notice them now. The coating is also partly new as the characteristic grey that we have known so far has been removed from the programme and replaced by a matt black. There is also a premium version with a high-gloss black piano finish, which is so prone to scratches that even Apple advises using a protective case on the product website - hardly a high point. The two black versions are joined by silver, gold, and rose gold, making a total of five colour options - more than ever before. The casings are the exact same size down to the millimetre as their predecessors. It's hardly noticeable when using the phones that they are a few grammes lighter. Therefore, while the 5-5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is comparatively large and heavy, the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 is one of the most compact smartphones about. There are hardly any better alternatives to Apple in this size category.
- Elegant aluminium casing
- Waterproof according to IP67
- Dual camera with two focal lengths and excellent image quality
- Powerful processor
- Up to 256 GB of internal storage
- Intuitive and modern operating system
- Outstanding battery life
- No headphone jack for headphones
- No memory expansion
- High price
Lots of power under the bonnet
The screen resolutions remain full HD even in 2016, while the competition has already reached 2K (2560 x 1440 pixels). The excellent image quality of the new models, however, makes it hard to openly criticise this issue. Apple also delivers their usual high quality with the processor. The A10 chipset is a completely new development with four cores, which are arranged into two clusters like ARM's big.LITTLE architecture. These clusters work on two different performance levels, meaning they are very flexible to react to the prevailing usage. The 2 GB RAM (iPhone 7) and 3 GB RAM (7 Plus) are hardly much to write about, but iOS devices do require less RAM than Android phones to make them run smoothly. In everyday use, iOS runs like clockwork on both models and is not pushed to its limits even by graphically intensive applications. Even quickly switching between two high-graphic apps like Asphalt 8 and Infinity Blade 3 went off without lag. There is currently nothing else out there that offers the power of the A10. This does not seem to have any noticeable impact on the operation of the phone as even the iPhone 6s was able to react lightning fast to any input. We were not able to find any large differences when comparing to the 7 models. However, there is an important difference when it comes to listening to music or watching videos, because Apple has installed stereo speakers for the first time, and not only is the sound louder, but much fuller and clearer. Another improvement concerns the memory, which has been doubled for all iPhone models. The 7 models now come with 32, 128, and 256 GB - 16 GB is history. As usual, there is no option to expand the memory.
Chequered performance in the Testlab
The results from the test lab are somewhat chequered: the iPhone 7 Plus achieved "good" and iPhone 7 "very good" in terms of acoustics, which is in contrast to the wireless communication capabilities, particularly the disappointing results in the UMTS network. The iPhone 7 only scored a "satisfactory" and the iPhone 7 Plus just managed to score a "good". Luckily, however, a total failure was avoided thanks to the good LTE network results, but still too little for a top-of-the-range model past the €700 mark. Both devices do have good battery life: in our usual mix of applications that simulates typical everyday use, the battery life increased from 8:35 to 9:53 hours in comparison to previous models for the iPhone 7 Plus and from 6:25 to 7:20 hours for the iPhone 7. The iPhone 7 Plus is only the eighth model this year that broke the 9 hour battery life barrier. This puts the iPhone 7 at the higher end of the mid-range, which is a respectable performance when you consider that battery life is usually the weak point of the small iPhone models. Apple was able to successfully overcome that in the tenth generation.
No quick-charge function again
There is still room for improvement here, because there is still no quick-charge function and Apple has again left behind the Qi wireless charging standard. This is pretty ironic given that those responsible for the product presentation explained the absence of a headphone jack by saying that listening to music without wires is much more comfortable and advanced than the old-fashioned cable connection. Apparently that does not count for the power plug.
A missing headphone socket now joins the list of things that iPhone buyers have get used to, including Apple's proprietary Lightning cable instead of a USB Type-C, no memory expansion, and the inability to change the battery. If you can live with that and are not scared off by the high prices - with entry-level prices of €759/899 making the 7 models even more expensive than their predecessors - then you will be getting a high-end smartphone with an excellent camera, superior processor, and magnificent display. You also get an entry card into Apple's software ecosystem, which is not just safer than Android's, but also offers a more coherent user experience and is supplied better with updates. This access is worth its weight in gold. However, the obstacles created by Apple get bigger and bigger every year, which begs to question how long customers are willing to stick with them. ANDREAS SEEGER