The iPhone is always the most hotly anticipated smartphone of the year. With the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus having been released for just over two months, how well does the bigger brother fare against competition from rivals like LG’s V20, Google’s Pixel XL and Huawei’s Mate 9.
- Display – 5.5-inch Full HD(Wide Color Gamut); 401ppi
- Processor – Apple A10 Fusion
- RAM/Storage – 3GB RAM/ 32,128 and 256GB storage (no micro-SD expansion)
- Battery – 2900mAh battery (5.5 hours of screen on time)
- Camera(s) – Dual 12MP Primary Sensor; 7MP Secondary Sensor
- Operating System – iOS 10
- Others – Dual Stereo Speakers; IP67 certification
Design and Build
In true Apple fashion, the iPhone 7 Plus sees very little change aesthetically over its predecessor. The movement of the antenna lines makes for a cleaner design and the lack of a headphone jack will become inconvenient every once in a while. But the less obvious change is the home button. The now capacitive button mimics a click using Apple’s haptic engine producing different degrees of vibrations to suit the user but it is nowhere as good enough as an actual physical button. In return, the lack of an opening on the home button allows the smartphone to be IP67 certified for optimal dust and water resistance up to one meter of submersion. Not many flagships nowadays come certified with such protection so the iPhone 7 Plus stands out here.
The large 5.5-inch Full HD display was a wide color gamut and a pixel density of 401. While the screen is good and is legible under harsh sunlight, it doesn’t quite match the detail and quality of 2K displays found on the LG V20 and the Huawei Mate 9 (Porsche Design) nor can it rival the Pixel XL’s AMOLED panel. In return, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with very good sounding dual stereo speakers that are not found in any of the smartphones aforementioned. This way, the audio makes up for the lack of resolution on the display for an impressive multimedia experience overall. Personally, the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack did not pose too much of a problem apart from the occasional joke here and there about its absence from colleagues.
Performance and User Experience
Under the hood, the iPhone 7 Plus is run by Apple’s latest A10-Fusion chip and 3GB of RAM. Coupling that processing power with their proprietary iOS 10 makes for a very smooth experience. Applications open and close seamlessly and switching between them is no problem. Not even the Pixel XL, running the latest Android version with the least bloatware can keep up with the iPhone 7 Plus which suggests how optimized the software is. Running games is also not a problem with the iPhone 7 Plus as it handled them very well utilizing the GPU on board. Even so, iOS 10 is nowhere near as customizable as any Android operating system and is surprisingly unpolished with no way to manage notifications neatly or the lack of the now basic T-9 dialing functionality.
Yet another departure from its predecessor, the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus employs a dual-12MP sensor with a 28mm and 56mm lens. Apple’s take on the dual sensor is for their new ‘Portrait’ mode software enhancement, allowing users to capture images of well defined subjects with a blurred background, simulating shallow depth of field. LG’s take is to use a wider angle lens on the V20 with Huawei’s Mate 9 offering the same capability.
With this setup, pictures in the day were extremely vivid and detailed especially when HDR was in effect. The dynamic range was very good and delightedly, it was maintained in pictures at night. There was a bit of noise and an overexposure of lighting but nothing to diminish detail significantly. The 4K video at 30fps also remained smooth with optical image stabilization on board but the Pixel XL does slightly edge out the iPhone 7 Plus in terms of the detail it is able to capture when recording 4K video. The front 7MP camera also produced natural looking selfies both in the day and night with the lens wide enough to accommodate a few people. Refer here for some samples.
For its size, the battery on the iPhone 7 Plus at 2900mAh is quite small. Even so, it offers some of the best battery life on any iOS smartphone. It is great for standby times and remains functional even after a moderate to heavy day with about 20% remaining. With LG’s V20 supporting a removable battery and the Huawei Mate 9 and Google Pixel XL coming with fast charging capabilities, the iPhone 7 Plus falls short here as well as in capacity terms with Huawei’s Mate 9 packing a mammoth 4000mAh battery. This is not to say that the iPhone performs worse on the battery front as the Android devices consume more power running the higher resolution displays and the content on them.
Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus may not be the significant design change we were expecting with the release but despite its minimal changes, it is a very good smartphone to pick up even when rival Android devices are newer than it. Its performance, camera and build is unrivaled but where the iPhone 7 Plus falls short is in its customization capability. iOS is a very restricted operating system and with there being no support for dual-sim cards or micro-SD cards in the hardware of the device, heavy users may lean towards an Android alternative at this time arguably offering better value for money.