FIRST IT GIVETH, then it taketh away. The iPhone 7 is a decidedly mixed bag in terms of innovation. A ‘solid state’ capacitive button has replaced the squeezy Home button of old and, lest we forget, the 3.5mm headphone jack has gone in favour of Apple’s new wireless standard.
Yet on the face of it, it’s business as usual. It’s only when we peek past that copycat exterior that we find the beating heart of an altogether more interesting beast.
The iPhone 7’s brushed aluminium unibody has been crafted to perfection, but we wouldn’t expect anything less. Everything gleams and glints, from the highlights surrounding the Home Button and Lightning port, to the precision-drilled holes in the speaker assembly, all helping to evoke an air of luxury.
The comparisons with the iPhone 6S are many, but those rounded edges, minute 7.1mm frame and 138g weight mean that the phone sits comfortably in the hand.
The iPhone 7 debuts two Black and Jet Black colour options alongside the Silver, Gold and Rose Gold of old, but note that Jet Black is available only in 128GB and 256GB configurations.
We appreciate that Apple has tried to better disguise the antenna lines, but the solution is like something you’d expect from a third-party case. This is true for our Rose Gold model, at least, and the Gold too from the looks of things. The darker designs don’t suffer from the unsightly corrector-fluid lines.
The iPhone 7 is the first iPhone to be fully IP67-compliant. This isn’t the highest rating it could have been awarded, but still means it’s water and dust resistant. However, Apple has taken the same stance as Samsung in that liquid damage isn’t covered under warranty, so some care must still be taken.
While the Galaxy S7 can last a full thirty minutes of submersion in 1.5m of water, the iPhone 7 can only really be pushed to 1m. This is still more than enough to survive an outing in the British summer rain, or a trip into the bathtub. Casting our rubber duck aside we dunked the iPhone 7 into water 50cm deep and kept it there for as long as we dared. After the time was up and we’d dried the device off, we were pleased to see it hadn’t suffered any ill effects. Business as usual.
A new taptic (haptic feedback) engine underpins the iPhone 7’s Home button. The design manages to cram in functions like Siri, Touch ID and Apple Pay, so the iPhone 7 feels more responsive despite losing the button style of old.
The fact that it doesn’t actually move is a little disconcerting at first, but the click can be tailored to individual taste and we soon adjusted to the new way of doing things.
It’s worth pointing out here that the button’s Touch ID support means that you can’t use it with gloves without first turning on the AssistiveTouch feature.
Dual-speakers offer a stereo soundstage that doesn’t scrimp on the details, but can be a bit tinny at times. Only one speaker hides behind those aforementioned grilles and the other can be found next to the earpiece. It turns out that the taptic engine that powers the new Home button needs more space than we first thought.
As much as we might want to add our voice to the scandal the internet is calling #headphonegate, we want to offer a balanced appraisal of the situation.
The 3.5mm headphone port is no more, but it’s still possible to use your existing headgear with the bundled Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor. The removal hasn’t got us riled up, but that’s not to say we understand and agree with it.
However, we’re not crying over losing the ability to simultaneously listen to music and charge our device. We don’t know about you, but that’s quite a rare scenario for us.
The W1 chip makes pairing a device almost instantaneous, and it’s now easier than ever to propagate that pairing across all your devices thanks to clever use of the iCloud. Some may say (us included) that the pairing process wasn’t all that difficult in the first place.
Ultimately, you’re going to need to invest in a pair of W1-toting headphones to really reap the benefits.
That’s not to say Apple wants to leave you high and dry, as a pair of EarPods are included in the box. Sure enough,, they use the new Lightning connection but there’s no apparent benefit to the user by going down this route.
As for the EarPods themselves, they’re about as good as previous efforts, so we can envisage your local neighbourhood CEX getting inundated any day now. Call us cynical, but we don’t really get the logic behind the move. We hope to goodness that in the years that follow we don’t see ‘headphone jack’ listed as a feature on future smartphones.
Apple has described getting rid of the jack as “courageous”, but we beg to differ. There’s nothing courageous about ripping out a hardware standard (never mind how old it is) to replace it with something that better serves its own needs.
If Apple manages to shift even a few hundred thousand new accessories all the aggravation would be considered a success, never mind forcing a change on iPhone users that no-one asked for.
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