iPhone 7 reviews roundup: Is it worth the money?

Should you upgrade to the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus? Find out what the critics think of Apple’s newest iPhones before you buy one.

iphone 7 lineup
Credit: Apple

Preorders for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have already flooded into Apple's online store as many people try to get their hands on the newest iPhone. But is it worth spending the money on the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus?

Before you buy one, it’s worth taking the time to find out what the critics think of the latest iPhone. For your convenience I’ve assembled some of the most notable reviews of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus below. Reading them will help you make up your mind about buying the newest iPhone.

The Verge: iPhone 7 is the future in disguise

Nilay Patel at The Verge was impressed with the iPhone 7 but feels that it’s really a harbinger of what’s to come in the iPhone 8:

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are legitimately among the most interesting, opinionated, powerful phones Apple has ever shipped, and the most confident expressions of the company’s vision in a long time. iOS 10 is excellent, the cameras are better, and the performance is phenomenal. And the batteries last longer. These are terrific phones.

But they are also incomplete. The most interesting feature of the iPhone 7 Plus’ new dual camera isn’t shipping at launch. Apple’s making a big bet on iMessage and Siri apps in iOS 10 but it hasn’t paid off yet. Apps haven’t been updated to use the Taptic Engine or the new wide color gamut display. The entire ecosystem of new headphones and adapters required to make use of Lightning and wireless audio is just getting off the ground. Only Apple or Beats headphones offer the best wireless audio experience, and you might not like how they sound or fit. By the time developers even come close to hitting the performance limits of the A10 Fusion chip, Apple will be shipping the A11 Fusion Pro with six blades.

The entire time I was using the iPhone 7, I felt like I had a prototype of next year’s rumored drastic iPhone redesign disguised as an iPhone 6. All those bold bets on the future are legitimately exciting, but here in the present using the iPhone 7 in a case feels a lot like using a iPhone 6S with a weirder home button and more adapters.

If you need a new phone right now, sure, buy an iPhone 7. The little one starts at $649 for a mercifully doubled 32GB of storage and ranges up to $849 for 256GB, and the Plus starts at $769 for 32GB and goes up to $969 for 256GB. Make sure you factor in the extra cost of headphone adapters or Bluetooth headphones, because you’ll end up needing them. You’ll be fine, and your photos will be better.

Good Stuff

Improved cameras

Better battery life

Great display

Taptic engine feedback is neat

Dual camera zoom on the 7 Plus is great

Bad Stuff

Lack of headphone jack is inconvenient

Jet Black model scratches easily

Looks just like an iPhone 6 in a case

Wireless audio ecosystem is immature

iPhone 7 Plus design feels big compared to competition

Other iPhone 7 Plus dual camera features haven't shipped yet

More at The Verge

Wired: A fantastic phone that won’t blow your mind

David Pierce at Wired notes that the iPhone 7 is a terrific phone but it’s not going to blow your mind:

The iPhone really isn’t a single device at all. It’s a million different devices. When you buy a phone, you decide what it becomes by downloading apps. Your iPhone could be a Snapchat machine, or an Instagram factory, or a universal remote for your TV. The smartest thing Apple ever did with the iPhone was to imagine it as an empty vessel, waiting for users and developers to fill it with their homes and dreams and email apps.

All these years later, Apple’s taking the blank-slate approach that led to the App Store to the rest of the iPhone. It’s opening up APIs for RAW and wide-color image capture, which means photo apps could totally rethink how they process images. Developers can use the taptic engine to make games and apps more responsive and interactive. iOS 10 gives developers substantial access to Siri (and thus AirPods), along with Messages, Maps, and more. The iPhone’s role is increasingly to be a blank canvas, one that developers can fill however they please.

It’s a strategically smart move that makes for boring hardware. A phone that’s meant to be tweaked and twisted can’t cause problems by breaking or dying prematurely. It can’t turn off buyers with controversial or complex design. It needs enough power and versatility to live up to a developer’s most outrageous dreams. In other words, it’s the iPhone 7.

So, no, the iPhone 7 won’t blow your mind with its design or features. It’s still a fantastic phone. And philosophically, it feels like Apple is throwing open a door. The iPhone 7 might not be a revolution, but it might be the catalyst for lots of them. Your phone will be better in a few months, and even better a few months after that. And wouldn’t that be exciting?

More at Wired

USA Today: The iPhone 7 is a worthwhile upgrade

Edward Baig at USA Today was impressed by the iPhone 7, and appreciated the fact that it’s more water resistant than previous iPhones:

After nearly a week of using the iPhone 7 Plus, what stands out to me is its excellent camera and the fact that we finally have an iPhone that can get wet. The funky-looking optional wireless AirPods aren’t bad either.

The $769 iPhone 7 Plus is a solid, albeit incremental, upgrade to the company’s seminal smartphone. I’d buy it and can recommend it to those of you in the market for an upgrade, though it’s not leaps and bounds ahead of the rival Galaxy Note 7, which before its exploding batteries necessitated a recall, posed a formidable challenge to the iPhone.

This year’s handsets look an awful lot like last year’s iPhones and the iPhones that came before them. Apple is hyping the aesthetics on the glossy new jet black finish model, which for the record, does looks swell and feel great. (The phones are made of aluminum.) It’s also a magnet for fingerprints and smudges. Worth noting: any cases you bought for a recent generation iPhone won’t fit the new phones.

You’re not going to shower with your iPhone. Or drown it in a fish bowl. But I did those things to test the water resistance of the phone. It survived, suggesting it should withstand less challenging encounters with H2O, perhaps a heavy downpour or drink spill.

More at USA Today

The Wall Street Journal: iPhone 7 is the anti-anxiety phone

Geoffrey Fowler at the Wall Street Journal believes that the iPhone 7 is worth buying for better photos, water-resistance and longer battery life:

Over the past five days, I have squeezed an hour-and–1/2 more battery life out of the 7 and 7 Plus in brutal tests. I dropped an iPhone 7 in a pond, and it survived! And I’ve managed to snap more than a few after-sunset photos I’m actually proud of.

…I still won’t call it the most advanced phone money can buy. These benefits would make the iPhone 7 the best smartphone… of 2015. Last year is when Apple should have put it on sale. Now Apple’s just playing catch-up to Samsung , which added an equivalent camera and waterproofing to its Galaxy S7 six months ago.

While Apple says the 7’s screen is more colorful and 25% brighter than past models, I couldn’t really see the benefit outdoors. Apple’s iPhone 7 actually lags behind Samsung: Its LCD has the same old thick border, while Samsung’s OLED screens go right to the edge. Those Samsung screens also cram in more than three times the pixels, making them amazing for looking at photos and text, and useful for new inventions like virtual reality.

Is it worth upgrading your two-year-old (or older) iPhone? Yes. Will many of us want to sell the 7 next year when Apple introduces Mr. Ive’s 10th-anniversary edition iPhone X Deluxe OLED in ceramic poppy red? For Apple’s sake, I hope so.

More at the Wall Street Journal

Recode: Where’s my headphone jack?

Walt Mossberg at Recode noted that the iPhone 7 is a great smartphone, but he still missed the headphone jack:

The most important thing about the 2016 iteration of the iPhone is that, overall, it takes a truly excellent smartphone and makes it significantly better in a host of ways, even without overhauling the exterior design and despite the removal of the standard audio jack.

The iPhone remains an outstanding smartphone, and this latest model makes it even better in many ways. And, unlike rival Samsung, Apple isn’t beset with the very serious problem of exploding batteries. But the whole audio jack thing makes choosing the iPhone 7 more difficult than it might have been.

You won’t go wrong buying the iPhone 7 if you can tolerate the earbud issue, especially if you’re on an installment plan like Apple’s that just gets you a new iPhone every year. You could get the iPhone 7 and then the big redesign next year, as long as you keep paying the monthly fee.

But despite the undisputed improvements, this new iPhone just isn’t as compelling an upgrade as many of its predecessors. Some might want to wait a year for the next really big thing — and maybe a better audio solution to boot.

More at Recode

NY Times: Who needs the headphone jack?

On the other hand, Brian Chen at the NY Times found that he didn’t miss the headphone jack as much he thought he would:

…I didn’t miss the headphone jack as much as I thought. Apple is pushing people toward wireless earphones with the introduction of AirPods, its first wireless earbuds, which I tried. I found AirPods to be a decent first attempt at wireless audio, though there were glitches.

…AirPods sound decent, with loud bass and clear audio quality, comparable to the wired earbuds that Apple has included in iPhones for years. They aren’t, however, sufficient for drowning out the thunderous prattle of a loud co-worker.

…taking the leap to the 7 may be a wise bet, even for late technology adopters. Apple is likely to continue making iPhones without headphone jacks, and next year’s iPhone will have a full-screen face with the virtual button built directly into the screen, according to two people at the company who spoke on condition of anonymity because the product details are private. Apple declined to comment on next year’s iPhones.

More at the NY Times

Ars Technica: A unique set of trade-offs

Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica believes that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are worth upgrading to if you have an iPhone 6 or older:

Anyone using an iPhone 6 or older should at least consider upgrading—maybe you’re still on a 2-year carrier contract, or maybe your current phone is just showing signs of wear-and-tear and your battery isn’t holding the charge it once did. For your money, you’ll get water resistance, a much faster phone with two or three times the RAM and better battery life, a significantly improved camera, and a few other perks.

The iPhone 7 is a very good phone with the sorts of logical, useful upgrades that Apple typically delivers with new hardware. I still have my quibbles with the iPhone 6-era design and it’s too bad that we’re going to be trucking along with it for another year, but the iPhone 6 was also Apple’s most popular phone by far so clearly actual people aren’t all that bothered by it.

If you understand things best when they’re phrased as tired idioms: the missing headphone jack is a fly in the iPhone 7’s ointment. Plenty of people will be happy to scoop out the fly and use the rest of the probably-fine ointment. It’s good ointment! There’s just a fly in it. And the transition from wired to wireless is going to be more painful now than it will be a year or two down the line when more accessories and devices have adapted to follow Apple’s lead. Waterproofing and better battery life have been common iPhone feature requests for years and the camera and speed improvements are nothing to sneeze at, but you’ll need to buy into Apple’s vision of the future if you want to get them.

The good

A10 Fusion and everything else in the phone is super fast.

Great mobile cameras, particularly in the 7 Plus.

Better battery life than last year.

Solid, sturdy construction that you’d expect from Apple.

Screens support a wider color gamut than before, and they balance resolution/density and battery life well.

Water-resistant.

Apple has finally bumped the base model up to a perfectly reasonable 32GB, making it easier to recommend. 128GB and 256GB storage options for $100 or $200 more ain’t too shabby, either.

And 3GB of RAM in the 7 Plus is another nice perk you get along with the bigger phone.

The bad

Same basic design with the same basic quirks as the 6 and 6S, including the camera bump, the rounded slippery corners, and large width and height relative to the size of their screens.

iOS and its ecosystem, four or five years of software updates, and Apple’s support network are arguably worth the price of admission, but you can still buy perfectly capable phones for much cheaper.

7 Plus is very slightly more expensive than last year’s model.

7 Plus' telephoto camera isn't quite as high-quality as the main camera.

The ugly

Even if you’re totally, completely, 100 percent on-board with the removal of the headphone jack and believe that the future of sound is totally wireless, you can objectively admit that the transition is going to be rough.

More at Ars Technica

Did you miss a post? Check the Eye On Apple home page to get caught up with the latest news, discussions and rumors about Apple.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO Nov/Dec 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.