iPhone 7 Plus Review: Most Powerful Phone We’ve Tested, Dual Camera Feels Like a Gimmick (Video)

Here we are at last with the iPhone 7 Plus review and after the pretty solid iPhone 7, one would expect the Plus model to kick things up...

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Here we are at last with the iPhone 7 Plus review and after the pretty solid iPhone 7, one would expect the Plus model to kick things up a notch. Well, it is and it also isn’t true, but more about that will be revealed after the break. What’s sure is that we’re dealing with the 5.5 inch version of the iPhone 7 and the first dual camera phone from Apple. It’s priced from $769 in the 32 GB version and goes to $969 in the 256 GB one.

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We have the 128 GB Jet Black model and in case you want other color choices, the iPhone 7 Plus is available in black, silver, gold or rose gold. As far as the design is concerned, there’s a metal unibody shell here, but you wouldn’t tell, just by holding the Jet Black version of the phone. It doesn’t feel like metal to the touch, but rather like glass or plastic, on account of its glossy design.

It’s very, very slippery, but also very elegant and good looking, with that piano-like finish. Sadly, it’s also easy to scratch, so using a case is a must. This version of the phone is harder to make and the back tends to attract grease and fingerprints. The iPhone 7 Plus measures 7.3 mm in thickness and weighs 188 grams, which makes it very heavy for a 5.5 incher.

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It’s at least lighter than the iPhone 6S Plus by 4 grams, but it keeps the same waistline. Meanwhile, this model is 50 grams heavier than the iPhone 7, so that’s quite the difference. In spite of being in a similar size range, the 7 Plus is 31 grams heavier than the Galaxy S7 Edge. The things we noticed on the iPhone 7 also apply here, stuff like moved antenna lines and lack of audio jack.

There’s a protruding dual camera at the back, that will make the handset “sit on it” and drag it on a flat surface. The Home button is now a touch one and speaking of buttons, all of them are quite comfy and offer good feedback, but the Home one takes a while to get used to. The conclusion is that while elegant, the iPhone 7 Plus is a very long and heavy phone compared to other 5.5 inchers.

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I should also mention this smartphone is waterproof and dust proof within IP67 standards and that it keeps the general format of the predecessors, so it doesn’t innovate much. Now as far as the display goes, it’s a 5.5 incher with an IPS LCD panel and LED backlit with Full HD resolution. It offers 1300:1 contrast, wide colors and 3D Touch, that works pretty much like on the predecessor, but with some extra options triggered.

We played videos and found the display to show vivid colors and also solid brightness, a crisp image and good contrast. View angles are wide and in spite of the vivid colors, the panel isn’t on par with an AMOLED for example. Pixels are of the RGB Stripes variety and we measured the brightness of the screen using a luxmeter, achieving 418 LUX, which is just good, but also unexpectedly low for an iPhone. While we did surpass the LeEco Le Max 2 and LG G5, we scored below the iPhone 6S and its 618 LUX or the iPhone 7 and its 532 LUX.

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Settings include Auto Brightness, Night Shift and text size, plus bold text and the view mode (standard, zoomed). Everything is OK in the end, but I feel that the screen should be brighter. Moving on to the internal hardware, we find an Apple A10 Fusion quad core CPU inside, just like on the iPhone 7, only this time accompanied by 3 GB of RAM not 2 GB.

The GPU is a PowerVR 6 core unit and we also get an M10 motion coprocessor. Storage goes from 32 GB to 128 GB and 256 GB respectively and the handset doesn’t suffer from lag, of course. It runs games like a champ, including the latest Riptide title, GP Renegade. As far as benchmarks are concerned, the device instantly became number one on our list, from all the hundreds of phones we tested.

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It scored first spot in AnTuTu 6, surpassing the OnePlus 3 by 30k points, it got a high place in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, second only to the iPhone 7 and scored first spot in GeekBench 4 and Base OS II as well. The temperature didn’t skyrocket in spite of the performance, sticking to 37.5 degrees Celsius after running GFXBench and 34.9 degrees after running Riptide GP Renegade, so no overheating here.

Time to address the battery, as usual a concern for many iPhone fans. We get a 2900 mAh unit here and already it’s an upgrade from the iPhone 6S Plus 2750 mAh. On paper we get 1 hour longer usage than the predecessor and 16 days of standby, or 14 hours of video playback. In our test, that involves HD video playback in a loop we achieved 9 hours and 49 minutes, which is good, but I kind of expected more. We surpassed the ASUS ZenFone 3 ZE520KL and LG V10, but scored below the iPhone 6 and its 11 hours and 30 minutes, or the excellent Galaxy S7 and its 13 hours and 41 minutes. Even the iPhone 7 had us beat (12 hours and 25 minutes).

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Continuous usage offered about one day and a half, maybe 2 if you skimp on data, while charging is a letdown, at 3 hours and 16 minutes, the exact same duration as the iPhone 6S Plus charging. Settings offer only the Low Power Mode to adjust the juice usage. Overall, I expected more from this area of the device. One of the novelties brought on by the iPhone 7 is the set of stereo speakers.

The earpiece now also becomes a speaker, complementing the one at the bottom. We don’t have an audio jack and we didn’t get headphones bundled with our test unit, sadly. We get a new Apple Music app, with better organized UI and the actual listening experience brought on a loud and clear sound, good bass, nice voice rendering and an overall excellent feel.

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The back of the phone does vibrate a lot when you’re listening to your tunes. We also did several decibelmeter tests and achieved 84.5 decibels at the front/bottom, 77.7 dBA at the front/top and 84.5 dBA at the back, so there’s no muffle. In real life these values feel a bit higher and the speakers really behave well. We surpassed the iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei P9 and scored below the OnePlus One and Galaxy S6, volume-wise.

Settings include Volume Limit, Sound Check, an EQ with genres and everything is good here, although it could be higher in volume and no record is broken. Time to cover the camera, dual cam with two 12 MP sensors. One provides wide angle optics and F/1.8 aperture and the other offers a telephoto lens and F/2.8 aperture. 2X optical zoom is offered and digital zoom 10x is also available here.

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There’s optical image stabilization available, a Quad LED flash and 6 element lens. Wide colors can be captured in an impressive range. On the selfie front we get an upgrade to a 7 MP sensor, with Retina Flash still and F/2.2 aperture. The camera app starts up fast and offers fluid zoom, fast-ish picture taking and pretty fast focus.

Options are quite typical for Apple, from effects and timer to Live Photos and HDR, plus Flash. Then there’s Square, Panorama and Slow Mo, Time Lapse and the new arrival called Portrait. It’s more of a beta affair, that creates the famous bokeh effects and lets you play with the depth of field. There’s also a new zoom mechanism here, that uses a semicircle of sorts.

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Off to the gallery, we took our day time shots on a very cloudy day at the end of November. We did register a great HDR, also great details and no blur. When zooming in we achieved no detail loss, which is nice and the thing I liked the most were the object accents and contours, which you can’t quite see on many smartphones out there.

It’s as if every object and item was highlighted with a marker around the edges. Selfies are solid, actually very solid, placing the iPhone 7 Plus in top selfie shooter in 2016 in my book. Everything is clear, both the background and the subject, while the face texture and hair look great. Colors are also very well calibrated, while the panorama has a resolution of 16.382 x 3628 pixels and looks perfect basically.

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You can zoom in all you want here and you won’t miss any details. Clarity is good and the whole depth of field thing is nice, but I’ve seen that many times already on many phones, so it’s not groundbreaking. Maybe the 2X optical zoom is a bit more impressive. In the end, during the day everything looks great, we have great exposure, dynamic range, focus, lighting, but the iPhone 6S Plus also performed well, so it’s hard to be totally impressed.

Don’t get me wrong, the camera is excellent, but those who have an iPhone 6S Plus for the camera alone may want to hold on to it for one more year. The details of the cam are still inferior compared to what Sony is pulling off with its 23 MP cameraphones. Low light capture brought great clarity, excellent lighting and some annoyingly long halos for street lights.

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There’s also a bit of yellowish hue going on and overall I liked the colours and the texture of the pics. There’s no violet or blue hue like the Xperia XZ night shots, but we did run into some “fog”, which the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 would never catch. I went back and looked at the iPhone 6S Plus night shots and believe it or not, some are actually better and I like them more, so that makes the low light capture of the iPhone 7 Plus a bit underwhelming.

Now let’s discuss video capture. the iPhone 7 Plus does .MOV recording, in Full HD at 30 or 60 FPS, 4K and slow motion. We started off with an OIS test, registering some flicker and focus loss and clearly scoring below the Xperia XZ in the stabilization area. Clarity was great in general, colors looked swell and we also had a very good microphone.

There’s no problem with the wind and the zoom quality was great. Exposure change is smooth and the 60 FPS 24 Mbps filming looked cinematic and was very nice. As usual, Apple delivers the best slow motion capture on the market and things looked great here. The microphone is also excellent, great for filming concerts and events. The problem is that the predecessor was also very good in this aspect.

At least I can say that the iPhone 7 Plus films better than the Galaxy S7. Low light video capture featured once again a great microphone, nice clarity, excellent way of capturing light and good zoom quality, plus solid brightness. The colors were very well calibrated and I have a feeling the phone would do wonders at concerts. I actually tested the Galaxy S7 Edge at a concert and it was fantastic, but somehow I think this iPhone could beat it.

Still, the lack of a clear upgrade from the iPhone 6S Plus is a bummer in the camera front. Moving to greener pastures, Safari is still a beast, with crazy fast loading speed and the best Sunspider result you can imagine. The virtual keyboard is very comfy and adds a few extra shortcuts and functions in landscape mode, which is nice to see.

For those of you wondering about connectivity, this phone provides support for WiFi a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC, as well as GPS and Glonass. There’s LTE Category 9 here, plus VoLTE, HD Voice and Lightning of course. We still use a nano SIM, we get AirPlay support and WiFi calling. The actual cellular calls were great, with a high volume, good noise canceling and perfect clarity.

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SpeedTest featured excellent values, going up to 374 Mbps in download on WiFi and 25 Mbps in upload, while 4G went to 136 Mbps in download and 45 Mbps in upload. We surpassed the iPhone 7 with those, so that’s great. Finally, we cover the iOS 10 experience, but in a less extensive way than on the iPhone 7, where we actually reviewed the platform.

There’s no more swipe to unlock, the Today Area is found to the leftmost of the homescreens and shows a collection of vertically scrolling widgets, third party ones included. The Control Center now has new hues for toggles and two panes, one for connectivity and one for media playback. The biggest upgrade here is iMessage, that features many funky functions, like invisible ink, handwritting in landscape mode, the option to draw on pics and videos, send heartbeats and new emojis.

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You can share what you’re listening to on Apple Music, change backgrounds, add lasers, balloons and more. iMessage even goes as far as to have its own App Store. Photos gets a Memories section, that creates automatic collages of your events or places and then there’s an AI that does face recognition. Siri is now open to devs, letting you send money or call an Uber via vocal command.

The UI stays the same as on iOS 9, including notifications and 3D Touch. Apple Maps has Proactive Suggestions and shows you where you left your car in a mall or parking lot. There’s a Home app that comes with iOS 10 and lets you control your smart home gadgets, by the way. The Home button is just a touch one now, no longer mechanical and it takes a while to get used to.

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The Touch ID fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate and now iOS 10 lets you delete or hide preinstalled apps. The Clock app has a Bedtime reminder and speaking of apps, there are 32 preinstalled apps here. Settings still have a chaotic UI and Photos now features the Markup options from the Mail app. Multitasking remains unchanged, with horizontally scrollable and big thumbnails.

Now that we’re done, let’s see the verdict!

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Here are the Pros:

  • elegant Jet Black version
  • great performance
  • good display in spite of LUX value
  • solid acoustics
  • great bass
  • very good selfies
  • great video capture
  • nice bokeh and optical zoom
  • solid connectivity
  • waterproof
  • great iMessage features

And the Cons:

  • expected more from battery, brightness, main camera, night and day capture
  • focus loss during OIS
  • Home button feel is hard to get used to
  • jet black model scratches easily
  • same design and format as before
  • slippery
  • huge

The iPhone 7 Plus is not worth the upgrade from the iPhone 6S Plus, that’s for sure, but at the same time it’s the most powerful phone I’ve tested all year, it’s great for video capture and looks very elegant in black. The dual camera is a gimmick, sadly. This is basically a phone for gamers and those who consume media, rather than people who cant a cameraphone or simply the best smartphone on the market.

In quite a few areas the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are better and even the iPhone 6S Plus still holds its own in front of it… If you have an iPhone 6, the upgrade is kinda worth it though. The updated price of the iPhone 7 is here.

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