The biggest advancement is under the hood. At the September event, Apple explained that the A10 Fusion chip powering the iPhone 7 has four cores: two high-performance cores for the most intense tasks, and two low-energy cores to handle easier jobs while saving power. All I noticed when testing the iPhone 7—we bought a 128GB rose gold model on launch day—was speed.
Apps launch quickly, updates install quickly, and the camera is ready to shoot seemingly the very instant I swipe to it from the lock screen. I didn’t notice any different in performance in a resource-hungry app like Pixelmator as in a lighter app like Mail. Everything is just faster. Geekbench scores are 3440 for the single-core CPU test, and 5273 for the multi-core. That’s nuts—my iPhone 6s scored 1437 and 2411, respectively, on the same tests, while my 2013 MacBook Air (1.7GHz Intel Core i7, 8GB of RAM) scored 2935 and 6200.
However, despite the A10’s power management features, I didn’t notice dramatic battery life savings. My iPhone 7 still gives me warnings in the early evening (usually between 5 and 8pm) that I’m down to 20 percent power, and even if I go into Low Power Mode at that point, I usually need to top off a little bit to make it to bedtime. I’m a pretty heavy user, so your mileage may vary, but I doubt your charging habits will change much.back to menu ↑
Better screen, storage, and speakers
The screen is also improved. It’s brighter, which makes it easier to read in bright sunlight. Where my iPhone SE is almost unreadable while standing in line at a food truck in the harsh midday glare, the iPhone 7 is legible enough that I can read an article in Instapaper or play another level of Two Dots. The screen also supports a wider color gamut, which makes photos and videos really pop with vibrant, saturated color—Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate recently proclaimed it “virtually indistinguishable from perfect.” It’s one of those things you kind of need to see in person to appreciate, though, with an older iPhone on hand to compare side-by-side.
While Apple did remove the analog headphone port (and trust me, I’ll get way into that a little later), it did add a second speaker for stereo sound when you hold the phone in landscape mode. The extra speaker is up near the FaceTime camera, and I could hear a bit of stereo separation when streaming The Force Awakens in the Videos app. Watching the same passage on an iPhone 6s, it was more obvious the sound was only coming from one speaker, and the iPhone 7 was louder too.
Another nice addition is the doubling of storage sizes. The entry-level iPhone 7 is now 32GB instead of 16GB. The middle tier is 128GB, and the high-end 256GB. That’s a pretty big deal if you’re always having to manage your available storage by deleting photos and videos. The iPhone SE tops out at 64GB, and the iPhone 6s at 128GB, so if you need a huge amount of storage, the iPhone 7 is the way to go.back to menu ↑
This review only covers the iPhone 7—we’ll follow up with a separate review of the iPhone 7 Plus, which has two cameras. The iPhone 7 has one 12-megapixel iSight camera, but its performance is much improved over the iPhone 6s. It’s got a wider aperture lens, f1.8, which lets in more light for better photos in low-light conditions than the iPhone 6s’s f2.2 lens. The iPhone 7 also has optical image stabilization, which used to be confined to the larger Plus models. The TrueTone flash is also 50 percent brighter thanks to four LEDs, and Apple says it can even compensate for the subtle flickering of indoor lighting.
None of that changes how you actually use the Camera app—it’s just easier to get a good photo without any extra effort. Colors look amazing on the screen, and the iPhone 7 captures the wider P3 color gamut. (iOS 10 even lets third-party apps capture RAW data from the camera, but the stock Camera app still saves images as JPEGs.) My low-light photos show more detail, and daytime photos look better thanks to the vibrant color and the optical image stabilization.