Jefferson Graham goes hands on with the new iPhone 7, showing off new features at an Apple event in San Francisco. Produced by Theresa Chong. Video by Theresa Chong
Apple just announced its newest smartphones—the Apple iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus—and, for the most part, they're exactly what we were expecting. While very similar to the existing iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in terms of look and feel, there are some differences to be aware of.
And though there's plenty of hand-wringing about these changes, we thought we'd cut through all the noise and explain exactly how the iPhone 7 compares to the best phones on the market.
iPhone 7 vs. iPhone 6S
The obvious place to start is with last year's flagship, the iPhone 6S. The iPhone 7 retains the same screen size and resolution (4.7 inches, 1334x750 pixels), and physically the only difference is that there are two new black versions—one shiny, one matte—there's no headphone jack, and the home button is now static but vibrates to simulate a button press.
On the inside the upgrades are a little more substantial, with the iPhone 7 getting a faster A10 Fusion processor and IP67 water resistance. The base model's storage is also up to 32GB, from the anemic 16GB that past iPhones have started with. There's also a new 12-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 maximum aperture and an improved 7-megapixel front-facing camera.
The most notable changes are the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack and a new Home button that acts the same but doesn't physically move like the old button. While the iPhone 6s used its one speaker for audio playback, the new 7 now has stereo speakers that should be a lot louder than before. The iPhone 7 will ship with a new Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter for using existing analog headphones with the new port, and Apple will sell new $159 high-end wireless headphones called AirPods that are designed to connect easily with the new iPhone and run for about 5 hours per charge.
iPhone 7 Plus vs. iPhone 6S Plus
Comparing the larger iPhone 7 Plus and its predecessor is where things get quite interesting. Again, the physical dimensions remain mostly the same, with the same screen and resolution (5.5 inches, 1920x1080 pixels). The iPhone 7 Plus is slightly thinner than its predecessor, but not so much you should notice. Internally, the changes are the same as with the iPhone 7, and the iPhone 7 Plus will also be available in both black versions.
The biggest difference with the iPhone 7 Plus is that it will now feature a dual-camera setup that is similar to the one found on the Huawei P9 and the LG G5. The two cameras are identical, except that one has a wide-angle lens while the other has a lens with a slightly longer focal length.
Armed with its two cameras, the iPhone 7 Plus can get you closer to a true optical zoom experience, so when you pinch-in to get closer to a subject you don't lose as much image quality. Apple is also promising a new feature that will simulate DSLR-quality bokeh down the line, and it's introducing RAW photography in iOS 10.
iPhone 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy S7
When comparing the iPhone 7 to Samsung's flagship Galaxy lineup, it's important to note that the iPhone 7 is running iOS 10, while the Galaxy S7 is running a skinned version of Android Marshmallow—though an update to Android 7.0 is expected eventually. This gives the iPhone tighter integration with the system, so it can overcome some minor spec differences such as reduced RAM.
That said, the iPhone's new A10 Fusion processor should already be very competitive with the Galaxy S7 and its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, even though the Samsung has 3GB of RAM compared to 2GB on the iPhone. The Galaxy S7 and the Note 7 have a much more detailed screen, however, with a 2560x1440 display that has nearly four times as many pixels as the iPhone.
The Galaxy S7 has a 12-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 maximum aperture that is one of the best we've seen on the market. The new iPhone 7 camera may be just s good, though, as it has all the same specs. In fact, it may be the exact same camera since pretty much all the top smartphone cameras are sourced from Sony, though Apple claims that it designed a custom image processor for the camera.
The Galaxy S7 does have a few other advantages, though, such as expandable storage and IP68 water-resistance. The iPhone 7 is IP67 water-resistant, though, so either phone should do just fine if you spill a drink on them. For charging the S7 has a 3,000mAh battery with fast charging and wireless charging, while the iPhone 7 has the same 1715mAh battery as the iPhone 6S, though Apple did add fast charging. The S7 of course also has a headphone jack.
iPhone 7 Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
In a nutshell, the iPhone 7 Plus is just an iPhone 7 with a larger screen and dual cameras. Similarly, the Galaxy Note 7 is just an S7 with a larger screen and a stylus. As a result, pretty much everything we said above holds for the larger phones as well.
As far as differences go, with the iPhone 7 Plus you get a 5.5-inch 1080p display that holds its own compared to the 5.7-inch 1440p curved display on the Note 7. The Note 7 is actually narrower despite having the larger screen, which makes it much easier to hold than the older iPhone 6S Plus and the new iPhone 7 Plus. The Note 7 does take a little more advantage of that screen real estate with its stylus, which allows you to quickly jot down notes.
The iPhone 7 Plus will be intriguing for photographers, though, since its dual camera setup does give it a leg up on the Note 7 in terms of functionality. While both cameras output 12-megapixel images, the iPhone 7 Plus will be able to simulate bokeh effects along with a 2x telephoto lens that the Note 7 lacks. We'll know more once we test the iPhone 7 in our labs, but the Note 7's camera is among the best we've ever seen on a smartphone, so if Apple can match that we'll be very impressed.
Obviously, the Note 7 is also slightly troubled by the ongoing battery issues, though we feel that it's unlikely to impact the long-term reliability of the phone once repaired.
iPhone 7 vs the best of the rest
With so many flagship-quality Android phones on the market it would be tiresome to go over all the differences individually. What we can say is that the iPhone 7 seems like it'll meet or exceed the market in terms of processor performance, memory, base level storage, and camera performance.
The iPhone 7's IP67 water-resistance does give it a big leg up over many other Android phones, as very few are built to that spec. The improved camera should also pay dividends, especially as many top Android phones such as the LG G5 and Huawei-built Nexus 6P had passed the iPhone 6S by in this department. The Samsung S7 and Note 7 are the best we've tested in this regard, so if Apple can get on that level it'll beat out the rest of the Android field—especially with the iPhone 7 Plus's dual camera setup.
The two areas where the iPhone continues to lag behind the best Android phones are screen performance and battery features. Most Android phones these days have at least a 1080p screen, while only the iPhone 6S Plus and 7 Plus offer that. Most also use OLED technology, which offers improves black levels while matching the iPhone for maximum brightness and daytime visibility.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus also still have relatively small batteries. Apple is claiming a modest improvement in battery size—especially in the iPhone 7—but we won't know more until we can get a proper capacity spec once the phone has been released. At the very least, Apple's new A10 Fusion processor is said to be more efficient, so expect notable uptick in battery life either way.
Of course, the new iPhones also lack a headphone jack, removable batteries, and expandable storage, which are all something you can get on some—but not all—Android flagships.