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Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Posted: , posted by Stephen S.

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Interface and Functionality

Celebrating all of iOS 10's improvements on the big screen

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

The new iOS 10 landed for existing Apple devices ahead of the iPhone 7 Plus's release, giving us a head start at checking out all the new functionality bundled with the company's latest operating system refresh.

As expected, it's utterly feature-packed, and we've already spent some time outlining all the improved ways to interact with your phone that await users within. Upgrades include a drastically overhauled Messages, adding stickers, new text effects, emoji galore, and even a handwriting mode. Some purists will complain that Apple's over-complicating what should be simple text-based communication, but in a world where messaging apps loaded with special effects and gimmicks dominate app charts, Apple appears to find itself forced to evolve to stay relevant.

Other changes include expanded 3D Touch controls, powerful new lockscreen widgets, Siri connectivity for third-party apps, and new versions of familiar apps like Maps, Music, Photos, and News. Apple's not shy about bringing its new iOS features to existing hardware, either, and even new functionality like raise-to-wake is supported on last year's phones. And building off the eyestrain-reducing Night Shift of iOS 9.3, Apple implements a new Bedtime mode in the system clock that keeps trying to gently nudge us towards healthier sleep patterns.

We don't see much in the way of iPhone 7 Plus-specific enhancements, but existing phablet-friendly features continue to make their presence felt, and just like you've been able to for the past couple years, performing a quick double-tap on the home button engages Reachability mode, bringing the tippy-top of that big 5.5-inch screen down within one-handed reach.

There's not one stand-out feature or new app that really defines iOS 10 – though for a certain Snapchat-loving cadre of users, the tricked-out Messages is probably coolest thing Apple's ever done – but these smaller enhancements are so numerous, varied, and consistently well executed that it's hard not to love what Apple's come up with.

Processor and Memory

That A10 Fusion's a beast, but are we putting the extra RAM to good use?

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Fans might adore Apple smartphones for their design, easy-to-use interface, or rich ecosystem of software and media, but some blistering performance doesn't hurt matters any. With the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Apple's introducing its latest processor, the quad-core 64-bit A10. Well, not just the A10, either – Apple's giving its new chip a nickname, as we meet the A10 Fusion.

That naming change should hint that we're dealing with something special, and our testing generally seems to support that idea. Various benchmarks show performance improving in the 20 to 40 percent range over the iPhone 6s, and while we didn't measure a huge change in graphics performance, the trend is certainly upwards.

So far we've been talking about visible changes between the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7 – the new camera, the brighter display – but there's also a big one lurking under the surface, as Apple quietly increases system memory for the larger iPhone: while the iPhone 7 has 2GB of RAM, the iPhone 7 Plus arrives with 3GB.

The extra RAM doesn't immediately make its presence felt, and may be more a bit future-proofing than anything, but if you're an exceptionally heavy multi-tasking user, chances are you'll start reaping its benefits ahead of the rest of us.

Benchmarks paint the story of a largely evenly matched iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Tests have the two phones coming in very close to each other, and considering how much hardware they share, that shouldn't be surprising. The slim differences we see might be explained by the extra RAM on the Plus, or maybe the impact of rendering graphics in a higher resolution. No one phone emerges as the clearly more powerful option, helping take performance out of your purchasing decision.


Shifting focus to storage, the hot news here is that 16GB is officially dead, and the starting storage capacity for the iPhone 7 Plus is a healthy 32GB. Even sales of the 6s and 6s Plus are losing their 16GB option, and only the iPhone SE will continue to offer such meager storage.

More than that, though, maximum storage reaches new heights with the introduction of a lofty 256GB option, for $100 more than 128GB (which itself comes in $100 more than the base 32GB level).

This is also the first time we're seeing Apple tie storage choices to another phone hardware option: in this case, color. The shiny new jet black finish isn't just the hardest-to-come-by iPhone 7 Plus color, it's also restricted to models with 128GB or 256GB storage.

That's especially interesting, as it suggests Apple may be using the big markup it charges on flash storage to offset any added expense implementing the snazzy jet black color requires. Right now that's relatively unobjectionable, but will we see future iPhones where new hardware features or actual phone functionality is tied to certain storage tiers?

Connectivity

Broad network compatibility gets even better with higher-speed support

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

We're at a point now with cellular technologies where it's easy to take a lot for granted. Band support's been getting so good, and LTE data so fast, that we just assume that the latest handsets are going to milk the wireless spectrum for all it's worth.

The iPhone 7 Plus doesn't let us down there, and this year Apple even manages to deliver (what has the potential to be) a respectable upgrade, increasing the phone's theoretical maximum LTE Advanced bandwidth from 300 to 450 megabits per second.

Will you actually see those kind of speeds? Well, between the need for carriers to build out their networks to support such throughput, to say nothing of the myriad other users all fighting with you for access to that bandwidth, we wouldn't suggest holding your breath. Ultimately, though, it really matters little: the iPhone 7 Plus pulls down some nice, fast data, and the capacity for it to do so even faster is just the icing on the cake.

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PhoneArena rating:
9.3Excellent
Display5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera12 megapixels
Hardware
Apple A10 Fusion, Quad-core, 2340 MHz
3 GB RAM
Size6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
(158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm)
6.63 oz  (188 g)

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