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Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Posted: , posted by Stephen S.

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Camera

The camera is so nice, they made it twice

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

A lot of iPhone Plus fans may simply prefer the feel of a larger smartphone, but for those looking for a little extra functionality, as well, Apple's been happy to deliver in the form of the phone's camera. In previous generations, that meant having the assistance of optical image stabilization, but this year OIS has gone mainstream, and can be found on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus alike. Now Apple's back with what sure seems like an even bigger hook, giving the iPhone 7 Plus a pair of 12MP cameras – and that extra hardware lets the phone pull off some neat tricks.

If you like what you've seen from the new 12MP camera on the iPhone 7, the 7 Plus isn't going to let you down, either. And why should it? It's got the very same wide-angle 12MP camera.

But that camera's joined by a slightly differently equipped cousin, another 12MP shooter, but one with a different lens, capable of giving us a telephoto view. That means we get our first taste of optical zoom on an iPhone, being able to choose between full-field and a new actual 2x zoom mode. If you want to push even further, you can dial up the digital zoom to some pretty extreme heights, but it's this pure, uncompromising 2x optical zoom that's got us so excited.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
Camera UI - Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
Camera UI - Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
Camera UI - Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Camera UI


Image quality

Lossless optical zoom, where have you been all my life?

As you'd expect, having the option of optical zoom quickly changes the way you look at shots in the iPhone 7 Plus's camera app; what might be an otherwise bland scene when viewed from a distance can quickly become a lot more interesting as you tighten up on one particular area with the help of the 2x telephoto mode.

Just like a proper optical zoom should offer, there's no discernible loss of detail when taking advantage of 2x shooting. Camera movement does feel a little loose, though – you'll have to get used to the exaggerated effect small changes in camera position have on the tightly cropped area you're trying to capture – and while Apple's stabilization system helps reduce shakes and jitters (which is even more important when we're zoomed in), it also has the side effect of making the viewfinder feel a little “floaty” at times.

Sadly, not all of the dual-camera's tricks are ready to go at launch, and a promised bokeh-effect portrait mode is only currently available as part of the iOS 10.1 beta. It is supposed to hit the main release soon, but keep in mind that if you're buying the phone for its camera features, you'll have a little bit of a wait before you can enjoy them all.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
iPhone 7 Plus sample images - Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
iPhone 7 Plus sample images - Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review
iPhone 7 Plus sample images - Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

iPhone 7 Plus sample images


Just like on the iPhone 7, Apple's playing with some larger apertures, and the wide-angle camera on the Plus gets the same f/1.8 aperture as the smaller phone's camera (the telephoto lens is f/2.8), allowing more light to illuminate its sensor. That spells sharper pics of moving subjects, as well as enhanced low-light performance. And all that light flows into the iPhone 7 Plus's camera with the help of an upgraded, more complex six-element lens system. With the combination of optical stabilization and the faster shutter speeds that an f/1.8 aperture affords, it's easier than ever to snap clean, sharp pics that are free of unwanted motion blur.

If all the extra light the iPhone 7 Plus's camera is gathering doesn't prove enough, Apple's come through with a super-charged flash this year, moving from a two-element LED flash on the iPhone 6s to a quad-LED flash here. More than just give you more light when you need it, a flicker-detection system helps compensate for unfavorable lighting conditions, keeping your shots looking evenly lit.

The phone's front-facer gets the same resolution bump we see on the iPhone 7, from 5MP to 7MP. There's also the same wider color capture as on the rear camera, and the higher-res sensor means that video recording now extends to 1080p.

The availability of optical zoom doesn't entirely reinvent what it's like to take pictures with an iPhone, but it sure opens an exciting new chapter in that story. Spend enough time with the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus and you may find yourself unable to go back to the comparatively limited (though on its own, still extremely impressive) iPhone 7 camera.





Video recording

A well-done, flexible zoom brings a new dimension to moving pictures

The iPhone 7 Plus does a great job at shooting video, using its optical stabilization just as readily in video as it can in still pics – all while working with Apple's software-stabilizing algorithms – which has the effect of producing some impressively low-shake videos. You may not get Steadicam-like results with the iPhone 7 Plus, but minor jitters will no longer threaten to ruin an otherwise perfect shot.

And like the smaller iPhone 7, the iPhone 7 Plus also takes advantage of its cameras' larger aperture (at least for the wide-angle sensor) and improved color gamut for video, just like on still pics.

But the real winner here is telephoto mode, and the added availability of optical zoom gives the 7 Plus a leg up when it comes to video recording. The software makes it a snap to adjust your level of zoom while already in the middle of recording a video, helping you to capture those blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments.



Multimedia

Big, loud, stereo sound can't quite distract from an absent headphone jack

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Apple's taken some big steps with the multimedia package on the iPhone 7 Plus, delivering long-requested features, but also stripping the phone of basic functionality we once took for granted. Does that add up to a win, or will controversy poison any potential improvements?

Let's start with the elephant in the room: the iPhone 7 Plus no longer has an analog headphone jack. Instead, the phone now comes with a pair of Lightning-equipped EarPods.

Apple's not the first phone-maker to take this path, but its position in the market makes the decision to remove the iPhone's headphone jack one with the potential to have industry-shaking consequences.

As we'd only hope, the new Lightning EarPods sound great – though we'd be hard-pressed to call them a big leap forward over the older analog models.

If you do intend to hold on to your old analog headphones, Apple thankfully includes an adapter with the iPhone 7 Plus that still allows them to be used with the Lightning port. The adapter works quite well, and our tests suggest it may even be superior to the iPhone 6's built-in headphone jack. Its one (and admittedly, quite big) problem is that it seems fantastically easy to misplace. Replacements are cheap enough, with Apple selling them for less than $10, but we'd still rather not have one more accessory to carry around and keep track of.

With the iPhone 7, it's easier to rationalize the loss of the headphone jack as a space-saving concession: there's only so much phone real estate to go around, and dropping the headphone jack frees up room for what Apple describes as a barometric vent, allowing the sensor to function even with the phone's new water-resistant design. But with the iPhone 7 Plus it's more difficult to argue that space is at a premium. Ultimately, we're going to have to accept that this is a change Apple wanted to make, not one it felt like it had to.

The other big audio news for the iPhone 7 Plus is that the handset's finally picked up stereo speakers – albeit in a bit of an unusual arrangement. Instead of a pair of edge-mounted or pair of front-facing speakers, Apple's splitting the difference: the familiar bottom-edge speaker is joined by one in the phone's earpiece.

The earpiece speaker produces sound that's a lot less bass-heavy than the bottom speaker, but even with different response curves, the two add up to produce some nice audio that, what it lacks in balance, it makes up for with long-overdue stereo separation.

Beyond all that stereo goodness, the new speaker pair is seriously loud – significantly more so than the iPhone 6s Plus. We've got two complaints, though. One is that the iPhone 7 Plus looks like it should be even louder – one of the two bottom-edge speaker grilles (the one on the left where the headphone jack used to be) now looks like there's another speaker hiding in there, but in reality, there's only a microphone.



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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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