The first reviews of Apple's new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are out, and the privileged few who were able to get their hands on the smartphones have reached something of a consensus: For the most part, they like the phones' upgraded cameras, improved battery life and snappier performance. That missing headphone jack, on the other hand, isn't exactly winning anyone over.
The Best Smartphone Cameras Ever
USA Today’s Edward C. Baig comments that the improved camera technology alone is enough to make the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus worthy of the hype they're getting. Baig even notes that the shooters are “fast to fire” and the photos they take are nothing short of impressive.
Brian X. Chen of The New York Times says users will get tremendously fast cameras that are capable of producing superb and vivid photos, while TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino calls the camera of the iPhone 7 as “probably the best portable (camera) ever made.”
Way Better Battery Life
Aside from the camera, some critics are also lauding Apple for the new iPhones' bigger batteries. Walt Mossberg of The Verge spent time with both the iPhone 7 and the Phone 7 Plus, and he says both handsets indeed have improved battery life. Nevertheless, his higher praise went to the 7 Plus, which offered him 13-15 hours of juice, with enough fuel remaining to carry out a handful of tasks.
Baig comments that while he did not do a formal battery test with the devices he got, he can attest to the longer battery life Apple promised — the standard iPhone 7 gets two hours more than its predecessor, while the 7 Plus comes with an extra hour thanks to its bigger battery.
Apart from the high-tech cameras and larger battery packs, however, most critics are not pleased with some of the more radical changes Apple made to the phones' design and functionality.
Where's The Home Button?
For example, the removal of the physical Home button for a version that relies on Apple's "Taptic Engine" to give users that feeling that they are still pressing a button is being discredited by The Verge’s Nilay Patel, who says that while the technology works well on MacBooks, putting it on the iPhone 7 makes it seem as though the entire bottom of the handset is clicking. Patel adds that while he is fine with how this technology works, people who have tried using the review units he got didn’t appreciate the new Home non-button at all, adding that the physical one was “an all-time great button.”
In addition, USA Today's Baig quips that the new Home button will most certainly take some time to get used to, while NYT's Chen points out that using the old physical Home button felt better than the new virtual button.
And the Headphone Jack?
Another area that's getting negative feedback (as expected) is the absence of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Mossberg considers this move annoying, since Apple had no valid reason to do so, unlike when the company dropped the floppy disk and the Ethernet jack from its computers as demand for those features declined.
“In this case, I see zero evidence that the 3.5mm audio jack is being used less or has hit a wall. It’s happily transmitting music, podcasts, and phone calls to many millions of people from many millions of devices as you read this sentence … I also don’t see that Apple has come up with a better replacement. The company is clearly trying to move the whole industry toward wireless audio, which has never been great due to patchy Bluetooth connectivity, poor fidelity — especially for music — and limited battery life,” Mossberg writes.
Mossberg continues his tirade by pointing out that while Apple is claiming that having white earbuds and a Lightning dongle is better, it’s a lot worse since users who want to listen to music while charging their handsets would rely on a bulky adapter or dock. Also, responding to Apple’s claim that only a few people are listening to music while charging, Mossberg begs to disagree.
And while Apple is pushing for wireless technology with the introduction of AirPods, Chen feels that the new audio devices fell short in instances when they are used outside because they are prone to occasional interference. Chen also notes that when he used AirPods, a glitch caused him to hear and eerie echo while listing to podcasts.
Meanwhile, Baig says the absence of the headphone jack and the inclusion of new Lightning-powered EarPods and a Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle may not be an elegant move from Apple, but it works. Additionally, Baig recognizes that the AirPods are pricey and their “funny-looking” form factor was subject to the mockery of people who saw him use them.
Despite their concerns, many reviewers still insist that the new iPhones are worth the upgrade, at least for some users. Patel calls the two models “legitimately among the most interesting, opinionated, powerful phones Apple has ever shipped, and the most confident expressions of the company's vision in a long time.”
Wired’s David Pierce opines that the cameras found in the new iPhones are not professional-level and that the handsets are unlikely to blow everyone’s mind given its design and features, but the says the iPhone 7 is still a “fantastic phone." Engadget’s Chris Velazco also echoes a similar insight in his review, saying: “If you can get over the all-too-familiar design and the no-headphone-jack thing, then the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are serious contenders for best smartphones, period.”
So, should you upgrade (or switch from Android)? Business Insider's Steve Kovach seems to speak for the majority when he says: "If you have an iPhone 6s, definitely wait another year. If you have an iPhone 6, only upgrade if you're dying for a new camera and some seriously impressive speed improvements."