Early iPhone 7 reviews: You'll miss the headphone jack, but the camera and battery life are tops

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus don't have a headphone jack, which could make them nonstarters for some buyers. But they have plenty of features that make up for the controversial audio decision.

The first batch of iPhone 7 and 7 Plus reviews are out after five days of hands-on time, and the early word is mostly positive. The camera in particular is a stand-out, and the two lenses on the 7 Plus produce results that easily stand up to the competition, the Samsung Galaxy S7.

As expected, dealing with the lack of a headphone jack was perplexing to some and outright irritating for others. But the impressive cameras on both iPhones, plus the improved battery life and water resistance, make them easier to use on the go.

new iphone 7

The real deal with the headphone jack

Wired’s take on the lack of a jack: “There’s really nothing to say about the absence of the headphone jack except that it’s not there, which really is annoying sometimes. Like when I’m on the train, and can’t charge from an external battery and listen to music at the same time.”

Longtime technology columnist Walt Mossberg had a far more pessimistic take on the headphone jack-less phone: “I’m sure the wireless earbud and headphone revolution is upon us now and that, in a few years, the battery life will double or triple. For now, though, this Apple change of a standard component adds a hassle to your phone use, whether you are wired or wireless. It’s an annoyance and a negative.”

The Verge’s Nilay Patel, who called Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack “user-hostile” months before the iPhone 7 was announced, doubled down: “Apple took away an established open standard in favor of new technologies, but instead of making the experience of using those new technologies better across the board, it made every third-party wireless audio product a second-class citizen of the Apple ecosystem.”

iphone 7 models Apple

All about the camera

So the headphone jack (or lack thereof) is certainly divisive, but the cameras on both the 7 and the 7 Plus were universally praised. There’s one problem: The most promising feature, the 7 Plus’s Portrait tool, isn’t available until later this year.

“I’m really hoping Apple allows third-party developers to tap into the system and experiment with possibilities like refocusing and perspective shifts,” wrote Patel. “But for now, you get zooming.”

But even without third-party camera effects, the iPhone 7 is a solid camera.

“If you long ago ditched your digital camera for an iPhone, I’ve got good news,” the Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey Fowler wrote. “The biggest improvement in the iPhone 7 is its ability to take pictures in low light. It has a new sensor, wider-aperture lens and optical image stabilization on both models…compared with the excellent cameras in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Note 7, I’d say it’s about a draw.”

Considering the Note 7 is effectively out of the running until its explosive battery issues are resolved, Apple could woo smartphone photographers with the improved 7 and 7 Plus.

Everything else

Apple introduced a glossy jet black color with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but while the new shade will make your phone look stunning, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber predicts that its vulnerability to dings and scratches will erupt into what he calls “scuffgate.” Buyer beware: If you want to keep your jet black iPhone in pristine condition, put it in a case and never take it out.

“After just five days—more than half of which I’ve spent using the matte black iPhone 7 Plus—this jet black iPhone 7 has a few ‘micro abrasions,’ to use Apple’s own term,” Gruber wrote. “I can only see them when I’m looking for them, and only when I reflect light off the surface at the perfect angle, but they’re there. This is after two days of careful use, and never putting it in a pocket that contains anything else.”

What about the Home button, which is now a Force Touch sensor instead of a mechanical button? According to Gruber, acclimating to the new button is “disconcerting at first,” and not nearly as satisfying as clicking a physical Home button.

The IP67-rated water resistance, which means your phone can withstand up to 1 meter of water for about 30 minutes, and both phones’ improved battery life stood up to every reviewer’s tests.

iphone 7 lineup Apple

Worth an upgrade?

“The most compelling improvement on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is the sharp speed increase,” wrote the New York Times’s Brian X. Chen. “Spurred by faster chips, everything—switching between apps, opening the camera—feels snappier.”

Chen added that two Apple sources told him that next year’s iPhone will have a full-screen display with the Home button built right into the screen. The headphone jack is never coming back. This is the future.

“No, the iPhone 7 won’t blow your mind with its design or features,” according to Wired. “It’s still a fantastic phone. And philosophically, it feels like Apple is throwing open a door. The iPhone 7 might not be a revolution, but it might be the catalyst for lots of them. Your phone will be better in a few months, and even better a few months after that. And wouldn’t that be exciting?”

We’re excited. Stay tuned for the definitive Macworld review of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iOS 10AppleiPhone 7iPhone

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Caitlin McGarry

Macworld.com
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?