iPhone 7 first impressions: The smartphone you love, only better

By

iPhone 7 back
iPhone 7 has landed.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

At first glance, the iPhone 7 looks just like the iPhone 6s … and the iPhone 6. It feels the same in your hand, too. Unless you buy the jet black model, or you’re upgrading from a 4-inch iPhone, you’re not going to get any surprises when you pull this baby out of its box.

But there are some subtle changes you’ll appreciate. This is the iPhone you already know and love — only much, much better.

I’ve been using the new black iPhone 7 for a few hours now, and here’s what I think of it so far.

A lot has changed, but can you tell?

The redesigned antenna bands on the iPhone 7 are a lot less noticeable than those on previous models — especially if you choose a black or jet black handset, with which Apple has done a much better job of concealing them. They’re not totally invisible, but they’re nowhere near as ugly as before.

One thing that has been eliminated completely (as you’re probably already aware) is the headphone jack. Fortunately, Apple provides an adapter that allows you to connect existing headphones to the iPhone 7’s Lightning port, and there are new EarPods with a Lightning connector in the box, too.

Thanks to that adapter, I don’t think I’ll miss the headphone jack too much — but it’s still early days. I do use headphones a lot with my iPhone, so it will take some getting used to.

Photos of the black iPhone 7 don’t really do it justice; it’s much better looking in your hand. That new black finish appears to be much darker in person, much like the slate color option Apple gave us with the iPhone 5. Only this time, it won’t scratch and chip (I hope).

The future of Home buttons is bright

Perhaps an even bigger design change with iPhone 7 is its new Home button. It’s no longer a traditional button; like Apple’s latest MacBook trackpads, it doesn’t move when you press it, so clicks are simulated by clever vibrations from the Taptic Engine.

iPhone 7 Home button
The Home button has changed — and I love it.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Many have said this doesn’t feel quite right, but I love it. Maybe that’s because I’m already so used to those new trackpads. One thing I have noticed is that it’s very sensitive by default, so you might find yourself clicking it accidentally until you get the hang of it.

iPhone 7 gets a stereo upgrade

One change you can’t see is iPhone 7’s new stereo speakers. In addition to the speaker you’re used to getting at the bottom of the phone, there’s one at the top alongside the earpiece — and it makes your iPhone louder than ever before.

Sound quality is really quite impressive. It’s not going to replace your stereo or even your Bluetooth speakers, but for listening to music in the shower or in the kitchen while you’re cooking, it’s plenty good enough — a huge improvement over previous iPhones.

Apple has made improvements to the iPhone 7’s display, too. It’s now brighter than ever before, and it boasts a wide color gamut that’s able to deliver cinema-standard colors, Apple says. “More shades of the colour spectrum can be used to create an image, meaning that what you see on the screen is a truer representation of the world,” reads its website.

Honestly? The iPhone 7’s display looks only marginally better than my iPhone 6s Plus’ display when I place the two side-by-side. You have to really make an effort to notice the difference. If your sole reason for upgrading was the improved Retina HD display, don’t do it.

iPhone 7
iPhone 7 has speakers top and bottom.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

A10 Fusion is unsurprisingly speedy

So far, performance has been exactly what I would expect from the latest iPhone. Everything is super smooth and incredibly snappy, and there are no stutters to worry about. Once again, though, it’s not noticeably faster than the iPhone 6s.

We’ll have to wait for developers to take advantage of that new A10 Fusion chip to find out what it’s truly capable of, but my guess is we won’t see much of a difference in most apps — only in graphically-intensive games.

I would have appreciated more RAM in the iPhone 7; the 2GB it has just doesn’t feel like enough sometimes. It’s annoying when you’re switching between several browser tabs and they have to keep reloading because there’s not enough memory to save more than one or two.

iPhone is still a terrific camera

I’ve only played around with the iPhone 7’s new iSight camera a little bit since unboxing the device this morning, and so far I’m impressed with it. Like previous iPhones, it takes terrific pictures and super sharp 4K video. It’s also wonderfully fast.

Is it better than the iPhone 6s’ camera? It’s hard to tell at this point. I haven’t noticed much of a difference so far, but I think the main improvement will be in low-light environments, so I’m looking forward to taking some shots when the sun goes down this evening.

iPhone 7 back
iPhone 7’s new iSight camera doesn’t disappoint.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

I’ll be saving my thoughts on battery life, water-resistance, and everything else for my full iPhone 7 review, which we’ll be posting next week. Having played around with this handset for a few hours now, I can’t wait to spend more time with it over the weekend.