iPhone 7 Hands-on: The Plus Reigns Supreme

SAN FRANCISCO — Everyone is going to be talking about the iPhone 7's missing headphone jack. But the bigger story is how much better Apple's biggest phone now is.

I spent some hands-on time with both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at Apple's launch event, and it's clear that the dual-camera setup on the iPhone 7 Plus makes it the Apple phone to get (at least for those who don't mind big-screen phones).

After opening the camera app, I could zoom in 2x by just tapping a button on screen; then I could press and hold the same button and drag my finger to the right to zoom up to 10x. Remarkably, I didn't lose much detail as I zoomed in on a purse across the table.

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You'll also be able to achieve a nifty blurred background (or bokeh) effect with the iPhone 7 Plus' two 12-MP lenses. This isn't exactly new, as other Android phones have offered similar functionality, but the early examples I saw from the iPhone 7 Plus were truly impressive.

The good news is that the regular iPhone 7 gets an improved camera, too, complete with Apple's new image signal processor for faster performance, a larger f/1.8 aperture that lets in more light and 6-element lens. So you should expect much better photos from the smaller iPhone 7 as well, though not the dual-lens goodness of the larger model.

Of course, the other big news is that the headphone jack is gone, and it's clear that the focus is on wireless — despite the fact that Apple is bundling wired EarPods that plug into the Lightning Port.

I tried on the new AirPods ($159), which use a dedicated W1 wireless chip, and I enjoyed clear audio playback. I'm not a fan of how these buds dangle from your ear like jewelry, but I do like some of the neat tricks they perform. For instance, when you take one bud off, the music stops, and double tapping a bud fires up Siri.

The most noticeable design change other than the lack of a jack is the redesigned Home Button. It takes some getting used to, because it no longer physically depresses. Instead, you get haptic feedback; it worked well, but I had to press harder than I thought to see all open apps on my phone.

For gamers and those who like to edit video on their phones, the A10 Fusion processor will provide a welcome boost. When playing Oz: Broken Kingdom, I could make out the tiniest details in the bricks even as hundreds of flying monkeys rendered on screen.

For me, the water-resistance of the new iPhones is nice to have but not a must-upgrade feature. I'm more excited by the two new black color options. There's a glossy jet black and anodized matte black that looks more bad-ass. (The jet black look is only available for the 128GB and 256GB models.)

While not dramatic, I'm glad that Apple has added a True Tone display on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which means more accurate color and a wider color gamut. In fact, apps like Instagram will be taking advantage of the new technology with new filters. Still, I would have like to see Apple ramp up the resolution on its phones.

I couldn't tell how much better the new stereo speakers are, but I'm glad Apple is stepping up it's game in this department. Expect wider and fuller sound.

Overall, the iPhone 7 is a nice step forward but the iPhone 7 Plus feels more like a leap for those who want a truly versatile camera. Stay tuned for our full review.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.