The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus aren't hitting stores until Sept. 16, but plenty of critics already have a final verdict on Apple's long-awaited new smartphone. As expected, the phone's lack of a headset jack was universally the biggest topic of discussion, and many reviewers were surprisingly okay with it.
Other than that, the iPhone 7 was generally praised for its improved camera and waterproof design, though it looks like folks are starting to grow weary of the iPhone's general sameness every year. Apple is also catching some flack for the easily scratchable Jet Black option, and the new haptic home button gets a mixed reaction. While you wait for our full review, here's what the critics are saying.
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While many reviewers criticized the iPhone 7 for not innovating much, The Verge's Nilay Patel calls the phone a "decisive statement about the future." Patel notes that the phone's haptic home button, axed headphone jack and the dual cameras on the 7 Plus are all notable changes that could influence the next generation of smartphones. He did, however, call the phones "incomplete," noting that not all of the 7 Plus' camera features will be available at launch, and that the handset's wireless audio support could use some work.
"It’s impressive that Apple was able to create a more efficient processor that delivers the same perceived performance as the previous generation while using less power."
"The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are legitimately among the most interesting, opinionated, powerful phones Apple has ever shipped."
"It’s disappointing that Apple didn’t put more work into making wireless audio a better overall experience on the iPhone 7. The company’s own new W1 headphones get the fancy new pairing support, but other Bluetooth headphones and speakers still use the same somewhat flaky Bluetooth setup interface as before."
"But really, once you put the iPhone 7 in a case, it looks exactly like an iPhone 6. And if you get a jet black model, you’ll want to get it into a case immediately — my jet black review unit scratched and scuffed almost instantly."
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Wired's David Pierce gives big props to the iPhone 7's camera and processing power, and even calls its water resistance a game-changer. Pierce admits that the missing headphone jack and haptic home button will take some time to adjust to, and that he already scratched the Jet Black model during his short time with it.
"Knowing my IP67-rated iPhone 7 can handle a light rainstorm or splash of tequila brings a wonderful peace of mind."
"Its new A10 Fusion processor is ludicrously, outrageously fast, somehow even more so than last year’s (already crazy fast) A9."
"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."
"I cannot, for the life of me, get used to the iPhone 7’s new home button. It’s not a button anymore, just a capacitive surface that uses haptic buzzes and taps to provide feedback."
The New York Times
The New York Times' Brian Chen devoted a good chunk of his review on the iPhone 7's lack of a headphone jack, making a good argument for why you eventually will learn to live without it. Chen notes that the 7 and 7 Plus will be a "great upgrade" for anyone with an older iPhone, but that folks with a 6S should hold out for the vastly improved model rumored to launch next year.
"The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are tremendously fast — more than double the speed of the two-year-old iPhone 6 — and their cameras produce superb, vivid photos."
"For iPhone owners who relied on Apple’s included earbuds, the Lightning earbuds solve that problem."
"While AirPods do a good job staying in your ears, they look odd, like dangling short white stubs. They evoked mockery from one of my editors, who said, 'Cigarettes belong in your mouth, not your ears, Brian.'"
"Audiophiles with lots of wired accessories, for example, may find using a converter too inconvenient."
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In his review on Engadget, Chris Velazco says that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are "at once the most technically impressive smartphones Apple has ever made and the most divisive." Velazco notes that while the iPhone 7 isn't groundbreaking, its performance and camera make it one of the absolute best smartphones you can buy.
"Finally, we get iPhones that'll survive when you drop them in puddles, get caught in the rain or intentionally dunk them in beer."
"If you're still bristling about the whole needing-an-adapter-for-your-headphones thing, well, at least the sound quality doesn't suffer in the process. I used my go-to headphones to listen to the same music on the 6s and on an iPhone 7 with the Lightning adapter, and couldn't tell any difference at all."
"The toughest part of not having a headphone jack is trying to break all my old listening habits. I can't tell you the number of times I tried to plug a regular pair of earbuds into these phones before -- d'oh! -- remembering that doesn't work."
"Where's the envelope-pushing? Where's the Apple that upended an industry? It's surely still there, locked behind closed doors that won't be opened again for another year."
USA Today's Edward Baig had mostly positive things to say about the iPhone 7, citing its "excellent camera" and waterproof design as standout features. Baig notes that the removal of the headphone jack didn't pose many issues during his time with the phone, while mentioning that the new haptic home button may pose a much larger learning curve for long-time iPhone users.
"You’re not going to shower with your iPhone. Or drown it in a fish bowl. But I did those things to test the water resistance of the phone, [and] it survived."
"On the 7 Plus, I snapped countless pictures under all sorts of lighting conditions and walked away impressed. The larger f/1.8 aperture yields better pictures in low light. The presence of optical image stabilization on both phones is also a big deal."
"Removing the standard headphone jack has gotten the most attention, but changing the Home button may take even more getting used to."
"If you can hold out, there's already talk that the truly dramatic leap forward for iPhone comes next year when this seminal smartphone celebrates its tenth anniversary."
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Familiar and divisive all at once, the iPhone 7 is shaping up to be one of Apple's most interesting phones yet. It's safe to expect the same performance and camera upgrades that come with every new iPhone, but it looks like the lack of a headphone jack and haptic home button could prove extremely jarring for folks that have been using an iPhone (or any smartphone, really) for years. On the bright side, the fact that the iPhone is finally splash-proof is earning it near-universal praise.
These early reviews suggest that, on their own merits, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are fantastic smartphones. But with a vastly redesigned iPhone rumored for next year, those not in dire need of an upgrade may want to wait and see what Apple has in store.