In Brief

iPhone 7 review: Why the new iPhone is not worth buying

Critics say the phone's 'poor' battery life, predictable design and lack of headphone jack are 'disappointing'

The iPhone 7 is here at last but the reaction is lukewarm at best.

Writing in The Verge, Nilay Patel is at first enthusiastic, but says the device is "incomplete" and seems like a bridge between the iPhone 6, which it closely resembles superficially, and "next year's rumoured drastic iPhone redesign".

No headphone jack

Patel is critical of Apple's decision to drop the headphone jack – technology that has been standard since Victorian times – without fully supporting wireless headphones or speakers from other manufacturers.

As the world's biggest tech firm, Apple gets to decide for all of us when it's time to move on from an existing technology, says Patel, in this case forcing users to buy an adapter for their old headphones at a cost of $9 in the US and £9 in the UK.

Apple said it dropped the jack partly so that it could make the phone more water resistant. But Gordon Kelly in Forbes points out that rival smartphone makers have managed to make their handsets as water resistant, or more so, than the iPhone 7 while retaining the headphone jack. 

The real reason is that Apple wants to move towards a fully wireless phone with wireless audio devices and wireless charging, says Patel. But that's a long way in the future. 

In the meantime, Apple is not allowing third parties to extend its AirPlay interface. Instead, only the tech firm's own new W1 headphones "get the fancy new pairing support". That's "disappointing", says Patel.

Poor battery life

"How good can a phone be if the battery doesn't even last a day," asks The Guardian's Samuel Gibbs. He points out that the phone is Apple's most expensive yet, with the price inflated in the UK by the EU referendum result.

According to Gibbs, the battery life is "poor" and worse than the iPhone 6S when new. Using it for apps, browsing, email and photos, he found it lasted an average of 14 hours between charges – and charging is "tediously slow". 

But the device does have a larger battery than the iPhone 6, with Apple claiming an extra two hours between charges. Patel praises the improvement but says he thinks the phone will run for the same time as the 6S under heavy usage.

The camera is better – but not much

The iPhone 7 camera is an improvement on the previous generation, but only a "step improvement, not a major leap", says Patel. Of course, he adds, that still means it is probably "the best camera most people will ever own".

Kelly is impressed, however, saying the camera is where the iPhone 7 "steps into the limelight". As evidence, he cites the "larger f/1.8 aperture", optical image stabilisation and the phone's biggest camera innovation, its rear dual lenses, which only come with the iPhone 7 Plus. In addition to the standard wide-angle camera shared with the standard iPhone 7, the Plus has a telephoto lens fixed at 2x magnification.

Nevertheless, the dual camera "feels like a novelty rather than a game-changer", says Kelly, partly because the telephoto lens only works in good lighting conditions – in low light, the phone automatically uses the standard lens and zooms digitally. 

For Gibbs, the iPhone 7 camera is "greatly improved", although the rear camera is "not quite the best" available. He gives that honour to the Samsung Galaxy S7. 

To upgrade or not to upgrade…

So is it worth buying the new iPhone. Not if you already have an iPhone 6 or 6S, says Gordon Kelly. "There's simply not enough here to warrant the substantial cost of an upgrade," no matter how impressive the new phone is when considered on its own merits.

"If you need a new phone right now, sure, buy an iPhone 7," says Patel. But this is lukewarm praise: the device is "incomplete", feels more like a "prototype" and should be skipped unless you are an obsessive early adopter.

"Is this the best iPhone?" asks Gibbs. "Probably," he concludes. "Should you buy it? Not if you care about battery life."

iPhone 7: Hissing handsets and other glitches

20 September

Headphone jack controversy aside, the iPhone 7 has had some excellent reviews from critics.

CNET gives Apple's latest smartphone four and a half stars out of five, saying the camera upgrades, new water-resistance and power improvements are worthwhile upgrades.

Alphr, meanwhile, says it's the best iPhone yet and BGR concludes the camera on the standard device is so good you don't need the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus.

Out of the hands of reviewers and in the real world, however, first adopters have encountered a few little niggles…

Hissing handsets

It seems the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus devices is apparently making hissing sounds when working hard.

HissGate, as the Daily Mirror refers to it, appears to be affecting a batch of the new smartphones. 

The paper says it is unclear just how many people have bought hissing devices, but Apple has told those affected to get their phones replaced as soon as possible.

High demand means they could be waiting for some weeks, though.

Glitching headphones

As if removing the headphone jack wasn't annoying enough for many, using the Earpods with the phone actually causes a handful of glitches, says the Daily Telegraph.

"Some users have reported that the remote control buttons on the wired headphones malfunction after the EarPods have been plugged in for a few minutes, causing songs to sporadically play and pause and Siri to randomly be activated," says the paper.

Apple says the problem is caused by a glitch in the software used to control wired headphones and an update to fix it will arrive shortly.

Home button horrors

Swiping and scrolling a touchscreen display while wearing gloves has never been easy. Apple's new iPhone has added another hurdle – its pressure-sensitive home button won't work without skin contact.

With iOS 10, you can unlock the phone through your fingerprint or by tapping in your passcode. However, in order to bring the entry screen up, you've now you to tap the home button rather than swipe the display so it's a complete dead end.

The Telegraph recommends that come winter, iPhone-owners use the assistive touch feature when wearing gloves – that's the small dot you can add to your screen if the home button is completely broken.

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