The verdict is in: iPhone 7 reviewers say ditching the headphone jack was a good move

Lining up the pros and cons.
Lining up the pros and cons.
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
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When Apple unveiled its latest line of iPhones last week, executives boasted about major enhancements to the camera, the longest battery life ever on an iPhone, and significant water resistance. But everyone was fixated on one thing: the headphone jack was gone.

The New York Times likened the latest iterations of the Cupertino giant’s iPhones to “adolescents coping with awkward changes to their body,” referring to the demise of the headphone jack and introduction of a new virtual home button with haptic feedback, which sends vibrations to the user to signal that their instructions have been registered, instead of having to press a physical button. (Pushing harder or more gently lets users access different functions.) Yes, Apple’s devices are growing up.

Most reviews of this upgrade cycle acknowledged Apple’s recent struggles to move things in a new direction—the phones have basically looked the same for years—but applauded the company for marked performance improvements. The next generation of iPhone are undoubtedly faster and more durable. Anyone with an iPhone 6 or older will see noticeable performance gains.

The 4.7 inch iPhone 7, starting at $650 for the 32 GM model, and the 5.5-inch Plus model, priced $770 and up, start selling on Friday (Sept. 16). If you can get over the death of the headphone jack, Apple’s latest line of phones could be hard to resist. To help you decide whether or not it’s worth upgrading, consider these:

  • The NYT’s Brian X. Chen admits that (as expected) not having an audio jack is irritating because people who use anything but Apple’s earbuds fitted for a Lightning port have the added hassle of carrying a tiny, easy-to-lose dongle. But Apple has made that sacrifice in the name of the greater good: The omission has made more room for the faster A10 fusion chips and better batteries.
  • Dubbed the “anti-anxiety phone” by the WSJ’s Geoffrey A. Fowler, the iPhone’s battery life lasts longer than ever before. Under Fowler’s tests, both phones lasted significantly longer—they gained over an hour and a half of battery life compared to fresh 6S and 6S Plus devices. Apple’s new processor is good at turning off parts that aren’t in use to conserve power. People also won’t panic if they accidentally spill liquids on their iPhone anymore.
  • And if water-resistance isn’t enough for you, the new phones are beer-proof, too. The Independent’s Adrian Weckler went as far as dropping the device in a full glass of Guinness and drinking from the glass while they phone was still submerged in it. Once the device was removed and wiped clean, it was like the whole thing never happened. “Not only was there zero sign of any ill after-effects, but the phone kept on working perfectly even as it remained sopping wet with the black stuff,” Weckler wrote. However, after putting the phone in a large mixing bowl of water for 20 minutes, The Verge’s Walt Mossberg noticed “somewhat gravelly sound quality for about 5 minutes” and withheld charging for a few hours.
  • The move away from the physical home button to a touch-sensitive one was “disappointing” for the Mac Observer’s Bryan Chaffin. In his hands-on testing, the feedback didn’t really make it feel like the button was moving, but he gives kudos to the feature for increasing functionality in this button and helping prevent water damage. Wired’s David Pierce writes that developers can use the new feature to tailor apps to be more responsive and interactive.
  • Then there’s the camera. The image signal processor built into the A10 chip uses deep learning to improve shots. And upgraded optical stabilization in both phones and the dual camera on the Plus model are also opening up avenues for photo apps to better capture and process images. The camera also has an improved zoom function, and by using both cameras on the Plus, you can focus on a subject and blur the background.
  • Engadget’s Chris Velazco is a big fan of the jet black version, but if you’re opposed to putting a case on your phone, knock this color off your wish list. In less than 24 hours, scratches appeared on Velazco’s phone (just as Apple had warned).
  • The iPhone 7 Plus is not only faster than any other iPhone but it beats Apple’s top-of-the-line iPad as well, according to BGR. It received a single-core score of 3233 and a multi-core score of 5363 on Geekbench, a tool designed to standardize speed tests across computer platforms, surpassing the iPhone 6’s performance by more than two times.
  • Forbes’s Gordon Kelly doesn’t necessarily recommend the larger model, though. Technically, it has 3GB of RAM–50% more than the iPhone 7. But Kelly suspects that the performance gap between the two phones won’t be quite so big: The Plus will eat up more power to drive its higher resolution display (1080p vs. the 7’s 750p) and dual camera.