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Deep-dive review: The iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone yet

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 10, 2016
Even without an audio jack, the iPhone 7 Plus is packed with welcome updates.

The new system on the 7 Plus works really well. The only caveat is that the telephoto lens needs a lot of light, or the picture may be soft or a little noisy. Otherwise, having true optical zoom capability on a cell phone is a real advance.

Speaking of advances, there's one more feature the iPhone 7 Plus camera system can do using the two lenses, but it won't be available until the iOS 10.1 update arrives in a few weeks. The 7 Plus will soon support a new Portrait mode that uses both lenses to determine depth, applying a gradual blur to the background to emphasize the foreground subject. This technique, called the "Bokeh effect," is a staple of DSLR cameras. On the iPhone 7 Plus, the resulting image is a composite, with the level of blur determined by nine separate planes gauged by the depth perception allowed by using the two lenses together. Composite or no, it's a neat trick. And it's coming soon. That's something to consider if you're constantly taking photos with your iPhone.

The two cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus are used to create the "Bokeh effect," which uses software to blur the background when used in portrait mode. The feature is still in beta and is expected to be tweaked before being released later this year. 

Well, that sounds good

One of the pains of owning an iPhone in the past involved the built-in speaker: Its location at the bottom of the device made it difficult to hear, forcing you to cup your hand to redirect the sound. With this year's models, that's no longer necessary. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus come with a louder speaker set that delivers stereo sound. The earpiece speaker works in concert with the lower speaker to produce the left and right channels, and it's much louder and clearer than with previous iPhones.

As I already noted, the iPhone comes with white EarPods, just as before, except these EarPods connect to the iPhone via a Lightning connection, which is the same port used to charge the phone. They sound the same as previous versions; if you've replaced your Apple EarPods with your own headphones and want to continue using them, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack adapter included on the underside of the EarPod box with the iPhone.

Of course, the iPhone will pair with any Bluetooth headset. Apple offers several under the Beats brand, as well as its own $159 set of AirPods. I'll have more to say about them when they ship later this month.

Looks good, too

The iPhones have the same resolution displays as before: the iPhone 7 gets a 1334-x-750-pixel resolution at 326 pixels per inch (ppi); the 7 Plus offers a 1920-x-1080-pixel resolution at 401ppi. But both displays are about 25% brighter than the iPhone 6S in bright sunlight, and they support a wider color gamut for truer colors.


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