Did The iPhone 7 Plus Leapfrog The Galaxy Note 7?


Setting aside the issues with faulty batteries which have subsequently come to light, Samsung's Galaxy Note was widely lauded as the best smartphone on the market when it launched - and for good reason. It packed the best screen, the best camera, waterproofing, expandable memory and an extremely usable stylus into a beautifully put together body no bigger than phones with much smaller screens. Even though it's price is (was) high, I felt that the sum of the Note 7's capabilities more than justified that outlay.

Apple's response was not long in coming. The iPhone 7 Plus - or have some have christened it, the iPhone 6S Plus S. Don't let the lack of a new design fool you though, Apple managed to squeeze much that is new into the same shell. True, this sort of technology upgrade usually arrives in an 'S' year but that shouldn't put you off unless (like me) you aren't a big fan of the iPhone 6 design.

On that point I found that the iPhone 7 Plus was a slight improvement in the hand than the 6x versions of this design. I'm not sure whether that was a result of differences in the weight distribution or the slightly different tactile experience of the matt black model. The difference was slight, but personally I found it to be a small step forward.

In some of the key areas where Apple lagged being Samsung it has not been able to close the gap. The screen to body ratio is still woeful in comparison to the Note 7, the new colour technology makes the screen better to look at than its predecessor's, but it's still no match for the SAMOLED panel in brightness, colour or resolution.

It would be lunacy to ever expect expandable memory in an Apple phone, however Apple has doubled the onboard memory for each price tier as compensation. For the 16GB phones this was long overdue. However the effects of the Live Photos camera add on, and the new dual camera solution suggests to me that heavy users of the camera may struggle for storage space on the 32GB versions now.

Waterproofing has arrived at last - insurance companies will be grateful for that particular change, however Apple's decision not to cover water damage under warranty feels inherently wrong. Either the iPhone is waterproof or it isn't. Put your money where your mouth is Apple.

In order to enable waterproofing to work the Home button has changed from a physical button to a haptic feedback non-button. Strange at first, but something that I'm sure will become natural with time. The Haptic feedback works across more parts of the iPhone and is definitely a different experience to the vibrations that other phones use to signal touch events.

As someone who disables vibration everywhere on their phones I can't say it appealed to me. Others may find it more acceptable. The problem for me is that the haptic feedback is felt across the body of the phone, so wherever your non-touching hand is gripping the phone that's where the vibration appears to originate. When unlocking, the whole of the bottom of the phone appears to click because that's where your grip is. Changing the time for an alarm, that appears to originate much higher up the phone. It never feels real or accurate to me.

The dual camera promises to be a leap forward. With the limited amount of time available to try this feature I couldn't say whether it was the big leap forward that Apple has claimed. The quick test shots I was able to get away didn't seem any different to the 6S. Clicking to enable 2x zoom did indeed bring the subject closer, however in comparison to the Pureview lossless zoom on my Lumia 950 I'd say the centre crop of the 19Mp Lumia image outdoes the optical zoom of the iPhone 7 Plus.

Have I missed anything? Oh yes, the headphone jack has been relegated to a dongle. Not courageous, not outrageous and not really important.

Overall I think the iPhone 7 Plus will be good enough to satisfy those buyers who stick religiously to iOS and does enough to prevent the majority of curious iOS buyers looking over the fence. Is it a good match for the Note 7? I don't believe so. The Note 7 excels in too many areas where the iPhone is just average. I'd even go as far as to say that the 7 Plus looks weak against the S7 Edge, which packs a similarly sized screen into a much smaller body and has most of the Note's advantages too.

In a normal year I'd say that the iPhone 7 would have struggled to maintain the sales levels of its predecessors - whilst there is much that is new, there probably isn't enough to persuade buyers to replace their current iPhones. However it isn't a normal year. We'll be seeing the impact of Apple's iPhone upgrade program for the first time, which should boost sales.

Then of course there's the impact of the Note 7's battery issues. Whilst the majority of current Note owners appear to be happy with their decision and are awaiting their replacement unit, there's an almost inevitable backlash that will work in Apple's favour.

So whilst it may not be the most innovative smartphone, nor the best, I'm pretty sure that the iPhone 7 is good enough to reverse the declines that Apple has been seeing in recent quarters.

And for Apple that sounds like good enough.

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