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Apple's iPhone 7, scheduled to hit stores in many countries on Friday, has already gotten high marks from reviewers on its state-of-the art camera, faster processing speeds, and noticeable improvements to water resistance, battery life and memory.
Still, Apple's new wireless AirPods and headphone-jack-free design is a trade-off at best and "irritating," annoying and bothersome at worst, reviews said. Plus, the jury's still out on a new jet black finish that's praised as beautiful but panned as easy to blemish.
Here are some of the highlights:
Times technology writer Brian X. Chen has hopped on the iPhone 7 train, despite the "irritating" lack of a 3.5- millimeter headphone jack. While it's not perfect, Chen notes that those who have had their old phone for years are in store for a major upgrade with the iPhone 7, especially when it comes to the speed, camera and waterproof exterior.
While the new iPhone ships with a Lightning dongle and a pair of Lightning wired earbuds, Chen concludes that wireless earphones — like Apple's new AirPods — are the easiest workaround for the iPhone 7. Still, the AirPods "look odd" and had occasional glitches, like rewinding short sections of audio and crackling interference, Chen wrote.
If you're still not convinced, Chen reveals new information about next year's model. Citing two sources at Apple, he said it will have "a full-screen face with the virtual button built directly into the screen." (Apple declined to comment.)
The Journal takes a bold stance, urging consumers to "get over" the missing headphone jack in favor of better low-light photos, longer battery life and water resistance.
The practical stuff — like not constantly needing to charge — is probably more precious than a "holographic, teleporting" futuristic feature, the Journal's Geoffrey Fowler writes. But it may still be behind Samsung's 6-month-old models.
"I found Apple has fixed some of what's long-ailed the iPhone, and that's reason enough to get over the headphone thing and upgrade. Let me be clear, the iPhone 7 not the most advanced smartphone money can buy. I'd say it's the best smartphone of 2015 — that's when Apple should have put it on sale."
Walt Mossberg is impressed — and annoyed and impatient, he writes in Recode's iPhone 7 review.
Most impressive to Mossberg is the doubled memory at every price point, and a battery that easily survived 13- to 15-hour days, at least for the iPhone 7 Plus. Mossberg also praises the camera's zoom, which he suspects is a huge deal for the average user.
"In fact, this beautiful zooming dual camera is the first feature I've seen that might lure me to a large-screen phone," Mossberg writes.
The waterproofing was also a plus for Mossberg, who successfully left an iPhone 7 submerged in a large mixing bowl of water for about 20 minutes — "no rice needed."
Still, Mossberg asks, where's the headphone jack?
"In this case, I see zero evidence that the 3.5-[millimeter] audio jack is being used less or has hit a wall. It's happily transmitting music, podcasts and phone calls to many millions of people from many millions of devices as you read this sentence. Apple says it needed replacing to make more room for bigger batteries and other components. I also don't see that Apple has come up with a better replacement.The company is clearly trying to move the whole industry towards wireless audio, which has never been great due to patchy Bluetooth connectivity, poor fidelity — especially for music — and limited battery life."
The iPhone 7 is a statement from Apple about the future of mobile, The Verge's Nilay Patel writes. And some features of that future are incredibly frustrating, such as the move toward wireless headphones that means an "ecosystem lock-in" to Apple.
"Competitors like LG and HTC ship much higher quality headphones with their flagship phones, and Apple owns Beats, so it's just really hard to understand why it's still shipping such decidedly mediocre headphones with the iPhone," Patel writes.
The new home button — which is solid, rather than mechanical, and works with "Taptic Engine jolts" when you apply pressure, is controversial among The Verge staff. It's much better than other phones' haptic feedback, Patel writes, but if you're partial to the click of a real button, it will get some getting used to.
"The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are legitimately among the most interesting, opinionated, powerful phones Apple has ever shipped, and the most confident expressions of the company's vision in a long time. iOS 10 is excellent, the cameras are better, and the performance is phenomenal. And the batteries last longer. These are terrific phones. But they are also incomplete.The most interesting feature of the iPhone 7 Plus' new dual camera isn't shipping at launch. Apple's making a big bet on iMessage and Siri apps in iOS 10 but it hasn't paid off yet."
WIRED's David Pierce homes in on the new iPhone's "ludicrously, outrageously fast" processing power, noting that with a quad-core processor, anything less than hard-core gaming or high-res video is going to allow for extraordinary battery life. While Pierce has his gripes about the lack of a headphone jack and home button, he writes that they are a welcome trade for the water-resistance consumers have come to expect from competitors like Samsung.
The iPhone 7 may look like the iPhone has for years, but it works better. Differently, too. It's more seamless, more open to third parties, and more connected to the rest of the Apple ecosystem. More than anything, this phone is Apple's acknowledgement that how an iPhone looks is increasingly beside the point. What matters is what an iPhone can do.
While Apple has been criticized for the iPhone 7's similarity to the prior model, that familiar design was a plus for USA Today's Ed Baig, who called it a "solid, albeit incremental upgrade." He calls the improved camera excellent, though he said it's closer to a Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7 than a pocket DSLR.
"Apple still hasn't matched Samsung (and others) with such convenience features as fast charging and wireless charging," Baig writes.
The iPhone 7 gets an 8.7 from technology blog CNET, whose editors write that the dual camera of the 7 Plus might make it a better choice if you need an upgrade. While the new home button takes getting used to and the shiny jet black finish scratches easily, the water-resistant design, "seriously fast" performance and camera all got high marks, CNET's Scott Stein writes. The loss of the headphone jack hurt, though.
That little headphone jack is the one thing that I could see bothering people about this phone. Like the single USB-C port on Apple's newest MacBook, it's a compromise that feels forced.
If you're already a wireless headphone power user, you won't miss a thing. But someday — who knows when? — you'll find yourself somewhere wanting to use a pair of wired headphones. And you'll find that you can't plug them in because you left your dongle behind. Don't cry to me when that happens.
The iPhone 7 is fine, but it doesn't wow, The Associated Press' Anick Jesdanun says, urging buyers to consider how long they've had their current phone, rather than the specifications of the new models.
If you're a proud owner of the iPhone 6S or its plus-sized cousin, you probably don't need to rush out for the 7. But the 7 includes enough cumulative iPhone improvements from the past two years to tempt anyone still clinging to an older model.
Jesdanun is a little more impressed than others when it comes to the new jet black finish.
"The back is polished so finely that it looks like glass, yet has the strength of aluminum. It smudges easily — but of course you ought to have a case anyway," Jesdanun writes.