The entire world is focused on Apple’s tenth anniversary iPhone — the iPhone 8 (or iPhone Pro, or iPhone X, or iPhone Edition or iPhone whatever-it’s-called). Because of all the fanfare surrounding this model, the two other iPhones rumored to be launched alongside seem to be completely sidelined. The iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus are said to replace the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at matching price points, while the iPhone 8 will be a more premium, feature-rich option that will cost a lot more. But can the iPhone 7s hold its own?
iPhones are already one of the most expensive phones you can buy today. Although the iPhone 7 starts at $649, the bigger iPhone 7 Plus which has the dual rear camera setup, bigger battery, and higher resolution screen, starts at $769. Bear in mind that these prices are for entry-level 32GB SKUs. Many people find 32GB insufficient so they end up buying the higher-tier 128GB SKU instead, which costs $100 more. So realistically, a lot of people are already spending $869 on their ideal iPhone purchase.
Rumors suggest that the iPhone 8 could be priced anywhere between $1200 to $1400. If the existing iPhones weren’t already a stretch for many smartphone buyers, you’ll need to be seriously committed to that iPhone 8 (or have tons of money to spare) to drop that kind of dough on it.
But what if you’re not willing to spend that much on that shiny iPhone 8, and just want to settle with the iPhone 7s or iPhone 7s Plus? What do we know about these two other iPhones that could suggest if they’ll be worth it? Will they be good upgrades to people using an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s today? Let’s try to find out.
Most of the 2017 iPhone trio leaks seem to point that the design of the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus will largely remain unchanged. Leaked renders and schematics show that the two phones will retain the same footprint as today’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Meaning the smaller of the two will have a 4.7-inch display, while the bigger will have a 5.5-inch one. Since these iPhones have an ‘s’ appended to their name, history suggests that they won’t see any exterior change when compared to their predecessors. That’s because the iPhone 6s, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 4s were physically very similar to the iPhone 6, iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 that came a year before, respectively. But if these phones end up looking the same, it’ll also be the fourth year of Apple reusing the curved aluminium body design first introduced with the iPhone 6.
Another year of the same might just be too much for some people. Also, the current design isn’t very convenient if you look at the Plus-sized model — with huge bezels above and below the display that makes for a slightly unwieldy footprint, despite housing only a modest 5.5-inch display. In comparison, the iPhone 8 is said to have one of the best screen-to-body ratios thanks to a big 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display fit in a body that’s around the size of the smaller iPhone 7.
There are two rumors which support that the ‘s’ series iPhones may get a nominal design change. One is that along with the iPhone 8, these two will also get glass backs instead of aluminium, in order to facilitate wireless charging. We just hope Apple throws a bone to future iPhone 7s buyers, who deserve an updated design instead of the same thing from 2014 (especially since $600-800 asking price isn’t small by any measure).
Similarly, the displays are also said to be unchanged from current iPhones in the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus. Meaning the former will sport a 4.7-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1334 x 750 pixels, while the latter will have a 5.5-inch LCD display with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. The higher-end iPhone 8 will be the first iPhone to sport an OLED display, similar to the one found on the Apple Watch or Samsung’s Galaxy flagships. The resolution is also said to be higher at 2800 x 1242 pixels, which would result in a higher pixel density of about 521 Pixels Per Inch (PPI).
Now, although past iPhone display sizes and resolutions haven’t changed since 2014, that doesn’t mean the displays themselves haven’t improved in any other way. For example, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus added DCI-P3 wide color gamut and had a higher maximum brightness when compared to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Nonetheless, it can’t be ignored that the 4.7-inch iPhone pixel density will still measure in at a measly 326 PPI and the 5.5-inch iPhone’s at 401 PPI. Smartphones that cost a fifth of the iPhone 7 these days have a higher pixel density.
When the first Retina-Display-toting iPhone 4 came out in 2010, Steve Jobs suggested that the human eye cannot perceive a difference above 300 PPI (the iPhone 4 had a 326 PPI display). And although that claim has been questioned in the past, after being exposed to higher pixel density displays from other phone manufacturers, the difference between a 300 PPI display and a 500 PPI one is fairly noticeable. Samsung, for instance, has been using 500 PPI+ displays since the Galaxy Note 4 in 2014.
If that wasn’t enough, ProMotion, which was introduced with the iPad Pro 10.5-inch in 2017 might just make its way to the iPhone 8. People who’ve used a ProMotion display suggest the dynamic scaling of the display refresh rate up to 120Hz has a very visible impact on usability, since it is twice as fast as 60Hz displays on iPhones today. Unfortunately, there’s no news if this technology will also come to the other two iPhones.
So, will the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus displays be any better than the previous generation? One rumor suggests that all three iPhones this year will feature True Tone display tech, which changes the color of the display to suit the ambient lighting.
Like every ‘s’ series iPhone, the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus will most definitely get the Apple A11 chip, which is the same that’s said to power the iPhone 8. It will be built on a 10-nanometer fabrication process, as compared to the 16-nanometer A10 chip present on 2016 iPhones. The bigger iPhone 7s Plus is said to have 3GB RAM, which is the same as last year’s 7 Plus and 2017’s iPhone 8. Whereas the smaller iPhone 7s will stick to 2GB RAM. But the transfer speeds are said to be improved by 10 to 15 percent than last year, which should result in better performance.
The ‘7s’ iPhones may potentially have one advantage over the iPhone 8 — since the A11 chip will have to compute relatively lesser number of pixels on the screens of the former two, the performance may be faster. This was seen in the iPhone SE, which had a lower display resolution than the iPhone 6s, but was powered by the same Apple A9 chip. Another benefit would be improved battery life as compared to previous generation iPhones, thanks to the smaller chip fabrication and other optimisations. The other thing about battery — leaks suggest that the iPhone 8 will have a 2700mAh battery, which is huge when compared to the 1960mAh pack on the similarly-sized iPhone 7. But it is smaller than the 2900mAh unit on the iPhone 7 Plus. Now if we are to assume that Apple will keep the same battery size on this year’s iPhone 7s Plus, the combination of its battery and the A11 chip should mean that this Plus-sized iPhone should have the best battery life in an iPhone to date.
The only visible difference based on leaked renders between the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7s Plus is the shift from the horizontal placement of the dual camera setup to vertical. There are several details about how the iPhone 8 will have better cameras, including the use of a VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) system. This mechanism would help in faster auto-focus along with more accurate depth measurements to the benefit of AR apps. The front camera on the iPhone 8 is also said to feature similar depth-sensing capabilities, possibly to be used for facial authentication, and better image capture.
The only bit of information pointing towards a better camera system on the iPhone 7s Plus is the presence of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) for both the wide-angle and telephoto lens (the iPhone 7 Plus had OIS only for the wide-angle lens). This means images clicked with 2x zoom would turn out better.
Although it seems that Apple is reserving the better camera features for the iPhone 8, historically speaking the ‘s’ iPhones have always brought camera improvements. So it would be extremely odd (and disappointing) if the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus had nearly the same cameras as their 2016 predecessors.
The 2016 iPhones were IP67 certified for water and dust resistance. Rumors suggest that the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, along with the iPhone 8, should get this certification bumped up to IP68. This means the phones should survive in 1.5 meters underwater for up to 30 minutes, instead of only 1 meter.
It is also suggested that the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus will come in a new color option, and that option is suggested to be red. This isn’t all that exciting because the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are available with red backs, as part of the Product (Red) special edition.
If you managed to read through all the tiny details, you’ll notice that the improvements to the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus appear to be marginal. These phones might just be what the iPhone SE was to the iPhone 5s — better wine in a bottle that’s all too familiar by now. And while in the case of the iPhone SE it made sense because it is an entry-level iPhone, when you’re expecting people to shell out over 600 dollars for them, in our humble opinion, it just isn’t adding up. We sincerely hope that these two iPhones give people holding on to the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s something reasonably better.
Else they will just end up becoming wingman products — with their mediocrity merely convincing people of shelling more for the premium iPhone 8. It is no different than Apple still choosing to sell the MacBook Air as their entry-level model, instead of phasing it out and replacing it with the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar as its ideal replacement. Also, we’ve heard it many times over by now that the iPhone 8 will be available in limited quantity at the beginning. We fear this may play out the way it did back in 2013 — when there were too many iPhone 5c boxes on the shelves and not enough iPhone 5s stocks, and most people yearned for the latter, not the former.