Apple’s newest iPhone has two new color, a Solid Matte Black and a High Gloss Jet Black.
iPhone 7 in Black on top of an iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black
The new Black and Jet Black (above) options are front-to-back black with nearly invisible black seams that join the top and bottom to the middle (allowing radio signals through the aluminum case).
While visible in the image above (due to purposely exaggerated lighting), In Real Life the repositioned seams are hard to see at all on either black model.
The other finish options for the new iPhone 7 models (Silver, Gold and Rose Gold) use the same, more discreet end-cap seam placement compared to the previous “tighty whitey” underwear lines of the 6 and 6s, but their seam lines pop out more than the two black versions because they use a contrasting seam color.
The new Silver iPhone 7 sports lighter grey seams (compared to previous 6/6s models’ darker grey contrast seams), and both the Gold and Rose Gold versions have white seams. All three non-black options have a white bezel on the front, where both blacks have identical black fronts.
Two blacks, two boxes
Apple ships the matte Black in a white box, while the Jet Black model comes in a unique black box. Rather than being shrink-wrapped in cellophane, both boxes have an easy-peel wrapping that slips off with a tug on their green tab, as if unwrapping a gift package by pulling on its ribbon.
Black is half Jet Black
If you’re torn between the two black options, keep in mind that the matte Black is essentially Jet Black on the front. In fact, the Jet Black finish essentially makes the rear virtually identical to the front (apart from the fact that it doesn’t have a display). It also feels the same: like full glossy glass.
In fact, there is only a slight difference in feel between the rear sides of the ultra glossy Jet Black and matte Black; counterintuitively, the matte Black is actually ever so slightly less grippy than the polished Jet Black.
Outside of Jet Black, all of the new iPhone 7 finish colors feel the same as earlier iPhone 6/6s models: their polished aluminum backs don’t slip out of your hand, but do feel “slick” like chrome. The Jet Black finish is even more “slick,” but actually feels grippier, the way a glass surface grabs the oils on your hand and smears your skin to a stop.
Compare the skin resistance feel of the front and back of an iPhone 6/6s: their back feels like the new Black. Their glass front feels like the new Jet Black. If you still use an iPhone 5/5s (or the new SE), these models all have a slightly less polished metal back.
The range in hand-feel between all of the models is actually quite subtle. The real difference of the Jet Black model is that it is extremely glossy. It is a black mirror; no joke. You can use it to take rear-camera selfies. In fact, if you want to get an idea how glossy it is, just look at the front of any iPhone with the display off: it’s that reflective.
The standard iPhone 7 in Black is an inky pure, black-hole black, slightly more black than the darkest of Apple’s Space Grey iPads. If you’ve been waiting for a solid dark black without any of the chrome or underwear lines of earlier iPhone 5 and 6 generation models, Apple finally has a super black phone for you.
Better in leather
Of course, if you plan to keep your new iPhone 7 in a case, the rear side will barely ever show. With Apple’s leather cases (and generally with any case design, apart from translucent plastic), the only bits of the Black or Jet Black back visible will be the speaker grill on the bottom (below) and the small area visible in the cutout for the camera.
On the both the new 7 and 7 Plus, case cutouts for the camera and flash are bigger because their camera eyes are bigger, particular the 7 Plus with its dual lens camera system.
Apple has also enhanced its own set of leather covers with more substantial plastic side button covers, versus the simple leather perforation lines on earlier generations that made hitting the volume or wake buttons feel mushy. The new solid caps integrated into the leather covers feel more like you’re using the phone without a cover in the way.
In addition to the Black and Midnight Blue leather cases pictured above (the blue looks lighter here than it actually is due to the highlight), Apple also offers its $45 leather case in a lighter Sea Blue and Storm Grey, as well as a creamy light Tan, a roasted bean Saddle Brown and a brilliant (Product)RED.
While the new iPhone 7 models now sport an IP67 water resistance similar to the original Apple Watch, its natural leather covers are not impervious to water damage and will scuff up faster if you get them wet. Wet leather also feels kind of slimy until it dries out.
Apple also offers a $35 Silicon case with a rubbery, grippy feel that shouldn’t have any problem getting wet. It’s available in Pink Sand, a more teal Sea Blue, a pastel Ocean Blue, a nearly black Midnight Blue, an off-white Stone, a bright White, solid Black, a chocolatey Cocoa and the very bright (Product)RED.
Apple also continues to offer its $99 Smart Battery case, in black or white, exclusively for the standard iPhone 7 model. It gives the phone a bump on the back in exchange for extending battery life for up to 26 hours of talk time.
Big beautiful camera bump
While many blogger critics have registered their dissatisfaction with the “camera bulge” introduced on iPhone 6 (in order to accommodate a larger lens for better photos), Apple has completely ignored their advice and instead enlarged its lens on both models.
Apple’s glory shots of the iPhone 7 celebrate its rear volcano, stopping just short of adding a twinkle or lens flare. On the larger iPhone 7 Plus, the dual camera system similarly peers out of the back without any shame.
As with earlier 6/6s models, the protruding camera lens means the device will teeter back and forth if placed back down on a hard surface. This can be solved by putting the phone in a case, which renders the bulge flush with the covered area on either model), or by simply not caring about the issue.
Flat-back enthusiasts can also opt for an iPhone SE, which is thick enough to accommodate a quite nice iPhone 6/6s-style camera without needing a lens bulge.
Note the before and after bulges in the shift from iPhone 6s Plus (in Rose Gold below, where the “bulge” looks more like a slightly raised rim) to the new dual peeper iPhone 7 Plus (below in the mirror finish of Jet Black, erupting like a Pookas’ pair of goggles looking out for a Dig Dug).
Inside the box, Apple includes three Lightning cables. The first is used for charging via USB. Sadly, it’s still bundled with a grossly inadequate 5 watt power plug that charges an iPhone far slower than the larger 12 watt adapter it bundles with iPads, or sells separately for $19. Come on Apple!
A second Lightning-equipped adapter is supplied for use with analog stereo mini-jack headphones or auxiliary cables. The new adapter plugs snugly into the phone on one end and a headphone jack on the other; it does not pull out easily, so as a solution to using alternative headphones or other audio outputs it should work fine. The phone can’t be charged while using the Lightning port for audio however.
The third Lightning cable is attached to Apple’s standard earbuds with integrated mic and volume controls. Unlike earlier iPhones, the bundled headphones are not in a plastic case, but instead wrapped in paper. I previously coiled up my earbuds in the plastic case but I’m not sure anyone else did, because it was somewhat clumsy to use.
If that’s an issue for you, you can either use a Lightning Dock with minijack audio output, a third party dongle with a Lightning port splitter for dual use, or you can employ wireless audio via Bluetooth speakers or WiFi AirPlay to your Mac, Apple TV, AirPort Express or any other AirPlay-compatible speaker.
The Lightning earbuds included with iPhone 7 also work with any Lightning-equipped iPhone or iPad, although Apple doesn’t currently ship any Macs with Lightning ports that could make use of them.
Watch for our full review where we put the new models’ cameras, brains and waterproofing to the test.