iPhone 7 review

The iPhone 7 remains a great cheap iOS option

iPhone 7 review

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Battery life

  • Battery life improved, but not by enough
  • Charges fairly quickly from dead, but topping up can be harder
  • Improved performance when watching video

Now, onto a crucial part of the iPhone 7: the battery life. This is a tricky one, as has Apple said it's increased the battery life and efficiency through the improvements to the iPhone and the A10 Fusion chip.

The latter is a key part, as it's designed to make the new iPhone separate into two task machines: on the one hand, two cores can run the harder stuff, such as video editing, multiple background processes, photo manipulation etc.

The other two cores are much more lightweight, but better at making sure you can still get your emails and browse the lighter apps – presumably Kindle reading would come under this category.

iPhone 7 review

What's not clear is which set of cores do what – it would be great to know how to activate the lower-power cores only, because during our tests we didn't see any evidence of great battery life at all.

Every day by around five o'clock things get dicey in terms of battery. Looking at the stats, the reasons were many and varied: one day it was Spotify running in the background that was taking its toll, the next the use of the phone as a portable hotspot, and the next Facebook was pulling the power, or WhatsApp.

iPhone 7 review

There was also a lot of 'Home & Lock Screen' taking up the power, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense given how short an amount of time we spent there. Is that just the screen being fired up? Either way, it takes a decent chunk of the battery.

In short, it's hard to see where Apple has improved the battery life on the iPhone 7, because despite a 10% increase in battery life over the previous model, it was hard to see where that improvement was coming from.

Watch how the iPhone 7 did in our phone battery test video

After many weeks of using the iPhone 7, there were very few days where the charger wasn't needed at some point. On the weekends, where using the phone a little harder, it would be only 15:30 before the phone would need another boost.

There's no reason that this should be such an effort, and it's not something we'd ever encounter on newer Android phones - Apple needs to get up to the level of its rivals.

It's actually a really poor battery experience from Apple, and shows that the brand is hamstrung by the amount of space it's got to put in more power. But this shouldn't be so hard to do when the phone has fewer cores (and two designed to help reduce power drain) and a lower-res screen... by rights we should have a two-day iPhone, where we're stuck with one that can just last a day.

The charging speed of the iPhone 7 is decent though – Apple's not put a number on it, nor made this the big feature on stage, but if y.u plug your iPhone into a faster 2.1A iPad charging block it'll juice up the handset faster.

That's not something a lot of people will do, or even be aware they can do, but in 30 minutes they'll get around a 25% boost in battery power, with that absorption rate maintained until later in the charge cycle.

Later on, when the battery is getting close to topped up, the charging definitely slows down, although it does trickle over the line eventually.

We've seen other people claim excellent battery life for the iPhone 7, but we can't work out how that's happening. Even trying different power-use levels on the phone rarely led to better battery life.

The iPhone 7 Plus is certainly better at holding on to battery - which you'd expect given it's got a larger power pack inside.

However, you can see how well it's done in this video - showing a pretty good result. You can also see that Apple's not done a huge amount to the power management of the iPhone 7 since the 6S - it's only 7 minutes more capable, but it does have a more colorful and bright screen, which is worth the sacrifice.

We ran our usual battery test (HD video at full brightness for 90 minutes) and that's where you can see how the iPhone 7 has improved: where the previous iPhone 6S managed to drop 30%, the newer handset only lost 23% for the same test.

It's not as good as some other phones, including some newer iPhones - the iPhone XR for example lost 20% and the iPhone XS lost just 11% - but for the iPhone lover who doesn't want a phablet or to spend a fortune, this is the phone to go for.

Does the iPhone 7 have decent battery life? Simply put: no. We've needed to charge it sooner than most phones of its ilk, and while we get the trade-offs needed to create this phone (the thinner design, for example) it still feels odd that Apple's not gone all-out on battery life yet.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.