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Is the iPhone 7 worth it? First reviews are in

First look at iPhone 7

Reviewers have gotten their hands on the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and now, nearly a week after Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest smartphones on stage in San Francisco, their first reactions are pouring in. 

The water-resistant phone has been drawing praise for its company-standard sleek design and improved battery life, but, predictably, Apple’s decision to remove the traditional headphone jack from the phone’s design has been generating some collective eyerolls from tech bloggers. 

The iPhone 7 will be priced starting at $649, for the 32GB model. The larger iPhone 7 Plus starts at $769. Preorders for both models started last week, and the phones will ship Sept. 16. The new phones come with the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 10​.

Here are some of the first reactions from reviewers who’ve been checking out the new phone:

“You can definitely wait” 

CNET’s Scott Stein​ found a lot to like about the new iPhone, but when asked whether it’s worth upgrading, he told CBS News, “you can definitely wait.”  

On the positive side, Stein is a fan of the phone’s strong battery life​ and the fact that it’s water resistant.  “I really like the battery life. I always complain, year after year, that it doesn’t get me through a full day on a charge. This one lasts a full day on a charge,” he said.

Water resistance is a nice perk, but he notes, the device isn’t drop resistant: “It could still shatter. If you drop it in a puddle in the street, you know, it may survive the water, [but] it may not survive the fall.” 

Another highlight for Stein is the  camera. 

“The iPhone 7 gets an upgrade I wished were in the 6S – namely, optical image stabilization (or OIS),” he wrote in his review for CNET. “The slightly wider f1.8-aperture lens also lets in more light for low-light photos. OIS and that new lens both make a difference in everyday shots, I’ve found. Photos at dusk in my backyard that were barely viewable on the 6S looked far brighter on the 7.”

He added that the phone’s four-LED flash “is brighter and helped light up a room so well” that he could shoot “a passable photo of the darkened room next door.”

All of that being said, Stein’s main criticism of the new phone is the much-discussed lack of a standard headphone jack​. For months leading up to the product’s official announcement, tech bloggers and social media users alike have been worried about the potential design change that would leave audiophiles and music fans to either seek out Bluetooth-connected and wireless headphones or resort to clunky adapters. 

Apple faces backlash over iPhone 7 features

“Let’s not diminish the missing headphone jack,” Stein wrote​. “The loss will hurt, especially while other iPhones exist that still have a jack onboard. If you want to plug regular headphones into your new iPhone, a process that seemed simple and uncomplicated before, you now need to consider whether you brought the included dongle, or have a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Or your special Lightning headphones that come in the box.”

Ultimately, Stein viewed the new phone as setting the stage for things to come, rather than as a transformative device in itself.

“This iPhone feels like it’s laying the groundwork for a more sealed-off, improved, wireless​ system. In the meantime, it’s a little bit boring,” he summed up at the end of his review.

The bottom line? For consumers who have been holding out on upgrading to a new phone, now might be the time, but for others, it’s not a must-have.

“I think if you’ve got a 6S, this upgrade is not a necessary upgrade. If you’ve been waiting longer, this is a good time always to get one. I think if you’ve got an upgrade plan … then sure, go for it. I think the water resistance and battery life gains on this are really nice. But again, you are giving up a little [with the] headphone jack. Some people may be totally fine with that; I’m a little bothered,” he told CBS News.

“Isn’t as compelling an upgrade”

In his review for Recode​, Walt Mossberg also saw much to praise – as well as a few negatives. “The iPhone remains an outstanding smartphone, and this latest model makes it even better in many ways,” he wrote.

Despite this, Mossberg came to the conclusion that “the whole audio jack thing makes choosing the iPhone 7 more difficult than it might have been.” 

For Apple owners who are on the company’s installment plan – where you upgrade to a new phone every year – it makes sense to adopt the iPhone 7. For others, he suggested it might be more worthwhile to wait for next year’s rumored “big redesign,” expected coincide with the device’s 10th anniversary. 

Mossberg, like Stein, championed the phone’s impressive camera and “great battery life.” 

“The bigger Plus easily turned in 13- to 15-hour days, often with power left in the tank, doing a wide variety of tasks. For instance, my test iPhone 7 Plus was at just a few minutes shy of 14 hours with 14 percent left when I got to my DC-area home after flying from San Francisco and using the phone heavily on cellular networks, and hotel, airport and airplane Wi-Fi​,” he wrote. “That’s a scenario I usually find to be a battery-killer. The smaller model was typically in the 12- to 14-hour range, even after hours of streaming video and music.”

He was less complimentary of the headphone jack change. 

“I’m sure the wireless earbud and headphone revolution is upon us now and that, in a few years, the battery life will double or triple. For now, though, this Apple change of a standard component adds a hassle to your phone use, whether you are wired or wireless,” he wrote. “It’s an annoyance and a negative.”

“The anti-anxiety iPhone”

The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey A. Fowler also singled out the removal of the headphone jack as a negative, but added that Apple “filled that space with precious, life-sustaining battery and other practical stuff.” 

In his “brutal tests,” the phone lasted an hour and a half longer than previous models on a single charge. It survived a half-hour underwater in a fish tank. And its high-end camera took great photos.

But while these are great features, Fowler snarkily said that all of this makes the iPhone 7​ the best phone of “2015.” Many of these things are also offered by competitor Samsung in its popular Galaxy S7​. (Of course, Samsung has run into trouble with its Note 7 phones, which it recalled over fire-prone batteries​​.) 

Fowler also observed that Apple did a poor job of explaining its headphone jack redesign to consumers. 

“The iPhone 7 still comes with corded earbuds, but they plug into the Lightning port now instead of the old round plug, and the box comes with an adapter so you can use your old headphones,” he wrote. “There’s one big downside: You can’t plug in headphones and the charger at the same time unless you buy another strange adapter—for $40!”

“Just fine, even if it doesn’t wow”

The Associated Press review by Anick Jesdanun is headlined with the underwhelming assessment, “The iPhone 7 is just fine, even if it doesn’t wow.”

In light of the well-known headphone complaint, she focuses on Apple’s solution: the new wireless AirPods earphones. They won’t hit the market until October, and must be purchased separately from the iPhone 7, at a price of $159.

“AirPods are two tiny inch-and-a-half Bluetooth earpieces designed to integrate with Apple’s software. Setting them up involves little more than opening the case near your phone and tapping ‘Connect,” Jesadunun writes. 

“Audio plays automatically when you’re wearing them, and pauses when you pop one out to talk to someone. Double tapping on an earpiece let me ask the Siri voice assistant to change the volume, rewind or check the weather.” 

In her tests, the AirPods lasted well over the promised five hours of use on a single charge.

As for concerns that the pricey wireless ear buds will be easily lost: “The AirPods did stay in my ears through one bike ride, eight runs and some jumps, though one dropped out as I changed my shirt.” Apple has said it plans to sell individual replacements, but hasn’t announced how much a single AirPod will cost.

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