The iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone for work yet. Mobile workers will love its superlong battery life, and everyone else will appreciate the phone's speedy performance; roomy, 5.5-inch display; and sleek, waterproof design. But depending on how you use your phone, the lack of a headphone jack on the iPhone 7 Plus (starting at $769) could be a tough pill to swallow.
The iPhone 7 Plus sports a design that's nearly identical to that of last year's iPhone 6s Plus, which is to say that it looks great. It's slim and sleek, with nice rounded edges that rest comfortably on my palm. It's available in the usual Silver, Gold, Rose Gold and Black, as well as a glossy new Jet Black option. Apple also recently unveiled a (PRODUCT) Red option for $869. For every model of that version sold, Apple will contribute to the Global Fund to support HIV/AID programs that help to deliver an AIDS-free generation.
But while it looks like last year's iPhone, this year's model is tougher. The iPhone 7 Plus, as well as the smaller but otherwise identical iPhone 7, are rated to meet the IP67 standard, which means both can survive a dunk in the pool or sink. We put that claim to the test, pouring water onto the 7 Plus and then submerging it in a pitcher. The phone functioned just fine afterward. As a bonus, it's also resistant to dust.
Apple is actually playing catch-up on the durability front, since Samsung has offered water- and dust-resistance on its flagship phones for a few years. Still, it's nice to know that the iPhone 7 Plus can survive a little water.
Apple is known for being a bit stingy about storage space, giving up a meager 16GB of storage on entry-level iPhones for years now. That's why we're thrilled to see the company nixing the 16GB storage option with the iPhone 7 Plus; this device comes with 32GB of internal storage for the base model.
That's a perk for business users, especially if you use your personal phone as your work phone. No longer will you be forced to choose between your MP3 collection and your work files when you run out of storage space. And if you need even more space, you can shell out for 64GB, 128GB or 256GB models.
It may be hard for die-hard iPhone fans to hear, but Apple has removed the physical home button from this year's model. On previous versions, users would physically click on this button, which provided tactile feedback whenever users wanted to return to the phone's home screen. Apple swapped that feature for a flat, capacitive touch button for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
But don't fret. Apple's Taptic Engine — which allows for dynamic vibrations when you press your finger down or lift it from the button — nearly re-creates the sensation of pressing a physical button. It feels a bit like magic, and it's actually really satisfying. I wanted to "click" the button over and over just to marvel at it. Apple even lets you tweak how hard you need to press, as well as how much physical feedback you'll receive, in the settings menu.
[Read more: iPhone 6s Review: Is It Good for Business?]
No headphone jack
The familiar 3.5mm headphone jack — the same one you'll find on virtually every other smartphone, tablet and laptop computer — is absent on the iPhone 7. Presumably, Apple nixed the feature in order to cram better hardware or a bigger battery into this year's model without adding bulk. You can still connect headphones in a couple of ways, though.
For starters, Apple includes its own wired headphones (called "EarPods") that plug right into the Lightning charging port on the bottom of the phone. Unfortunately, the headphones don't feel very comfortable to me, since they're hard and don't fit the shape of my ears.
The other option is to connect your existing 3.5mm wired headphones to the new iPhones by plugging them into the Lighting charging port with the help of an included adapter (which is $9 to replace if you lose it, by the way). Just remember that you can't charge and listen at the same time unless you pick up a different $40 adapter that splits the connection.
The final, and perhaps best, option is to connect wirelessly with Bluetooth headphones. That might mean you'll have to invest in a new set of headphones. It also means that you'll have to worry about recharging your headphones periodically.
Depending on how you use your work phone, the lack of a headphone jack may or may not be a big deal. For me, it feels like a definite step backward. Not only do I use headphones to listen to music and podcasts on my phone, but I also plug them in so that I can take phone calls hands free.
By the way, don't fret too much if you use a Square credit card reader (or similar accessory) to process credit cards using your smartphone. The Square reader (which was designed to plug into the headphone jack on your smartphone or tablet) works just fine with the iPhone 7's 3.5mm headphone adapter. Ditto for microphones and other headphone jack accessories.
The iPhone 7 Plus' 5.5-inch display is big, bright and gorgeous. While watching the HD trailer for Ghost in the Shell, I could make out small bits of rubble being blasted apart by a spray of bullets, and the neon reds, yellows and greens of a futuristic cityscape looked rich and vibrant. More importantly for workers, the display feels really roomy, which is good for screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents.
I'm still disappointed that Apple hasn't implemented split-screen multitasking on the iPhone. That's a feature you will find on competing big-screen smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. The split-screen view admittedly isn't terribly useful on a small smartphone screen, but it's occasionally handy for certain tasks, like referencing your calendar while drafting an email.
(By the way, the S7 Edge is not to be confused with the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung's other phablet, which was recently recalled after reports of exploding devices. The S7 Edge is safe to buy.)
The iPhone 7 Plus has all the security features needed to please corporate IT departments. For starters, the Touch ID fingerprint reader embedded in the phone's home button is as good as ever. Every time I tested it, the reader quickly and reliably recognized my fingerprint and whisked me to the phone's home screen. Touch ID can also be set up to log you in to secure apps and accounts.
On top of that, you get solid encryption tools, including full hardware encryption for files and data, and encrypted messaging via the built-in iMessages app. Those features will help workers make sure that private work data and messages stay private.
The iPhone 7 comes with improved front and back cameras. But it's the beefed-up, 7-MP front-facing camera that might be most interesting for workers, because it makes for crisper, clearer videoconferencing. That's a bonus for any people who use their iPhones to meet remotely with customers or clients. When I tested this feature out, the view from the front camera looked sharp, and even fared pretty well in low light.
The iPhone 7 is powered by iOS 10, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. The software update has a bunch of productivity-boosting additions, including an improved version of virtual assistant app Siri, and new ways to link your iPhone with your MacBook computer.
[Read more: iOS 10: Top Business Features]
I also liked swiping right on the home screen, which took me to the Today screen. That gave me a quick glimpse at the latest news headlines, weather, upcoming calendar appointments and more.
On the app side of things, Apple recently rolled out real-time collaboration for its entire iWork suite of apps, so you can collaboratively edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations with other members of your team in real time.
Finally, Apple released an iPhone that can last through the end of the workday and beyond. The iPhone 7 ran for 10 hours 38 minutes on our battery life test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That makes this the longest-lasting iPhone ever made, by far. It easily outpaces last year's iPhone 6s Plus, which ran for just 8 hours and 16 minutes, nearly an hour less than the average smartphone. And the new iPhone even beats Samsung's long-lasting Galaxy S7 Edge (10:09).
The iPhone 7 Plus feels like the speediest smartphone I've ever used, so I wasn't very surprised that it outpaced all rivals on our synthetic benchmark speed tests. In practical terms, that means you won't have to endure those small moments of lag when opening a new app, or while switching among open apps. During my testing period, the iPhone 7 Plus blazed right along during bouts of multitasking, without any noticeable slowdown.
The phone, which is powered by Apple's new A10 Fusion processor, racked up an impressive score of 5,507 on the Geekbench 4 test, which measures overall performance. That easily outpaces the new iPhone's closest rivals, including the Galaxy S7 Edge (3,917) and the LG G5 (3,737).
iPhone 7 Plus vs. iPhone 7
The iPhone 7 Plus launched alongside the smaller iPhone 7, which offers nearly identical features in a smaller package. The iPhone 7 sports a 4.7-inch display (compared to 5.5 inches for the 7 Plus), making the slimmer device easier to handle, at the expense of providing less screen space to work on. The smaller model also died about an hour and a half sooner on our battery test, but its 9-hour run time is still pretty impressive. Otherwise, the iPhone 7 is about as good a work phone as its bigger brother.
The iPhone 7 Plus is nearly everything you could want in a business phone. It boasts a roomy display, speedy performance and long battery life, so you can keep on multitasking well after the end of the workday. Strong security features and excellent videoconferencing capabilities round out the package. Plus, this is just a gorgeous piece of technology that's a pleasure to use.
If you want to use your existing wired headphones with the iPhone 7 — either for videoconferencing and calls, or just for listening to music or podcasts during your daily commute — you might be turned off by the lack of a standard headphone jack. Otherwise, the iPhone 7 Plus is a top-tier option for workers.