How Is the iPhone 7 Different From the iPhone 6S?

A customer checks an iPhone 7 inside an Apple store

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Every iPhone model with a full number in its name — the iPhone 6 or 7, for example — introduces major changes over the previous year's model. That's certainly true when it comes to the iPhone 7.

For most of these full-number models, those changes include a brand new shape and design. But that's not the case with the iPhone 7, which uses the same physical design as the iPhone 6S.

This is misleading, though, because inside that identical physical shape are profound changes to the internals of the iPhone 7. To understand what these changes are and why they're important, we've listed 9 crucial differences between the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 7.

01
of 09

iPhone 7 Doesn't Have a Headphone Jack

Apple AirPods

Apple Inc.

This may be the thing people think of as the biggest difference between the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 (though we're not sure it actually matters much).

The iPhone 7 doesn't have a traditional headphone jack. Instead, you connect headphones using the Lightning port (or wirelessly if you buy AirPods). Apple reportedly did this to make more room inside the iPhone for a better 3D Touch sensor. Whatever the reason, this makes the iPhone 6S and the iPhone SE that last models with standard headphone jacks.

With the runaway success of AirPods, this now looks like the start of a major new trend in how people listen to music, make calls, and get audio on the go. If you don't have or like wireless headphones, though, you'll probably buy a few of the $9 replacement Lightning-to-headphone jack adapters to connect your existing headphones (one adapter comes free with the phone).

02
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iPhone 7 Plus' Dual Camera System

iPhone photography

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This difference only shows up on the iPhone 7 Plus, but for photographers, it's a huge deal.

The back camera on the 7 Plus actually has two 12-megapixel cameras, not one. The second lens provides telephoto features, supports up to 10x zoom, and allows for sophisticated depth-of-field effects that had not been previously possible on the iPhone. Combine these features with the four flashes included on both the 7 and 7 Plus and the camera system on this iPhone is truly impressive.

For most users, it will be the best camera they've ever owned and a huge step up from the already-very-good camera on the iPhone 6S. For some users, it may even rival the quality of DSLR cameras. 

Learn more about some of the cool features and options this second camera delivers in How to Use Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting on Your iPhone.

03
of 09

Redesigned Home Button

iphone 7

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The iPhone 6S introduced 3D Touch, which allows the iPhone's screen to recognize how hard you're pressing it and respond in different ways. The 7 has the same screen, but adds 3D Touch functionality to another location — it's in the iPhone 7's Home button, too.

The Home button now responds to the strength of your touch. But actually, the new Home button isn't a button at all — it's just a flat, unmoving panel with 3D Touch features (it's actually very similar to Apple's Magic Trackpad). This makes the button less likely to break, aids in dust- and waterproofing (more on that in a minute), and offers potential new functionality for the button.

04
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Increased Storage Capacity: Now Up to 256 GB

increased iphone storage

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This difference between the iPhone 6S and 7 will be a godsend for people with huge music or movie libraries, or who take tons of photos and videos. 

The iPhone 6S stretched the maximum storage capacity for the iPhone line to 128 GB. That doubled the iPhone 6's 64 GB. The iPhone 7 follows the trend of doubling storage by offering up to 256 GB. There are improvements to the smaller capacities, too. The introductory storage capacity is also doubled from 16 GB to 32 GB.

Running out of storage space used to be a concern for people with 16 GB models. That's not likely to be true for as many people in the future.

05
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40% Faster Processor

Apple A10 Fusion Processor

Apple Inc.

Virtually every iPhone is built around a new, faster processor that serves as the brain of the phone. That's true of the iPhone 7, too.

It runs Apple's A10 Fusion processor, which is a quad-core, 64-bit chip. Apple says it's 40% faster than the A9 used in the iPhone 6S and twice as fast as the A8 used in the 6 series. Combining the A10's extra horsepower with new features built into the chip designed to conserve power means you'll not only have a faster phone but also better battery life (the 7 gets about 2 hours more life than the 6S, on average, according to Apple).

06
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Second Speaker Means Stereo Sound

iPhone 7 dual speakers

Apple Inc.

If you prize great-sounding audio from your phone, this difference between the iPhone 6S and 7 will be music to your ears: The iPhone 7 is the first iPhone model to sport a dual-speaker system.

All previous iPhone models had a single speaker at the bottom of the phone. The 7 has that same single speaker at the bottom, but it also uses the speaker that you use to listen to phone calls as a second audio output. So, when playing audio without headphones you'll now hear it coming from both the bottom and top of the phone.

This should make listening to music and movies, and playing games, more immersive and exciting. It's the perfect addition to a device that is so closely tied to multimedia. 

07
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Improved Screens Mean Better-Looking Images

iPhone 7 screen

Apple Inc.

The screens used on the iPhone 7 series look great thanks to Retina Display technology. But many iPhones have that. The screens are a key difference between the iPhone 6S and 7 because the 7's can display an increased color range. 

The increased color range allows the iPhone to display more colors and to have them look more natural. Even better, the screen is also 25% brighter, which provides an additional image quality boost.

Similar technology was introduced with the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro's screen technology relies on a series of sensors to check ambient light levels and adjust the color performance of the screen dynamically. The changes with the new iPhone don't go quite that far — probably because it would have been hard to fit the extra sensors in the phone case — but the color-range change alone is significant.

08
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A Safer iPhone Thanks to Dust- and Waterproofing

Coffee spilling over an iphone

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The first-generation Apple Watch was the first Apple product that featured waterproofing to protect it against an unexpected bath. It complied with the IP67 standard, which means that the Watch can survive being dunked in up to 1 meter (a little over 3 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes.

The iPhone 7 series has both waterproofing and also dustproofing to keep two environmental menaces at bay. It also meets the IP67 standard for dust- and water-proofing. 

While certainly not the first smartphones to offer this feature, the 7 is the first iPhone to have this level of protection.

09
of 09

New Color Options

iPhone 7 color options

Apple Inc. 

The iPhone 6S introduced a new color to the iPhone line-up: rose gold. This was in addition to the traditional gold, space gray, and silver. Those options change with the iPhone 7.

Space gray is gone, replaced by black and jet black. Black is a fairly traditional color. Jet black is a high-gloss, shiny finish, which is only available on the 128 GB and 256 GB models. Apple has cautioned, though, that jet black is prone to "micro-abrasions," a fancy way of saying you should expect it to scuff. That's the downside of a highly polished back, but many people think it looks and feels so great that it's worth it.

Both models still come in silver, gold, and rose gold, too. Apple also added a red edition of the iPhone 7 in March 2017.