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iPhone Q&A - Published October 7, 2016

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How fast are the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models compared to one another and earlier iPhone models?

Apple's company press release for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus boasts that these devices have a new A10 Fusion chip.

Apple reports that the A10 Fusion processor has:

Four cores, seamlessly integrating two high-performance cores that run up to two times faster than iPhone 6, and two high-efficiency cores that are capable of running at just one-fifth the power of the high-performance cores. Graphics performance is also more powerful, running up to three times faster than iPhone 6 at as little as half the power, enabling a new level of gaming and professional apps.

Although performance gains of two and three times faster sound impressive, it also is worth noting that Apple is comparing the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 6 released two years earlier rather than the faster iPhone 6s released last year.

Compared to one another, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus mostly have the same components that are a factor in performance. Both have the same processors and graphics processors, for example. However, the larger iPhone 7 Plus has 3 GB of RAM and the iPhone 7 only has 2 GB of RAM, the first time that the "Plus" model has had more RAM than its smaller counterpart.

Consequently, it would not be unreasonable to think that the iPhone 7 Plus could perform some tasks more quickly than the iPhone 7, although it has to drive a larger display, and the larger display could negate the extra RAM, too.

iPhone 7 Plus Back
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPhone 7 Plus)

Compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s models, the iPhone 7 has faster processors and graphics processors, but the non-Plus iPhone 7 has the same 2 GB of RAM as the iPhone 6s. The iPhone 6 models, on the other hand, only have 1 GB of RAM. It is safe to assume that twice the RAM will make a significant impact on overall performance.

Just how substantial the performance improvement of the iPhone 7 is compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s as well as earlier models requires benchmarks and real-world testing, though.

Benchmark Performance Overview

For a solid general overview of the performance differences between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, earlier iPhone models, and even the iPod touch and iPad lines, Everyi.com's own Ultimate iComparison makes it quick to compare side-by-side Geekbench benchmark averages for hundreds of possible performance comparisons.

The Geekbench 3.0 benchmark shows that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus essentially are the same speed with a negligible speed advantage for the iPhone 7 Plus. The difference is imperceptible in day-to-day use, certainly.

Compared to other recent iPhone models, the iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus are faster across the board:

iPhone 7 Compared To: Percent Faster
iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus 93%-114%
iPhone 6s/iPhone 6s Plus 27%-37%
iPhone SE 25%-35%
iPhone 5s 118%-145%


Although the iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus shows impressive speed gains, it also is not hard to see why Apple's PR department chose to compare the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 6 from two years earlier. Twice as fast is a much more compelling sales pitch than "30% or so faster" than last year's iPhone 6s.

It also is worth noting that the Geekbench 3.0 benchmark reports that the iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus additionally is around 35% faster in single core tasks and 10% faster in multicore tasks than the entry-level MacBook, the MacBook "Core m3" 1.1 12" (Early 2016). It even is roughly equal to the speed of the entry-level 15" MacBook Pro, the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.2 15" Mid-2015 (IG), in single core tasks.

Although to be fair, this MacBook Pro had not been updated in quite some time when the iPhone 7 was introduced. With a benchmark result 138% faster, this MacBook Pro slaughters the iPhone 7 in multicore tasks, too.

Although it triggered some well deserved criticism of benchmarks, the iPhone 7 is the first iPhone to outperform the MacBook in the Geekbench benchmark and it definitely shows the potential of Apple processors in notebook computers.

Real-World Performance & Other Benchmark Tests

Although Geekbench 3.0 succinctly demonstrates that the iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus are significantly faster than earlier iPhone models, additional tests can be helpful, particularly to evaluate how the benchmark numbers translate into actual use.

In real world use, TIME reported:

The improved performance is somewhat noticeable in everyday tasks: the iPhone 7's camera launches slightly faster than that of the 6s, and the phone unlocks just a hair quicker as well. These enhancements are more prominent when using more resource-greedy apps, like Prisma, which uses artificial intelligence to edit photos in the style of famous artists. With the iPhone 7, the Prisma app was able to work its apparent magic a few seconds faster than it does on the iPhone 6s.

Engadget discovered a modest improvement in gaming performance without a corresponding hit to battery life:

Both the [iPhone] 7 and 7 Plus were also able to handle graphically demanding games like Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade, Submerged and Mortal Kombat X without breaking a sweat. In fairness, the 6s and 6s Plus played these nearly as well, but the 7 and 7 Plus's batteries don't get depleted as much in the process.

In a more detailed review, iLounge objectively noted:

In real world use, though, we've entered the land of diminishing returns. While these iPhones are very fast, the 6s and 6s Plus were quite speedy, too. Power users may notice a difference, though -- and anyone upgrading from an older iPhone certainly will. We played some games on the new iPhones, including the game Apple demoed during the iPhone 7 introduction, Nexon's Oz: Broken Kingdom. The game ran smoothly on both iPhones, while our 6s Plus did have a bit of slowdown comparatively at times. Perhaps this is where the performance of the A10 Fusion really shows up -- gamers take note.

In day-to-day use, from these opinions, it is clear that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are faster than the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, but not always noticeably so.

Real-World Video Test Results

Benchmarks are an excellent way to quantify performance and opinions are helpful, but video always is useful, as well. Video can be particularly worthwhile to demonstrate the "feel" of performance in real-world use.

These videos from YouTuber ZONEofTECH compare the real world performance of the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7 as well as the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus:

iPhone 6s vs. iPhone 7 Performance

iPhone 7 vs. iPhone 7 Plus Performance

These videos show that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus essentially are the same speed and that the iPhone 7 is faster than the iPhone 6s, but the speed difference often is modest or even difficult to detect in real-world use.

Performance Summary

Ultimately, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are roughly the same speed and provide a substantial performance increase compared to all earlier iPhone models. Although this performance increase is not as dramatic as Apple's PR department or independent benchmarks might suggest, it is noticeable for some games, in particular.

Impressively, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models are the first iPhone devices to be faster than some Mac notebooks and this very well could demonstrate the beginning of a post-Intel future for Apple hardware.

Also see: What are all the differences between the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7? Which is best?


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