[Update: Video example of 20 days in below the fold.]
Apple’s new Jet Black finish on the iPhone 7 has a high gloss look and a glass-like grip that makes it super tempting to use without a case. But Apple correctly warns customers that the shiny surface is prone to ‘micro abrasions’ from regular use and recommends using a case to avoid gathering these tiny scratches.
I really like using iPhones without a case, however, and the grippy finish makes handling my iPhone 7 Plus noticeably easier. So how well has the Jet Black glossy aluminum held up after more than a week of use without a case?
The grip is really awesome. I can shuffle the larger iPhone in my hand to reach parts of the screen easier without feeling like I might drop it. This is a practical benefit of a finish I chose purely for its visual appeal.
The high gloss aluminum finish feels remarkably like glass. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between the display and the back casing in a blind test. It also attracts fingerprints just like glass. I’m constantly wiping the back of my iPhone down with my shirt just like I already do for the screen.
I notice fingerprints everyday. I have to actually look for micro abrasions. They are there, but only visible in certain lighting.
Most of the micro abrasions are along the bottom of the back of the iPhone. I’m guessing this has something to do with the iPhone going in and out of my pocket or how the iPhone gets laid down on a table.
Aside from being difficult to see without very bright and direct lighting, these micro abrasions have almost no feel to them. They’re that small; you can barely perceive any difference along the surface when you run your thumbnail along the casing.
I’ve also dropped my Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus two times during the first week and a half of using it without a case. I use a case when I go cycling or running but not in general use. Neither drop damaged the screen, but they both left two distinctive notches on the surface.
One notch on the top looks like a white speck, the other is along the speaker grill and just looks like a cut into the casing without changing colors. Both drops happened after the iPhone slid out of my pants pocket and onto a hard floor in a theater.
My iPhone 6s Plus only took one serious tumble against the pavement that left a few scratches along the back casing, but I’ve never broken a screen (knock on wood) save for the top back glass on the iPhone 5s.
Dropping the Jet Black iPhone 7 is more likely to leave an ugly, color-changing nick than other color options, and it’s a serious finger print magnet so keep that in mind. But as far as micro abrasions and scratching goes, I’m totally comfortable continuing to use my iPhone without a case just like before. If you love the look of the Jet Black color but want to avoid the micro abrasions, a clear case is probably for you.
The Jet Black finish looks and feels great, and you have to hunt for the micro abrasions to even see them. Whether or not layers of micro abrasions will be easier to spot over time is another question.
Check out more hands-on shots below:
[Update 10/18: 20 days in, I went to show a friend how the Jet Black finish is holding up. It’s difficult to photograph with indoor lighting so I took to a quick video in direct sunlight. Check it out below.]