Jet black and micro-abrasions: how iPhone 7 holds up a month later

By , Oct 18, 2016

jet black micor abrasions

Now that I’ve been using my jet black iPhone 7 for a little over a month, I figured it’d be depressing interesting to look at the state of that high-gloss finish and see how it’s fared over that short period of time.

In previous years, this was not even a concern, but the fragility of the new jet black finish has been under scrutiny since day one, especially as Apple itself noted that jet black devices would be prone to micro-abrasions.

Disclaimer: I’m careful with my stuff

We all use our devices in different ways. I like to think of myself as someone who takes great care of his stuff. While I don’t use a case on any of my iPhones, I am extremely careful with them, making sure they are always either in my pocket or in a safe and stable location, out of reach of my two young children.

I don’t baby these iPhones either. While I try to be gentle with my devices, I don’t let that get in the way of my use of them. All this to say that I am careful, but not crazy careful.

This applies to my iPhone 7 as well. When it is in my pocket, I always make sure not to have anything else in that pocket, especially keys. When it’s somewhere else (desk, table, night stand, etc), I always make sure to put it down gently.

The difference between micro-abrasions and scratches

The way I see it, a micro-abrasion is a mark that you can see but one you cannot feel. On the other hand, a scratch is a mark that you can see and feel if running a fingernail on top of it. I believe this distinction to be important, and I also believe that most people would agree with it.

So, does it show micro-abrasions?

As expected, my jet black iPhone 7 shows quite a few micro-abrasions on the back of the device. I am not sure why, but most of the micro-abrasions show along the bottom edge of the phone. You may think this might be due to the way I put the phone in my pocket, but i’s not, and there is one simple reason for that: for the past several years, I’ve always put my iPhones top first in my left pocket. The reason I do that is because when I pull it out of the pocket, it’s ready to use and I don’t have to switch orientation. It’s a habit.

This said, if the pocket was one of the culprits, micro-abrasions should show at the top of the device, but strangely, that part of my iPhone is the one showing the least amount of micro-abrasions.

So could it be the way I put my iPhone on tables? Well, for the past few days I’ve been trying to be conscious of the way I lay my iPhone when putting it on a table, and every single time, I put the right edge down first, then the rest of the device. Again, I would expect the right edge to show more micro-abrasions than the left one, but it doesn’t. It shows just as much as the left edge.

The sad reality is that there are a couple scratches as well. Now remember that I define a scratch as something I can feel with my fingernail. Unlike the micro-abrasions, you can tell that these scratches are digging deeper into the finish of the surface. You can also feel and hear it when running your fingernail on top of them.

jet black micro abrasion

All this is very difficult to capture on a photograph. Despite being way overexposed, the image above was the best photo I could take to show some of these micro-abrasions.

The bright side of the story

The bright side is, there are so much greasy fingerprints showing on the back of my jet black iPhone 7 that you can barely see the micro-abrasions or scratches. I’m half joking here, but it is true that jet black is a fingerprint magnet. That doesn’t bother me too much because after spending 10 minutes in my pocket walking around, the device usually comes out much cleaner. Besides, I always put my iPhone face up when laying it on a table, so I rarely see the back of the device anyway.

Now if you saw me talking on the phone in the street, you would never be able to tell there is any scratch or micro-abrasion on my iPhone 7. They are there, but you really need to look for them up close and in the right light.

In conclusion…

Micro-abrasions are real, and no matter how careful you’re going to be with your jet black iPhone, you will surely find some on the back of the device. Maybe you’ll find scratches as well, like I do.

If you’re concerned about that, Apple recommends using a case. Personally, I think a case could make things even worse because if you don’t often remove the case to clean up the inside of it, those micro particles of dirt and dust that are inevitably going to get stuck between the case and the back of your iPhone are going to make more damage to this fragile finish than you would if you were just careful. Now if you do want to put a case on it, we have a great selection of heavy duty, ultra thin, and minimalist cases for you to check out.

If you’re thinking that a skin could bring you more protection against scratches, you might want to check out this video showing how a skin applied and then removed from the back of a jet black iPhone has partially removed some of the “iPhone” and regulatory prints from the device.

I personally think it’s cool, but it goes to show once again that jet black is a very fragile finish. It’s definitely not something Apple had intended.

At the end of the day, those micro-abrasions aren’t very visible to the untrained eye, but they would certainly hurt the resale value of your device. If you are concerned about this, my best recommendation would be to simply stay away from this finish. Go with black, which is equally (if not more) beautiful and definitely is a stronger finish that will better stand the test of time.

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  • triggerhappypunk

    have you tried buffing them out?

    • No I haven’t. The only thing I’ve done is cleaning the back with a micro fiber cloth

      • Agneev Mukherjee

        That’s the best cloth available for iPhones; why wouldn’t you use a case even after Apple’s declaration?

      • Because I don’t like cases

      • Agneev Mukherjee

        Cool; I use cases only because the bare iPhone feels way too thin…

      • jaysoncopes

        Amen to this. The naked iPhone is the most natural thing in the world.

      • Agneev Mukherjee

        and perfect for showing off!! 😉 😉

      • MMA Rules

        Why dont you buy a Skin there are transparent one, i bought a colored one, i dont use cases either but like to protect my investments because i alway re-sale my iphones and always get good money back

    • madmaxmedia

      Oh man, are we going back to 2002 to the days of the iPods with chrome backs? Everyone was figuring out how to buff out the scratches in those…

  • Sohrab

    Actually with a case mine is still looking good. Using 4 weeks now.

    • rockdude094

      I just keep my phone in the box and never touch it. Works like a charm still looks brand new.

      • Sohrab

        Let me try. I’ll let you know how it works for me. Cheers

  • NanamiAsuri

    “I am not sure why, but most of the micro-abrasions show along the bottom edge of the phone”
    The reason is the camera bump, the top part of the phone is lifted up by the camera, the bottom part always makes the connection to the table.

    • Very good point. I think you’re onto something.

      • Tim

        It is also the most prone to those abrasions because that’s the part you keep trying to cram onto your dock.

    • WiseBlasian

      Lol yeah I thought that was pretty obvious. I abused my 6s for personal reasons 🙂 and the color was starting to fade in those areas.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    Thanks seb! Was for this article some time ago.

  • Felipe Queiroz Drumond

    The 6s that I bought 13 months ago still in pristine (really) condition. This jet black looks gorgeous, but its drawback is pretty much its colour. No way I’d buy one.

  • I have had my Jet Black iPhone in a case since I bought it, and I don’t have any micro abrasions at all yet. I wonder if it will show them through the little camera peek hole the way most of my iPhones exhibit wear through the open part of the case. Time will tell.

    • Jamessmooth

      same, although the other day I took it out of the case and went nakey for a day, normal use. no microabrasions.

  • igobythisname

    Thanks for sharing this article with us!

  • pnh

    Makes me happy I went with the “other” plain black instead.

  • JaeM1llz

    Not a single scratch or micro-abrasion on my flat black iPhone 7, but I use cases and screen protectors religiously.

    • Chinch07

      No scratches or micro abrasions on mine either and I’m caseless. It just holds up really well. Very impressed.

  • Jamessmooth

    Nice article. I especially liked the included video on the wrap. I think I might check that out, because I just can’t find a case that protects AND shows the jet black

    • Sohrab

      Try Puro

  • Diego Milano

    Why buy such a beautiful device only to keep it covered? I wouldn’t go for the jet black if I had to keep it “hidden” under a “skin.” It’s a no-go for me.

    • Jayy

      I can’t speak for anyone else but, accidents happen and I don’t buy apple care. So that case and screen protector is necessary.

      • Diego Milano

        That’s definitely true. I’ve been using iPod and iPhone devices since the age of the iPod Video (more than 10 years now in the case of the latter) and I only started to use a case for my iPhone (Silver) as of this year only, but I’ve always preferred to leave the device naked.

  • mickey

    Been using my jet black plus naked for 3 weeks now and mine looks a bit better than yours (Sebastian). I think not very visible to the untrained eye is an understatement. You really have to be in the right lighting and angle to see the abrasions. It’s definitely a fingerprint/smudge magnet though. Otherwise, it still looks new to me. Happy I went with the jet black because the grip is much better than other finishes. Good enough for me to keep it naked (my space grey eventually went into an ultra thin case).

  • The only time my jet black iPhone 7 Plus was briefly naked is when I took it out of the box before slipping it in a protective case. I normally don’t use iPhone cases at all but am shitscared that microabrasions will appear as soon as I look at the phone the wrong way.

    • WiseBlasian

      You should never touch it and keep it locked in a sealed transparent box so you can admire it all day long.

  • WiseBlasian

    Thats exactly why I went with the matte black. As sexy as the glossy one is I knew this would happen. I am like you Sebastien and I never had a case since the original iPhone and I take care of my stuff but not a maniac as they are just phones at the end of the day.

    Having a case defeats the purpose of having a nice looking phone even with clear cases. They add bulk anyway. Full body skins are not my thing either as no matter the brand and how well they are installed the corners will still peel off and dirt will accumulate.

    People that use cases want to have their phone looking nice but are you taking off your case just to look at your phone?? Lol. And if you plan on selling the phone and want to keep it nice fair enough but personally I buy my phone for myself, not for when I want to sell it. I plan on keeping my 7 for a long time anyway. Last time I do an annual upgrade. We have reached a point where phones don’t evolve as much.

  • n0ahcruz3

    We all know that this will happen to any shiny stuff, remember ipod classic guys? The back was finger print magnet and easily scratched.

  • mrgerbik

    That color is foolish to buy…

    • nonsense, all depends on who you are. personally i don’t give a shit about fingerprints or micro abrasions. it’s a tool, i use it, whatever. not leaving it in my will for grandchildren..

      • mrgerbik

        Then get a silver one. oO

        Try reselling at a decent price when it looks destroyed lol

  • Leslie Bee

    To summarize this whole issue: Shiny is nice, but not practical.
    (Assuming you wanted to stay shiny, that is.)

    On the other hand, it’s very practical for Apple. All those people with scuffed-up phones wanting replacements every year!

    • jaysoncopes

      Actually, too be fair, nothing about micro abrasions indicates a lack of shininess. Yeah, they’re visible in the right lighting conditions, but the phone is just as much a mirror as ever. I’m personally on week 2 or 3 with my Jet Black and I see very few micro abrasions and continue to mistake the back of the phone for the front (never thought that would happen)

  • bdkennedy

    I just don’t understand why Apple is obsessed with scratchable surfaces. This goes all the way back to the original iPod Nano that was so scratch prone some people couldn’t even read the screen.

    • it never bothered me there either. not sure how i ever lived?

    • jaysoncopes

      I’m not certain that it’s just Apple; basically any surface that is deemed pretty to the eye is probably pretty fragile. Gold loses its luster and shine without proper maintenance and is extremely fragile, even diamonds have to be maintained (though are incredibly expensive for economic reasons). Honestly, Apple just has a good eye for beauty where other manufacturers are looking for flat out usability. I pay premium for Apple devices because I appreciate their touch of beauty and finesse that other companies don’t have.

  • george

    Dang that looks awful

  • Agneev Mukherjee

    The way I see it, a micro-abrasion is a mark that you can see but one you cannot feel. On the other hand, a scratch is a mark that you can see and feel if running a fingernail on top of it.