New Apple stuff! We test the iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K
Apple’s flagship phone… for now!
From £799 from Apple, apple.com/uk Features 5.5-inch Retina HD display with True Tone, A11 Bionic chip, 12MP camera, wireless charging
We’ll start with the elephant in the room – the new iPhone 8 Plus looks a bit dated compared to
Android rivals, which is a shame. The large bezels look simply ridiculous up against the Galaxy Note 8 and S8+.
There are three colour options; slate grey, silver and gold – although the new gold colour is a bit rosier in appearance than the old gold you can see on the iPhone 7 Plus.
The iPhone 8 Plus has a brand new chip, the A11 Bionic processor, which moves to six cores rather than the four inside the iPhone 7 Plus’s A10 Fusion. According to our benchmarks this is easily the fastest phone on the market today.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are actually quite a departure for Apple in terms of graphics because they’re the first handsets that use Apple’s own graphics processor instead of Imagination’s PowerVR graphics, which Apple has used over the last decade.
These performance improvements show in general use and everything is noticeably punchy, even when adding effects to photos or editing them. Anecdotally, it feels faster than an iPhone 7 Plus on iOS 11, but we weren’t using a box-fresh iPhone 7 Plus.
The glass back means we can say hello to Qi-compatible wireless charging. As always Apple isn’t first with this tech, not by a mile, but it will make it mainstream and that’s great for wireless charging in general.
Battery life is an interesting aspect, because the battery is actually smaller than last year’s 7 Plus (2,691mAh instead of 2,900mAh), but Apple says that – thanks to improvements in efficiency – it should clock up the same battery life as the iPhone 7 Plus. We found that was about right, too. While intensive use will drain the battery, you can easily get through the day and into the first part of the next. So far we’ve found that we can get it to last 24 hours like the iPhone 7 Plus, charging it when we reach the office each day. By that time you are struggling for battery life a bit, but you can get it there.
An hour’s intensive use – streaming media or constant emails, social and chat – will drain the battery by 8-10%.
There are also many incremental updates like the True Tone display from the iPad Pro, Bluetooth 5.0 and fast charging (if you have a USB-C to Lightning cable). There’s also a new ‘neural engine’. Inside the iPhone X this is used for Face ID, but inside the 8 and 8 Plus it will be used for augmented reality apps.
True Tone is really welcome, and you can
see the slight difference between the screens when compared with the 7 Plus. While it will play back Dolby Vision and HDR10 content just like the new Apple TV 4K, the 8 Plus doesn’t have an HDR display unlike many rival handsets, so you won’t see the video in all its glory. While the display is very usable and most people don’t care, the fact is the 8 Plus’ Full HD display resolution now lags far behind rivals.
Apple has also beefed up the storage of the standard model from 32 to 64GB, while the larger 256GB model remains (the 256GB iPhone 7 Plus has now been dropped, leaving 128 and 32GB options available). The iPhone X also follows the 64/256GB pattern.
iPhone 8 Plus camera
The camera has also received some love too, with a bunch of upgrades including the ability to record gorgeous 60fps 4K video. The results are stunning thanks to a new larger sensor – the core camera specs are the same as last year’s model.
White balance has been significantly improved – you can easily see this in more accurate skin tones. Portrait Mode has been taken a stage further with Portrait Lighting, enabling you to apply different lighting effects, such as studio light.
Image stabilisation is confined to the wide-angle lens as with the iPhone 7 Plus, but the dual camera on the iPhone X also introduces it to the telephoto lens.
A lot of these changes won’t convince iPhone 7 Plus users to upgrade, but anyone with an older handset will be understandably keen to make the leap. It’s a tiny bit of a shame, therefore, that the design of the 8 Plus is quite so similar to its forerunner. It’s also worth noting that the dimensions are ever-so slightly different from the 7 Plus, with a tiny bit of extra thickness and weight.
The iPhone 8 Plus boasts Portrait Mode and the ability to shoot 60fps 4K video.
The A11 Bionic chip makes the iPhone 8 Plus feel particularly zippy when flitting around apps in iOS 11.