iPhone 8/8 Plus

Macworld - - Contents - Leah Yamshon

iPhone 8: From £699 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/y8tmsvn2 iPhone 8 Plus: From £799 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/y8tmsvn2

Ap­ple re­leases a new iPhone ev­ery Septem­ber, and it’s a given that it will be the best ever. But what do you do when the com­pany an­nounces not one, not two, but three new mod­els? How do you rank them and de­cide which one is the ac­tual best iPhone ever, es­pe­cially when they don’t all go on sale at the same time?

Be­cause of this, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are at an un­fair dis­ad­van­tage right out of the gate. The iPhone X was an­nounced at the same time and is the clear fron­trun­ner when it comes to in­no­va­tion – it has an all-new de­sign with an edge-to-edge, bezel-less OLED dis­play and a new Face ID tech­nol­ogy that lets you un­lock your hand­set just by look­ing at it. The iPhone 8 main­tains the same look and feel of the 6, 6s, and 7, with some changes and en­hance­ments.

How­ever, push­ing the iPhone X aside, the 8 and 8 Plus make sub­stan­tial im­prove­ments over last year’s iPhone 7, which Mac­world’s Susie Ochs said felt “like a beta ver­sion of what’s to come.” Well, the iPhone 7 is of­fi­cially out of beta, and it’s called the iPhone 8.

Fa­mil­iar de­sign with a glassy ad­di­tion

It’s true: at a glance, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus look al­most iden­ti­cal to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. They have prac­ti­cally the same di­men­sions (138.4x67.3x7.3mm for the iPhone 8; 158.4x78.1x7.5mm for the iPhone 8 Plus), same dis­play size (4.7 inches di­ag­o­nally for the iPhone 8; 5.5 inches for the iPhone 8 Plus), same but­ton

and port lo­ca­tions, and they both lack a head­phone jack (very sorry to say). If you have a case for your iPhone 7, it will fit the iPhone 8 like a glove.

Colour wise, you have three op­tions: space grey with a black bezel, sil­ver with a white bezel, or gold with a white bezel. Gone is the jet black matte fin­ish, and gone is the lovely rose gold op­tion, but Ap­ple switched up its stan­dard gold op­tion to meet us some­where in the mid­dle. If you com­pare a gold iPhone 6/6s or 7 to a gold iPhone 8, you’ll no­tice that the iPhone 8 has a cop­per-bronze tint to it, where the older mod­els are closer to a cham­pagne gold. I’m low-key ob­sessed with the new gold op­tion – I think it’s the iPhone’s best colour yet.

But if you look closer, you’ll no­tice one key de­sign dif­fer­ence: it has a glass back, fea­tur­ing a new glass for­mula that Corn­ing made es­pe­cially for Ap­ple. Ap­ple claims that it has a 50 per­cent deeper strength­en­ing layer over Go­rilla Glass. Be­cause of the glass, the 8 mod­els are slightly heav­ier than the 7 mod­els – the iPhone 8 is 148g, 10g heav­ier than the 7; the 8 iPhone Plus is 202g, 14g heav­ier than the 7 Plus. I didn’t no­tice the ex­tra heft at all when com­par­ing the iPhone 8 to the 7, but it is def­i­nitely no­tice­able in the Plus ver­sion. How­ever, the iPhone 8 Plus doesn’t feel like a heavy phone what­so­ever.

This isn’t the first iPhone to fea­ture a glass back: The iPhone 4 and 4s also had glass, but Ap­ple ditched it with the iPhone 5. I like the look of the glass a lot – it gives the iPhone a nice shine, and also gives it a bit of con­trast from the main colour. Take the new gold, for ex­am­ple. The glass back

gives it a kind of cream-coloured fin­ish, and the gold re­ally pops along the edges.

Yes, the glass does make the phone a bit more slip­pery com­pared to the alu­minium fin­ish of the iPhone 7. I haven’t had a prob­lem with it slip­ping out of my hands or slid­ing off of a ta­ble or any­thing un­ex­pected, but it just feels more slip­pery, gen­er­ally speak­ing. And it ab­so­lutely will show fin­ger­prints and smudges, even af­ter a few min­utes of ca­sual use. If you’re wor­ried about any of the above, then a case is the way to go.

Wire­less charg­ing

There’s a rea­son why Ap­ple re­vived the glass back. The ma­te­rial is more con­ducive to wire­less charg­ing – which can’t travel through met­als – and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are Ap­ple’s first phones

that sup­port the tech­nol­ogy. You can top up your iPhone 8’s bat­tery with any wire­less charg­ing pad that uses the Qi stan­dard – just place your iPhone on the pad, and it will be­gin to charge. It will make the same charg­ing chime and flash the light­ning bolt in­di­ca­tor, just as it does with a Light­ning con­nec­tor. Have a case on your phone? No prob­lem: if it’s not metal, it should charge just fine through the case. I’ve tested out the iPhone 8’s charg­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties with sev­eral dif­fer­ent cases and haven’t had any prob­lems.

I didn’t think this would be a fea­ture that I cared much about, but it turns out, I do. I love that I can just set my iPhone down on the charg­ing pad by my desk or on my night­stand with­out hav­ing to fid­dle with a Light­ning ca­ble. It will be a lot bet­ter when Ap­ple re­leases its Air­Power charg­ing pad in 2018, where I should be able to charge my new Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 3, my iPhone 8 Plus, and my Air­Pods all on the same pad.

There are some down­sides to wire­less charg­ing, how­ever. To start, you can’t ig­nore the cost. Ap­ple still pro­vides a Light­ning ca­ble in the box when you buy your new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus, but if you picked up one of the charg­ing pads that Ap­ple sells in stores from, for ex­am­ple, Belkin, that will set you back an ad­di­tional £54.95 from tinyurl.com/ y7d­w7Lp6. It’s com­mon to have Light­ning ca­bles in ev­ery room in the house, but to do the same with charg­ing pads could be a ma­jor in­vest­ment.

Wire­less charg­ing doesn’t boast of any speed im­prove­ments, ei­ther. Ap­ple states that wire­less

charg­ing is about as fast as the in­cluded Light­ning ca­ble and wall plug, and our test­ing lines up with that claim. There aren’t any wire­less charg­ing pads that sup­port fast charg­ing on the mar­ket yet, so if you need to reload your bat­tery quickly, you’re bet­ter off us­ing a USB-C to Light­ning ca­ble with a com­pat­i­ble power adap­tor.

Also, you can’t use your iPhone while it’s charg­ing, which is an­noy­ing. Plus, make sure you pay at­ten­tion to how you place your iPhone down on the charg­ing pad – if it doesn’t line up with the sen­sors prop­erly, it won’t charge. Dur­ing my first overnight charge, I had slightly missed the tar­get and the phone was dead be­fore morn­ing. Be­cause of these rea­sons, I sug­gest start­ing with one pad and keep­ing it on your night­stand for overnight charg­ing.

Per­for­mance, speed, and spe­cial fea­tures

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have a brand new chip: Ap­ple’s A11 Bionic, which boasts a six-core CPU and 64-bit ar­chi­tec­ture. Ap­ple claims that its two per­for­mance cores are 25 per­cent faster than the iPhone 7’s A10 Fu­sion chip, while it’s four ef­fi­ciency cores are 70 per­cent faster. Our Geek­bench speed tests sup­port that claim (see the graph be­low).

All I no­ticed was speed on both de­vices, es­pe­cially when com­pared to my year-old iPhone 7 Plus, which has been slug­gish for the last month or so. Apps launched right away, un­lock­ing the phones with Touch ID was quicker than ever, Ap­ple Pay was seam­less, and video stream­ing via Ap­ple Mu­sic, Net­flix, and YouTube had lit­tle to no de­lay. Run­ning pow­er­ful im­age-edit­ing ap­pli­ca­tions such as Adobe Light­room? Not a prob­lem on ei­ther phone.

Graph­ics-heavy games like Su­per Mario Run with large files? Also fast. Even in­stalling new pro­grams and run­ning up­dates felt fast.

The speed is most no­tice­able when play­ing around with aug­mented re­al­ity apps. There are a small hand­ful of AR of­fer­ings in the App Store – home dec­o­rat­ing apps from Ikea and House­craft, Sky Guide AR for star gaz­ing, and a di­nosaur app called Mon­ster Park – Dino World to name a few – and the iPhone 8 han­dles all of these bet­ter than the iPhone 7. They are ridicu­lously fun to play around with, too: the apps prompt you to scan the floor around you, which takes just a few sec­onds, and then you’ll have di­nosaurs stomp­ing around your liv­ing room in no time.

I also no­ticed slightly bet­ter bat­tery per­for­mance, too. Both the iPhone 8 and 8

Plus sur­vived a heavy day of use while I was at Dis­ney­land with­out need­ing a charge, where I was con­stantly snap­ping pho­tos and videos for my Instagram story, tex­ting, play­ing games while wait­ing in line, stream­ing mu­sic, and more. A nor­mal day of use still fares bet­ter than my iPhone 7 Plus, ev­ery sin­gle day that I’ve been test­ing these phones.

Of­fi­cially, Ap­ple says that bat­tery life is about the same be­tween the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 (12 hours of in­ter­net use on the iPhone 8, 13 hours on the iPhone 8 Plus), so your mileage will vary. On a nor­mal use day, I typ­i­cally have around 25 per­cent left on the iPhone 8 and 30 per­cent on the 8 Plus; my iPhone 7 Plus usual hov­ers some­where around 15 per­cent. Chances are, you won’t no­tice much of a dif­fer­ence un­less your older phone has ex­pe­ri­enced some per­for­mance is­sues (as mine has).

As for call qual­ity, ev­ery call I made on both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus sounded crys­tal clear, both when us­ing Wi-Fi-based call­ing or FaceTime calls and while mak­ing calls over my cel­lu­lar net­work. I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced any of the crack­ling is­sues that have plagued other iPhone 8 own­ers. Luck­ily, Ap­ple has pushed out an iOS 11 up­date (iOS 11.0.2) that should fix the crackle prob­lem, if you have it.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus main­tain the same level of wa­ter re­sis­tance as the iPhone 7, with a IP67 rat­ing (you can sub­merge your iPhone for up to 30 min­utes in a depth of 1.5m). I took them for a quick dunk in a swim­ming pool. One caveat: you’ll have to dry off your Home but­ton to use Touch ID, and you should make sure your cam­era lenses are dry, too.

An­other wel­come fea­ture is the iPhone 8’s TrueTone Retina HD dis­play, which au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs the white bal­ance on the dis­play to bet­ter match the am­bi­ent light around you. It’s re­ally no­tice­able when you com­pare the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 8 – the iPhone 8 (and 8 Plus) look crisper and warmer. If you don’t have an older iPhone handy, you can tog­gle this set­ting off or on while set­ting up your new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus to see the dif­fer­ence.

The cam­era

Look­ing at spec­i­fi­ca­tions alone, it doesn’t look like the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus has im­proved their cam­eras much over the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. But when us­ing the cam­eras in the field, there are no­tice­able im­prove­ments.

The iPhone 8 has a 12 megapixel back-fac­ing cam­era, with ƒ/1.8 aper­ture and dig­i­tal zoom ca­pa­bil­i­ties up to 5x – just like the iPhone 7. It still has op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, a quad-LED True Tone flash, noise re­duc­tion, auto HDR, and all of the other mar­quee iPhone 7 cam­era fea­tures.

I’ve been us­ing the Plus ver­sion of Ap­ple’s phones since the launch of the iPhone 6, and the Plus has al­ways had a bet­ter cam­era over its baby brother. I was re­ally im­pressed with what the iPhone 8 can do with its cam­era – all of the pho­tos I took look great, with vi­brant colours and sharp de­tails that I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to see.

The cam­era app hasn’t changed at all in iOS 11, so you can launch it and start tak­ing great pho­tos right away. Be­cause of the speedy A11 Bionic chip, the cam­era was quick to fo­cus and snap pic­tures, even if I was in mo­tion.

The iPhone 8 Plus has more to of­fer. Both the 7 Plus and 8 Plus cam­eras still rock dual 12Mp set­ups, with a wide-an­gle lens at an aper­ture of f/1.8 with OIS, and tele­photo lens at f/2.8. The 8 Plus has up­graded its Sony sen­sor to be more power ef­fi­cient and to al­low ‘deeper’ pix­els over the iPhone 7 Plus.

Im­me­di­ately, I no­ticed a bet­ter colour bal­ance on the iPhone 8 Plus over the 7 Plus. Colours were just a bit more vi­brant, but in a nat­u­ral way – noth­ing seemed heav­ily fil­tered or over­sat­u­rated.

My night­time and dusk shots had also greatly im­proved, as the iPhone 8 Plus is bet­ter equipped to han­dle low-light pho­tos (see overleaf).

You still can see some lev­els of grain­i­ness in low-light en­vi­ron­ments, es­pe­cially if you’re us­ing the zoom, but it of­fers bet­ter re­sults than the 7 Plus.

Mind you, I am not a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher by any means. I don’t own a DSLR, and I’m mostly con­cerned with how good my pho­tos look for Instagram-re­lated pur­poses – but even I can clearly see the dif­fer­ences.

One fea­ture that left me dis­ap­pointed is the iPhone 8 Plus’s Por­trait Light­ing mode, which uses

depth and fa­cial recog­ni­tion to se­lec­tively al­ter the im­age to recre­ate pro­fes­sional-grade stu­dio light­ing ef­fects. This fea­ture is still in beta, so I can’t judge it too harshly yet, but some of our re­sults so far leave much to be de­sired. Two modes – Stu­dio Light and Con­tour Light – per­formed okay, adding a nice level of back­light­ing and fa­cial de­tails that could be use­ful in cer­tain set­tings. How­ever, Stage Light and Stage Light Mono look flat-out silly most of the time. Use these spar­ingly.

Luck­ily, the de­fault Por­trait Mode set­ting – Nat­u­ral Light – is a joy to work with. The bokeh ef­fect is soft and sub­tle, and the clar­ity of most photo sub­jects is ex­cel­lent.

Ver­dict

It’s dif­fi­cult to put a la­bel on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. It’s a def­i­nite up­date from 2016’s iPhone 7 – even though it looks al­most ex­actly the same – but it’s dif­fer­ent enough that it doesn’t de­serve to be given an ‘S’ nam­ing scheme. To me, it feels more like an ‘iPhone 7 and three-quar­ters’: too dif­fer­ent to be a 7, not quite dif­fer­ent enough to be bumped into a new cat­e­gory.

And that’s why, un­der­stand­ably, some iPhone diehards may be bored with the iPhone 8. It’s a big im­prove­ment, but not quite in­no­va­tive enough to be ex­cit­ing. All of the in­no­va­tion hype lies with Novem­ber’s re­lease of the iPhone X.

How­ever, the iPhone X might be too rad­i­cal for many users. Re­mem­ber when we all flipped out over the loss of the head­phone jack on the iPhone 7?

For some, los­ing Touch ID and re­ly­ing on ges­tures for nav­i­ga­tion in­stead of a Home but­ton will be just as hard of an ad­just­ment. The iPhone 8 might be play­ing it safe, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

So, who is the 8 and 8 Plus for? If you’re on the iPhone Up­grade Plan (or other sim­i­lar plan with your car­rier), you have no in­ter­est in the iPhone X, and the cost dif­fer­ence be­tween your cur­rent phone and an 8 isn’t that much, this is a worth­while up­grade. If you’re rock­ing an iPhone 6s or older, the im­prove­ments here will be no­tice­able, too. But if you’re on an iPhone 7 and still love it, you can prob­a­bly stick with your cur­rent phone for one more year and be just fine.

Ap­ple sells third-party wire­less pads, such as this one from Belkin

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are much faster than their pre­de­ces­sors, based on our Geek­bench tests. Longer bars are bet­ter

More AR di­nosaurs, please

There’s a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence be­tween the iPhone 8 and the oth­ers – the 8 had trou­ble fo­cus­ing with the neon signs. There’s a slight dif­fer­ence be­tween the 7 Plus and 8 Plus, with the neon shin­ing a lit­tle brighter on the 8 Plus iPhone 8 Plus

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