This morning, the embargo for iPhone 8 and 8 Plus reviews lifted, giving us our first real-world look at Apple’s updated flagship lineup.
The iPhone X, which comes out in November, looms large over the iPhone X launch. Many users may choose to wait for the redesigned device to release before making a decision, while others have already decided to fork over the $999 starting price.
The iPhone 8 features the same basic, 4 year old design of the iPhones 6, 6s, and 7, except now with a glass back to enable wireless charging. Most reviews offered positive comments on the new glass back, while still commenting on its outdated look:
The iPhone 8’s a vision in glass. Aluminum keeps the body rigid; glass on the back and front keeps it pretty. It may make the iPhone 8 more fragile—Apple says it won’t, my history with glass phones says it will—but it definitely makes it classier…
John Gruber at Daring Fireball pointed out that these are the least slippery iPhone he’s ever felt, noting that this is a major factor when deciding between Plus and regular iPhone:
These new iPhones look and feel great. I’ve been testing a silver iPhone 8 and gold iPhone 8 Plus since last Wednesday. Whether you like the way their polished back glass looks is subjective, but I like it a lot. Feel-wise, there’s no question in my mind that glass is better than aluminum…
I’ve never owned a Plus-sized iPhone… so I found the 8 Plus with glass back to be a revelation. I prefer it so much to any previous Plus-sized iPhone I’ve tested that it almost feels like a different form factor, not just a different material… [T]he polished glass back of these new phones is grippier. That grippiness is a nice feature for the 4.7-inch size, but for the Plus, I think it’s a necessity — it makes it far more pleasant to hold and use.
Display and Speakers
While both new iPhone feature the same resolution 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays, Apple has added larger color gamut and True Tone technology to the new devices.
John Gruber on the display:
True Tone, though, is the sort of feature that you don’t notice, but rather that you notice the absence of in other devices. It ruins you. When I flew home last week, I spent the first few hours of my flight using the iPhone 8…. Two or three hours into the flight, I needed to check something on my personal iPhone 7… [w]hen I took my iPhone 7 out of my pocket, my first thought was “What’s wrong with the display, why is everything gross and blue?” Then I remembered: True Tone.
The iPhone 8 also features the stereo speakers introduced in iPhone 7, however they’ve been significantly improved.
The iPhone 8’s upgraded stereo speakers are impressively good. Just as on the iPhone 7, the earpiece gets really loud to act as the second speaker, but the whole system gets up to 25 percent louder now. You can hear actual stereo separation, which is wild.
The new glass back on iPhone 8 allows Qi wireless charging for the first time, which while useful seems to charge slower than preferable.
Qi is pretty slow, though — Apple’s goal is to match the charging speed of its own 5W pack-in charger, but I only saw about 15 percent more charge on the 8 Plus every 30 minutes with the Mophie, which is especially pokey when you consider that you can’t pick up and use your phone during that time. A future iOS update will let the iPhone 8 draw more power out of the Mophie and Belkin pads Apple sells in stores, so hopefully things speed up when that happens.
iPhone 8 also includes a ‘fast-charge’ feature for the first time. The feature supposedly charges an iPhone halfway in 30 minutes while using higher wattage chargers.
The iPhones 8 also now support “high-speed charging” when you connect them to a Lightning cable attached to a high-wattage charger…
[I]t’s faster, yes, but not that much faster. I ran the iPhone 8 battery down until it powered off. I plugged it into the 29-watt charger, and got the following results: after 15 minutes it was back to 27 percent, at 30 minutes it was at 54 percent, and at 45 minutes it was at 72 percent. But then I did the same thing with my year-old iPhone 7. After 30 minutes it was at 43 percent, and at 45 minutes it was at 65 percent. (I didn’t pay attention to where it was at after 15 minutes.) The iPhone 8 does charge faster than an iPhone 7, but not by much.
The new A11 Bionic is crazy powerful, and has been testing better than some of Apple’s current MacBook Pro lineup. While the power is there, day-to-day iPhone tasks appear to be just as fast as before.
I didn’t notice a huge performance boost over the iPhone 7 while doing basic things like browsing the web, watching videos, and taking photos. I played a few games and everything seemed fast and fluid, of course. Apple sells iPhones for years after they’re released — the iPhone 6S is still in the lineup! — so a lot of this extra power just feels like headroom for the future, not something you immediately sense when upgrading from a previous model.
The iPhone 8 Plus features a similar dual-camera setup to last years iPhone 7 Plus, however with a new Portrait Lighting mode that is in beta.
The marquee feature of the iPhone 8 Plus is Portrait Lighting. Using deep learning and computer vision, this mode finds faces in an image, detects the planes and angles that need to be lit and applies a variety of different lighting styles that a user can choose from either before or after the picture is taken.
It works better than it has any right to.
Subjects are almost without fail painted appropriately with the different styles of light. A top-down studio style light, a contoured dramatic light that enhances cheekbones and two “stage” lighting modes that drop out the background transform a regular lame snapshot into something you’re proud to throw on the ‘gram or even print out.
Should you Buy One?
David Pierce writes that he strongly recommends the 8 Plus for average users, but techies may want to wait out for the X:
If you want an awesome iPhone, this is it. I’d recommend the 8 Plus, if you can stomach the size, because the added camera power and battery life are really nice to have. But both are fantastic phones, upgrades over even last year’s model. But if you want to be part of the future, save your money for now. Then go get an iPhone X and see what’s really coming next.
John Gruber writes this is the best iPhone yet, and isn’t getting the credit it is due because of iPhone X:
These are solid year-over-year updates — at least as impressive as the iPhone 7 was over the iPhone 6S. If they hadn’t debuted alongside the iPhone X we’d be arguing about whether these are the most impressive new iPhone models since the iPhone 6. There’s a lot to love about them and nothing to dislike.
But they did debut alongside the iPhone X, and because of that almost nobody is excited about them. There’s no use pretending otherwise.
Nilay Patel shares similar sentiments, this is the pinnacle of iPhone, yet its just an iPhone:
And yet, a lot of people are going to buy an iPhone 8 — it’s the phone to get if you’re on an upgrade plan, your older phone breaks or finally gets too slow, or you just need a new phone right now. It’s Apple’s new default phone, and it’s pretty great that a default phone is actually this good. But it’s not the future, and it’s not the cutting edge. It’s just the default.
It’s an iPhone.