The wait is finally over: Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 8, is finally with us – and while some may be holding off for the iPhone X, this is still the most advanced and powerful iPhone released to date.
Apple’s latest launch event, earlier this month, broke new ground. Normally, we’d expect to see just one new iPhone announced – but this year, to mark the phone’s 10th anniversary, they revealed two.
The iPhone X, with its radical redesign and buttonless screen, stole most of the headlines. But before that phone lands in November, we’re treated to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus: a more cautious upgrade to last year’s iPhone 7 model.
But perhaps it’s a little unfair to describe it that way. The 8 packs a bunch of interesting new features into its modestly redesigned case – and we’ve been going hands on with it to bring you the lowdown
For this review, we took a look at both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Our iPhone 8 featured the Gold colour, with our Plus in Space Grey – although both are also available in Silver.
Firstly, there’s no getting away from it: the iPhone 8 is a remarkably similar device to the iPhone 7 in terms of design:
The button layout is exactly the same. There are no surprises in terms of ports and connections. And it’s also essentially the same size – only a fraction of a millimetre larger in height and width.
But there’s one major difference: the 8 features a glass back, as opposed to the 7’s aluminium. This gives the phones a really glossy sheen which, frankly, looks fantastic.
On our Space Grey iPhone 8 Plus, the effect was similar to the glossy Jet Black iPhone 7 – but perhaps even shinier. The Gold iPhone 8 was quite different to Apple’s previous takes on Gold: the colour here is less metallic, with a muted pearlescent finish.
Beyond the looks, the new glass finish feels cold, solid and undeniably expensive in the hand – a really premium feel.
We did a quick round-table in the Team Knowhow office with the iPhone 7 and 8 together – and everyone agreed the 8 looked and felt better in the hand. We also noticed the glass felt a bit less slippery in the hand than the aluminium.
So while the changes are fairly minor, especially compared to the iPhone X, they do make for an improvement over the 7. We’re even coming to terms with the non-mechanical ‘haptic’ Home button – although if the X is anything to go by, we expect this to vanish from next year’s models!
On paper, not much has changed from the iPhone 7 here: the display is the same size, has the same resolution and uses the same LED technology.
But there is one major difference. Both the 8 and 8 Plus feature Apple’s ‘True Tone’ technology, previously only seen on the iPad Pro.
This uses the phone’s camera and light sensors to automatically adjust the colours on the screen to better match the lighting conditions in your environment. This should mean less eye strain for users – and can also improve the screen’s readability in direct sunlight.
It’s a cool feature on paper, but it probably won’t be for everybody. Comparing the display with the iPhone 7, we felt the colour balance was perhaps a little too warm for the room we were in – but this will always come down to personal opinion. Even with True Tone switched off, the screen’s colours seemed to be shifted more towards the red end of the spectrum.
Beyond that, of course, the display is excellent. It’s bright, sharp and clear, and we never saw a visible pixel – it just hasn’t really changed all that much since the iPhone 7.
Under the hood, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have had a significant boost over the iPhone 7, thanks to Apple’s new ‘A11 Bionic’ chip, comfortably the fastest processor ever seen in an iPhone, and 25% faster than the last model.
Of course, the iPhone 7 was no slouch, so the general experience of using the phone remains largely the same. In other words, the iPhone 8 continues Apple’s tradition of providing a snappy, ultra-responsive interface – and frankly, we’d be shocked at anything less.
Where the new chip will really come into its own is with demanding apps, like games with 3D graphics. It also has special technology for powering ‘augmented reality’ apps – more on which later!
The physical hardware here hasn’t changed from the iPhone 7. The iPhone 8 has a single 12 megapixel camera – while the 8 Plus features two lenses, allowing true optical zoom.
iPhones have always been renowned for their cameras, and the 8 is no exception. Focus and shutter speed are both extremely fast – and the images captured are sharp and clear, with beautiful colour depth.
While the hardware’s unchanged, the camera software has been tweaked a little. Low-light and indoor performance is certainly better – and on the Plus model, the exclusive ‘Portrait’ mode has seen a significant boost.
This mode uses the two cameras to blur or obscure the background in portrait shots, and now features a host of dramatic new effects, including a ‘Stage’ mode that completely obscures the background.
In our experience, it takes a few weeks of use to really judge a phone’s battery performance – but based on our early experience, the iPhone 8 seems to be basically on par with the iPhone 7.
In other words, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a day’s worth of use out of it, but you’ll definitely need to charge it up each night.
That said, there are two new battery features: fast charging and wireless charging. To take advantage of the fast charging, you’ll need a USB-C cable – sold separately. As for wireless charging, the iPhone 8 uses the ‘Qi’ standard, so there are already dozens of compatible charging mats and accessories on the market.
The iPhone 8 comes with iOS 11 – the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.
We’ve already taken a look at closer look at iOS 11, but among the highlights are an entirely redesigned Control Centre that makes it much easier to access the phone’s settings and features.
The App Store has also seen major changes, with a new ‘Today’ section highlighting new apps and games, with descriptions and introductions by Apple’s own team of editors. This makes it much easier to seek out fun new apps – a really useful improvement.
Finally, and unique to the iPhone 8 (at least until the iPhone X arrives), are its new ‘augmented reality’ abilities.
Powered by the new A11 chip, these features allow apps and games to ‘project’ computer-generated objects into the real world as seen through the phone’s camera.
This lets you use IKEA’s new app, Place, to see what your living room would look like with a new sofa – or watch an action-packed wargame take place on your kitchen table!
Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are available now – and as usual, the price will vary depending on which storage capacity you choose.
For the iPhone 8, the 64GB model will set you back £699, while the 256GB version is £849.
With the iPhone 8 Plus, the 64GB phone is £799 and the 256GB version is £949.
It must be said: the iPhone 8 is a very difficult iPhone to judge.
Taken on its own merits, it’s easily the finest iPhone yet. From the camera to the case, Apple have never done better. It’s a fine and worthy, if minor, upgrade to the iPhone 7.
But the key word here is ‘minor’. Aside from its augmented reality capabilities and its gorgeous glossy sheen, it doesn’t bring that much new to the table.
So if you bought the iPhone 7 last year, the iPhone 8 is unlikely to tempt you away. If you’re the sort to get a new phone every year, and you can afford the higher price, we expect you’ll be holding out for the iPhone X, landing this November.
But if you’re a few models behind in the upgrade cycle, or you simply don’t like the look of the X’s £999 price tag, then we heartily recommend the iPhone 8. It’s without a doubt the best iPhone ever – at least until November 3!