For years Apple's upgrade cycles have moved like clockwork: every other year we get a phone that is a generation beyond the previous ones, and in between there are refined "S" versions like the iPhone 5S, 6S, and what would've been the 7S. Except instead of the 7S we are getting the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, slotted just below Apple's new golden child, the $999 iPhone X.
But despite their name, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus still feel like refined versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; they’re fantastic smartphones, but not a generational leap forward. That seems to be reserved for the ambitious iPhone X, leaving iPhone buyers left to decide: do you upgrade to a refined version of the phone you already have, or wait for the iPhone X?
Both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will make fine upgrades for people who’re still holding onto an iPhone 6s, an iPhone 6s Plus, or anything older—or if you are particularly rough on your iPhone 7 and just need a new phone. If you’re the proud owner of a perfectly good iPhone 7 or an iPhone 7 Plus, however, you may be better off standing pat.
With its large, 5.5-inch display, the iPhone 8 Plus is the bigger of the two new iPhones. The other key distinction between the two is the 8 Plus’s dual, 12-megapixel cameras, which allow for some interesting features that you won’t find on the iPhone 8.
Here’s a look at the 8 Plus’s hardware:
• Apple A11 Bionic chipset
• 3GB RAM
• 64/256GB internal storage
• 5.5-inch full-HD (1080x920) LCD display with 3D Touch
• Dual 12MP cameras (28mm f/1.8 and 56mm f/2.8) with optical image stabilization (OIS), phase detection autofocus, dual tone LED flash, 2x optical zoom, 4K video (up to 60FPS) and 1080p video (up to 240FPS)
• 7MP f/2.2 front-facing camera with autofocus, face detection, 1080p video (30FPS) and 720p (240FPS)
• IP67-rated water resistance
• 4G LTE, WiFi, AC/Bluetooth (5.0), and NFC support (with Apple Pay)
• 2,691mAh non-removable, lithium-ion battery with both fast- and wireless charging support
• Lightning port
• Fingerprint scanner
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are the first iPhones to feature wireless charging—a feature Samsung and some other Android phone makers have offered for years. Fortunately, Apple opted to use Qi, the de facto wireless charging standard, which means just about every third party wireless charging pad will work with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus do not feature headphone jacks, but do include Lightning-to-3.5mm dongles.
It’s a premium phone in every sense of the word.
Its shiny glass back might cry out for a case, but there’s no denying the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into the iPhone 8 Plus.
And despite its size, the 8 Plus manages to feel less gargantuan than it actually is. Unlike the iPhone 6S Plus, the 8 Plus's narrow profile nestles into your hand with ease, even though one-handed operation is limited due to the screen size.
It’s fast. Really fast.
Perhaps there’s no better demonstration of the 8 Plus’s premium status than in the performance itself, which delivers the blistering speeds and intuitive experience we’ve come to expect from iOS.
The newest version, iOS 11, is not without its quirks (which range from irritating to downright inconvenient), but between the silky-smooth software and the fortitude of Apple’s new A11 Bionic chipset, the experience is still hands-down one of the best in the smartphone game.
Superb battery life
The iPhone 8 Plus scorched our battery life test, lasting around 10.5 hours under a deliberately heavy workload. This translates into a little over a full day of moderate use, especially if you monitor and adjust the display's brightness throughout the day.
On days when your smartphone use is on the lighter side, you might even be able to squeeze a full day and a half out of the iPhone 8 Plus.
The camera experience is the best in the game.
The iPhone 8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 currently feature the best smartphone cameras money can buy—partly because both of these oversized phones are sporting dual-camera rigs that offer added functionality to make the camera experience more fun and flexible.
Much like last year’s iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 Plus’s dual, 12-megapixel camera sensors let users create DSLR-style portraits by way of dramatic lighting and artful bokeh effects. The results aren’t always perfect, but the imaging software has improved significantly since it debuted on the 7 Plus last fall.
But all of the extra features in the world mean nothing if the pictures themselves aren’t up to snuff. Fortunately, the 8 Plus picks up right where its predecessor left off: at the top of its class.
In our lab, the iPhone 8 Plus’s camera delivered sterling test results. Its dynamic range (the difference of light intensity between the darkest and brightest parts of an image) is reminiscent of high-end DSLRs we tested four or five years ago.
The 8 Plus also holds its own in sub-optimal, low-light settings, delivering photos free of overly-aggressive noise-reduction. Whereas lesser phones have the tendency to obscure finer details in low-light conditions, the 8 Plus preserves them without excess noise.
Unlike Samsung’s flagship smartphones, the iPhone 8’s imaging software favors a more “true to life” color grade rather than the slightly-oversaturated look you’ll find in pictures shot on the Galaxy S8. Which is superior mostly is a matter of personal preference.
The iPhone 8 Plus is so good at taking fantastic pictures that its superb 4K video performance feels like a victory lap. Users can capture UHD video at 60FPS and full-HD (1080p) video up to 240FPS, letting you slow it down on playback.
The lack of a headphone jack is still wack.
This is only the second year of Apple’s headphone jack experiment, and it still doesn’t sting any less than it did last year.
The exclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack limits users to the following options: use wireless headphones (which aren’t nearly as reliable as their wired counterparts), use a dongle (which can be easily lost or broken), use headphones designed specifically for the iPhone’s Lightning port (which lack universal functionality), or don't use headphones at all.
By yanking its customers (and by extension, the industry itself) in this direction, Apple is sacrificing user flexibility in favor of both its lofty design aspirations and its wireless headphone ventures. These reasons might make sense from a business perspective, but as far as I can tell, the only reason Apple blazed this trail was because it could—the company's size and influence allows for it, and the calculus that led to this decision conveniently leaves out the iPhone user base.
Incremental upgrades for a steep cost
Premium smartphones—particularly phablet-sized ones—carry a hefty price tag, so the iPhone 8 Plus's steep price isn't surprising in the least. But last year's iPhone 7 Plus and its dual cameras offered a world of new opportunities for its users, which went a long way when it came time to justify cost.
The 8 Plus is certainly a better phone than the 7 Plus, but it's still more expensive than many other fantastic flagship phones. The price tag makes sense on paper, but the pool of people who can reasonably justify it is much smaller than it was this time last year.
Yes, but only if your current iPhone is older than the iPhone 7.
There's no denying the appeal of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus: They're posh, exquisitely-crafted devices with powerful hardware, streamlined software, and some of the best camera experiences the smartphone industry is currently offering.
That said, anyone hoping for the type of hardware leap we saw between the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 7 might walk away disappointed. Other than wireless charging (and the 8 Plus's updated camera software), this generation of iPhone is all about minor upgrades. Essentially, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are basically what the 7s and 7s Plus would have been if Apple wasn't also launching the iPhone X later this fall.
Apple clearly wanted to shake things up for the iPhone's 10th anniversary, but it likely would've struggled to meet demand for the iPhone X without an easy fall-back option like the 8 and 8 Plus. With the iPhone X already seeing minor delays, that was probably for the best, even if the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus wind up being the phones Apple never wanted to make.
The iPhone X is poised to deliver the type of monumental, industry-shifting progress we've come to expect from a new generation of iPhone devices. In other words, if you're using an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus but still want something new, your best bet is to either pay a premium for the iPhone X or wait for the iPhone X's features to begin making their way into next year's iPhone.
But if you own an iPhone 6s or anything older, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus make way more sense—the price tags are much easier to justify, the upgrades will feel substantial, and you'll still be getting a fantastic phone. You may have to deal with a little bit of buyer's remorse when people start bragging about their new iPhone X, but it's a small price to pay.
Meet the tester
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
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