TECHNOLOGY

iPhone 8 & 8 Plus: A Great Phone That Doesn’t Take Many Risks

In a nutshell: The iPhone 8 and 8 are safe bets for Apple, combining a tried and tested design with some great internals.

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BY Rahil Bhagat - 17 Oct 2017

In a nutshell

The iPhone 8 and 8 are safe bets for Apple, combining a tried and tested design with some great internals. It’s Apple’s best phone to date and excels even in the shadow of the iPhone X.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus launched under the iPhone X’s looming shadow. After all, the iPhone 8 and 8 plus feel more like a 7s and 7s Plus than a genuine hardware refresh. The X on the other hand does have some interesting new features such as a brand-new OLED screen, a sexy bezel-free design, and a new facial scanner.

This has created some serious confusion for Apple’s ecosystem because up to this point, the Cupertino-based company made its upgrade path pretty simple.

iPhone users now must contend with something Android users deal with every time the question of upgrading comes up: Which of these somewhat identical devices is right for me?

The Good

The first you notice when booting up the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus is just how fast these devices are. iPhones have never been known to be slouches in the performance department, but with the new A11 chip, the 8 and 8 Plus truly redefine flagship smartphone performance.

No matter what I threw at the phones, from intense 3D and AR gaming to intense productivity tasks, these devices handled them with nary the slightest hiccup. Unlike some Android flagships, these phones have excellent thermal performance with neither of them getting uncomfortably hot, even under strenuous load.

Battery life is also fantastic, especially on the 8 Plus where normal usage will give you about a day and a half of usage, easy. I really like little touches like software that ensures that while in standby mode, I lose almost no charge. It’s nice to wake up after a long night’s sleep and find your phone to have only gone down by only a few percent.

The latest addition of course is the inclusion (finally) of wireless charging using the Qi standard, meaning that the same Qi chargers that Android users have had for the past few years can finally be used with your shiny Apple device. In my tests, the regular lightning cable still chargers faster but it’s still a nice addition.

Another nice touch are the new augmented reality features that work very well on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus thanks to the beefier A11 chip. The technology is still new and there are only a limited number of apps out there that use this feature. However, much like the early days of VR on PC, every day sees great new apps coming out such as Ikea Place and Euclidean Lands, a fun little puzzle game.

Apple entering the AR space is more important than people think because it gives developers the confidence that is needed by the platform providers that the technology is viable. In the years to come, when AR becomes commonplace, 2017 will be seen as a watershed year.

The speakers are generally great with rich sounding bass and a nice smoothness, even at high volume.

That leads to my single favourite thing on the new iPhone’s: the camera. On the iPhone 8 Plus and a lesser degree on the 8, the shooters are nothing short of spectacular.

The 12-megapixel camera may seem like a bog-standard smartphone camera but in actuality, its overall performance has to be the best I have ever used, especially considering how easy the software makes it for amateurs to take some really great photos.

For the serious smartphone shutterbug however, the iPhone 8 Plus has a huge advantage over its little brother with dual cameras over the iPhone 8’s single camera. This dual setup lets the iPhone 8s take some incredible low light shots and the new lighting effects in portrait mode are pretty awesome with reliable facial detection, letting users take well composed portrait shots with a variety of studio lighting mode.

The Meh

There is no running away from the fact the iPhone 8 is not the most eye-catching piece of tech. It’s not ugly by any means but these devices basically employ the same design language that Apple has used since the iPhone 6, released in 2014.

Compared to some of the incredibly sexy phones that Android manufacturers have pushed out in the last three years, or even compared to the early look we have had at Apple’s own iPhone X, the 8’s seem a little out of date with their thick upper and lower panels and somewhat bulky thickness, especially for the iPhone 8 Plus which weighs in at 200 grams heavier than the 7 Plus due to the new glass back that allows the 8’s to have wireless charging. There are some benefits to this as cases and other accessories that worked with previous generation iPhones should work with the 8 and 8 Plus.

Like its predecessor, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have an IP67 rating meaning that you can submerge your iPhone for up to 30 minutes in a depth of 1.5 meters, making the phone a passable underwater camera option for shallow snorkelling and the like.

On the software front, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus launched alongside iOS 11, Apple’s latest mobile OS and well…it’s the traditional iOS experience, you already know by now if you like it or not. The changes on iPhone are nowhere near as dramatic as on iPad, where iOS 11 has finally let Apple’s tablet work as a laptop replacement.

The new command centre is a nice touch but stuff like 3D touch still lacks a killer app and continues to feel gimmicky. There are reports of iOS 11 causing issues with older iPhones but on both the 8 and 8 Plus, the software is user-friendly, intuitive and works with nary a hiccup. The lack of customization is still a stickler for people who are on multiple ecosystems and the lack of an app drawer might be jarring for new converts from Android. If you’ve been on Apple since the beginning, however, the software on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will make you feel right at home.

The Bad

iPhones have never been the phones for the budget conscious consumer and with the 8, Apple shows no sign of bucking the trend with the base iPhone 8 retailing for S$1,148 here in Singapore while the 8 Plus will set you back a princely sum of S$1,308. This is a relative bargain compared to the S$1,648 Apple is asking for the upcoming iPhone X.

Should I buy it?

The biggest question of course, and the one you are really here to ask is whether you should buy the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus today or wait for the X.

Well, as in most things, the answer to that question is subjective. The iPhone X is the most dramatic redesign of the platform in years and like most first generation devices, there are bound to be kinks, even for a company as obsessive about quality control as Apple. So if you must have the latest and greatest that Apple has, you have probably already made up your mind regarding the iPhone X.

For the undecided, my advice would be that if you are using an iPhone 6 or older, the switch to the 8 or 8 Plus makes more sense over buying the X, both models of the 8 are fantastic, employ tried and tested hardware and are, relatively, cheaper. It will last you for around the next two years and then you can trade up to whatever succeeds the iPhone X.

If you are on the 6s or newer, there is not much on the 8 that will improve what you already have in your pocket, unless you are a hardcore smartphone photography buff. In that case, the X is a viable option or you could wait another generation for Apple to work out the kinks in what is bound to be the design language for the next generation of iPhones.