In 2017 Apple launched three flagship devices and we take a look at the most conventional of the bunch. Is the smallest new iPhone a worthy upgrade from the predecessor or is it completely overshadowed by the iPhone X? We take a look in our full iPhone 8 review.
If you think back over the last decade at all the devices that Apple has released, the iPhone 8 has probably generated the least excitement of all. Of course, the reason for that is the iPhone X – the first time Apple has fully diverted from its tried and tested design philosophy. Despite the allure of an edge-to-edge OLED display and futuristic-feeling facial recognition functionality, not everyone will be persuaded to part with $1,000 or more for the iPhone X.
It has come to pass that the iPhone X isn’t a very successful launch – because of that price tag – so let’s look into whether you should go for the more traditional option in our iPhone 8 review.
Design and Build
This is now the fourth year in a row where Apple has stuck with this design for the iPhone. It was first revealed back in 2014 with the iPhone 6. Of course, with every iteration the internals are changed and upgraded – you now have 3D Touch on the display, no more headphone jack, the home button has morphed into the recessed TouchID and the processing units have become much more powerful. Other than that, though, you’re essentially looking at the same device.
Having said that, this design is still beautiful and the phone brilliantly put together. The biggest change in design is that the aluminium back has given way to glass, making it slightly heavier in hand. It is still comfortable to hold, but now with two plates of glass I would invest in a case as it is more prone to breakage than before.
Another reason to get a case is because of the protrusion at the back – the camera bump. If you don’t use a case, the iPhone is always resting on the camera when you lay it down on its back. You wouldn’t want to scratch that protective glass over the lens, and it gives you an annoying hobble when touching the screen while lying flat on its back.
The iPhone 8 feels solid and expensive, slightly more so than the iPhone 7. It’s a comfortable size to slip into a pocket and it’s one of the best phones on the market for easy one-handed operation. As stated before, this design is highly polished and refined, but for many this familiarity will breed contempt, as it did for me.
While we’ve grown used to this type and size of display on the iPhones, having seen the bezel-less OLED display on the iPhone X makes the decision to retain the same massive bezels on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus more confounding than ever. That OLED on the X is built by Apple’s main rivals, Samsung, who has popularized edge-to-edge screens and OLED technology.
All the flagship from 2017 that adopted the 2:1 screen ratio make this device feel old and outdated by comparison. Looking at the front of the iPhone 8 is very underwhelming. After most competitors have also shifted to the better OLED technology, Apple has decided to stick to its IPS panels here. While they are the best IPS LCD screens you can find, they still pale (literally) in comparison with OLED technology. The big improvement in this year’s IPS is the addition of True-Tone technology which is designed to tweak the look based on the lighting of your environment to ensure colours are consistent.
This makes reading for long periods of time very easy and doesn’t strain your eyes. It also means that watching video content is better than it has been on any iPhone before it. In partnership with MTN and Showmax, we tested this out thoroughly. I spent many hours using the streaming service on the iPhone 8 and I’m happy to report that the app works better than ever to deliver crisp, clear content. As a side note, the Showmax ecosystem has improved in leaps and bounds in the recent months and you won’t have any problems finding great movies or shows that fit your viewing needs.
The experience is also enhanced by the improvement in the updated stereo speakers, which make the phone 25 percent louder than the iPhone 7. One is in the same bottom firing orientation than before, but another has been added to the earpiece on the front of the device. There’s a bit more bass and it sounds great for a phone, but we expect most people will still want to use headphones.
Software and Performance
Just as the iPhone 8 brings refinements to a familiar design, so does Apple’s latest platform update, iOS 11. There are some minor tweaks and improvements here and there, many mostly unnoticeable to the user. It performs better than ever, ensuring a silky smooth experience when flipping through the interface.
One of the more publicised changes comes in the addition of ARKit, which is a developer framework for augmented-reality apps and games. It uses the iPhone’s camera to overlay elements onto the real world like game elements, furniture, and more. This feature is most likely to be used by kids more than anyone else, as the included virtual pet game is a lot of fun. On a more practical note, it can be used to plan out your living room with an online catalogue, among other things.
As per usual, this new version of iOS is a pleasure to use and very simple to learn if you haven’t used it before. For users looking for more customisation options and Android veterans, it is a bit limiting as it always has been. The new gestures work very well once you get used to them as well. Swipe up from the bottom to access the control centre for all your quick toggles and sliders. Swipe down from the top for notifications.
The biggest difference between this variant and the iPhone 8 Plus is the lack of that dual camera arrangement at the back. What it does have is a 12-megapixel main camera with an f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, and HDR. It’s designed to be easy to use; just point and shoot and more often than not, you’ll get a pleasing photo.
For most that won’t be fiddling with camera options to take manual pictures, this will be one of the best options out there. The only camera we would rate higher is that of the Google Pixel 2 / 2 XL.
HDR is on all the time now and Apple has clearly been working on the saturation. It pops more than did before, meaning colours will be brighter but still closer to real life than something like the Samsung Galaxy S9. It comes down to personal preference to how much saturation you like in your shots, so it could also be a deciding factor for potential buyers.
The iPhone 8 can also record 4K video at up to 60 frames per second and 1080p video at up to 240fps, which makes it more capable than the vast majority of flagships. You also get a 7-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.2 aperture serve just fine for FaceTime calls and selfies.
As is customary these days, Apple have created a great device here. Does that mean that it’s a no brainer, then? Well, no. This device’s biggest competition is the iPhone X, which is all-round a more refined, better looking, more innovative phone. If you don’t want to fork out $1,000 for a base model, which is understandable, this is a fine option though.
If you have the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S I would highly recommend upgrading to the new iPhone 8. If you still have an iPhone 7 the spec bump won’t be that noticeable and I’d hold out for 2018’s flagship.