The iPhone has now been a staple on the mobile landscape for close to a decade. From the iPhone 2G, Apple has shaped what people expect from their mobile device.
Gone are the ubiquitous foldout keyboards and clunky input methods, replaced by the simple use of touch. This year, with the iPhone 8, while they have not made major changes to the device people know and love, they have made some notable improvements, that make it a worthy upgrade for anyone on an iPhone 6 or below.
Visually, the iPhone 8 looks very similar to what people saw on the iPhone 7. The clean curved edges and lack of 3.5mm headphone jack all remain the same. The most notable visual change is the new glass back for the phone. Where the iPhone 7 had an aluminium back and sides, and only the screen made out of glass, the 8 opts for a front and back glass aesthetic.
Compared to last years model, the 8 feels exceedingly comfortable in the hand. The glass back makes for a very comfortable surface to hold, and while you would think it would be a bit more slippery, in testing I managed to always maintain a grip on the phone.
With the 8 comes Qi charging, the ability to drop your phone on a charging pad when not being used and actually have it charge the device. Thanks to the glass back on this year’s iteration, Apple has finally made charging via the Qi standard possible. Yes, this is a technology that has been present on Android-based devices for years, and it is by no means a fast method for charging—around 15 percent every 30 minutes—but it brings another level of continence to the iPhone that is very welcome.
Wireless charging on the iPhone 8 works as you would hope. Drop the device on the charging pad at night—for testing we used the Mophie Wireless Changing base—once it is placed in the right position, the phone will let you know it is charging. For review purposes, I put the phone on the pad prior to bed around 10 p.m., with it being fully charged when I was up at 7 a.m. It should be noted, that while the Qi bases are great for convenience, they will cost around $50 to $100 depending on the brand you opt to buy, while that will not break the bank when you consider the price of the iPhone, it is something that should be taken into account.
The next major change with this years iPhone compared to the 7 is the new A11 Bionic chip that not only gives the iPhone 8 better performance, it will also aid with AR abilities, as that is a major focus for Apple moving forward. While it is hard to say exactly how the A11 Bionic compares to chips from Qualcomm or MediaTek, it is clear from testing that this phone is no slouch. Every game we threw at the phone ran flawlessly, even some of the more intensive apps ran with little to no slowdown. It is a testament to the fact Apple controls both the hardware and software to the liquid smooth feel the iPhone 8 offers users.
Multitasking on the 8 was also a pleasure. In my work, I will often have a slew of apps open in my daily routine, from mail to voice recording apps, and jumping between them all was a breeze. Even when watching the high-resolution video and switching between a web browser in an instant, it never gave me an issue, and overall the phone was a joy to use performance wise.
With a Geekbench score of 4207 with the A11 Bionic, it is obvious that the claims Apple made about the performance of the new chip where not smoke and mirror. For reference, the A10 Fusion on the iPhone 7 scored a 3505 in testing. While it is hard to say if the performance matches the stats set by Apple, the iPhone 8 with the A11 Bionic is one of the snappiest phones I have used, and that includes phones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.
Also this year, the iPhone 8 comes equipped with True Tone technology, most recently seen on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. This screen technology helps with clarity and readability under less than ideal environmental conditions. The technology uses the four-channel ambient light sensor to adjust the white balance to the light around the phone. This works very well when reading at night, or in direct sunlight. And while it may sound like a gimmick more than a useful addition, after a few days of testing, and I have to admit I am a believer in the technology and think more phones should find a way to utilize a similar tech.
The iPhone 8, while updating the technology around the screen, has not changed the overall resolution, the iPhone 8 still measures 4.7-inches with a resolution of 1334 x 750 pixels. This means users already on the iPhone 7 will not notice any major improvement with this year’s iteration, the major change is being saved for the upcoming iPhone X, launching later this fall.
It is also worth pointing out that while Apple has updated the display to support a wide colour gamut, it does not at this time support standard HDR standards such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision. While the iPhone 8 screen is still a stunning display, the Samsung S8 has a screen that is a bit more vibrant and clear, although anyone that purchases an iPhone 8 will not be disappointed, it is still one of the leading screens currently on smartphones today.
Another welcome improvement is the stereo speakers present in this year’s iPhone offering. They are noticeably louder than last year’s iPhone 7, and have better overall bass and treble performance. For the people wanting to listen externally or on headphones, the new Bluetooth 5 support should allow for better performance along with a larger range of supported devices.
While the iPhone 8 lacks the duel camera seen on the Plus and many other leading flagship phones out on the market, it still manages to be one of the best cameras currently on a smartphone. The iPhone 8 comes with a 12-megapixel main shooter with a f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilization and HDR for good measure. It is built to be easy to point and shoot and achieve fantastic results. Testing it out in daily use, in a variety of lighting conditions and I am happy to say the iPhone 8 is a fantastic camera for any use.
HDR on the iPhone 8 has improved when compared to the iPhone 7. Colours and saturation while managing to have a vibrant look do not veer into the unrealistic realm as seen on the Samsung S8. Apple has managed to walk the fine line between vibrancy and realism to fantastic results. The only issue I could find while using the iPhone 8 was some low-light photos had a bit more grain then I would like. This is to be expected on any camera, but with some of the competition working on this issue, helpfully Apple can address it in future iterations.
It is worth noting that if you want Portrait Mode or the new Portrait Lighting feature, you will still need to opt for the iPhone 8 Plus, as they are sadly absent on this model.
For video, the iPhone 8 can record 4K video at 60 fps, along with 1080P video at 240fps, making it much more capable than most of the flagship phones currently on the market. In testing, these videos look like what you would expect from a phone, with good clarity and realism. For anyone looking to do filmmaking, a DSLR or dedicated video camera would still be your best bet, simply due to the options with optics. For FaceTime and selfies, the iPhone 8 comes equipped with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera with a f/2.2 aperture. While it will not win any awards, and other flagship phones have increased the specs on their front-facing offerings, the front-facing camera should not leave you wanting for most daily uses.
With the iPhone 8 comes iOS 11, and while it is a refinement of the platform rather than a complete revolution. The update does bring with it ARkit, a platform for Augmented reality development. While older iPhones will get to partake in the fun that is AR, the A11 Bionic gives the power needed to take full advantage of the new, and exciting abilities.
Where VR had a wow factor with hardcore gamers, AR will surely wow anyone you pull your phone out and show. Games like AR Dragon or Thomas & Friends Minis will keep the kids entertained for hours, and games like Tsuro and Kings of Pool give a taste at what the potential for AR is for the adults in your life. It is a platform that holds boundless potential, and the iPhone 8 is a great entry device to take full advantage of has to offer. The speed an power of the A11 Bionic ensured everything felt as wondrous as it should feel, with everyone I showed AR games and apps too truly amazed at what was possible in such a short time.
The iPhone 8 is an interesting device. On one hand, it is a class-leading flagship that anyone who received it would be happy with it; on the other hand, the iPhone X is going to be released soon and offers bleeding edge features that push the iOS platform to new limits. Both devices have many advantages and offer new things to the user, but it all boils down to what you, as the consumer is looking for. The iPhone 8 is a phone for people looking to upgrade, who do not want to drop the extra money on bleeding edge features. For that user they can not go wrong with the 8, It is a well crafted, meticulously designed smart-phone, the new A11 Bionic make it the ideal device to jump into AR, and the ability to use it with Qi chargers is a welcome bonus. For anyone who wants the latest and greatest, wait for the X.
A loaner device was provided by Apple for the purpose of this review
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more stories from Brendan Frye, such as the Future of Xbox One – an interview with Xbox Head of Operations, Dave McCarthy, and his interview with Destiny 2 Art Director, Jesse Van Dyke!
Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!
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