iPhone 8: Full, in-depth review
In an odd change of tune for Apple, the new iPhone 8 can’t really be said to be this year’s “best iPhone ever”. Sure, it’s got a better processor, quality-of-life improvements like wireless charging and an ever-so-slightly refined design. Unfortunately, with the futuristic, face-reading iPhone X just around the corner, the iPhone 8 feels a little overshadowed.
Despite the Apple brand attached to it, there’s a real risk of the iPhone 8 being overlooked by consumers and critics alike. That’s a shame. Even if it this is “just another iPhone”, it’s one that delivers a pretty outstanding level of performance regardless. While it won’t inspire mania among the enthusiast crowd like the iPhone X will, it remains a solid package for those happy to play things safe.
The iPhone 8 boasts a 4.7-inch LCD TrueTone Retina display (1334×750 pixels) and runs on Apple’s own A11 Bionic processor and iOS 11. It comes in two storage sizes: 64GB and 256GB. The setup here is rounded out by a 1821 mAh battery and 2GB of RAM. In terms of connectivity, the iPhone 8 supports Wi-Fi (802.11ac with MIMO), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and cellular.
When it comes to the cameras, the iPhone 8 features more-or-less the same configuration found in the iPhone 7. There’s a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera with f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation on the back and a smaller 7-megapixel shooter (f/2.2) on the front.
Colorwise, the iPhone 8 trims jet black and rose gold from the lineup and is available in just three colors: silver, gray and gold.
The vast majority of the improvements the iPhone 8 brings to the table sit under the hood. Depending on your mileage with and sentiment towards the Apple brand as of late, you might find this familiarity comforting or dull. Everything is pretty much where you expect it to be when it comes to design. That said, there are a few minor, aesthetic and form-factor changes to be noted.
Most immediately striking, you’ve got the all-glass back of the device. This makes the iPhone 8 just a smidge bulker (both in sizing and weight) than it’s predecessor. It also grants it a slightly more premium feel-factor, even if that nicer is just an inevitable side-effect of the change.
Like the iPhone 7, the iPhone 8 comes with an IP67 rating against water and dust damage and, again like the 7, it ditches the headphone jack in favor of a single Lightning port. However, as a small consolation prize, the iPhone 8 does come with slightly louder speakers.
When it comes to the iPhone 8’s display, there are little gains to be found here. The iPhone 8 boasts what is essentially the same as the iPhone 7’s display. However, this time around it’s buffered up with TrueTone tech found in the most recent batch of iPad Pros. This allows the lighting on the display to react to changes in environmental light and modifying the color balance accordingly. Generally speaking, this feature has worked well before and works well here. However, we found the benefits were a little curtailed by the smaller display size of the iPhone 8.
While it doesn’t support 4K, Apple say that the iPhone 8’s display supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 content. However, the reality behind this claim is a little dubious given the specs for the display in the device. Unlike the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 doesn’t boast a true HDR display. It relies on a sort of video-enhancer to approximate the dynamic range, contrast, and wide color gamut of HDR. Given that the iPhone 8 Plus uses more-or-less the same thing, this shouldn’t be taken as a major dealbreaker for the smaller device. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth being aware of.
Given how safe that Apple have played things here when it comes to form-factor, the pressure leans pretty heavily on the performance side of things to justify the device’s price tag. Thankfully, it delivers. Don’t be fooled by the lower-sounding RAM count, Apple’s A11 Bionic chipset hits it out of the park here. Even if the iPhone 8 isn’t this year’s “best iPhone ever”, it’s still a pretty good damn good one that gives even the best of the Android crowd a run for their money.
Compared to last year’s iPhone 7, Apple claim the iPhone 8 performs 25% faster when using high performance cores and up to 70% faster when using high efficiency cores. Perhaps more importantly, they promise a 70% speed improvement when it comes to multitasking. Based on our time with the device, that last stat is the most keenly felt. Multitasking felt noticeably smoother and more-responsive than previous iPhones have been.
Likewise, our benchmarking did a great job illustrate the relative power of the Bionic chipset compared to the other smartphones out there - and the difference is immediately visible.
In Antutu, the iPhone 8 raked in a chart-topping score of 205,091 - outpacing pretty much every Android flagship we’ve run through the same test. Unsurprisingly, the one area where the iPhone 8 stumbled was gaming. Although Apple say that the device offers a 30% improvement for gaming performance over the iPhone 7, it still lagged behind the Android crowd here.
Still, looking at the big picture, the iPhone 8 does provide all-round snappy performance that leaves little to complain about.
Compared to the dual-lens configurations found in the iPhone 8 Plus and X, the iPhone 8 offers up more of a get-the-job done kind of camera. As listed above, the iPhone 8 features a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera with f/1.8 aperture, 5x digital zoom and optical image stabilisation on the back. This is paired up with a smaller 7-megapixel shooter (f/2.2) on the front. Video-wise, the iPhone 8 can shoot in up to 4K quality at up to 60 frames-per-second.
Again, the camera setup on the iPhone 8 is a little barebones, Not just compared to its cousins but also the competition. There’s no portrait mode or any of the new dynamic lighting tech at work in the iPhone 8 Plus.
Still, I often found myself surprised by the quality of some of the shots I took with the device. The auto-focus is fast, and the picture-quality is sharp-enough for everyday use. I wouldn’t quite call them outstanding - but they’re clearly “good” quality pictures in the most conventional sense and won't satisfy the standards of those who want to see their work on a bus stop anytime soon.
Even with Apple’s usual penchant of picking iteration over innovation, it’s kinda disappointing to see how little has been with battery life. In practice, the iPhone 8’s battery feels pretty indistinguishably close to that found in not just last year’s phone - but probably the one before that as well. It’ll get you through the day, but - at least, in our experience - it’s often a close thing. That’s the bad news.
Thankfully, the good news is that Apple have thrown in support for Quick Charging this time around - which brings the iPhone 8 much more in line with other flagship propositions. Likewise, the iPhone 8 is the first iPhone to support wireless charging. This feature works like a charm when we used it with Belkin’s Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad. It’s as simple as intuitive as it gets. You simply put the iPhone down on the pad and it should start charging. Overall, it's a nice inclusion - even if it's probably not quite the game-changer Apple have billed it as.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it feels like the biggest competition that the iPhone 8 is going to face comes in the form of Apple’s other iPhones. On a purely technical level, the iPhone 8 impresses. However, it feels like there’s a degree of mental gymnastics involved when trying envisage the potential customers who buys it over the other devices available. If you’re already in the market for a good iPhone - rather than the best - than a slightly-depreciated price point of the 7 and 7 Plus might well be worth the tradeoff in performance and quality of life improvements here. Similarly, if you’re invested enough in the camera side of things, the iPhone 8 Plus seems like a no-brainer for the extra $200.
Still, if you’re keen on the smaller form-factor, aren’t fussed about the camera and want an iPhone that’s as snappy as they come - this is an all-round good, if a little sale, choice.
In Australia, the Apple iPhone 8 is available at retail through Apple, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey-Norman. Online, it's available through resellers like BuyMobile.
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