It’s autumn so that means a wave of new tech products for the build up to Christmas and as usual that includes new iPhones. This year’s looks mostly similar but has some new features. Find out what in our iPhone 8 review.
Apple’s new line-up is unusual for 2017 because there are three new phones. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are joined by the iPhone X (10 not ‘x’) which is the anniversary edition.
iPhone 8 Price
With Brexit and other factors, the price of everything seems to be going up and technology is no exception.
That makes it the cheapest 2017 model, of course and isn’t too bad compared to the wider market. For example, the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are £689 and £649 respectively in terms of RRP.
However, Android rivals drop in price fairly quickly after launch which is not something the iPhone does. Great for selling it on but not picking one up.
iPhone 8 Design and build
On the whole, not much has changed with the iPhone’s design over the last few years. The iPhone 6 came out in 2014 and there’re only a few minor things that are different three years later looking at the iPhone 8.
The dimensions are almost the same, but the iPhone has actually got a little thicker and heavier, even compared to the iPhone 7. Gone, it seems, are the days when Apple would rave about how the new model was trimmed down compared to the last.
However, the weight in particular seems to be a good thing. Everyone here at Tech Advisor towers find the iPhone 8 nicely balanced in this way so lighter isn’t always better.
This is all down to the switch back to a glass rear cover, the first on an iPhone since the iPhone 4S in 2011.
It’s not some kind of homage either; it’s for a much better reason than that. It means you can charge the iPhone wirelessly. This is a welcome feature to the iPhone, but not something that’s new at all in the wider smartphone market.
Instead of faffing about, even with the neat reversible Lightning cable, you simply pop the iPhone on a compatible charger and it will start topping up the battery like magic.
The glass rear cover feels nice in the hand. It’s not actually very slippery unlike many others we’ve seen. However, that is the case if you put it down on most surfaces that aren’t dead flat – it will probably slide off, even if it does it slowly.
Despite Apple saying the glass is extremely durable, drop tests have shown that it will crack and shatter if you drop it so like almost all iPhones, a case is probably a must. With those almost identical dimensions, there’s a good chance your iPhone 7 case will fit if you have one.
Apple has kept the waterproofing of the iPhone 7 so you can dunk this model in up to one meter of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. This is thanks to its IP67 rating which is almost the highest you can get.
This year, the iPhone is only available in three colours: Silver, Gold and Space Grey. That means only the latter has a black front facia and some colours are now gone such as Jet Black and Rose Gold.
As per usual the design is sleek and clean. There’s actually less on the back with no model number but it’s a shame the ‘CE’ and don’t bin icons are still big and bold.
With no major design changes, the headphone jack is nowhere to be seen. You’ll need to use wireless cans or remember to carry the Lightning adapter around with you – which, of course, can’t be used at the same time as a charging cable. Wireless charging eases the pain in this respect.
This also means the home button is static so can’t really break, at least not in the same way that a moving part does.
You can choose from a few different haptic feedback options to find one you like. It’s surprisingly convincing, but feels odd if you’ve not become accustomed to it on the iPhone 7.
There’s only really one area where the iPhone 8 is falling short compared to rivals and that’s the front facia. Bezel-free designs are all the rage and although not all flagships have them, plenty do including the stunning Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
Apple’s screen-to-body ratio of 65 percent looks pretty dated compared to ones around 20 percent higher. It’s not just the top and bottom bezels either, it’s the ones down the side also.
If you’re an iPhone fan and want something like this then you’ll have to splash out on the iPhone X which comes with the new Super Retina Display. Even that appears to have its problems though, with no Touch ID and the notch at the top.
iPhone 8 Specs and performance
Although the new iPhone gets a new number in the model name, it can be thought of in many ways as a ‘7S’. This essentially means that the phone hasn’t changed hugely from the previous model but gets a few upgrades in the hardware department.
Some aspects of the screen remain the same as the iPhone 6 so it’s still 4.7in on the diagonal and uses a 750×1334 resolution to create the usual ‘Retina class’ pixel density of 326ppi.
It’s also still using the same LCD IPS technology but there are some changes.
Introduced on the iPad Pro, the iPhone 8 uses Apple’s True Tone technology which means the panel has a wider colour gamut and can adjust the temperature of the screen based on the ambient lighting conditions.
It’s one of those things that works really well without you noticing it until you compare side-by-side with an older iPhone not using True Tone. It makes for a more comfortable viewing experience.
The issue here, at least for some, is that the small change isn’t very exciting. The iPhone 8 Plus has a larger and Full HD screen but it’s the iPhone X that’s truly new in this area with the bezel-free Super Retina Display.
Processor, memory and storage
A new iPhone means a new processor and this year’s is the Apple A11 Bionic. Once again it’s a 64-bit chip and now has a ‘Neural Engine’ and it’s paired with an M11 motion coprocessor.
The naming might be a marketing gimmick (A9, A10 etc simply isn’t cool enough anymore) but the six-core chip is extremely fast. This year the iPhone even has an Apple GPU for the first time.
Apple doesn’t state it but the iPhone 8 has 2GB of RAM which is three times less than some rivals but the firm has made sure iOS doesn’t need as much to run smoothly.
On the storage front Apple’s gone for 64- and 256GB for the iPhone 8 and the difference is £150. That’s twice the storage compared to the iPhone 7 but there are fewer options.
Since there’s no way of adding more storage with a microSD card, you’re being pushed towards the more expensive model or using cloud storage. That said 64GB should be enough for most users these days with streaming services being the norm.
We’ve not found the iPhone 8 slowed down, even for the most demanding of tasks and you can see below in the benchmarks just how powerful the A11 is compared to rivals.
Even the founder of Geekbench is shocked by the results stating in an interview with Tom’s Hardware, “At this point, you’ve got desktop-class performance in a handset. There’s no way of looking at it any other way.”
All that said, and the impressive numbers below, we’d be surprised if you can notice a tangible difference in real life. After all, flagship smartphones have been silky smooth for a good few years now.
Connectivity and audio
There’s not much to speak of in terms of connectivity changes. The iPhone 8 is much the same as its predecessor.
Apple’s Lightning connector is a sole port on the device, even though there was a small chance the company might switch to USB-C. You still get dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi and NFC for Apple Pay only.
You do get Bluetooth 5.0 which offers faster speeds but more importantly better range so you can use things like headphones at a greater distance from the phone. Apple includes a pair of Lightning EarPods in the box.
Since there’s no headphone jack on the iPhone 8 (you can use the supplied adapter if needs be), this is a handy new feature. There’s also improved stereo speakers that are louder than the iPhone 7.
We’re yet to test Face ID on the iPhone X but the fact that the iPhone keeps the home button with Touch ID fingerprint scanner might be a big plus point, despite the larger bezels.
As mentioned in the design section above, the static home button feels a bit weird at first if you’re new to it but the fingerprint sensor is accurate and fast like most flagship phones.
On the face of it, the main camera on the iPhone 8 is no different to the previous generation. It’s still a 12Mp sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation (OIS).
There are, however, some small changes which makes it seem yet more like a ‘7S’.
It’s got a better processor, a new colour filter in the lens and what Apple calls ‘deeper pixels’. So that’s not a great deal but the iPhone is capable of taking some great content.
There’s no doubt that the iPhone 8 has one of the best cameras on the smartphone market and we’re particularly impressed with its low-light performance. Check out our samples in the Flickr album below.
However, the question is whether this is worth upgrading for and you’ll need to be on an iPhone 6S or older to notice the difference. You’ll also need to decide whether you want the second telephoto camera on the iPhone 8 Plus.
The biggest changes come on the video side of things with 4K recording now available at 60fps and slo-mo video now 1080p at 240fps – both of which are double the iPhone 7 and the former is a first for any smartphone.
The catch is that these are only supported by the new HEVC codec which isn’t widely supported yet so you might find compatibility issues. You might even have a problem with photos which are now HEIF by default. Switch these to ‘most compatible’ if you’d prefer not to deal with them.
Although the camera app is slick and easy to use, it’s strange that you can’t access some key settings. For example, you can’t switch the grid or Auto HDR on and off. Neither can you change what resolution and framerate to use.
Instead, you have to do these from the camera section of the phone settings but we’d like to be able to do them on the fly.
It’s also odd that photos are taken in only 4:3 with no option to shoot in a 16:9 aspect ratio. To do this you’ll have to take 8Mp photos while shooting video.
At the front, nothing has changed from the iPhone 7 so you get a 7Mp camera with f/2.2 aperture, Retina Flash and 1080p video recording. It’s perfectly good but there are better around if it’s important enough.
The iPhone X, in particular promises better selfies with its TrueDepth camera so we’re looking forward to testing that out when we get a sample.
It’s by no means new for the smartphone market, but this year’s iPhone range is the first to ever support wireless charging.
The reversible Lighting might be neat but it’s much easier to simply place the phone on a charger – and yes, the charging pad does need a wire to plug into the mains.
Apple has chosen to go with the Qi wireless charging standard rather than a proprietary one so the iPhone 8 is compatible with thousands of chargers that you can buy or are already available in coffee shops and the like.
Wireless charging will even work with most cases still on but is currently limited to 5W. Apple will boost it to 7.5W fast charging via a software update but some Android rivals can charge at 15W.
Apple claims the iPhone can get up to 50 percent charge in 30 minutes but this can’t be achieved with the supplied charger which is a bit gutting. Instead you’ll need to shell out at least £25 on a new cable and that’s if you have an AC adapter capable of this.
Inside the iPhone 8 is a 1821mAh battery that’s actually a little smaller than the iPhone 7. Apple says battery life is ‘about the same’ which is a bit vague but pretty much the case.
We’re impressed with the standby time and in general usage the iPhone 8 will last you a full day unless you’re using it a lot. It’s really the iPhone 8 Plus that offers excellent battery life here.
For those users who won’t get a full day out of the iPhone 8 due to usage habits, the wireless charging feature should help keep the phone topped up.
iPhone 8 Software and apps
As you might know, the iPhone 8 is the first to ship with iOS 11. That’s the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system but you can update to it if you have an iPhone 5S or later.
There are a few small tweaks such as some new app icons (we’re not so keen on the new App Store icon), Files app and new animations. You might not even notice some of those but there are some more evident ones.
For starters, the notification pane is different so although you swipe down from the top of the screen it brings the lockscreen into view, including notifications. Therefore you can now swipe left to open the camera app.
You also get a new Control Centre which this time all fits on the screen at once including the music player. There are new sliders and finally an option to switch mobile data on and off.