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Apple

Review: Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus won’t wow you, but they’re still pretty solid

The latest phones in Apple’s line-up offer augmented reality and wireless charging, better cameras and longer battery life, but are they must-haves?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 8:32pm

Apple has three new phones coming this autumn. While most of the attention has been focused on the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will hit stores first – and cheaper than the iPhone X’s US$1,000 price tag. They go on sale starting at US$699 and US$799 respectively.

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How much of an upgrade are we getting with these two phones?

Design and hardware

Both are solid updates to the iPhone line. They’re very familiar, as Apple hasn’t strayed too far from the template that’s made the iPhone a blockbuster. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are, this year, the phones for people who prize function over fancy features.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus aren’t identical, of course. The iPhone 8 Plus’s screen is larger: 5.5in to the iPhone 8’s 4.7in.

The most noticeable difference between the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus is in the camera. The iPhone 8 Plus has a dual camera, which allows it to provide a greater sense of depth in your pictures and helps the camera distinguish between foreground and background.

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That sensor intelligence enables several portrait shooting modes that take artistically lit shots of people.

Practically speaking, my own portraits were noticeably nicer than the shots I took with my older iPhones, and without the special filters. If you change your mind, you can remove a filter after the fact, or swap the effect you want to apply.

The iPhone 8 Plus is more like a tablet, and those who watch a lot of videos will appreciate its larger screen and may also like returning features such as a landscape layout for apps such as mail.

Augmented reality is the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus’ most exciting feature.

The augmented reality features overlay digital objects onto the real world through the camera. These make it feel like the phones are pushing the brand forward – even if they are about to be outshone by the iPhone X on the innovation front.

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That said, even the AR apps I tried and liked didn’t feel like must-haves. A number of developers let me access their AR apps as part of the review, including the makers of Ikea Place and Sky Guide, two of the apps Apple showed off at its debut event.

I also got to play around with a game, the beta version of The Machines: AR, which let me conduct a hi-tech battle on my living room floor.

The AR apps were all fun and well-executed. Some, such as the Ikea app, are useful in a specific scenario. (Redecorating, in this case.) But this is a feature that shows more promise than practicality. That doesn’t mean it’s not exciting, it just means that you may not find something that clicks with you right away.

Performance and battery life

I used each model as my primary phone, to get a “normal” day test out of them. The iPhone 8 Plus definitely has better battery life than its smaller sibling, even with heavy use.

On a day when I had to use it for navigation, video streaming and plenty of email, it made it through the day and probably could have made it through the next morning without being in dire need of a top-up.

The iPhone 8 was pretty low on power by the end of the day, at which point I switched to low power mode. In other words, it got me through a day, but not much further.

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A new feature in both of these phones is wireless charging. You can use any charging pad that uses the Qi standard – the most common wireless charging technology. In addition to using the Mophie charger that Apple provided, I also was able to use a Samsung wireless charger, among others. You do have to strip the case off your phone to have them charge, as the glass backs need to be touching the charging pad to work.

The wireless charger didn’t seem super fast – and the process can be derailed by a bump to your nightstand or a misbehaving pet, for example. But it felt like the phones filled up at about the same pace as they would on the cord.

Conclusion

Both phones have features that make them worth the upgrade, especially from the iPhone 6s line. If you’re a fan of wireless charging, it may even be worth an upgrade from the iPhone 7.

If you don’t mind the size and the price bump, I’d say that the iPhone 8 Plus is the more appealing of the two.

Its camera features are worth paying for – as is the longer battery life – even if it does feel a little cumbersome at times if you’re not accustomed to the size.

If you want a new iPhone but don’t care about the cameras, you should go for the iPhone 8.

Of course, if you want the most innovative iPhone of all, you may want to wait until we get more time with the iPhone X, which is due for pre-order in late October. If you know already, however, that you don’t want to spend at least US$1,000 on a new smartphone, consider one of these less glamorous but still improved models.

The Washington Post