While slightly overshadowed by the impending launch of the iPhone X, the iPhone 8/8 Plus is still an absolutely phenomenal device. And aside from a familiar looking form factor, it packs a ton of new features under the hood – including an updated processor, better cameras, Qi wireless (contact) charging, True Tone display, Apple designed hardware image signal processor, portrait lighting, glass back, louder speakers, 4k 60fps video, fast charging, and more! Note: I picked up the iPhone 8 Plus on launch day, so my review notes will be specific to this device.
A11 BIONIC PROCESSOR
The A11 Bionic chipset is a huge update over the A10 Fusion, with 6 cores now (instead of 4), and a brand new Apple designed performance controller which allows all 6 cores to be used in parallel. This is a huge difference from last year’s A10, where only 2 of the cores could be used at any given time. After using the device for just over 4 days, I can say that the raw horsepower of the iPhone 8 Plus is my favourite new ‘feature’. Every interaction with iOS absolutely flies on this thing – it felt like I jumped up two or three generations – not just one.
My wife and I went to a concert this past weekend, and it was the perfect time to test out the new cameras on the iPhone 8 Plus. This thing rocks at capturing low-light images and video! And one thing that is often overlooked in other iPhone 8 reviews, is the new slow-sync flash for low light shots – this is a game changer! I took a photo of us with the stage in the background, which resulted in both of us being evenly lit (no hotspots), and the stage and all the lighting effects of the background were captured as well! In the past, this type of shot would have had some hotspots on our faces, and the background would have been so dark it would be hard to make anything out. We also compared the video shot from the iPhone 8 Plus to the video shot with my wife’s iPhone 7 Plus. While comparable, the iPhone 8 Plus was able to pickup more colours in the scene, deeper blacks, and clearer audio. Overall, the iPhone 8 Plus offers a very noticeable increase in quality and capability (including 60fps 4K video!) over the iPhone 7 Plus – which was already an excellent camera to begin with. Apple continues to push the envelope with mobile photography, and this year is no exception!
TRUE TONE DISPLAY
I’ve had experience with the True Tone display since I purchased my 10.5″ iPad Pro, and I’m pumped that this has now come to the iPhone as well! Many people incorrectly correlate the True Tone display with Night Shift – which is a big mistake. Night Shift reduces the amount of blue light coming from your device – which is handy at night time when you’re looking to wind down. The result of this is a much warmer looking display regardless of the type of lighting in the room you are in. This can be off-putting (and frankly pointless) if you have white LED’s in your bedroom or living room. What True Tone does, is actually measure the ambient light temperature of the room that you are in, and adjust the display accordingly – the end result is having the white point on your screen match the white point on an inanimate object in the room you are in – resulting in a very natural looking display that looks like it belongs in the room and is responding accordingly. Put another way, if you bring a blank piece of white printer paper into a room lit with fluorescent tube lights, and bring that same piece of white paper into a room lit with incandescent lights, it will look drastically different to your eye in each scenario. However, it will look completely natural to you in both situations. This is what True Tone is able to do – adjust and adapt – just like real objects do in the real world. I promise you that this is a fantastic feature, and you will soon realize this in a few years when you look back at an older device and wonder why the display looks so odd/harsh.
QI WIRELESS CHARGING
A new case design this year with a glass back allows for Qi wireless charging to come to iPhone. And while Android has had this capability for a few years now, this is the first time Apple has brought it to the iPhone. Wireless charging is more of a convenience option as opposed to a revolutionary new feature. The upside of being late to the Qi game is that there is a plethora of available Qi enabled chargers available on the market now. In fact, I just installed some drop-in puck style Qi chargers from IKEA into my desk at work, and they work great! I just simply rest my phone on the desk, and it’s topping up just like that. I also bought a Qi charging pad for my bedside, and the convenience is the same when going to bed – just place it on the pad and it’s charging. The downside of Qi charging vs. charging by the lightning cable is speed. However, for topping up during the day, and overnight charges by the bedside, it’s a non-issue. I’m happy Qi charging has come to the iPhone, as I believe this will push the adoption of Qi charging pads/mats into more and more places – restaurants, coffee shops, hotel rooms, etc.
Other new advancements this year include an Apple designed hardware ISP (image signal processor), portrait lighting mode, 25% louder speakers, fast charging (requires 29w power supply), and an all new glass back.
I commented on the improved camera above, and the dedicated hardware ISP is no doubt a major contributor to these improvements!
Portrait lighting mode is a great feature for showing off what the iPhone 8 can do that none of it’s predecessors can do, thanks to the A11 Bionic chip and hardware ISP. However, it still requires optimal conditions and a basic understanding of photography to get the best results.
Louder speakers are always a good thing – and not for the reason that you might think. It’s not so that we can blast our music over these tiny little iPhone speakers while trying to enjoy a backyard BBQ (PSA – don’t ever do this). The main benefit from louder speakers, is that this years 75% volume is last years 100% volume – which means the speaker doesn’t have to strain so much to get the same volume as last year. This leads to a more natural sound throughout – which is great for phone calls using the built-in speaker. In my experience, 100% volume never sounds optimal.
Fast charging is available this year, but requires different hardware than what is shipped with the phones. A minimum 29w USB-C power block ($59 CAD), along with the required USB-C to lightning cable ($35 CAD) is required to take advantage of this feature. So you’d be looking at a minimum additional investment of $94 to have access to fast charging. Quite steep, but if you’re looking to charge your device in the least amount of time, the option is now available to you 🙂
Overall, while the iPhone X has gotten much of the attention, it’s certainly important to remember that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have essentially the same internal hardware, while maintaining the familiar home button and form factor that we have gotten used to over the past 10 years. If you’re like me and enjoy being on the bleeding edge of technology, then you’re probably more interested in the iPhone X. However, for many others the iPhone 8/8 Plus is going to be an incredible device which will server them extremely well for some time!