The new iPhone X may be the darling of Apple’s big fall event, but you shouldn’t overlook the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus because there are plenty of serious updates that make them worth considering.
Chief among them is the built-in wireless charging.
From the outside, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus look pretty similar to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. But the differences are hidden in the details.
The unibody aluminum case used on the iPhone 7 has been replaced with an even stronger metal frame made of an even more durable series 7000 aluminum and a glass back. The phone is also a hair thicker in all directions, but you wouldn’t notice it.
Here’s one way to think about it: Imagine holding an iPhone 4S, only the sides of the phone aren’t flat and the glass back and metal frame seamlessly come together.
It’s smooth, polished, and not even that slippery, which really surprised me. There’s a bit of stickiness when you hold the phones in your hand, kind of like on the Jet Black iPhone 7. And you probably already guessed, they’re fingerprint smudging magnets. That said, your gross, oily fingerprints are less visible on the new gold version, which kind of looks like a creamy light pink in certain light.
Of the three available colors — gold, silver, and space gray — the latter looks the best in my opinion.
That glass back isn’t just for show, either. It’s a necessary design change to allow for inductive Qi-based wireless charging. Apple had a few third-party wireless chargers made by companies like Mophie and Belkin in the hands-on area, and they work just like on any Android phone with wireless charging.
Place the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus on a wireless charging pad and it instantly starts juicing up. Apple didn’t invent wireless charging, but all the people who buy these phones will finally get to use it, if they haven’t already on, say, a Samsung.
Cosmetic changes aside, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are completely new beasts inside.
These new changes are not immediately noticeable at a cursory glance, but definitely something you can feel when you use it.
The screens are still the same size as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus — 4.7 inches on the iPhone 8 and 5.5-inches on the iPhone 8 Plus. They look just as great, too, but True Tone, a feature first introduced on the original iPad Pro 12.9-inch model automatically adjust the screen’s color temperature based on your room’s lighting so that content colors always look consistent.
The new A11 Bionic processor is supposedly 70 percent faster and provides 30 percent better graphics performance compared to the now-old, but still very powerful A10 Fusion chip.
I know every new iPhone is the fastest, smoothest iPhone ever, but the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are now the new performance kings. Every animation just glides and apps open instantly.
Apple says it also improved the stereo speakers — they’re louder and have deeper bass. It was impossible for me to get a better sense of them in the loud hands-on area, so I’ll reserve judgment for a later date when we’re doing our official review.
Same goes for the improved 12 megapixel camera on the back. The camera takes photos in a snap, but without being able to shoot outside and in any low-light conditions, you really have to just take Apple’s word that they’re better across the board until we review the phones.
On the iPhone 8 Plus, there’s improved dual cameras on the back, which take sweeter-looking Portrait Mode photos with blurred out backgrounds. I tried it on a few people, and it seemed to better isolate fine outlines like those around hair strands.
A new feature on the iPhone 8 Plus is called Portrait Lighting and it essentially is a bunch of different modes that simulate different lighting conditions. For example, one of the modes is called Stage Light, and it darkens the background so that a portrait photo of a person’s face pops out from the shadows.
As Phil Schiller said, they’re not filters. These modes are much more advanced and use a number of complex 3D face analysis algorithms, enabled by the new image signal processor, to realistically adjust lighting on your skin.
And, of course, iOS 11 ties everything together.
There’s no question the iPhone X is the phone everybody wants. But with a starting price of $1,000, it’s also incredibly expensive and above most peoples’ budgets.
It’s misguided to look at the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and declare them inferior because they don’t have the iPhone X’s edge-to-edge display, Face ID, or awesome “Animoji” (short for animated emoji).
For most people, a prettier screen isn’t a top priority. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus’ screens are already more than sharp enough. Wireless charging and better photos do typically matter, though. Buying the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus doesn’t make you a peasant. Paying $699 for a 64GB iPhone 8 and $799 for the 8 Plus with the same storage isn’t exactly throwaway money, either.
At the end of the day, you’re still getting an iPhone, and that means a device that is consistently solid inside and outside, day in and day out. Something that can’t be said for a lot of Android phones as they get bloated and glitch out after extended use.