When the latest batch of new iPhones was presented, the iPhone X stole the show. But, the iPhone 8 is worth a closer look. While the successor to the iPhone 7 might not look all that different, it's packing some new features on the inside.
- Excellent performance
- Wireless charging
- Great camera
- Compact size
- No headphone jack
- Thick bezels
- Battery life fluctuates
Apple iPhone 8 release date and price
Purchasing an iPhone has always put a strain on the wallet, even with the very first Apple smartphone. Things haven't changed in 2017. At the Apple Store, the iPhone 8 will set you back $699 for 64 GB of storage, or $849 for 256 GB. The optional but sometimes recommended AppleCare+ is an additional $129. For that, you get two years of tech support and accidental damage coverage.
Apple iPhone 8 design and build quality
For a long time, the iPhone set the bar for smartphone design. These times are long gone. If you put the iPhone 8 next to its predecessors, one thing stands out above all else: nothing changes. The front, with the thick bezels around the display, looks stale and has remained the same since the iPhone 6S. It's the boring truth that the dimensions haven't changed from the models of yesteryear.
The iPhone 8 couldn't be further away from the current trend of larger displays. For example, placing the current iPhone next to a Galaxy S8 with its Infinity Display, you have to admit that the competition looks much more modern and elegant. The iconic Apple home button now just seems to take up needless space, making the bottom bezel necessary. The bezels above and below the display maintain symmetry, which the front camera next to the call speaker then detracts from. This is less noticeable on the black iPhone 8 than the white version.
The glass back of the iPhone 8 has a smooth surface and looks beautiful. Although glass is not as robust as aluminum, it offers the advantage of generally better reception and the possibility of wireless charging. It is incomprehensible to me that Apple can't manage to integrate a camera flush into the body without it protruding. The build quality of the iPhone 8, shown in the transition from glass to aluminum frame, the fit of the SIM drawer and the stability of the buttons, is completely impeccable.
Apple iPhone 8 display
With a diagonal of 4.7 inches, the LCD screen of the iPhone 8 is rather small for a 2017 smartphone. But that's not necessarily bad thing, after all, many people are still looking for compact phones that you don't need two hands to use. With a resolution of 1,334 x 750 pixels, the screen of the iPhone 8 reaches a pixel density of 326 ppi. Both values are ridiculously low for a smartphone in the price range of the iPhone.
What is important is not the numbers on the data sheet, but the impression it leaves in reality, and the iPhone 8's display leaves an outstanding one. The IPS panel is probably the best one currently found in a smartphone. The colors are appealing, the viewing angles absolutely perfect and the brightness very high - or optionally very low, which protects the eyes in a dark environment. Good OLED displays are superior to LCD technology in certain ways though, such as black level and depth. But, with the screen of the iPhone 8, you'll be happy with it for a long time.
As with its predecessor, the touch screen of the iPhone 8 supports 3D Touch and the detection of different levels of pressure. Apple uses this especially for context menus when tapping on an app icon. This works well, but could also be done with a long press. The Taptic Engine on the iPhone 8, which provides haptic feedback when pressing firmly on the screen, does a good job. The technology works even more impressively with the home button, which feels like pressing down a real button thanks to the feedback, but is actually just a touch button.
Apple iPhone 8 special features
The iPhone 8 is missing exciting extras like the Face ID of the iPhone X or the portrait mode of the iPhone 8 Plus. But with ARKit, even the smallest new Apple smartphone has something to offer that you won't find anywhere else. This toolbox for developers has already borne some beautiful fruits that make AR easy to experience without needing additional hardware like bulky, expensive glasses. These are mainly games, but also artistically inspired apps, with which 3D objects can be freely painted in space. The iPhone display allows you to explore the starry sky, walk through a forest with dinosaurs or look at human organs. Apple has a lot to offer with AR.
Apple iPhone 8 software
The iPhone 8 comes with iOS 11. The latest version of Apple's software looks like the old one. Thus, the software contributes to the same impression of the hardware - it was once totally fresh and hip, but we've seen it all before and we're bored of it. So, you might be really tired of the fixed icon grid look by now.
The quick menu that you can pull out from below, called the Control Center, is convenient. Here you can get to the most important, frequently used settings. Strangely, however, you can't turn off Bluetooth and WiFi here. You can only disconnect from the network or device you're currently connected to, meaning the radio module itself is still on.
A swipe top to bottom, brings up the system-wide search on Apple. It's annoying that when you swipe, it leads you to the lock screen rather than notifications. To get back to the home screen, you have to swipe from the bottom up; trying it in the middle of the display does not work.
Die-hard Android users will, of course, be annoyed with and disappointed by iOS. The back button is so far away from the home button that you'll almost always overlook it in the top left corner. App settings are found not in the app itself, but in a long list buried in the system settings.
Always worth a positive mention is the update timeline from Apple. These iPhones will be provided with up-to-date software for five years; not in waves like Android, but all at the same time. This is a plus that you cannot forget in 2017. Fragmentation of different versions of iOS is hardly an issue for Apple.
Apple iPhone 8 performance
The iPhone 8 has brought a new chip on board, the Apple A11 with more power than its predecessor, the A10. The 6-core processor with the new Bionic engine, which is used primarily in photo applications, drives the iPhone 8 powerfully, ensuring a fast user experience in all situations. It can get noticeably warm, but it cools down quickly afterwards. Android users only know fluid and unwaveringly fast performance like this from the Pixel smartphones. For more about the performance of the new iPhones, you can check out our review of the iPhone 8 Plus, which is identical in this respect.
Apple iPhone 8 audio
The audio performance of the iPhone 8 is, as far as the internal speakers are concerned, not very impressive. The sound is decent and the volume is sufficient, but nothing more than that. Some people find the hard plastic headphones that come with the phone as comfortable and sonically good as others, while some complain about bad fit and a too thin sound. Both are related, because if the shape of the headphone does not match the ear, it won't be sitting properly and thus can't produce good sound.
The headphone jack is nowhere left to be found at Apple, and as is the trend, audio is handled via the single port. In this case, it's not USB Type-C, but Apple's Lightning connector. Apple provides an adapter at no extra charge, but if you want to charge your phone while listening to wired headphones, then it's tough luck. That's just how things are in the smartphone world now.
Apple iPhone 8 camera
Unlike the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X, the smaller iPhone 8 does not have a dual camera. It packs just a single 12 MP lens on the back. In the front, selfies are snapped with an 8 MP lens. With the single camera, there is no double optical zoom or the new portrait mode, but that can be overlooked. The camera app from Apple works fast, but has just the basics and little else.
The photos that the iPhone took in our in-depth review were consistently good. No matter if there was too little or too much light, the shots have beautiful and lifelike colors, show many details and are sharp throughout. Even novices can take great pictures and video with the iPhone 8 without any effort. Although the Live Photo mini-videos don't have much added value, they're pretty cool to look at. And, 4K is supported for proper videos, up to 60 frames per second. The image format settings are found in the system settings rather than the camera app. The reason for this will likely remain a secret of the Apple developers for years to come.
Actually, it is a shame that Apple still won't give its users a manual mode in the camera app. You could certainly tickle out a little more from the photos. Even the fact that the Apple smartphones still can't take RAW shots is lost potential. As long as the cameras still perform well, these considerations don't seem to be a high priority for the Cupertino company.
Using the front camera is just as much fun as the back with the iPhone 8. Selfies show many details, have great color representation and almost never blur in good light. If the environment gets darker, of course, the image noise increases, which is hard to avoid.
More photos taken with Apple iPhone 8 from our review can be found in this gallery on Google Drive.
Apple iPhone 8 battery
As usual, Apple conceals the exact capacity of the battery in the iPhone 8 and only indicates that the running time is about on par with the iPhone 7. But of course, such details can't remain hidden for long, and so it is now clear that the battery in the new iPhone has a capacity of 1,821 mAh. This is nothing more than a bad joke on paper compared to Android smartphones, even the smaller models. But here, Apple's trump card comes to fruition: The hardware and software are coming from one source and are perfectly matched, so long battery life can be achieved with such a low capacity.
In fact, in our review, the iPhone 8 always lasted until evening, and even through the night without a charge since the standby consumption when idle all night is so low. That means it's possible to hit the two day mark without charging, even with quite active use. However, it depends on the iPhone 8, which apps are installed and what you do with the smartphone. Therefore, a clear determination of the duration is difficult. In the test, the battery life wavered between one and two days. For pure video streaming, a full five hours are possible with the display at full brightness, and just under eight hours at half-light.
Fast charging costs extra with Apple
Annoying and incomprehensible: While the iPhone 8 technically supports particularly fast charging, Apple does not supply the appropriate charger in the box. Apple fans have to buy it themselves. With the standard charger, it takes more than two hours until the small battery is full again. That's half an eternity in Quick Charge time. After all, Apple supports the Qi standard for wireless charging. This will actually take much longer, but the need for fiddling with a cord is eliminated.
One can not imagine how long the iPhone 8 would run if Apple finally managed to build a battery with a capacity that is on the level of the Android competition. Even with 2,500 mAh, the iPhone 8 would certainly be a true endurance artist. Strange that the iPhone is still not very thin or light despite the small battery. For comparison, the Motorola Moto Z, which has a 2,600 mAh battery capacity, is 2 mm slimmer and 12 g lighter.
Apple iPhone 8 technical specifications
If you own an iPhone 7, or maybe even an iPhone 6S, then the jump to the iPhone 8 is not a big one. Sure, the performance is a bit better and there is wireless charging, but that's about it. The jumps in the remaining features are not very big. If you own an even older iPhone and aren't excited to splurge on the iPhone 8 Plus model or the iPhone X, this could be the best option for you.
And for the Android owners? The iPhone 8 is quite compact and such small smartphones are hard to find in the luxury class of the Android world. The exceptions are the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact and the Google Pixel 2, which has a few drawbacks. The camera of the new iPhone, despite its single lens, provides great results, and the performance is fluid. If you're prepared to drop $700, the choice is yours.