But that’s a mistake – the Touch ID and home button-based iPhone 8 line up still has so much to offer and that’s why it still remains on sale despite Apple’s Face ID phones being so prevalent. So what do we think of the iPhone 8 now? Read on to find out.
Design tweaks, not reinvention
- Glass front and back
- Gold colour option
- 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm; 148g
From the front, the iPhone 8 offers very little change to older home button-based iPhones, compared to the iPhone XS, XS Max, iPhone XR and iPhone 11 series. The Home button remains, as does the FaceTime camera, and the same-size bezels. That’s why we had expected this model to be called the iPhone 7S.
The iPhone 8 does bring some changes, even if they aren’t as dramatic as the Face ID-toting models. The metal back was replaced with glass – which delivers a look and feel that’s more premium (and a lot more fingerprint-prone).
The iPhone 8 is available in three colours: Gold, Silver and Space Gray. Of the three, we love the Gold option. It’s not as brash as you might think, and more akin to a subtler “nude” colour that is popular in posh high heel shoes.
Moving to a glass design – although the frame and therefore sides are still metal – does mean the iPhone 8 is more prone to break or shatter, especially if you drop it. That’s becoming par for the course now, though, with pretty much all flagship phones offering a metal frame sandwiched between glass panels, including both Huawei and Samsung.
We’ve not done any drop tests with the iPhone, but if you are accident-prone, it’s probably wise to invest in a case. The move to glass doesn’t stop the phone being dust- and water-resistant, but does allow for wireless charging – if you purchase the relevant wireless charging pad, or have access to such sources, whether at a Starbucks or in your car.
Despite glass, the design is otherwise all familiar. It’s not rocking the boat with a near bezel-free design like the newer X models here. In that sense, the iPhone 8 is a straight upgrade to the iPhone 7 – but a marginal one.
In an ever-increasing trend of bigger and bigger smartphones, it’s also nice to know that the iPhone 8 is comfortable to use one-handed. It’s a use-on-the-move phone, rather than a two-handed beast, which is very much part of its appeal. Few others make phones of such a size, with only, say, the marginally larger Google Pixel 3 taking a similar stance in the Android camp.
- 4.7-inch 1344 x 750 resolution LCD (326ppi)
- True Tone Display (real-time auto colour adjustment)
While the screen looks the same and delivers the same resolution as the older iPhone 7, Apple introduced a technology that it already used on its iPad line, called True Tone, onto the iPhone 8.
Tone Display works by automatically adjusting the screen colour based on the ambient light in the room to offer more accurate colours when you’re using it. The tech simply makes things just look better without you really realising. But turn it off or go back to a device that doesn’t have it and you’ll wonder how you ever coped.
True Tone also means you can benefit from high dynamic range (HDR) content from apps like Netflix, although we doubt you’ll be watching anything for any serious length of time on a screen so small.
The screen also features Apple’s 3D Touch technology that allows you to press down harder to access deeper contextual menus. We’ve used this for some things, but completely ignored it for others – it’s down to personal preference.
Processor and storage
- A11 Bionic processor
- 64/256GB storage options
That power enables you to do a number of things, including run augmented reality (AR) apps, as well as the usual array of apps and games that you are already enjoying, or have yet to discover.
However, the iPhone 8 probably doesn’t need the power quite as much as the other two smartphones in the 2017 range, as it doesn’t feature two cameras, Face ID, or other image processor-heavy options that push a processor to its limits.
On the storage front there are now two options; 64GB and 256GB. The storage sizes reflect what we do with our phones these days, but there are a number of features built in to the iOS software that will try and offload as much as possible into the cloud if you’re worried 64GB just won’t be enough.
Whether that’s optimising your music, photos, or apps, for most we think the 64GB option will be fine. If, however, you know you like everything stored locally, and want lots of apps, you’ll need to go big or go home. And that will cost a pretty penny, because there’s no microSD card expansion for the iPhone, as there has never been.
Battery, wireless charging and Quick Charge
- Supports Qi open standard wireless charging
- Works with charging mats from Belkin and others
- Quick charge charges your iPhone 8 really fast
One of the big features introduced with the iPhone 8 is wireless charging. It’s the key reason the phone moved to a glass back and means you can charge your iPhone by putting it on a wireless charging pad.
Wireless charging is nothing new – competitors have been offering it for a number of years, and continue to do so – but the expectation was that when Apple got into the game, we’d see a lot more wireless charging stations in hotels, cafes, cars, and elsewhere.
You’ll need to buy a wireless charging pad for it to work, but once you have, all you need to do is plonk your iPhone 8 on it and it will start charging. The catch is that the charge isn’t as fast as we would like, plus the phone must remain on the mat to charge (obviously), but it does allow you to ditch the cable.
For those who do need a fast charge, the iPhone 8 also offers Quick Charge. Using a more powerful charger and a different cable (neither of which are included in the box) you can charge your battery incredibly quickly. If you have a new USB-C powered MacBook you can use that charger.
We achieved around 50 per cent charge in 30 minutes, giving us more than enough power to get back on the road again. If you have a USB-C MacBook, it’s definitely worth investing in the USB-C to Lightning cable to make it work.
All of these now different ways to charge your phone works towards fixing one of the iPhone’s perennial problems – its battery. While we happily got a day’s use out of the iPhone 8, the ability to top-up quickly and easily throughout the day has certainly made a noticeable difference. A wireless charging pad on the desk at work as meant no real need to worry in the evening about power, and if we have suddenly realised we were low before heading out the door then Quick Charge sorts things out.
Depending on how you use your phone will depend on how long the battery lasts, of course, so if you’re a social media and messaging apps heavy user then expect to need a top-up around 7pm. The smaller iPhone is no match in battery life terms for the iPhone 8 Plus or the newer iPhone XR.
Taking photos with the iPhone 8
- 12 megapixel camera
- No portrait mode
- 4K at 60fps
While the larger iPhone 8 Plus boasts a number of features focused towards photographers, the iPhone 8, to put it simply, does not. There is no dual camera, no Portrait mode, and no Studio Lighting mode (although we care not about this mode anyway).
What you do get is a very capable 12-megapixel f/1.8 camera on the rear, and a 7-megapixel front-facing camera. You also get 4K 60fps shooting capabilities, slow-mo up to 240fps at 1080p, and Optical Image Stabiliation on the smaller iPhone – the latter of which wasn’t offered prior to the iPhone 8.
If that sounds disappointing, it shouldn’t. The iPhone 8 camera is still very good, producing fantastic results in the variety of environments that we’ve been testing it, whether that’s for portraits or in low-light conditions.
New features with iOS 13 incoming
- Quick Start setup feature
- Better photo editing options
The iPhone 8 comes pre-loaded with iOS 11, but it will get updated to iOS 13 when the new software build launches in the coming weeks. It currently runs on iOS 12 if you update it to the latest.
When iOS 13 launches, a number of new tricks will arrive without overly changing anything that you’ve become used to. There’s a Dark Mode, a new app that combines Find My Friends and Find My iPhone together, a Swiping keyboard like SwiftKey, a new look for Reminders, a revamp of Apple Maps and a greater focus on privacy, to name but a few.
You can read our iOS 13 preview for a more in-depth look at what is coming with the next iOS software build.
iPhone 8 vs iPhone 8 Plus
- More manageable size
- Not as good for smartphone photographers
As with the iPhone 7 vs the iPhone 7 Plus there are a number of similarities and differences between the iPhone 8 models. The biggest difference for most won’t be the size, that’s a given, but the camera capabilities. The iPhone 8 Plus’ photography skills are better, as is its battery life, which pushes a wider gap between these two phones.
That’s not to say the iPhone 8 should be written off though. We still absolutely love the compact form factor, the ability to slip it into any pocket, and that it’s still a very powerful phone that delivers on most, if not all fronts.
Against newer iPhones, the iPhone 8 makes sense, too, as it isn’t trying to directly compete, rather complement the range available for those seeking a smaller phone.
Compared to the iPhone 7, the iPhone 8 brings minimal upgrades. But compared to the iPhone 6/6S, wow, you’ll be very pleased with the jump forward – particularly if you’re seeking a familiar and compact phone.
Apple isn’t rocking the boat in the iPhone 8, but its feature improvements make notable improvements in all the right places. The glass back means wireless charging is possible. Buy the relevant charging cable and the addition of Quick Charge is great. The boost in power is also spot on for AR applications and smooth operation from iOS 12 – soon to be iOS 13 – and all your favourite apps.
However, the Face ID-toting iPhone models are hard to ignore – but they do cost quite a premium over what you’d pay for an iPhone 8.
Yet iPhone 8 remains small, compact, powerful, and will deliver the ideal phone experience for many – especially those who aren’t fussed with all the latest and greatest features, newer design, and the costs associated with them. Just because it has minimal upgrades doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver maximum satisfaction.
Apple iPhone XR
It’s pricier and larger, but the new screen ratio means it’s still perfectly good for one-handed use and the iPhone XR sits at the bottom end of the Face ID iPhone models but with the same power as the XS, XS Max and iPhone 11 series. With its near bezel-free design, and heaps of new features – from facial recognition Face ID to an enhanced LCD screen – it shows the iPhone’s progression.
Google Pixel 3
Ok, so it’s nothing to do with Apple, but if you’re contemplating the Android route then Google’s top-end small-scale handset is accomplished. It is about to be replaced with the Pixel 4 though so it might be worth waiting for the new model, either for its Face Unlock features, or for the Pixel 3 to go down in price.
This review was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated to reflect changes in the market.