Is that an iPhone 7 in a new box?
That's what we thought when we began unboxing Apple's latest smartphone. There isn’t much radically different on the outside when you compare the new 8 to the older iPhone 7 or the 6S.
However, look closer and you will observe subtle changes, especially when you flip the phone around.
Apple has chosen a new kind of glass as its material of choice, for the front and back of the new iPhone 8. It has done this to enable two things.
One, to give the phone a bit of a refresh when it comes to the design (though it is still impossibly hard to tell the difference when compared to the iPhone 7 and the 6s). Secondly and more importantly it has used glass to enable wireless charging.
That ends up making the device a touch heavier (148 gm as compared to 138 gm for the iPhone 7) The glass back is reinforced with a laser‑welded steel foundation and an aerospace‑grade aluminum band. It is water resistant down to the micron level.
Hold me thrill me
While the curved all glass back actually makes the rear of the phone grippy to hold, it is still scary slippery when you try to grasp it around the unobtainium grade, ported-from-the-future, sorcerized aluminium frame.
The finish is typical Apple and we cannot find a fault here. On the exterior, the curved glass is the only distinguishing factor when compared to the iPhone 7.
Camera: Click Click no zoom?
One of the things we love about smartphones is the cameras they sport and we are absolute suckers for ones that offer the very best optics. Which is reason enough that we have always loved the iPhone for its camera skills.
With the new 8, you do not get dual lenses that let you zoom in on caterpillars trying to climb your porch but you still do get to shoot with a 12 megapixel wide-angle rear camera with f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation.
Selfies ought to look sharpish thanks to a 7 megapixel, f/2.2 camera on the front. Yet again you might argue that this is precisely the same set plucked directly from the iPhone 7. However what it benefits from is the new A11 Bionic processor. Here’s how.
With the 8, Apple ensures better pixel processing, much lower noise and quicker low-light autofocus. The Apple-designed Image Signal Processor (ISP) helps this process and that gives it an edge over the iPhone 7. Compared to which, the sensor is larger too which means larger individual pixels, which in the end ensure shots that a packed with a wallop of detail.
Our test shots showed better colour capture when compared to the 7 both in broad daylight and night shots. Overall there is a wallop of pop as far as image detail is concerned.
Improvements are not restricted to still photography. You can now shoot slow-mo videos at 240fps in Full HD and overall video stabilisation levels are ethereal considering the camera measures smaller than your fingertip and offers steadicam like stability while shooting motion.
OS and apps: it’s the ecosystem, stupid
Perhaps the biggest advantage the iPhone 8 has over ostensibly similar devices is it doesn’t run Android.
If, having read that last sentence, you’re already banging out an angry email to Stuff HQ, then iOS might not be for you. There are admittedly areas in which Android excels, such as deep system customisation and, frankly, piracy. Emulators and torrent apps are as welcome in Cupertino as headphone ports on iPhones.
The best games, though, hit iOS first – and often Android never. And there are tons of amazing apps when you want to go beyond the norm, cranking out gorgeous painted art or top–40 hits.
AR, too, is now big on iOS. Weirdly, lots of games now assume you want to ‘project’ puzzles on to your messy desk (nope), but we during review happily hurled virtual chairs about our office in Housecraft and had terrifying weatherbot/destroyer of humans Carrot Weather float menacingly in a corner. This stuff works even on a 6s, but is more responsive and less battery-killing on the iPhone 8, due to the A11 chip doing heavy lifting.
Elsewhere, Stuff will review iOS 11 soon, so we won’t dwell on it; suffice to say it’s really nice, and runs beautifully on the iPhone 8. On the iPhone 6s, it by contrast feels like someone’s going to flick an off-switch in a year or two.
Additional words: Craig Grannell
Performance: On rocket boosters
Packed deep within its frame is the new A11 Bionic processor (no, tiny bionic bots won’t creep out of the phone and help you brush your teeth), which Apple promises is faster, no wait, a lot faster than the A10 Fusion chip that did duty on the earlier device.
Apple chose to go with the name as the company believed alpha-numeric names such as A10 and so on would eventually get boring. Good move. We’ve run some benchmarks on this one to get a rough idea of how fast this thing really is. Mind you benchmarks can never give you an accurate real world idea of a device’s number crunching prowess but you do get an idea of how a product performs under a set of preset conditions.
Once we ran multiple instances of GeekBench and Antutu, it was clear that the iPhone 8 is quite a bit faster than the 7. It is evident when you play games, surf the web or work with compute intensive tasks such as shooting slow motion videos or working with video editing apps and more. There is never even the slightest hint of lag as the iPhone 8 scorches through even with multiple apps kept open.
We have always found the sound output to be a wee bit inadequate on the iPhone 7, that meant a not so wholesome movie or gaming experience.
However that gets fixed with the 8 and how. Apple ensures upto 25% louder sound output and deeper bass. The difference is clear when you play your favourite songs, watch video content or play games.
Audio delivery is fuller and there is a true sense of involvement when you play at full pump. It does make a difference for the good when you feel the need to enjoy HD movies too.
Less battery, more juice?
Let’s get one bit of detail out of the way, the battery inside the new iPhone 8 is smaller when compared to the batter inside the iPhone 7. However, Apple promises exactly the same battery life, thanks to efficient use of stored energy. Here is what you need to know.
Of the three new smartphones launched the specs of the X aren’t out yet but it should have a battery similar to the one on the iPhone 8 Plus which gets a 2691 mAh juice pack. The battery on the iPhone 8 makes a less than grand entry at 1821 mAh and come to think of it, both the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone 8 have smaller batteries than their earlier versions.
However Apple promises exactly the same battery life which after using the phone for over a week, we tend to agree with.
Verdict: 8 or wait?
If you never have owned an iPhone ever before, you can buy the 8 for a thoroughly wholesome Apple experience, which encompasses blistering fast performance, effortless ease of use thanks to iOS 11, mind-boggling image and video quality and more.
If you own an old iPhone such as the 5S or the 6 at max, do the same.
However if you have the iPhone 7, the 8 won’t offer anything majorly new to you. The standout bits for us would be the TrueTone screen, better camera skills, wireless charging, neater deeper sounding speakers.