It was expected that the iPhone 8 Plus would be something on the lines of an iPhone 7S Plus - Same phone, maybe slightly updated components and just an incremental update at most. But the iPhone 8 Plus is a lot more than that and packs just enough extra iPhone to make the upgrade worth it.
Not quite a design revamp, but I'll take it
The new iPhone 8 Plus takes the best of the iPhone 7 Plus' design and is prime example of 'it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
Having used some of last year's more popular phablets, I still think Apple got the iPhone 7 Plus' dimensions just right. It's just wide enough to offer a lot of display real state while not being too big to use one-handed.
It's just slightly heavier than the iPhone 7 Plus, thanks to the extra glass in the back. But otherwise the dimensions make it so you can use your old cases and accessories with it, except perhaps it isn't the most snug. But to be safe, you'd best be choosing specific iPhone 8/8 Plus skins or cases.
The design is a lot more polished with the thin metal band around the side more of an accent to the polished glass of the phone's rear. Despite Apple's promises of this being the most durable glass ever used on a phone, a casing might still be the best bet to keep the back of your phone scratch and break-free.
Of the three colour options (having seen them up close) white and gold are the most striking while the Space Grey seems more like code for 'black, but we won't call it that because we're Apple'.
Zippy specs, as expected
So what kind of specs can you expect on the iPhone 8 Plus? Its A11 Bionic processor is also on the iPhone 8 and on the yet-to-release iPhone X, so you can be sure it's pretty powerful.
While Apple hasn't confirmed how much RAM the phone has, it's estimated to be 3GB and it shows. Unlike its Android competition that have packed upwards of 4GB of RAM even in midrange phones, Apple's integration of hardware and software means it can get away with less RAM while not sacrificing performance. That's the benefit of a closed system.
While the iPhone 8 isn't slow by any means, the iPhone 8 Plus promises a lot more power and is the best bet for multitasking, handling 3D games and apps with aplomb. Let's not forget it also houses Apple's first mobile GPU processor.
You'll need plenty of power to get the best experience out of iOS 11 which comes with new apps such as Files - Apple's own cloud and local file manager app. They'll work just fine on the iPhone 8, but if you're the type who does as much work on your phone as you do on your PC, you'll appreciate the iPhone 8 Plus' larger screen and added processing power.
It's great that the battery on the iPhone 8 Plus is rated to last as long as the iPhone 7 Plus, which tends to last me nearly a whole day before needing any sort of charging. It's a pity though that Apple couldn't figure out how to make the battery last even longer. But better to stick to what works.
Still keeping you glued to the screen
It's still the same 5.5in size, and the new Retina HD screen still has the same pixel count (1920x1080pixels), Sure it might 'only' be an IPS LCD screen but at 401ppi and a 1300:1 contrast ratio, it's still a great screen that displays everything it needs to clearly.
The display now supports Apple's True Tone display that adjusts to ambient lighting, making it easier on your eyes whether you're out in the sun or indoors in low light. Colours and high-res photos pop out more on the new screen and thankfully it's a lot less of a fingerprint magnet this time around.
It's good news for those who already use Plus-sized iPhones to consume media - Now your video content will look better and be kinder to your eyesight.
Instagram will love this camera
Plus, besides the size, for Apple it also means added extras where the camera is concerned. Like the iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus also gets its sensor upgraded. It has the usual wide-angle (f/1.8 aperture) and telephoto (f/2.8) duo though with OIS enabled only on one of the sensors. The 2x optical zoom is still there, alongside a 10x digital zoom/
What will most interest people is what the A11 Bionic processor offers when combined with the 8 Plus camera - Added power that can be seen clearly in the Portrait Lighting (still in beta) feature. Portraits is less fiddly this time around and the Lights feature now lets you adjust your photo's lighting from within your Photos app.
It will certainly make taking Portraits a whole lot more fun, like the way it did last year. Once the iPhone 8 Plus starts selling worldwide, it's likely we'll see photos using the Portrait Lighting all over the place. I know I used it a fair bit, but do note that it works better on human subjects than animals, especially in low light.
Focusing is faster now in low light, particularly noticeable in Portrait mode. It is more usable now and takes photos with less nagging for 'more light' or asking you to move further away as often.
iOS 11 is still working out its kinks however. Users, myself included, have experienced the Camera app just refusing to work. A quick reboot fixes and so far it has only happened to me once. Here's hoping for a quick update soon.
Being able to shoot 4K video at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps is also pretty cool, giving aspiring amateur videographers a lot more range to play with. Note that 4K video will take up a lot of space so consider your workflow and where you will transfer all that footage later.
(Many more) things
There's a lot more to love besides the camera and display on the iPhone 8 Plus. There's the wireless charging for one, but it's a little frustrating that Apple only supports the slower Qi standard for now.
Apparently the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus does support fast charging (via cables) but you'd need to buy a Lightning to Type-C charger. Great news if you want to connect your iPhone to your Type-C port MacBook but annoying for most people, considering that a growing number of the competition include fast charge capability out of the box.
As much as I appreciate knowing that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 are splash and dust-resistant, it feels as though they could do better in that area. For instance, the Home button being unresponsive to wet hands is a little irksome.
I do like iOS 11's polish and extra functionality, but be aware it still can get a little buggy so expect the odd quirk. While a reboot should fix things in most cases, we're waiting for a more permanent fix to the problem.