As ever, they’re good. But also, they can be bad. And we don’t mean that in a ‘good’ bad way.
You can click the links above to delve into the psyches of Stuff’s iPhone reviewers and get the fine, gory details. But for something punchier – and sometimes a bit punchy – read on…
8 things we love about the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
1. They’re absurdly powerful
The beating heart of the new iPhones is Apple’s A11 chip. It’s fast – benchmarks suggest even desktop-smashing in some cases. Take that with a pinch of salt, perhaps, but on mobile at least the A11 is the new champion – and iPhones were no slouch beforehand. That might not matter for faffing about on Facebook, but it does for playing games, and working with high-end apps like Korg Gadget and Procreate.
2. The App Store is great
Speaking of apps, they’re another reason we love Apple devices. Sure, you can customise Android to the hilt, and run software at the… dodgy end of the spectrum. But want some properly ambitious apps and games? iOS is still where it’s at. These new iPhones will tackle anything you throw at them, with everything turned up to the max.
3. These iPhones feel premium
From a subjective standpoint, you might have issues with the design of Apple’s new iPhones. Heck, we have issues with them coming across a bit dated. But there’s no arguing that they aren’t refined. Apple iterates with the best of them, and these devices feel like they’ve been made with care and are going to last. And if you like familiarity, you’ll be in heaven.
4. They support wireless charging
If you feel like some kind of savage having to use a cable to charge your iPhone, happy times are here. The glass rear on the new iPhones isn’t there for aesthetic reasons – it enables you to plonk them on charging pads. Apple’s gone for the Qi standard, too, so you can use existing chargers. (That beats Alternate Reality Apple, currently in another dimension selling the proprietary – but magical – iCharger for S$540. Probably.)
5. The cameras are superb
The new iPhone camera specs look much like last year’s, but all manner of hardware and software smarts combines to improve the colour and detail in your snaps, whether they’re shot in blazing sunlight or the gloom of a typical British day. The best cameras on a smartphone? Quite possibly. (At least for the iPhone 8 Plus – although the iPhone 8’s isn’t shabby either.)
6. You get True Tone displays
On by default, True Tone has your iPhone track ambient light and adjust your display’s warmness accordingly. At first, it seems weird – everything goes a bit yellow. Then you gawp at an older iPhone, and screen content looks artificial – like a Hollywood idiot’s added a blue colour cast (and is lurking menacingly, about to paint half of the UI in teal).
7. The speakers are actually good
Even quite recently, iPhone speakers were a bit of a joke. We’re not laughing now. Apple’s pumped up the volume in its dual-speaker system, and the result is arresting. You’re still not going to hurl your hi-fi set-up into a skip. But for watching some telly or playing a game, they’re just the ticket.
8. They’re perfect for ARKit apps
Augmented reality feels like experiencing VR through a periscope. Still, you don’t have to wear a massive headset, and Apple’s ARKit means developers are hurling out AR apps and games at a rate of knots. You don’t need new iPhones to run them – but they sure work better on the latest models.
... and 8 things we hate about them
1. These are huge phones
Stick a new iPhone in one mitt and a more svelte Android device in the other. It’s immediately clear just how chunky the iPhone is. Those bezels don’t look bad per se, but the phones are huge compared to certain rivals with screens of similar – or even larger – areas and resolutions. Apple’s four-year-old design is feeling its age.
2. There’s still that camera bump
Lay your iPhone flat on a table, or a charging pad. Press near the corners. Assuming the surface is flat, you’ll very quickly spot your iPhone isn’t – and that’s because of the bloody great camera bump sticking out. We’ll take a bump over a worse camera, but would rather have neither.
3. The headphone jack isn’t back
Courage! That’s how Apple described its description to bin one of the most ubiquitous connections in technology history. And it still irks. Sure, you can get wireless headphones, including Apple’s own; yes, wires probably aren’t the future. But this one still feels too soon, even though you get a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter in the box.
4. No USB-C lead in the box
This might seem a weird pick, but it showcases the connectivity transition going on at Apple. With your iPhone, you get a USB Lightning cable, and a 5W charger. Want to plug your iPhone into a new MacBook or MacBook Pro? Tough – unless you fancy splashing out more on an adapter, having already spent best part of a grand on a phone.
5. The iPhone 8’s display is lagging
You might be of the opinion oneupmanship about display resolutions is odd. You would need your nose pressed to your iPhone 8’s 326ppi screen to start seeing jaggies. Even so, Samsung’s S8 almost doubles Apple’s effort, in an only slightly larger frame. By comparison, the iPhone 8 display can’t help feeling old hat.
6. They won’t run 32-bit apps
And, lo, Stuff did warn about the appocalypse, and said appocalypse did come to pass. Yep: if you’ve got any 32-bit apps and games you love, these are the first iPhones on which they won’t run. There’s no going back, unless you hold on to an old iPhone, perhaps gluing it to the new one like some kind of terrifying mutant Frankenstein’s monsterphone.
7. The batteries last no longer than before
Apple’s specs estimate battery life on the new iPhones as roughly the same as on the previous generation. And to be fair to Apple, the iPhone 8 was never going to be the day it revealed miraculous new battery tech. But we’d love an iPhone to blaze through an entire day without a care.
8. But the prices are higher
These new iPhones cost more than last year’s models, but also don’t stack up well to some of the competition. The entry-level iPhone 8 is more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S8, with its sharper screen (but duffer app ecosystem). The iPhone 8 Plus is similarly pricier than the Samsung Galaxy S8+, with its expandable storage.
We’ve already said these are premium iPhones, and so it’s no surprise they’re selling for premium prices. But the iPhone 8’s lowish screen resolution and iPhone 8 Plus’s sheer heft do make you wonder whether Apple’s now holding its own in every way among its peers, or relying on goodwill, great cameras, superb apps, and a smattering of branding smarts to keep sales flooding in.