If you’re in the market for a smartphone, you realistically have two options. You can either get something running Android with Google Play Services, or an iPhone. Sure, there are a few other options and some home-brewed solutions, but that won’t apply to 99% of people.
On Talk Android, we quite obviously cover tons of Android and Google related devices. However, every once in awhile we like to shake things up a bit and check out stuff from the other side of the fence. We’ve reviewed an iPhone 7, and today we’re going to dig in and check out Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus.
Will it tempt you to switch over? Probably not, but it’s nice to see how the other half lives.
Apple has recycled the iPhone design for four years now with very, very few changes, starting with the first large screen iPhone 6. We saw some slight iterations with the iPhone 7’s larger camera, and this year Apple shifted to a totally new material for their phones.
The iPhone 8 Plus, despite looking nearly identical to the iPhone 6 Plus, 6S Plus, and 7 Plus, is fully covered in glass instead of the the aluminum we’ve seen for the past three years. It was mostly a functional choice, as the aluminum back of previous phones blocked wireless charging, but it does make a considerable difference.
The iPhone 8 Plus is a very large device, even though it doesn’t have a particularly large screen. The bezels on all four sides of the device are prominent, partly to make room for the large home button on the chin of the phone. You’ll still get the phone speaker, proximity sensor, and front-facing camera on the top of the device, too.
The bottom of the phone sports Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector and the speaker. The power button is on the right side of the phone, while the volume toggle switch and volume buttons are on the left.
The back is clean with only an Apple logo and “iPhone” written across the bottom, plus the dual-camera system with a large camera bump in the top left. The glass back is incredibly reflective, but it doesn’t attract too many fingerprints, at least in the silver model.
That glass also bulks up the weight of the phone compared to some older models. Apple isn’t racing to create the thinnest, lightest phone in the world anymore, and honestly, that’s a good thing. The iPhone 8 Plus feels really solid and well-built, and despite being large and glass, it’s not difficult to hold. It feels like you’d expect and want a $1000 phone to feel.
Say what you want about the tired design, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. And considering the iPhone X is actually Apple’s flagship for 2017 and beyond, this is more of a swan song for the iPhone 6 design. It definitely feels dated right now, but it’s also one of the most iconic designs on the market, and the quality of materials and manufacturing are top notch.
|Apple iPhone 8||Apple iPhone 8 Plus|
|Announced||September 2017||September 2017|
|Release||September 2017||September 2017|
|Display||4.7-inch (1344x750) IPS LCD||5.5-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD|
|Processor||Apple A11 Bionic||Apple A11 Bionic|
|Storage||64GB / 256GB||64GB / 256GB|
|Rear Camera||12MP w/ phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash||12MP + 12MP w/ phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, 2x optical zoom|
|Battery||1821mAh (non-removable)||2691mAh (non-removable)|
|Sound||Front- and bottom-facing stereo speakers||Front- and bottom-facing stereo speakers|
|Software||iOS 11.2||iOS 11.2|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac||Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Sensors||Ambient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprint||Ambient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, barometer, fingerprint|
|Measurements||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm||158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5mm|
|Colors||Gold, Space Gray, Silver||Gold, Space Gray, Silver|
It’s hard to really talk about performance of Apple devices because there are so few of them and Apple uses their own processors instead of something from Snapdragon or MediaTek.
With that being said, Apple’s in-house processor team is arguably the best on the market. The A11 CPU in all of Apple’s current flagship devices is just a stellar performer whether you’re using the phone for browsing and communication or gaming and other intensive tasks.
Benchmarks are meaningless, but there’s pretty much nothing that tops the A11 in single core or multi score right now, and it shows. The iPhone 7 pretty much never struggled, and the iPhone 8 Plus is rock solid 100% of the time. Games on the platform look fantastic thanks to that beefy performance and Apple’s Metal graphics API, and doing anything like photo editing is a breeze.
Apple has never cared about stuffing uber resolution screens in their phones, but they did introduce the True Tone display to the iPhone line this go around. In theory, you shouldn’t ever really notice it unless you’re looking for it.
Why is that? The phone determines the type of lighting you’re in and adjusts the white level of the screen to always show you an accurate display. It changes automatically, and legitimately does a pretty good job without ever startling the user. If you put the phone next to another device, you might notice that other devices look more blue or orange on the screen depending on how they’re calibrated, but otherwise it’s a nifty little feature that manages to hide in the background.
Speaker performance is good, and supposedly 25% louder than last year’s iPhones. They’re loud, they sound pretty decent, but you’re still going to want a separate speaker if you actually care about how your stuff sounds.
In my experience, unless a flagship device has an enormous battery, it tends to be outclassed by cheaper phones with mid-range CPUs. Specifically, devices with Qualcomm’s 600 series CPUs.
Even with the previous iPhone 7, I noticed really good, although not phenomenal, battery life. It was enough to get through the day, but it needed a charge at the end of the day and you’d really need to be conservative to stretch it to multiple days. That’s pretty true for most flagship phones.
The iPhone 8 Plus, by comparison, pretty much never runs dead despite only having a roughly 2700mAh battery. It easily keeps up with phones with significantly larger batteries and completely dominates Android devices with sub-3000mAh batteries, as rare as those are anymore. This probably has more to do with Apple’s tightly integrated A11 CPU and iOS, but man is it impressive.
A full day of regular usage still typically leaves me with close to 50% battery left, and that runs well into the night barring any heavy gaming. With low power mode that can be pretty easily stretched to two days without a significant shift in usage habits.
I think if you asked most Android users why they picked a Samsung or Pixel device over an iPhone, an overwhelming majority would say because they simply prefer Android to iOS. It’s a losing argument to say Apple’s hardware team isn’t world class, but it’s the software that really creates division with customers.
iOS has grown in the past few years to bring more multitasking and power user features into the fold, but it’s still simply not Android. There’s no app drawer, notifications are lacking, and you can’t do much customizing outside of app folders and your wallpaper.
An app drawer is really more of a preference thing, and many people don’t care much about customization (although plenty do), but the notifications are definitely the biggest pain point in iOS. Instead of a notification shade like Android has, your notifications show up on the lock screen in the order in which they’re received. Swiping down on your iPhone brings your lock screen back which allows you to see your recent notifications, plus scroll down into all of your current uncleared notifications, but the system is just a mess.
There’s no grouping or organization besides chronological order, and dismissing notifications is a multi-step process of swiping then tapping a clear button, instead of Android’s quick swipe to dismiss. It does have a nifty implementation of allowing you to set up widgets on the side of your lock screen, but that’s not enough to justify how awful managing notifications is. You’re better off just keeping an eye on icon badges and checking out your notifications when you see the big red number on you home screen.
Aside from notifications, though, Apple has done a really good job of making iOS a polished, excellent experience. Sharing information between apps is a much better process than it used to be, and you get fine-tuned control over everything. Background data usage, notifications, whether or not Facebook can use your microphone, etc. Apple takes privacy more seriously than Google, and that shows in iOS.
It’s also incredibly cohesive, which is something Google has been working towards but hasn’t quite nailed down yet. There are no mismatched icon masks and shapes, no jarringly clashing design languages between apps, and everything feels much more integrated than what you’ll get with other ecosystems. Apple’s apps have adopted a similar design, and they enforce guidelines much more strictly than Google does.
There are still a few software tweaks that Apple does really well, like being able to tap the top of the screen to scroll all the way back up to the top of a list or 3D Touching the side of the screen to quickly multitask. Apple also reserves some of their better services to iOS devices, like iMessage, and the integration the iPhone has with an Apple TV, iPad, or Mac or just hard to match. Even with its flaws, there’s still a lot to like and even envy from the Android side of the fence.
Fundamentally, there isn’t much difference between Android and iOS anymore for most people. The aesthetics and design may differ, but if you just want a phone that uses social media and can take pictures, you won’t struggle to use either once you actually hop into the apps, excluding the few apps that simply perform better on one OS over the other. Looking at you, Snapchat.
A few years back, it was pretty much impossible for any Android manufacturer to touch Apple’s camera hardware and software. Even phones with superior hardware still fell short next to the iPhone 4 thanks to Apple’s tighter component integration with software.
Things have changed a lot since then, and companies like Google and Samsung make cameras that can objectively outshoot an iPhone and keep everybody on much more even ground. That’s still true with the iPhone 8 Plus, but that doesn’t make the camera any less impressive.
Outdoor shots are bright, crisp, and extremely color accurate. If there’s one thing Apple does well, it’s stick to accuracy even when it makes the photo look slightly less appealing next to something more saturated.
Low light shots are extremely impressive, even when using the second lens for optical zoom. It’s pretty tough to ever take a bad picture with this camera.
Speaking of that extra lens, Apple uses a physical lens for their portrait shots as opposed to Google doing it via software. The result is similar, honestly, so take that as you will.
Portrait shots aren’t quite DSLR category, but they do look really good, especially for something that’s just going up on Instagram or Facebook. There are a few new features that allow you to completely filter out backgrounds that work 80% of the time, but the default mode itself is pretty quick and effective.
Unfortunately, we’re at a point of diminishing returns with cameras, so even though technically the Google Pixel 2 can outshoot the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s a pretty marginal difference. That’s not to take anything away from either phone, but it’s a pretty safe bet that we won’t see any dramatic camera quality increases anytime soon.
Is the iPhone 8 Plus a good phone? Absolutely. No smartphone can match the iPhone in single device sales, and despite having a shorter feature list, Apple takes the features it does offer and nails them like no one else can.
It’s a phone with killer hardware, extremely premium design materials, stellar battery life, and a camera that’s adept in any situation you throw it in. You might prefer the Pixel’s camera, or the battery life of the Galaxy S8 Active, but it’s really hard to find any other phone that offers everything in one package.
So then, like always, this simply winds down to one thing; iOS. No matter how great the hardware is, the software can still be a major turn off to a ton of people. It’s much more restricted, and if you’re not going all in on Apple’s (expensive) ecosystem, it can offer a lesser experience depending on what you use your phone for.
A great phone, for sure, but it’s not the phone for everyone.