Everything we learned during the first weekend with the iPhone 8 Plus
A brand new iPhone has entered the world, greeted with its usual mix of delight and derision depending on which side of the Apple fence you sit on.
The facts are that the iPhone 8 is designed to be a steady step forward in the phone’s life cycle – with subtle changes in place rather than a drastic overhaul.
This iPhone is different in that it’s not the headline, flagship device of the year from Apple either – that is still to come with the iPhone X.
Where do the 8 and 8 Plus sit then? Who are they aimed at? And should they be the iPhone devices to upgrade to this year? Here’s everything we learned over the first weekend spent with the new phone.
A large portion of any iPhone’s desirability is down to how it looks. Ever since the first device back in 2007, the phone has been purposely designed to look different and be something of a statement object, let alone a communications device.
The iPhone 8 Plus follows this trend. The addition of glass to the rear of the device may conjure up anxiety for some over fears it may be twice as likely to smash when dropped – Apple assures us its the most durable glass ever in a smartphone – and it does make for a pleasing sight.
The glass on the rear casing curves slightly into the aluminium band that runs around the sides of device, meaning it sits nicely in the hand.
The glass has also had a nice effect on the colouring of the 8 Plus, the Space Grey looks a little lighter this year which makes it feel like a new shade, while the new Gold finish – which is in fact somewhere between gold and rose gold – is probably the stand out of the three finishes.
Though the 8 Plus is lacking the edge-to-edge screen that will appear on the iPhone X, it does have a display boosted by Apple’s True Tone technology.
This means in essence, a brighter screen, and one that automatically adjusts to the light around you. The colour range and clarity on screen is also noticeably better than last year’s iPhone 7.
Even the menu screen, background images and app icons pop more, and when using the 8 Plus for gaming or video playback the brighter, sharper colours do make a difference.
Perhaps the best new feature found so far in the iPhone 8 Plus can be found in the camera, taking advantage of the also new A11 Bionic processor chip.
It’s a boost to the already very good Portrait shooting mode, which softens the background while focusing more sharply on the main subject.
Now this feature has been extended to light, with the new Portrait Lighting mode enabling users to change the light effect and exposure on the faces of people in portrait images.
The technology that does this is in that new A11 Bionic chip, which uses machine learning to map faces and understand how a face would be lit under a certain light.
In fact, across the board it is noticeable how the A11 has sharpened the speed of the iPhone – between apps and menus and in games, the phone is seriously faster.
For Portrait Lighting, a new scroll wheel then enables users to choose between five different light settings, including studio, natural and stage lighting. Each of which can drastically change the make-up of a photo.
The biggest issue with the iPhone 8 Plus is that at this point, the big changes start to dry up.
Wireless charging has been introduced, but this feels more like a novelty at the moment rather than an upgrade.
Well travelled mobile users will have encountered the technology on many Android devices too.
But until the tech improves and charging doesn’t require placing your device in an exact position on a mat that is itself plugged in, the lifestyle advantages compared to wired charging remain minimal.
Some of the other better features of the 8 are also down to iOS 11, which is of course not limited to the iPhone 8, but devices all the way back to the 5s.
The redesigned Control Centre and App Store both stand out instantly as better experiences now, but they don’t fuel the argument for the 8 or 8 Plus, and so its existential crisis again comes to the forefront.
The iPhone 8 is a good smartphone. It looks great and is loaded with premium smartphone features.
But many iPhone users who own a 7, 6s and even 6 will feel – rightly – that the jump isn’t big enough forward to justify making the transition.
This is an understandable feeling, one that only becomes more tempting to follow when you add in the looming spectre of the iPhone X, and the major redesign the die-hard Apple fans look forward to every couple of years.
The iPhone 8 Plus then is the perfect device for older iPhone users who want to catch up, not the game-changing step up that some expected.