The iPhone 8 arrived without the usual fanfare you’d expect. Its thunder was stolen by the all-animoji-singing, all-animoji-dancing iPhone X. The iPhone 8 was left as the tricky middle child: not the cheapest (that’s still the iPhone 7), not the greatest (that’s the iPhone X)… just a middle device.
That’s a shame because the iPhone 8 is a very solid phone indeed. A decent upgrade from the iPhone 7 without spending silly money: while £699 is hardly impulse-buy territory, it is still a massive £300 saving on the iPhone X, and it delivers the vast majority of things you’d want in a new phone.
iPhone 8 review: Key specifications
- 4.7in IPS display, 1,334 x 750 resolution at 326ppi, True Tone technology
- 64-bit 6-core Apple A11 Bionic processor with M11 co-processor and “Neural engine”
- 64GB or 256GB storage
- Single 12MP f/1.8 rear-facing camera with OIS, 7MP f/2.2 front-facing camera
- Wireless charging
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
- Dust- and water-resistant to IP67
- Available in silver, gold and Space Grey
- Price: £699 (64GB); £849 (256GB)
iPhone 8 review: Design
Despite not coming in as an iPhone 7S model, the iPhone 8 is no great departure from its predecessor. That’s no bad thing: it’s still a very nice looking handset, but no design trends are being bucked here. The home button still sits beneath the screen, the same place it always has since the very first iPhone. That may seem obvious, but given it has now been removed from the iPhone X (with unorthodox fixes), this may be a deal breaker for you.
That also means there’s no headphone jack, no matter how much you might wish for one. That’s a bit of a blow, but worse is that Apple doesn’t provide a headphone adapter in the box: in other words, if you want to use your regular wired headphones, you’re looking at another bit of expenditure.
The good news is that it’s IP67-certified, which means it’s moderately resistant to water, and should be able to survive a dunking in one metre of water for up to half an hour.
That was present on the iPhone 7, of course, but wireless charging is all new to this generation. The beauty of this is that you don’t need to plug in a cable, however, you also run the risk of not placing the phone exactly in the correct position on the panel, and many people will stick to regular charging once the novelty has worn off.
iPhone 8 review: Screen
At first glance, the 4.7in iPhone 8 IPS display looks exactly like that of the iPhone 7, but there are a few changes. The main one is the inclusion of Apple’s True Tone technology, making the screen blend in more with its surroundings, giving it more natural “paper-like” appearance and the iPhone 8 runs on Apple’s advanced hexa-core A11 Bionic chip, its neural networks having been “custom tuned” for the augmented-reality features built into iOS 11.
What this means in practice is that it’s a very fine screen indeed, even if the resolution (750 x 1,334) is quite a bit lower than most Android rivals made in the last couple of years. In our display tests, it reached an impressively high peak brightness of 577cd/m2 with a contrast ratio of 1,697:1.
It’s not OLED, like the bigger iPhone X, but it is a decent screen, and the average punter will certainly have no complaints with it.
iPhone 8 review: Performance
Apple describes the A11 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 8 as the world’s most powerful smartphone chip. In reality, it’s quite hard to know how true that is, because only iOS devices use the chips, but either because the claim is correct or that iOS is phenomenally well optimised, the claim bears out in our benchmark tests. The graph below shows single and multi-core CPU performance when stacked against the biggest handsets of the year, and as you can see, the iPhone 8 more than holds its own.
It’s a similar story when it comes to 3D graphical performance. The iPhone 8 will simply crush anything you throw at it for now, no matter how intensive:
One possible drawback for multitaskers: the iPhone 8 comes with just 2GB RAM. Granted, iOS is excellent at memory management, but if you’re a power user who likes to multitask, it might be worth looking at the iPhone 8 Plus, which comes with 3GB. It also comes with more battery life, which is something of an Achilles’ Heel for the iPhone 8:
iPhone 8 review: Camera
The 12-megapixel f/1.8 aperture rear-facing camera now comes with a faster and larger sensor which Apple claims “delivers advanced pixel processing, wide colour capture, faster autofocus in low light and better HDR photos”. It also has optical image stabilisation as standard – something sorely missing from the iPhone 7.
These claims, it turns out, are wholly justified. As you can see from the picture below, the camera provides images that are well balanced and packed with detail. It’s also pretty smart at knowing when to deploy HDR.
Low light conditions are pretty impressive too, with the camera able to pick up lots of detail and keep image noise to a minimum. If you look very closely at the picture below, you’ll see a bit of blurring around the vase and pens, but you have to look carefully to spot it.
In short, it’s a fine camera. Maybe not quite Pixel 2 territory, but up there with the best of them.
On the front, you’ll find the same 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with f/2.2 aperture as on the iPhone 7. This doesn’t provide as much detail, as you’d expect, but is just fine for selfies and FaceTime.
iPhone 8 review: Verdict
Despite the improvements, the iPhone 8 lacks any real punch. None of the features listed above are unique to the iPhone 8, for instance. Yes, they’re a step up from the iPhone 7 and, yes, they certainly leave older models and some rivals in the dust, but all are available on the iPhone 8 Plus, which additionally comes with a number of USPs.
That’s not to say the iPhone 8 doesn’t have appeal. If you prefer smaller handsets and don’t want the tiny iPhone SE, the 4.7in phone fits comfortably in your hand and the improvements, albeit small, are noticeable when compared to the iPhone 7.
But £699 remains a big ask when the iPhone 7 remains an excellent handset that’s now available considerably cheaper. And if you’re not wedded to iOS, then many of the features here can be had elsewhere for a lot less cash. With new handsets landing in March, the iPhone 8 could look pretty dated, pretty fast.
Still, there’s a place for the iPhone 8, and those that do grab one will be very happy with it. But it’s undoubtedly an incremental update, and we’re left hoping that Apple will be bolder when the next generation of iPhones are unveiled in 2018.