iPhone 8 Review: The Verdict
The iPhone 8 is far from exciting, but it's a safe and sensible choice for your next smartphone. Battery life could be better, but significant camera improvements, lighting fast performance, and a stunning new True Tone display make it a meaningful addition to the iPhone family.
What we love
- Gorgeous True Tone display
- Meaningful camera upgrade
- Great performance
- 64GB storage minimum
What could be improved
- Battery life could be better
- Same screen-to-body ratio as last year
- No headphone jack
- No bundled fast charger
What's the iPhone 8?
The iPhone 8 is Apple's safe and sensible iPhone. It might lack the "wow factor" of the iPhone X, but it's a tried and tested product in the fourth revision of a single design. If the iPhone X is the shape of things to come, the iPhone 8 is the culmination of the first ten years of iPhone. It's everything you've come to love about the iPhone with enough refinements to give it that new phone feeling.
The biggest physical change is the move to a glass back, and a very pretty one at that. While glass looks nice and enables wireless charging, the join between the aluminium frame and the glass panel is quite noticeable. It's not uncomfortable and it doesn't get in the way of using the phone, but it doesn't have the same seamless feel as the aluminium iPhone 7. Notably, the iPhone 8's glass back isn't as prone to fingerprints as phones like HTC's U11. You'll still notice fingerprints and smudges if you're looking for them, but daily usage doesn't leave the phone looking filthy.
While the phone itself isn't very different to its predecessors, there's plenty of meaningful changes under the hood. The display now touts the iPad's True Tone technology, the camera is much better in challenging situations, there's wireless charging, and a processor that offers as much as a 70% performance increase over last year's models. The iPhone 8 doesn't feel radically different, but it's a solid new iteration.
What's good about iPhone 8?
The iPhone 8's camera easily feels like the device's "newest" feature; we were actually a little surprised to find how much of an improvement it offers over last year's model. The iPhone 8 takes better photos across the board thanks to richer colours and increased sharpness, but the improvements are most noticeable when it comes to adverse lighting situations.
Lowlight photography is the biggest winner, with the iPhone 8 capturing significantly brighter photos. Fortunately, this hasn't come at the expense of clarity or sharpness (brighter lowlight photography is often the result of a slower shutter speed, which means a photo takes longer to take, and in turn makes the resulting image more prone to motion blur); lowlight photos are sharper, more detailed, and exhibit less camera noise and fewer artifacts.
During the day, the iPhone 8 is far better at handling harsh sunlight. Photos are far less prone to blowout, and capture better contrast. For example, if you're shooting towards the sun, you're now far more likely to get a rich blue sky rather than a washed out bluish white. In short, the iPhone 8 is far more likely to get you a good photo, regardless of lighting conditions. It's easily one of the best smartphone cameras around right now, alongside HTC's U11.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 8 still only has one rear-facing camera. If you want a zoom lens, you'll need to opt for the larger iPhone 8 Plus or the pricier iPhone X.
As you'd expect from a $1,000 phone, the iPhone 8 has a lovely display. It's vibrant, works well in direct sunlight and, has wide viewing angles. It doesn't have as great a pixel density as phones other manufacturers have been releasing, but it doesn't impact sharpness or clarity in any meaningful way.
True Tone technology, first introduced with the iPad Pro, is the best thing about the iPhone 8's screen. The feature automatically adjusts the colour temperature of the iPhone's display to match the ambient lighting of your environment. This not only makes colours look more natural, but makes the screen easier on the eyes.
Much like the iPhone 7, the iPhone 8 is a fast little phone. Day to day performance gains seem marginal at best - you'll save a second or two here and there - but these become far more impressive when it comes to more intensive applications. Even games like Hearthstone open and run noticeably faster, and there's almost certainly plenty of headroom for demanding tasks like the augmented reality applications enabled by iOS 11.
One of the iPhone's main drawcards is the tight relationship between hardware and software. Since Apple makes both the iPhone and its operating system, you get a more holistic experience than you do on most Android devices. The most practical benefit of this is guaranteed software and security updates. Historically speaking, an iPhone will continue to get software updates for four or five years after it first goes on sale. Not only does this mean you're constantly getting Apple's latest software, it seems to positively affect iPhone resale value.
The iPhone 8 touts the same water-resistance rating as the iPhone 7: IP67. This means it can safely be submerged as deep as one metre for up to half an hour. It's not quite as water-resistant as Samsung's 2017 flagship devices (which are all rated IP68, meaning they can go down 1.5 metres), but still water-resistant enough to survive a tumble into the toilet or the shallow end of a pool. The feature is more about peace of mind, rather than an invitation to use the phone underwater.
While the iPhone 8 might be the perfect companion for binging on Netflix in the bath, make sure the water isn't too sudsy; IP ratings technically only apply to fresh water. The iPhone 8 should survive encounters with salt water, chlorinated water, or even beer, you'll just want to rinse it off with freshwater as soon as possible.
It's worth noting that Apple does not cover water damage under the iPhone 8's warranty. You also shouldn't charge the device when it's wet; make sure you give it a couple of hours to dry out entirely following any aquatic adventures
Lastly, the iPhone 8 now starts with 64GB of storage, rather than 32GB. It's a welcome change that puts Apple in line with other high-end phone manufacturers. I've found 64GB tends to be the sweet spot where I don't have to worry about running out of space, but you're able to opt for a 256GB model instead for a little extra if it seems too tight (iPhone 8 and iPhone X aren't available in 128GB configurations).
What's not so good about iPhone 8?
The iPhone 8's familiar design is a bit of a disappointment, especially when placed up against the iPhone X. The move to a glass back is nice, but it's a shame that Apple hasn't done more when it comes to screen-to-body ratio. The overall look and feel is still great, but the large amounts of bezels make the phone look a little dated, especially when other manufacturers are putting increasingly large screens in smaller packages. This is more of an issue when it comes to the iPhone 8 Plus, but it would have been great to see Apple trim some of the bezel to make the phone just a little smaller.
Apple made the controversial decision of removing the iPhone's headphone jack last year, and well, it doesn't look like its coming back. The Lightning port is the iPhone 8's only wired audio option so you'll need go wireless, use your old headphones with a dongle, or a pair of Lightning headphones.
To Apple's credit, you still get a Lightning-to-3.5m dongle in the box, as well as a pair of Lightning EarPods. Both options do however prevent you from charging your phone and listening to music at the same time, at least without the use of another dongle or a wireless charger.
If you do decided to use the Lightning headphones Apple includes in the box, you'll potentially run into the hassle of carrying around two pairs of headphones; one for your iPhone 8, and another for your computer. iPhones and iPads are the only devices with Lightning connectors, so the bundled earbuds are useless with pretty much anything else.
While the included dongle and Lightning headphones work well enough, Bluetooth is really the best option. I've found a lot to love about AirPods, but it's a shame that Apple didn't throw a basic pair of wireless headphones into the box.
Apple says the iPhone 8's battery life is about the same as last year's iPhone 7, and that's a reasonably accurate claim. I've found myself down to somewhere between 40% to 60% around 6pm, which is very similar to what I experienced with the iPhone 7.
If you're fairly conservative with your iPhone 8 usage, you should be able to make it through a full day on a single charge, but there's a reasonable chance you could hit the danger zone. While there's been days I've had to give the iPhone 8 a quick top up during the day, I've typically found I had around 10 to 20% left when plugging in before bed.
Your mileage may vary, but it's far from a comfortable buffer, especially if you plan on staying out late. When you consider that many Android alternatives offer two days on a single charge, it's a shame that Apple didn't push the iPhone 8's battery life a little further.
Apple's added fast charging and wireless charging to the iPhone 8, but both require additional accessories to work. While not including a wireless charging pad in the box is somewhat understandable - no manufacturer does at present - not bundling a fast charger is far less forgivable.
To get speedier charging speeds, you'll need to fork out for one of Apple's USB Type-C power adapters. A 29W model is the cheapest official option available, and it starts at $69. You'll also need a Lightning to USB Type-C cable, which start at $35 for one metre. That's an extra $104 for a faster recharge. If you've got a USB Type-C MacBook or MacBook Pro, the include charger will work, but you'll still need a Lightning to USB Type-C cable.
Considering the $1,079 starting price, the lack of a fast charger is perplexing at best, and a slap in the face at worst.
Wireless charging is a however a welcome addition. While the simplicity of plopping your phone on a charging pad is nice, it's probably not worth the forking out an extra $99 for the privilege. After all, you're only saving a second or two by not plugging in a cable.
Apple adopting wireless charging should however mean that we'll start seeing wireless chargers in more places like cafes, hotels, and airports. Since Qi - the wireless charging standard used by the iPhone 8 - is platform agnostic, you'll be able to use public chargers without having to worry about if you have the right cable with you. Well technically, you won't have to worry about having a cable at all.
iPhone 8 camera samples
Who's the iPhone 8 for?
The iPhone 8 is the safe choice for upgraders. If you picked up an iPhone 7 last year, it's probably not worth the upgrade, but if you're looking at moving from an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s, it's very easy to recommend the iPhone 8 as a step up.
If you're okay with a bigger the phone, the iPhone 8 Plus could also be worth considering; the battery is more reliable, and also get the benefit of a second rear-facing camera for optical zoom. That being said, I think the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 is a far more elegant device than the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus.
If it's time for a new iPhone, the iPhone 8 feels like the default option. It's not as exciting as the iPhone X, but it still has a lot of the new functionality and a much reasonable price-tag. It's a tried and tested product that neatly bookends the first ten years of iPhone. The iPhone 8 might not be super exciting, but it's a very good phone.
What else can I buy?
If you're a hardcore Apple fan, this is probably the phone you're after. The iPhone X does away with the humble home button for an impressive edge-to-edge 5.8-inch display in a body that's only a little bit bigger than the 4.7-inch iPhone 8. The lack of a home button does however mean you're relying on facial recognition to unlock your phone, or alternatively, you can go back to a PIN. This change could be a little off putting (as could the $1,579 outright price tag), but if you want Apple's latest and greatest, this is it.
If you'd prefer to save a bit of money, the iPhone 7 is still a very good phone. You'll miss out on the great camera upgrades, an extra 32GB of storage, and the gorgeous True Tone display, but you'll save $230 outright. These are certainly nice to have features, but the iPhone 7 isn't exactly lacking when it comes to camera or screen quality either.
If you're over Apple and are looking at jumping the fence, the Galaxy S8 is an obvious starting point. It's physical dimensions are similar in size to the iPhone 8, and it also touts a top tier camera and a slick design.