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Apple IPhone 8 Plus Review: Improving On The Winning Formula, But The IPhone X Looms Over It

Apple IPhone 8 Plus Review: Improving On The Winning Formula, But The IPhone X Looms Over It

apple iphone 8

When Apple announced the current generation of iPhones this year, the entire event seemed to be a build up to the tenth anniversary iPhone — called the iPhone X (pronounced as iPhone Ten). The upgrades to the iPhone 7/7 Plus were announced in the form of the iPhone 8/8 Plus.

This time around, the iPhone 8/8 Plus somehow got a lot less screen time with the iPhone X taking centre-stage. This is the first time that Apple launched its latest iPhones within a week of the international launch in India (in the case of the iPhone 8/8 Plus). With the iPhone X, it was launched on the same day as the international launch. Clearly, India is a big focus area for the Cupertino giant. And Apple has partnered with a lot of local players such as banks, telecom service providers as well as electronics retailers to ensure the latest iPhones reach many more customers.

So let us see how the phone performs and who it is meant for, considering that the shadow of the iPhone X looms so large over the 8 Plus.

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This is one area that hasn’t seen a drastic change. This has been the case for the last three generations at least. The iPhone 6 design is the template which has been refined with every succeeding generation and the iPhone 8 Plus follows the same design language. Place the iPhone 8 Plus beside the iPhone 7 Plus, with the display facing upwards, and you will be at a loss to tell the two phones apart. That’s because nothing has changed here. You still get the 5.5-inch Full HD LCD display. The same thick bezels on the top and bottom and thin ones on the sides, with the round fingerprint Touch ID scanner in bottom centre. The phone comes in Gold, Silver and Space Gray colours.

Turn the phone around and that’s when you will come to see the differences. The shiny glass back is different from the metal unibody design that we had seen last year with the iPhones. Apple decided to go with a glass back this time to ensure the wireless charging support. The glass back assists with inductive charging on the iPhone 8 Plus.

The phone measures around 7.5 mm thick and it weighs a bit on the heavier side at 202 grams. If you have been an iPhone 7 Plus user, you will immediately notice the increase in weight once you handle the 8 Plus.

The right hand side has the power/standby button and the SIM Card tray. Image: Nimish Sawant/tech2

The glass in front and back is quite sturdy and thanks to the metal frame, the iPhone 8 Plus boasts of great build quality. The phone did fall a couple of times on the edges during the test duration, and the glass was safe, although we noticed an abrasion at the point where it connected with the ground where it fell. Thanks to the glass back, the iPhone 8 Plus isn’t as slippery as it’s predecessor and you don’t immediately need to encase it with a skin or a cover. The aluminum frame runs around the rounded edges, and thanks to the curvature on the edges, you get a good grip of the phone.

The SIM tray and the power/standby button is present on the right-hand side, whereas the profile switch and the volume rocker buttons are located on the left-hand side. Just like its predecessor, there is no headphone jack on the iPhone 8 Plus. The top edge is clean whereas the bottom edge has a lightning port in the centre for charging and data transfer, surrounded by the speaker grilles. Antenna cuts are seen on the top and the bottom of the side metal edges.iphone8 smartphone

The rear glass back provides a good grip. Thanks to the Copper gold colour, fingerprint smudges aren’t that easily visible. Image: Nimish Sawant/tech2

On the rear side, the glass is scratch resistant but it does tend to attract smudges, which are noticeable on the Space Gray colour as opposed to the gold or silver colours. The dual camera module tends to protrude out a bit more prominently than what was seen on the iPhone 7 Plus. The quad-LED flash unit present beside the camera module is placed behind the glass on the rear side. Just like its predecessor, the iPhone 8 Plus also comes with an IP67 certification for water and dust resistance.

All in all, it’s a familiar design with a good build quality. But in an age where its rivals such as Samsung and LG are experimenting with form factors and the displays, the iPhone 8 Plus design definitely looks dated. Of course, the iPhone X takes care of that aspect.

Features: 8.5 / 10

Apple releases limited phones in a year, so the specifications are top of the line for that generation. Of course, if you do apples to oranges comparison with flagship hardware seen on Android smartphones, there is a big gap. That’s because Apple has complete control over its hardware and how it will interface with its software. As similar as the iPhone 8 Plus looks on the outside, it is on the inside that one sees all the changes.

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The left hand side of the iPhone 8 Plus comes with the profile switcher and the volume rocker buttons. Image: Nimish Sawant/tech2

For starters, the iPhone 8 Plus comes with an Apple-made A11 Bionic chip which has six cores inside — two of them are high power cores (code-named Monsoon) and four of them are high-efficiency cores (code-named Mistral). Along with this, you have three cores for the graphics processing unit and an embedded M11 motion co-processor. The 64-bit processor comes with a second generation Apple Design Performance Controller which will allow all the six cores of the Bionic processor to be used independently. Also, the neural engine inside the A11 Bionic chip speeds up machine learning tasks.

The chipset is paired with 3 GB RAM and the model I got for testing has 256 GB storage. Like all Apple iPhones before it, there is no scope for expanding the storage. Apple iOS 11 is the operating system out of the box.

The iPhone 8 Plus retains the fingerprint scanner on the home button. Image: Nimish Sawant/tech2

The iPhone 8 Plus comes with a 12 MP dual camera setup with one camera having an f/1.8 aperture for a 28 mm lens and another camera having f/2.8 aperture for 56 mm focal length. On the front you have the 7 MP Retina HD camera which comes with an f/2.2 lens and is capable of shooting 1080p videos at 30 fps. The rear camera is capable of shooting 4K video at 60 fps and slo-mo videos at 1080p with 240 fps. Cameras will be discussed deeply in the camera section below.

On the connectivity front, you have a single nano SIM slot, Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth v5.0, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, NFC is present only for Apple Pay which is yet to come to India. There is no FM Radio.

Display: 8.5/10

The display has undergone some changes. While you still get the 5.5-inch Full HD LCD panel, you now get the TrueTone display. Currently seen on the iPad Pros, the True Tone display adjusts the white-balance of the display according to the ambient lighting. It is activated by default, and you have the option to disable it. The change seen from the display of the iPhone 7 Plus is really subtle.
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The Apple iPhone 8 Plus comes with a 5.5-inch Full HD Retina display. Image: Nimish Sawant/tech2

True Tone display will be seen on the iPhone 8/8 Plus as well as the iPhone X, and it is safe to assume that this will be a default feature going forward on all iPhones. This is different from the Night Shift mode, which tends to cut out the blue light emanating from the phone display, closer to your bedtime.

Sunlight legibility of the phone is quite good and as you move from a dark indoors area to sunny outdoors, the transition of the brightness of the display is really smooth without you having to wait long for the display adjust to the surroundings. Text display is sharp. Watching videos on the display is a pleasure with a good contrast ratio. There is really nothing to complain with the display as such. And it continues to have the best LCD display on a smartphone around.

For more information on the display’s HDR capabilities, head over to our iPhone 8 review.

OS and Software: 8.5 / 10

The Apple iPhone 8 Plus comes loaded with the iOS 11 operating system which has brought with it a boatload of new features. We have covered iOS 11 in detail in the past, so I will not be repeating the same thing, but would just focus on the interesting aspects.

Augmented Reality is certainly the main draw with this version of iOS and the App Store has a designated section for AR apps, some free and some paid. I used the Night Sky, Human Anatomy Atlas 2018 which were certainly impressive in terms of the value addition. The scope for educational apps, along with gaming apps with the ARKit support is immense.

3D Touch

The App Store has gone a complete revamp and looks a lot less congested. I liked the magazine-style appearance of the App Store which gives a lot more insights into new and interesting apps. Featured apps under the Today section goes much beyond just app screenshots and pithy descriptors. There is a ‘Game of the Day’ and ‘App of the Day’ for the app nerds out there.

The revamped App Store on iOS 11

In terms of design language also we see a change in the app icon design, fonts have become a lot more bold and thicker. It will take some time getting used to the new changes, if you are just moving from iOS 10 to iOS 11. Siri has been enhanced with features such as real-time translations, auto-suggestions and more.

There is finally a ‘File Manager’ on iOS 11, which is basically a second coming of the iCloud Drive app. This has been a feature that has been present on Android ecosystem for generations now. And in a typically Apple fashion, you do not get access to each and every folder as you do in Android. The app brings all the files together, for both locally stored files as well as files stored on cloud services. The listing of files includes files stored on iCloud as well as third-party cloud hosting services such as Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and others. Files stored locally on one device will be available on other Apple devices where the user has signed in with the same Apple ID. For a better organisation, the files can be tagged. The tags are colour coded and individual files can be tagged with multiple tags.