iPhone 8 review: Why a lack of X appeal shouldn't put you off the best handset Apple has ever made

  • The new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will start at $699 and $799 respectively
  • They feature a new powerful A11 chip, AR capabilities and glass on both sides 
  • The new devices - available September 22 - come in silver, space grey, and gold

For a few fleeting moments, the iPhone 8 was the flagship of the range, the best phone Apple has ever made.

However, just moments after its introduction at the Steve Jobs Theater last week, Tim Cook revealed the iPhone X, with its futuristic looks and claim to be 'the future of the iPhone'.

But don't be fooled - for many the iPhone 8 will be the perfect handset, the 'iPhone classic' of the range, and a phone you really shouldn't write off.

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Pictured is the new iPhone 8 (left) and 8 plus (right). Some have said the products lack new features and have designs too similar to the iPhone 6, which was released in 2014

The new iPhone 8 (left) and 8 plus (right) may lack the 'X appeal' of Apple's new iPhone X, but they are hugely impressive, and for many will be the perfect upgrade.

In fact, it’s got pretty much the the same internals as the X, but with the more familiar screen (and fingerprint sensor).

It’s all about options - and the iPhone 8 is a really great one, an ‘iPhone classic’, if you will.

While from the front, the phone looks absolutely identical to the 7 series, once you pick it up, the huge number of changes Apple has made become apparent.

First, there’s the new glass back, which is on both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

While looking lovely (especially in the gold colour, which is actually far more similar to Apple’s old rose gold), it also allows for wireless charging.

It is also far grippier than the iPhone 7, and really does feel far more secure and solid in the hand. 

The iPhone 8 does feels heavier, in both ‘normal’ and plus versions, but is definitely more noticeable in the plus.

Screen

The screen has also got a boost, and in particular the new True Tone technology, which was previously on the iPad, makes a big difference. 

It uses a four-channel ambient light sensor to automatically adjust white balance to match the light around you for a better viewing experience, and mean colours always look as they should. 

The speakers are also 25% better, making the iPhone 8 a surprisingly decent portable speaker.

Following months of anticipation, rumors and leaks, Apple has finally unveiled the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 plus. The pair of devices - which will come with 5.5 and 4.7-inch retina HD screens - was touted as 'a huge step forward for iPhone'

Following months of anticipation, rumors and leaks, Apple has finally unveiled the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 plus. The pair of devices - which will come with 5.5 and 4.7-inch retina HD screens - was touted as 'a huge step forward for iPhone'

Charging

Charging the 8 is a revelation - and gives users options for the first time.

There’s the standard lightning port charging, but also a new fast charge that takes the handset from zero to 50% in just 30 minutes - although be warned you’ll need a USB-C charger and lightning cable, which aren’t included.

The wireless charging, however, is what most people will use - and it’s great. 

Both devices come with built-in wireless charging and are also compatible with hundreds of already available chargers

Both devices come with built-in wireless charging and are also compatible with hundreds of already available chargers. Pictured, the Belkin's $60 Boost Up charging disc we used - although any charger supporting to Qi standard will work with the iPhone

We tried the $60 Belkin BoostUp charging disc, and it works brilliantly - with a few small caveats.

First, you do need to be careful to place the phone in the center of the charger, or you can accidentally think its charging when it’s not. 

However, this is a mistake you’ll probably only make once to be honest. 

Secondly, the wireless charging is a little slower than using a lightning cable.

However, the convenience more than outweighs this - it’s a fantastic experience to just pop your phone on the disc on your bedside table at night rather than looking for the cable that’s fallen under the bed.

Apple also says an update later this year will improve speed.

Expect to see wireless chargers popping up everywhere - the iPhone 8 works with Qi chargers that are available as in cars, cafés, hotels, airports, and furniture, with Ikea in particular having a great range.

In terms of battery life, it’s almost identical to the iPhone 7.

Camera

Users can tweak the new portrait effects as they frame a shot, or afterwards

Users can tweak the new portrait effects as they frame a shot, or afterwards

Both the Phone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus feature an improved 12MP camera with a larger and faster sensor, a new colour filter and deeper pixels. 

Apple has overhauled the processing of pictures, and it shows with faster autofocus in low light and better HDR photos. 

Sunsets pictures in particular look better than ever before.

For the plus, this all adds up to the best camera ever seen on a phone - particularly with the improved portrait modes that allow you to use depth effect and a new lighting feature. 

This lets you see the effects in real time as you’re you’re taking the pic - or to edit the effects after taking the photo.

There’s also no lag between pressing the shutter button and the picture appearing on screen.

The iPhone 8 plus has a stunning new portrait mode, taking full advantage of the new higher spec camera in the device, as you can see in this unedited picture (which also helpfully revealed my dog has just buried a bone in the garden)

The iPhone 8 plus has a stunning new portrait mode, taking full advantage of the new higher spec camera in the device, as you can see in this unedited picture (which also helpfully revealed my dog has just buried a bone in the garden)

Video has also got a boost, with better video stabilisation, 4K video up to 60fps and 1080p slo-mo up to 240 fps.

Processing power

The key thing about the iPhone 8 is that it’s fast - really, really fast. 

The new A11 bionic processor, the same one that’s in the iPhone X, has a six-core CPU design, and a three-core GPU optimized for 3D games and AR experiences, the first Apple has designed itself. 

The new six-core design features 4.3 billion transistors, and two performance cores are up to 25 percent faster than the CPU performance cores in the A10 Fusion chip, while four high-efficiency cores are up to 70 percent faster. 

The CPU can even harness all six cores simultaneously when you need a boost in power. 

In short - it’s quick - and will mean game graphics and, most importantly for Apple, AR apps, run incredible smoothly.  

It's impossible to talk about the iPhone 8 without mentioning the iPhone X.

But in fact, the 8 actually has several advantages over the X - not least that it's available from Friday.

It's got a design that looks superb, particularly the new gold, and the wireless charging really does change the way you use your phone.

Overall, while the iPhone 8 is perhaps not the revolution the the X is, externally at least, in reality this is a huge upgrade from the 7 - and shows that Apple now has a range with the perfect handset for everyone. 

APPLE'S AUGMENTED REALITY

Apple's Augmented reality system uses the cameras on an iPhone to detect a flat surface, or 'plane' to put the virtual objects on, such as a table or floor.

With a combination of machine learning and the camera data, it can constantly adjust the image so the object appears secured to the correct surface without the 'jitters' or other AR systems.

ARKit also makes use of the camera sensor to estimate the total amount of light available in a scene and applies the correct amount of lighting to virtual objects.

In  practise, it's hugely impressive - also wandering around the room 'looking through' your phone does take a bit of getting used to. 

Ikea's first AR app, called Ikea Place, lets you put any item, from sofas and lamps, to rugs and tables into your living room to see how they look.

It sounds like a gimmick, but in practice its astonishingly good.

'The app lets you virtually 'place' home products that are 3-D and true to-scale so you can make sure they're just the right size, design and functionality for your room,' Ikea says, and it really works.

Augmented reality on the iPhone 8: Apple says dozens of apps will be available at launch. The feature will also work on the iPhone 6 and 7.

Augmented reality on the iPhone 8: Apple says dozens of apps will be available at launch. The feature will also work on the iPhone 6 and 7.

A sofa placed into the room we were sitting in appeared at the perfect size, on the floor just as it should be. 

You're able to walk right up to it to see the fabric up close, and even look underneath.

It's also possible to see several version of the same item - for instance, in one demonstration we saw a sofa bed as both sofa and bed.

 

 

 

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