We all have that one sibling, cousin or friend who has always been good at studies, does better at sports and extracurricular activities, confining you forever to the backseat. Well, this is what pretty much happened at the Apple iPhone Keynote this year. It was all about the iPhone X. And no matter what the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus brought along, somehow, it just was all about the X. While this may be the first time when an iPhone with a “Plus” got overshadowed, for “just” the iPhone, it was nothing new. Ever since, the “Plus” has come into the picture, the basic iPhone pretty much shifts to the back of the line, although even it belongs to the same generation, and has similar hardware and software. And this year, with all the buzz around iPhone X, the poor 8, somehow became invisible to many of us. While it is the most underrated of the iPhone lot right now, as per reports, it still is selling. So, is this is the dark horse of the race or is it enjoying the perks of being just another iPhone?
A classy, glassy back with the same old front
The new iPhone 6… oops! Sorry. The iPhone 7…errr, actually the iPhone 8 (can be a little confusing with little to no difference in appearance from the front) pretty much speaks the same design language as its predecessors. The smartphone comes with a similar 4.7-inch HD display with similar thick bezels around it.
Now, judging by the numbers (it is not even full HD, forget quad HD), the iPhone 8’s display has no business being in the market, but you forget that when you start looking at it. For, in terms of performance, the display definitely scores a home run. It is bright and colorful and can be easily used in bright sunlight. It features True Tone Technology which analyses the quality of light around you and adjusts the brightness of the iPhone accordingly. This might not make an obvious difference in the viewing experience, but it hits you when you put the phone next to another one (especially the iPhone 7, its predecessor). Above the screen, the smartphone sports the front-facing camera, the earpiece, and the proximity sensor while the chin carries the fingerprint scanner/home button (which is not really a button just like the one in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus).
Turn the phone over, and the 8 factor will hit you. The major overhaul is done on the back of the smartphone. The iPhone 8 is wrapped in glass which means the iPhone 8 comes with a glassy-glossy back. As per Apple it is the strongest glass ever used to make a smartphone as the glass is custom made with “50 percent deeper strengthening layer” but we still feel the previous iPhones felt a bit more solid with their aluminum body. This also makes the iPhone 8 a bit larger than its predecessor. The iPhone 8 measures 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm as compared to the iPhone 7 which measures 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm but this difference is hardly noticeable. What we are saying is, you can even put the two devices next to each other, and the difference will be barely noticeable from the front or even the back, glass excluded.
While there is hardly any difference in other measurements, it seems like the glass definitely adds to the weight as iPhone 8 stands on 148 grams which is 10 grams more than the iPhone 7. This difference is notable if you have both devices in hand, but if you are switching from iPhone 7 to iPhone 8, it might not really be that big of a deal.
Getting back to the back (no puns intended), Apple has placed the primary camera on the top left-hand side along with a quad LED flash. We received the silver unit of the smartphone which is why there is a silver metal ring around the primary camera. Another small difference. A little down south from that, there is a shiny, reflective mirror finish Apple logo while iPhone is written on the lower end of the smartphone.
Apple has done an even better job of hiding the antenna bands this time. The light grey antenna bands only reside on both the sides on the upper and lower end of the metal frame. Moving on to the sides, this iPhone is no different in terms of placement of the buttons as compared to the last iPhone. The volume buttons are on the left, with loud/vibration switch just above it. The right side holds the lock button and the SIM card slot. As the buttons are placed in familiar positions, the fingers usually fall naturally on them, especially of the iPhone veterans. The base holds the lightning port and the speaker grille whereas the top remains plain. And of course, there is no 3.5 mm audio jack.
Overall, the iPhone 8 reminds us a lot of its ancestors. But with the addition of the glass back, it feels subtly different. The glass feels smoother but unfortunately will pick up fingerprint marks and scratches very easily. So, ultimately most of us will case-it all up.
Same performance too – fast and smooth
We have heard a lot of people say, “insides are what really matter” and it seems like Apple is following the same philosophy. While the outer features of the iPhone 8 are very similar to its predecessors, the innards are completely different.
The iPhone 8 comes with Apple’s latest A11 Bionic chip, which the company claims is the fastest and the most efficient processor yet for iPhones. The A11 Bionic comes with six cores out of which there are four efficiency cores which are 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip which was present in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and the other two are performance cores that make the device 25 percent faster. These six cores can work simultaneously when the phone’s performance needs a turbo boost.
That may seem like a lot of talking, but the iPhone 8 does not just talk the talk but is also very capable of walking the walk. The performance of the device has been pretty commendable throughout. From switching between social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to text-based apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and iMessage, the phone handled it all pretty well. The transition from one app to another is pretty smooth as well.
Coming on to gaming, the phone not only handled casual games like Subway Surfer, The Spearman, Angry Birds and Temple Run like a pro but performed impressively in the high-end gaming zone as well. We tried games like Asphalt and NFS No Limits on the device, and both the games worked smoothly. We experienced no lags or frame drops, and the apps did not crash even once. We also tried playing Asphalt with ten apps running in the background the game worked just fine even then.
With the new line of iPhones, Apple has also pushed its AR abilities. As per the company, the A11 Bionic chip comes with a GPU that provides 30 percent better performance as compared to the iPhone 7. While we have not really experienced high-end AR games on the device, the overall experience with casual apps is pretty entertaining.
This camera’s a one-lens army!
This year, Apple introduced three iPhones out of which only the iPhone 8 came with a single lens, but that does not mean that the iPhone 8 does not have what it takes to be a good camera phone. In terms of numbers, hardly anything has changed in the iPhone 8’s camera as compared to the predecessor. The smartphone comes with a 12-megapixel rear camera with f/1.8 aperture, 5X digital zoom, PDAF, OIS, and quad LED flash. On the front, the iPhone 8 has a 7-megapixel selfie shooter with f/2.2 aperture. But the device can shoot 4K videos at 60fps and can record slow-motion videos at 240fps in full HD (1080p) which was not the case in the iPhone 7.
In terms of performance, the camera passes most tests with flying colors. We took various landscape, portraits and close up shots and we were impressed by the results. Taking close-ups was one of our favorite things to do with the iPhone 8’s camera. It created very deep bokeh and highlighted the subject beautifully, making us at times wonder about the fuss about dual lenses.
The camera produced great detail and packed a colorful punch in the pictures, which did not look over saturated or faded. It especially performed well in good light conditions and produced great photographs. And even in low light situations, the camera of the iPhone 8 did not let us down. It picked up hues and colors well and delivered some great low light pictures. But as the light goes dim, a bit of noise does creep in. It does not hit the quality of the photograph majorly, but it definitely goes down a notch. The camera also handles moving objects and glare well but can be a little erratic once you turn Live Photo off because it takes the best shot out of the short videos as the photograph.
Moving on to the front camera, the iPhone 8 did not let us down in that department as well. We found our selfies to be Instagram and Facebook-worthy and the colors and details produced were pretty good. There was, however, a bit of noise in the pictures taken by the front camera and it did not handle motion well, giving us blurry pictures.
The front camera also had issues with low light conditions. It created noisy images, and the screen flash seemed a bit too harsh for our liking.
Losing the wires, but same old battery blues
The introduction of the glass back on the iPhone 8 is not merely a design change, but it also allows the phone to be wirelessly charged. Yes, after years of waiting, wireless charging has finally come to iPhones, and Apple has adopted the Qi industry standard for wireless charging. There is no wireless charger in the package, but you can easily buy a third party wireless charger, from the likes of Belkin which are compatible with Qi standard.
Battery life has been a section where the smaller iPhones have not had a gala since… forever. And the problem still exists with the iPhone 8. If you use your phone a lot, then chances of the iPhone 8 dying on you in the middle of the day are pretty high. The phone can see through a day if used moderately and if it is not pushed too much, or if you have Low Power Battery mode turned on all throughout the day. Otherwise, you would have to charge your iPhone 8 more than once a day, easily.
Them iOS 11 issues
The iPhone 8 comes with iOS 11 out of the box, and while Apple claims it is the best software update by the company, we tend to disagree. The company has introduced a fair number updates since iOS 11, but unfortunately and unusually, the iPhone 8 still has some software related issues.
Apps like Facebook and WhatsApp often freeze and crash. We also have a hard time in waking up Siri. If we keep our older generation iPad Pro and iPhone 8 together and say “Hey Siri” closer to the iPhone 8, it mostly just never responds while the iPad picks it up right away. So, we generally end up pressing the home button to access Siri. That’s not all, for a very long period of time during our use, our iPhone 8 also had a bug in the gallery app, which when opened from camera, did not delete pictures taken – it did show that your pictures are being deleted, but somehow they still remain in the gallery. So, in order to ACTUALLY delete the image, you would have to go back to home, open the gallery app and then delete the image. Thankfully, that bug has been fixed, but the iPhone 8 behaves a bit weirdly every now and then. We are sure that most of this will be ironed out with regular updates, but by iPhone standards, the very existence of bugs and crashes is surprising.
That said, we like the new operating system and the interface it brings along. The Control Centre offers better and more control options, and the Assistive Touch works better as well. The phone otherwise works smoothly, and the software also takes less space in your iPhone as compared to the previous iOS versions.
iPricey? Yes. But iPunchy, too!
The iPhone 8 might not be something you have not seen before. In fact, looking at the design and some of the specifications of the smartphone like the display which is not even full HD and the design or battery performance of the device, the iPhone 8 has no business being around. That said, we just cannot deny that the iPhone 8 is one of the best and the most powerful single lens camera phones out there, and ticks most performance boxes. We would not blindly recommend people who already have the iPhone 7 to upgrade to the iPhone 8 because the difference might not be eye-popping (it will hit you over a period of time, though) but if you were waiting to buy an iPhone for a while now and want the compact form factor with great performance, you can go with iPhone 8. Blindfolded. At Rs 67,000, it definitely is premium for the kind of specs the phone has to offer. But then the iPhone has never been about numbers. In a world that is increasingly beginning to swear by large displays, dual cameras, massive batteries and zero bezels, the iPhone shows that there is still room for devices that have none of these but thrive on sheer experience.
No, we do not think it is everyone’s cup of tea. But those who have tasted Apple tea in a phone-y cup? They certainly will not be disappointed. It is not the most affordable phone around, but the eight is great in its own zone.