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Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review

Apple iPhone 8 Plus
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Camera

Two great cameras get even better, but beta-quality software again rears its ugly head

Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review

Last year, the iPhone 7 Plus represented one of the biggest steps forward for Apple's smartphone cameras yet, introducing a dual-camera system that not only offered users a telephoto zoom option, but also allowed for selective-focus special effects.

As should be little surprise, Apple's back with more of the same with the iPhone 8 Plus – and if you're only looking at raw specs, you might even think the company's just outright reusing the same camera that it launched last year.

But Apple's rarely a company to disappoint when it comes to the cameras on its phones, and while the iPhone 8 Plus isn't a revolutionary step forward in terms of imaging hardware, it does deliver some real improvements. Resolution for both rear cameras may stay at 12MP, but the sensors themselves are larger this year, resulting in bigger, more light-sensitive pixels. Those pixels also exhibit improved isolation from each other, for enhanced image fidelity, and new camera data-processing systems are intended to give boosts to things like HDR performance and auto-focus speed.

Camera user interface - Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review
Camera user interface - Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review
Camera user interface - Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review
Camera user interface - Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review

Beyond that, we also see video options extend to some new high-end frame-rate/resolution combos, and all this camera hardware scores optimizations for use with Apple's augmented-reality ARKit framework. Add a sprinkle of slow-sync for the camera's flash, and do we have a worthy upgrade to last year's impressive camera setup? Let's take a look.

Image quality


Based on how we've just described the iPhone 8 Plus camera hardware, it shouldn't be shocking to learn that the cameras on the 8 Plus take some seriously good-looking photos. Whether you're shooting in broad daylight or with twilight in full swing, the versatile camera makes taking great-looking shots as easy as tapping the shutter. Colors tend to look true to life, and focusing on a close-up macro subject is as easy as taking a landscape shot.

Swapping between the two cameras works just as well as it did the first time around, with nothing but a quick tap needed to jump between the normal and 2x telephoto lenses. Should you wish to press further in, a swipe of the finger is all it takes to explore even higher digital zoom modes, though with an unavoidable loss in fidelity.

No matter which camera you're using, everyday shots are captured easily, though for low-light operation you're going to want to lean more heavily on the wider-aperture standard camera, and leave the telephoto for when you've got light to spare.

This year, the famous portrait mode gets an upgrade, and just like when portrait first debuted on the 7 Plus, the new portrait lighting mode arrives as a beta. Now in addition to generating a blurred-background bokeh effect, you can also add artificial lighting to your subject, brightening things up, or even remove the background entirely. As is only befitting a beta, these effects can be a little hit and miss. Sometimes they look great, while other times only a few of the modes produce satisfactory result, while others miss the mark. There are still small issues with edge-detection, but the biggest glitches seem to be cases where the lighting effects fail to properly align with the intended subject. It's all a nice early effort, but we'd love to see it mature even further.

We also can't forget the 7MP front-facer, which is understandably not quite as versatile as the phone's main cameras, and its performance across shooting conditions reflects that. It's still quite decent, and works in a pinch, but the low-light performance especially can't hold a candle to the wide-angle rear camera.



Video recording


Like the iPhone 8, the dual cameras on the 8 Plus also put up an overall strong camera showing that continues into video performance, and this year that also means picking up some upgrades in the form of higher frame-rate/resolution options.

As we've come to expect, you can easily swap between wide-angle and telephoto cameras even while in the middle of filming video, just like when taking still pics. Just be aware that in the phone's very highest-end video mode, shooting in 4K at 60 FPS, the UI locks you into one camera – no switching in the middle of a shot. Still, the fact that it works everywhere else is fantastic, and shows that Apple clearly respects it dual-camera hardware as more than just a gimmick.

Video quality looks stellar, and the cameras easily handle varying lighting conditions. You won't have to worry about shifting subjects as the cameras seamlessly reacquire focus and adjust exposure as needs demand. And while audio quality during videos isn't out-of-the-park fantastic, it is more than serviceable, and you should have no problems hearing your subject or your own narration even while filming in noisy outdoor environments.

Multimedia

Great-sounding stereo speakers really deliver even if Apple's volume claims fall short

In order to be a multimedia powerhouse, you need more than just a big, beautiful screen like the iPhone 8 Plus has – you also need some really nice speakers to complete the experience. And while the speakers on the 7 Plus already sounded pretty good, especially with their stereo output, this year Apple says that things should be louder than ever – 25% louder.

Technically, Apple says listeners can enjoy output that's “up to” 25% louder, and while that may be the case under certain conditions, in our volume test we didn't measure a huge change since last year – we actually saw levels that were slightly lower, though the difference is small enough to be negligible. That said, just listening to the speakers on the iPhone 8 Plus should be enough to convince you they still sound really great, and even if you don't see the full scope of Apple's supposed improvements in every single circumstance, this is still one of the best phones around on which to listen to music.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review
While the situation's pretty solid on the speaker front, we're still smarting from Apple's decision last year to kill off the super-convenient, previously omnipresent analog headphone jack for its newest phones. Just like then, with the iPhone 8 Plus we get a Lightning-equipped pair of EarPods that sound very nice, but are annoying in that we can't also enjoy them on all our non-Apple devices.

And to be fair, Apple does continue to ship its phones with an analog adapter you can pop in the Lightning port to continue using your old headphones, but carrying that around feels like you're dealing with a ticking clock, counting down until you lose the tiny dongle. We know – Apple's almost certainly never going to back down from its controversial stance – so just make sure you're aware of what you're getting into.



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PhoneArena rating:
9.2Excellent
Display5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera12 megapixels
Hardware
Apple A11 Bionic, Hexa-core, 2390 MHz
3 GB RAM
Size6.24 x 3.07 x 0.30 inches
(158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm)
7.13 oz  (202 g)
Battery2691 mAh, 21 hours talk time

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