Apple iPhone 8 Review
For the better part of the last decade, smartphone lovers everywhere have been doing the iPhone shuffle. It's a simple maneuver, played out on a dance floor that stretches through the years. Big step, little step, big step, little step. One year brings us an iPhone that tends to feature a bold new design, then the next year upgrades that with an “S” model that refines the hardware and introduces key new features.
This year, the smartphone industry is positively oozing with change. Old flagship lines find themselves replaced by new visions, and even some of the longest-standing traditions are being sent back to the drawing board, like we see with the introduction of new super-wide-aspect-ratio screens.
Not only are we skipping an S year, but we're witnessing the launch of some of the most powerful, daring, and potentially controversial iPhones ever, not just with the introduction of the mold-breaking iPhone X, but also with the changes arriving for the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
We're going to be giving all these Apple smartphones their due, and today we get things started on the ground level as we tear into the iPhone 8.
In the box:
- iPhone 8
- Lightning EarPods
- Analog headphone adapter
- USB to Lightning cable
- SIM tool
- Welcome card
- Advisory card
Apple brings back the iPhone's glass back while changing precious little else
Apple skipping its S-year iPhone and going right to the next full number might be enough to have you thinking that there's a bold new look waiting for the handset this year, but oddly enough (as is perhaps only befitting one of the most unusual iPhone lineups to hit us so far) this time that's not quite the case.
iPhone 7. At least, in terms of looks and layout, this new iPhone doesn't stray very far from the pattern established last year. What changes we see in shape and size are extremely minor, and the iPhone 8's external dimensions, though admittedly larger than last year, are only bigger to the tune of one-fifth of a millimeter. Slightly more significant growth occurs when we look at the iPhone 8's mass, which grows seven percent from last year. Still, even that change isn't enough to negatively impact the iPhone 8, and without an iPhone 7 in your other hand for comparison, you're going to be hard-pressed to notice the difference.
But measurements only tell half the story, and with the iPhone 8 we see Apple adopt a new glass back for its smartphones. While that may help empower the phone to take advantage of wireless charging, it could be a move that has a few shoppers thinking twice, as it also feels more damage-prone than the old design.
Apple's not a company that likes to overwhelm its users with too many options, but over time we've seen that level of control start to slip a little, eventually leading us to a situation where the iPhone 7 was available in your choice of five colors. With the iPhone 8, Apple's reining things back in, and culling that selection down to just space gray (ie, black), silver, and gold.
Waterproofing is back, just like we got on the iPhone 7, and we're glad to see that even with the new materials this time around, protecting the hardware against accidental water damage is still a priority.
Apple saves its best new display tech for the iPhone X, but the iPhone 8 still learns a new trick or two
Of all Apple's new handsets, it's the iPhone X that really gets to benefit from a bold new display, but that's not to say that the iPhone 8 is getting left out of the excitement, either. Though the 4.7-inch panel shares the same size and resolution as the last few generations of iPhone, we continue to see the manufacturer push forward with incremental upgrades to its screen tech.
This year, that means True Tone – the same system we saw Apple deploy with the iPad Pro last year – coming to the iPhone. As Apple helpfully demos while you set up the iPhone 8, True Tone uses the phone's sensors to match screen color temperature with ambient lighting conditions. While that won't have any major impact on how you use your phone, it's exactly the kind of little “quality of life” improvement that Apple loves to highlight.
One important consideration to keep in mind if you're perusing the iPhone 8 spec sheet is Apple's mention that the phone supports playback of HDR-enhanced video content. While that's true, of Apple's new iPhones only the iPhone X has a screen that's capable of actually reproducing that high-dynamic range video. So while HDR footage will play on the iPhone 8 – and will look great, just like standard video on this beautiful screen – it just can't offer the same experience as it would on the iPhone X.
Like we've come to expect from iPhone displays, the screen on the iPhone 8 is bright and versatile, and even its manual brightness control can generate output that's easily viewable outdoors. Color reproduction is very good, and only the slightest hint of colors leaning towards the cyan side detracts from its accuracy.
On one hand, we love that Apple's still giving users a sub five-inch premium smartphone option – and to say that there are precious few such options around would be a serious understatement. But one thing that we've been criticizing a good number of 2017 smartphones for has been sticking with familiar screen shapes and sizes while the highest-end phones graduate into super-widescreen territory with barely-there bezels. And while Apple is taking that route with the iPhone X, part of us wishes the company was ready to go all-in on the idea. Or at the very least, give us a small-iPhone-sized version of it, since, as it is, the 5.8-inch iPhone X has more in common with the iPhone 8 Plus than this model.
Maybe we'll change our tune once spending some more time with the X, but right now we can't help but look at the iPhone 8 and wonder what this might turn into if Apple were willing to take a leap of faith with its new screen tech.