Apple iPhone 8 Review76
In an unexpected upset, Apple really drops the ball with click-ridden voice-calls
It feels like for the vast majority of phones we review, we can breeze right through the call-quality tests; so long as nothing goes horribly wrong, there's usually not a ton to say. So we're a little surprised to find ourselves thinking so hard about the iPhone 8, after running into some unexpected issues with its voice-call performance.
While engaging with callers, we often observed an intermittent clicking sound coming from the phone's earpiece. This artifact doesn't seem to be emanating from the distant end of the call, and only popped up when testing the iPhone 8 (and 8 Plus, which we'll be addressing separately).
UPDATE (October 4, 2017): Apple has released the iOS 11.0.2 update that fixes the clicking sounds some users experienced during voice calls.
Long-overdue support for some major battery features are welcome additions to the iPhone family
With this new handset being roughly the same shape and size as last year's model, we weren't expecting any huge changes when it comes to battery capacity – and indeed, Apple tells shoppers that the iPhone 8 should give them similar battery life as compared to the iPhone 7.
In our custom tests, though, we found the iPhone 8 actually can stretch things a little further than the iPhone 7, and we clocked the new handset giving us a little under an extra hour of screen-on time. Perhaps some of that boost is due to the presence of the new 10nm A11 chip, but whatever the cause, we're happy to have it.
That's the out-of-the-box power story for the iPhone 8, but the really interesting stuff starts happening when we pair the phone with some optional accessories.
The other big news is the arrival of wireless charging, with support for systems based on the Qi standard. Luckily, that's pretty ubiquitous in wireless charging circles, and while you can pick up a new charging pad just for your iPhone 8, there's a good chance that the phone will work just fine with existing hardware you may have lying around.
We tried this capability out with a Samsung wireless charger, and the iPhone 8 performed flawlessly. Of special note was just how quickly the phone was able to recognize the charger and begin refueling; sometimes Android phones can take a beat after being set down on a pad before they signal that recharging has begun, while the iPhone 8 seemed to instantly get things started. And if you were concerned, we also tried using wireless charging with a case on the phone, and didn't run into any problems whatsoever.
All this considered, from a power standpoint the iPhone 8 is easily the most impressive smartphone Apple's yet to deliver, and these new features go a long way towards catching Apple up with the power tech the rest of the smartphone world has already been enjoying.
In a lot respects, the iPhone 8 should feel like a slam dunk: it takes the already winning formula of the iPhone 7, delivers a handful of solid upgrades, and even implements some all-new features. And if we're looking at the phone on its own, it's hard to argue that it's not pretty successful. Performance reaches as-of-yet untouched new heights, a stellar camera picks up some minor tweaks while not breaking anything in the process, and the arrival of wireless charging could well emerge as this phone's big sleeper-hit feature.
Not everything about this phone is such a cut-and-dry win, though. The return of a glass back panel may look alright, but we've dropped enough phones to be wary anytime a manufacturer adds more breakage-prone glass to their lineup. And while it may just be case of some bad luck with bum hardware, or a software glitch that's soon to be fixed, we're still a little annoyed about that clicking sound while making voice calls.
That's already complicated iPhone shopping, and now we've got a new specter looming over the iPhone 8's release in the shape of the iPhone X. This new model isn't just a new size option, or one that delivers an extra feature or two: assuming shoppers respond favorably, this looks like the new direction of iPhones going forward, involving unfamiliar new ways to interact with your handset.
Maybe without really meaning to, Apple turned the tried-and-true base-level iPhone into what's looking increasingly like a model besieged by compromise. Will it inevitably come to be seen as the iPhone for iPhone fans who are afraid of change? For those who are clinging a little too hard to the past, rather than taking Apple's hand and stepping forward into the future?
The iPhone 8 is a fantastic, compact, powerful smartphone. But it may also be a phone that's playing catch-up more than it's really innovating, and that could well come back to haunt it.
In the end, assuming you're properly educated on all of Apple's 2017 iPhone options, you shouldn't feel bad about going with the iPhone 8. But maybe don't be afraid to try something new, even if that means stepping outside your comfort zone a little.