iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus hands-on: Similar design, upgraded specs, svelte finish

First impressions go a long way. So far, so good with Apple's latest smartphone lineup.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Dissecting Apple's iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch launch

CNET's Scott Stein has already detailed the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in a thorough review, and now it's our turn. Apple sent me a review sample of each new iPhone, and I plan on putting them through their respective paces over the coming days and weeks.

For now, though, here are some initial impressions of both devices after a couple of hours of use.

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Faster... maybe?

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It could just be the fact I know there's a new processor inside the iPhone 8, but both phones feel much faster than my iPhone 7 Plus. Apple's A11 Bionic has performed well in benchmarks leading up to Friday's launch, and that seems to translate into real-world use.

Apps launch and close a fraction quicker, games don't take near as long to load, and the performance just feels smoother overall.

Again, it could be the shiny newness of a phone with a faster processor amplifying the experience, but the experience has been impressive. I plan on going back to my iPhone 7 Plus in a few days to see if I notice any areas where the phone feels slower.

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All glass

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From the front, neither the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus look different from previous generations. I placed the iPhone 8 next to an iPhone 7 and asked my wife to pick out which was which, and she couldn't. I tried to do the same after mixing them up, and I had to guess. I was wrong.

Turn either device over, however, and the difference is immediately apparent. The back of the iPhone 8 is made of glass, with a smooth finish and shiny coating. It's a bit reminiscent of the older iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 all-glass designs.

Apple sent me a silver iPhone 8 and a gold iPhone 8 Plus. The gold color is a mix of rose gold and gold, with a slight pink tint to it. Actually, I'd say it's more pink than it is gold.

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Finally, wireless charging

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One of the more convenient features Android devices have had for some time now is wireless charging. Place a phone down on a compatible charging pad, and it charges without the need to plug a cable into the phone. Pick it up when you're ready to use it, and it stops charging.

Until the iPhone 8, Apple has forgone the feature, citing one reason or another whenever asked. For the iPhone 8 (and iPhone X), Apple has adopted the Qi wireless charging standard.

Meaning, any Qi-compatible pad should charge the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. During initial setup, I placed the iPhone 8 Plus on Samsung's Fast Wireless charging pad, and instantly, the phone started charging.

I also have a Belkin Boost Up wireless charging pad I plan on using during my testing.

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True Tone

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Apple's True Tone display technology first made an appearance in the iPad Pro line. True Tone is used to alter the white balance and brightness of your iPhone's display based on ambient light. The end result is a screen that's easier on your eyes, especially when reading text.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are the first phones from Apple to use True Tone. During the setup process, you're asked if you want to use it, with a button on the screen that shows you the difference. Maybe I'm biased from using True Tone on the iPad Pro, but the difference is drastic.

For first-time users, it will be something that takes a few days to adjust to, after which you really won't want to go back. You can disable True Tone in Settings > Display & Brightness > True Tone to see the difference for yourself.

Read also: iOS 11 rolls out today with Safari anti-tracking: Here's why advertisers hate it | iPhone 8, iPhone X vs Android flagships: Speed tests say it's not even close | The one must-have accessory for all iPhone 8/iPhone X owners

New camera tricks

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Apple updated the iPhone 8 Plus camera with new Portrait Mode features, leveraging augmented reality and the dual-camera setup of the phone to adjust lighting and create faux-lighting scenarios.

My first attempt at taking a Stage Light photo of my daughter failed, miserably. It's going to take some tinkering on my end to learn what environments this feature is best suited for. I still hadn't managed to get consistent Portrait Mode shots on the iPhone 7 Plus, and now there's another layer of adjustments added.

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