Video: Dissecting Apple's iPhone 8, iPhone X, Apple Watch launch: The takeaways for business pros
The reviews for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have gone live, and its clear that while it's a solid upgrade, it's been seriously overshadowed by the upcoming release of the iPhone X.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights:
Pretty much says it all, really.
The Good Fantastic dual-lens camera shoots better than ever with improved portrait mode. Adds wireless charging. Lightning-fast speed. Starts at 64GB.
The Bad Dated design. Most competing Android phones have even larger screens. Upcoming iPhone X could be a more compelling choice.
Overall a feeling that too much has stayed the same.
The iPhone 8 is fundamentally the fourth generation of the iPhone 6 -- Apple told us it thinks of the 8 as an "all-new design," but that's also what Apple said about the iPhone 6S and 7. It must take a lot of effort to keep reinventing the same basic design without actually changing it. The major difference you'll notice is the glass back, but other than that nothing has changed -- the 8 and 8 Plus will fit right into 7 and 7 Plus cases perfectly.
I didn't notice a huge performance boost over the iPhone 7 while doing basic things like browsing the web, watching videos, and taking photos. I played a few games and everything seemed fast and fluid, of course. Apple sells iPhones for years after they're released -- the iPhone 6S is still in the lineup! -- so a lot of this extra power just feels like headroom for the future, not something you immediately sense when upgrading from a previous model.
More of the same.
The iPhone 8 reminds me of the fifth Transformers movie--you know it's new, though you can't for the life of you figure out how it's different. On its face, the 8 looks like an iPhone from 2014.
If you need to have the latest and greatest, don't buy the 8. Wait until we get a closer look at the iPhone X, which in addition to face-scanning tricks promises two things that really matter: a bigger, better screen and two more hours of battery life.
If you can't be bothered with bells and whistles, you can save a chunk of cheese by buying a nearly-as-good iPhone 7 (albeit with less storage) for $550.
The iPhone 8 adds horsepower where it's needed.
Apple isn't using the power of the A11 simply to make the things older iPhones do faster. They're using it to power new features, like the lighting effects in Portrait mode on the 8 Plus and the various machine learning stuff.
What's interesting to me is that some of the camera improvements Apple is talking about with the iPhone 8 aren't about that. Yes, the sensor has been improved, and is apparently even better at capturing colors in a wide color gamut. But the advances in phone photography are driven more by computing -- both hardware and software -- than by advances in lens optics or sensors. There's just not much more that can happen between such small lenses and sensors. The real action is in hardware and software.
These are solid year-over-year updates -- at least as impressive as the iPhone 7 was over the iPhone 6S. If they hadn't debuted alongside the iPhone X we'd be arguing about whether these are the most impressive new iPhone models since the iPhone 6.
But they did debut alongside the iPhone X, and because of that almost nobody is excited about them. There's no use pretending otherwise.
Buy it only if you have to.
There's nothing bad about this phone. It's the same iPhone-shaped, iPhone-sized device that's been around for 3+ years. And that's okay! That shape and size is still working for a lot of people, and Apple focused on its longtime strategy of innovation by a thousand tweaks, under the hood.
If you're an iPhone user with no intention of switching to Android, here's the deal: The 8 is the phone those with an iPhone 6 or older will want. If you have a three- to four-year-old iPhone, it's a good indication that a) you want to stick with iOS, and b) you're not an early adopter or power user who needs The Newest, Bestest Thing.
Focuses a lot on iOS as opposed to iPhone 8.
As with pretty much every Apple upgrade, they will be the best iPhones available when they hit store shelves this Friday. But they exist in the shadow of the possibly superior iPhone X, in all its face-detecting and home-button killing glory. That more expensive device won't be available until Nov. 3, leaving many iPhone buyers wondering if they should upgrade or wait.
In a refreshing change for Apple, it didn't add yet another proprietary technology. The iPhone 8 uses the existing Qi standard, which means it can work with third-party devices. Apple doesn't include a wireless charger with the iPhone 8. They're sold separately by companies like Mophie and Belkin, and start at around $15.
One of the most entertaining new additions to the iPhone 8 isn't even exclusive to the device: augmented reality. It's part of iOS 11, Apple's latest mobile operating system, which is available for older phones as well. iOS 11 also has a different look, a vastly improved Control Center, and a number of pleasing changes.
Don't buy it.
For the first time in the ten-year history of the iPhone, I can't recommend buying the newest models.
That's not because the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are bad phones. They're actually great.
But there's an even better phone on the way.
It's good, but it's hard to not be thinking about the iPhone X.
The iPhone 8, however, is by no means a slouch of an update. I've been testing both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (following some hands on time with the iPhone X at Apple's event) and I must say the impressive update is way more than skin deep beyond the shiny new glass exterior...
Perhaps for many the real review for iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be a comparison to reviews for the iPhone X when it comes out in the coming weeks. If that screen notch or the lack of a real Home button bothers you, and the $999 price tag doesn't thrill you, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are still some of the best phones on the planet. More importantly, Apple didn't hold a whole lot back from iPhone 8 and 8 Plus as far as smarts and power under the hood goes.
If you're keeping track, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus could have (should have?) been the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, but after spending time with them, wireless charging, the new glass design, and notable camera upgrades feel worthy of the iPhone 8 branding. And for those that could care less about the iPhone X's OLED display and Face ID, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus offer a ton more value for money with a traditional look and feel.
It's good, but that iPhone X is just irresistible.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may not be as flashy as the iPhone X, but anyone upgrading from an older model will appreciate the jumps. Coming from the iPhone 6s, for instance, you're getting double the storage, the option to wirelessly charge your iPhone, a refreshed design, and a faster camera. If you're coming from the iPhone 7 family, on the other hand, it's harder to make the case. If you have last year's iPhone and want a comparable leap, I'd say boost than rainy day reserve for Apple's duly next-gen iPhone X.
Food for thought in choosing between the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
As far as a consumer goes, however, the iPhone 8 is the easy traditional choice this year. It's got nearly every technical enhancement that the iPhone X has outside of the TrueDepth camera and OLED screen. I think the mental calculus on this one is probably closer than it's ever been, but the framework is roughly the same: If you're the kind of person who buys the high end iPhone every year then wait for the iPhone X. With the one added caveat of if the notch for the depth camera on the front of the X offends you, well you have most of the major tech right in the iPhone 8.
I've been thinking about this one, and I think the best way to categorize the iPhone X is as a super set of the iPhone 8 series. I'll talk about that more when it comes time to discuss the X, but for now the iPhone 8 is still going to get you most of the way to "the best" -- especially when it comes to the camera.
How does it stack up against Android?
So how about other devices? Arguably, for the price you can pick up Android phones with better screens and cameras, and with more modern designs. Samsung's Galaxy S8 comes in at the same price at the iPhone 8, and the OnePlus 5 is cheaper. At this stage, however, the differences are less important than if you prefer iOS or Android, which is really a matter of taste.
A real step forward.
When I first picked up the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, I immediately decided they were actually just the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus. I was wrong: They're definitely much more than that. They're just saddled with a less exciting design. If you subscribe to the maxim that it's what's inside that really counts, the 8 and 8 Plus are big improvements. They pack more storage, great cameras, improved software and absolutely first-rate performance into some highly familiar packages. The iPhone X will continue to suck the air out of the room for the foreseeable future, but one thing has become clear after my week of testing: They might not have the X's style, but the 8 and 8 Plus are truly excellent phones that won't let Apple die-hards and new customers down.
Good, but they're no iPhone X.
Okay, so they're not the all-singing, all-dancing iPhone X, but these phones are both worth moving up to, especially if you are coming from an iPhone 6s or older handset. However, I'd say there's enough upgrade here to make it worthwhile from an iPhone 7, too.
An inbetweener of a smartphone.
Pro. A solid and attractive glass iPhone with a lovely screen, excellent camera, wireless charging, water resistance, iOS 11
Con. A sandwich device falls between the pricier but more dramatic iPhone X, as well as other fine iPhones that are cheaper.
The bottom line
Having read the reviews, you get the feeling that the iPhone 8 will never really get it's time to shine. While some of the reviews certainly focus on it being "just another iPhone," those reviewers who were very positive and gushing about the iPhone 8 were thinking about and fantasizing about the iPhone X, and that's an odd space for a new iPhone to inhabit.
It's going to be interesting to see if the tone of these reviews push people towards the higher-priced iPhone X (and put pressure on Apple to keep up with demand), or whether people will hold onto their existing iPhone in the hopes that everything that's good about the iPhone X will next year be in the iPhone 8s or 9 or whatever it will be called.
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