What's it like using the world's fastest smartphone?

Apparently the processor inside the iPhone 8 is a "desktop-class performance in a handset." But does this mean anything?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
​Apple A11 Bionic processor

Apple A11 Bionic processor

I should be awed by the fact that I own the world's fastest smartphone, but to be honest it's all a bit underwhelming.

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According to Geekbench benchmarks, the A11 Bionic processor that powers the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the eagerly awaited iPhone X, is so fast it crushes the Snapdragon chip found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

"At this point, you've got desktop-class performance in a handset. There's no way of looking at it any other way," John Poole, founder of Primate Labs, told Tom's Guide. "I wouldn't have thought to use my first-generation iPhone to edit video. I would've thought you were crazy."

Now I've read a lot of stuff drawing parallels between Apple's A11 chip and Intel's 7th-generation Core i5 processor, and while you can make some comparisons, there are differences. One difference between the two is that the A11 can only sustain that high workloads for short periods before heat becomes and issue, while an i5 chip can keep on going thanks to active cooling.

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But there's no doubt that the iPhone 8 is fast and very responsive, and it's quite a noticeable improvement even compared to the iPhone 7, especially when it comes to tasks such as unlocking and running some apps.

But the performance is horribly inconsistent, and that unpredictability makes it annoying and frustrating. Some apps run super-fast, others (and this list varies from built-in apps such as Music to third-party apps such as Facebook) can feel terribly kludgy at times.

On top of that, the huge amount of lag and frame drops in the user interface (yes, even on a brand new, out of the box device) really lets the experience down. The silicone might be fast, but it's clear that iOS is throwing a huge number of speed bumps in front of the A11.

I feel like Apple fitted my sports car with square wheels.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth bugginess also takes away from the feeling of owning the world's fastest smartphone.

I think that the disappointing thing about the iPhone 8 is that without the benchmarks to tell me that it's the world's fastest smartphone, I honestly wouldn't have guessed it was. Yes, it's snappy, but there are times when it isn't, and to find out that it's not a silicone roadblock means that Apple didn't put as much effort into streamlining iOS as it could have done.

As for the claim that this massive bump in performance will "future proof" the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, I'm not convinced. When the iPhone 7 landed a little over a year ago, its CPU was 120 times faster than the original iPhone, with the GPU being a whopping 240 times faster, and yet now, one generation on in both hardware and iOS releases, I'm hearing from people who feel that their device is feeling its age. That's the nature of hardware improvements. The next generation of software use (and abuse) the power at its disposal.

This also accounts for why your iPhone or iPad (or any other device for that matter) feels slower after updating. It's not a conspiracy to get you to by a new device; it's just the wheels of progress.

So, what's it like to own the world's fastest smartphone? Meh. It feels like Apple took powerful silicone and wasted its potential by loading what feels like poorly optimized code over the top of it.

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