iPhone X vs. iPhone 8: Should you wait longer and pay more?

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iPhone X
iPhone X is worth the hefty price tag.
Photo: Apple

iPhone X is “the future” of the smartphone, and it’s set to revolutionize the way we use mobile devices all over again with features like Face ID and wireless charging. It’s also incredibly good-looking, and insanely powerful thanks to Apple’s A11 Bionic chip.

But is it worth the wait and the hefty price tag?

Find out in our in-depth comparison, which pits iPhone X against its more familiar, more affordable sibling, iPhone 8.

It’s impossible to not be impressed by iPhone X. It’s spectacular new design, made from super-strong glass and surgical-grade stainless steel, combined with innovative new features are the perfect way to celebrate the iPhone’s tenth anniversary.

Sure, other phones have had edge-to-edge displays and facial recognition before, but yet again, Apple has perfected them. Its Super Retina display offers the best color accuracy in the industry, while Face ID is more advanced and more secure than any of its rivals.

But iPhone 8 is impressive, too. Like iPhone X, it boasts a new design with glass enforced by steel, along with wireless charging, A11 Bionic, and brand new cameras. It also offers louder, more dynamic speakers, and it retains the beloved Touch ID and Home button.

So which one is more deserving of your hard-earned cash? Here’s how they compare.

iPhone X vs. iPhone 8

iPhone X vs. iPhone 8 comparison
Click to enlarge.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Displays

By far the biggest difference between iPhone X and iPhone 8 are their displays. While the more affordable option retains the Retina HD display we’re all familiar with in 4.7- and 5.5-inch sizes — albeit with some improvements — iPhone X sports a jaw-dropping Super Retina display.

It’s the first thing you’ll notice. It takes up almost all of the space available on the front of the phone, leaving only a tiny area for the front-facing TrueDepth camera, speaker, and Face ID sensors. It’s sharper and more vibrant than previous iPhone displays, with a 458 ppi.

The Super Retina display is also more efficient because it’s OLED as opposed to LCD. That means that instead of having a dedicated backlight that must be lit at all times, it can light individual pixels only when they need to be lit.

When viewing dark images or using dark wallpapers, then, some pixels won’t light up at all. This means the Super Retina display saps less battery power, and gives you more usage in between charges over time.

iPhone X
iPhone X sports a stunning Super Retina display.
Photo: Apple

It also supports true HDR, with an impressive 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. In comparison, iPhone 8 has a 1,400:1 contrast ratio, though it matches iPhone X’s 625 cd/m2 max brightness and wide color (P3) gamut.

Both displays offer True Tone technology, adopted from iPad Pro, which automatically adjusts color temperature based on ambient light to make content more comfortable to look at.

The Super Retina display looks a lot better, and offers more space in a similarly compact footprint. But it has its downsides.

By extending iPhone X’s display to its edges, Apple had to do away with the physical Home button — and Touch ID. Face ID is there to make up for it, and it looks magnificent, but those who would prefer a fingerprint scanner will have to stick with Retina HD.

Performance

When it comes to performance, iPhone X and iPhone 8 look similar on paper. Both are powered by Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip, with a CPU that’s up to 70 percent faster than A10 Fusion’s, and a three-core GPU that’s up to 30 percent faster.

That means greater games, even better augmented reality, and a smoother, snappier experience overall.

iPhone 8 gaming
iPhone 8 is just as powerful as iPhone X.
Photo: Apple

The A11 chip does more inside an iPhone X, powering a neural engine for Face ID that’s capable of 600 billion operations per second, and HDR video playback. But for everything else, you can expect a similar experience on both devices.

There is another exception, however. Though that A11 chip, with its four low-power cores, should improve battery life on both devices, iPhone X has the edge here, presumably thanks to a bigger battery. Apple says you’ll get two hours more use than on iPhone 8.

Cameras

Both iPhone X and iPhone 8 have a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera with f/1.8 aperture. When it comes to standard, still images and video recording, you can expect to get the same results from both devices.

You’ll also get the same great portrait shots from iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, which both combine that sensor with a secondary 12-megapixel telephoto lens. It allows for optical zoom and a new feature called Portrait Lighting, which adjusts light to highlight your subject.

Both devices are capable of shooting super-sharp 4K video at 60 frames-per-second, and 1080p video at 240 fps for slower slo-mo.

iPhone X Portrait selfies
iPhone X can take Portrait mode selfies.
Photo: Apple

Again, however, there are some significant differences. Both rear cameras have optical image stabilization in iPhone X, whereas only the primary sensor has this feature in iPhone 8 Plus. But the biggest difference is around front.

iPhone 8 has a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with an f/2.2 aperture that will take the same great shots you expect from an iPhone. iPhone X, on the other hand, boasts a new TrueDepth camera that can shoot Portrait mode and Portrait Lighting selfies.

This also allows for a new feature called Animoji. These are 3D emoji characters that come to life. You can customize them with your own voice and facial expressions and send them to friends via iMessage. There are a dozen to choose from initially, with more to come.

Security

We’ve already touched upon Face ID, but it’s worth looking at in more detail. In the past, facial recognition has been labeled a gimmick, and on other devices, it’s slow, unreliable, and unsecure. That’s not the case on iPhone X.

Apple is billing Face ID as its strongest security yet. It says there’s a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that a random person could unlock your device with their face. In comparison, there’s a 1 in 50,000 chance that a random person could unlock a device with Touch ID.

Face ID
Face ID is no gimmick.
Photo: Apple

It’s not just super-secure; Face ID is also incredible fast, and thanks to clever sensors, it works even when you’re wearing glasses, hats, or in the dark. It also adapts to changes in your appearance over time using an incredible neural engine.

Face ID can be used for all the same things Touch ID would be used for — unlocking, authorizing App Store purchases, and Apple Pay — and unlike fingerprint scanners, it can be used even when your phone is wet.

It might take some getting used to, but there’s no doubt that Face ID is the future of smartphone security.

Software

Both iPhone X and iPhone 8 run iOS 11, with more or less exactly the same features.

Of course, the operating system has been designed to take advantage of the larger display and new hardware on iPhone X, and adapted for life without a Home button — but the software experience is almost identical on both devices.

With that said, don’t base your buying decision on the differences in software. If you can live without all the other things iPhone X offers, these differences alone aren’t enough to warrant its higher price tag.

The bottom line

iPhone X is better than iPhone 8. There are no two ways about it. It delivers the best of everything Apple has to offer right now, and iPhone 8 already feels outdated in comparison. If you want the best possible iPhone experience, you’ll want the more expensive model.

It’s absolutely worth the wait — and the extra cash. You simply won’t find a better smartphone if you’re an iOS user.

If you don’t need the larger display and all the new features, iPhone 8 isn’t a completely terrible purchase. But when iPhone 7 prices plummet in the coming months, you’ll get a very similar experience for a lot less.

  • Steven Yep

    Even though the batteries on the iPhone 7 & 8 are the same. In the keynote Apple mentioned battery lasts 2 hours more than the iPhone 7, not the 8.

  • Steve Harold

    I was pumped for the X, but I think I’ll go 8 Plus. I like Touch ID, and I love he New gold color. Also, there is no peormformance difference so it’s not really a big deal. Rear cameras are the same on both phones as well. Only difference is display and Face ID.

    • Steven Yep

      The rear cameras are slightly different. The telephoto lens on the iPhone X has larger Aperture than the 8 Plus. Not sure if that’s a game changer.
      Also the front camera offers portrait mode over the 8 Plus.
      But I hope more people feel the same way as you do by getting the 8 Plus. That means I have a better chance of getting the iPhone X, hehe ;)

      • luppo

        and both camera in X has a OIS,

      • Steve Harold

        Good luck. Didn’t know that about tear cameras though. I knew the front was different which is why I was careful to say tear camera.

  • Steven Yep

    In my opinion, Apple should have allowed preorders on the iPhone X on September 15 instead of October 27. That ways they have an idea as to how many they need to produce by November 3rd. I have a bad feeling many folks won’t be getting theirs till January or February of next year.

    • BusterH

      I’m wondering if Apple’s thinking wasn’t “let’s make it a month after the iPhone 8 debut, that way people who just can’t wait for that new new will give in an buy the cheaper option that’s easier for us to manufacture.”

      • Steven Yep

        And if this were their intentions, then it’s working because that’s how I’m feeling now. I have to stay strong! Lol

  • EatDroidsSh&tOutApples

    what are the all the new features in iPhone X vs iPhone 8 Plus except big screen (and useless Face ID, which is a patch up due to unavailability of in-screen finger print reader, which is a non issue for iPhone 8 plus)? I bet the conclusion is a big miss, to be precise. LOL

  • Wolfgang F. Svatek

    Does anybody know if there’s any other way to unlock iPhone X except Face ID? Typing in password or pattern?

    Thanks

    • jelockwood

      You can still unlock using your PIN code, in fact as the ‘fail’ during Apple’s keynote showed if Face ID has three failed attempts in a row it switches to requiring the PIN code.

      Also just like Touch ID, when the phone is first turned on you need to unlock the first time using the PIN code, and presumably after 24 hours of being turned on continuously like current models.