The iPhone 8 was always going to be stuck in a tough spot: It’s a marginal upgrade that lands the same year that Apple introduced the iPhone X, the biggest refresh since 2014’s iPhone 6.
Now that review embargoes have lifted, Apple’s favorite tech journalists are busting out their iPhone 8 reviews. Are the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus worth shelling out for? Check out our iPhone 8 review roundup below.
Same old design
With the exception of the glass back, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus looks same as its iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 predecessors. That means that your appreciation of it is going to be based on how much you liked the previous handsets. There’s still no headphone jack which, while not causing the massive furore it did last year, is commented on by several reviewers.
Given that Apple has had time to hone the design over a few years, there are no nasty surprises here. At the same time, there are very few surprises (design wise) at all. Engadget‘s review seems to sum up general opinion when it notes that:
“The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are nothing if not familiar — whether that’s a bad thing is really a matter of taste, but I would’ve preferred a new look.”
Better speakers, True Tone is good
Apple says the speakers for the new iPhone 8 are 25 percent louder than their predecessor. This is something seemingly confirmed by the reviews, which note that users are likely to notice a major improvement in sound quality — with louder, more powerful speakers than the ones in the iPhone 7.
Depending on the quality of your hearing, you may even be able to pick up on the noticeable audio separation of the twin speakers. The addition of True Tone, the white balance compensating system that gets the display to look different under different lights, is also considered to be a worthy upgrade.
Studio Lighting is interesting, but unfinished
Available only on the larger size iPhone 8 Plus (and the iPhone X), Portrait Lighting is a feature that, for many users, is considered among the most exciting features of Apple’s new handsets. At present, however, most reviewers note that this is very much still a beta feature. Says Engadget:
“That becomes almost painfully obvious after a few minutes playing with it. Natural Light offers the standard portrait photos I’ve described. Studio Light does a good job brightening up the subject’s face. The next three modes can be more problematic. Contour Light is meant to make faces pop with more dramatic lighting, but it typically just made me — a brown-skinned man — look even darker and more ominous than before. (In an informal poll of co-workers I’ve shot in this mode, nearly all of them said it accentuated features they wished hadn’t been.) Stage Light and Stage Light Mono both black out everything behind a subject, and they really just highlight how difficult it can be to separate what’s in the foreground and background. A lot of my photos shot with these modes just look awkward, and I hope they get much better soon.”
Meanwhile, The Verge says that it’s a neat concept, although one that’s still not fully realized. In particular, they say that it’s not as impressive as Portrait mode was when it debuted on the iPhone 7 Plus.
“Apple says it’s actually mapping the effect to faces, but it’s not a huge step up over a simple filter. And it’s really, really easy to confuse the system into masking off the wrong portions of the image, which gave us a few laughs in testing … Here’s hoping it’ll get better when it’s out of beta.”
The camera is “killer”
Studio Lighting might not be quite there yet, but the iPhone 8’s camera is certainly a worthy justification for releasing the phone. TechCrunch‘s review is based around the camera, which it describes as “killer” and reason enough to buy the iPhone 8.
While the iPhone 8 is still a 12 MP snapper, its bigger sensor leads to improved image quality, while, “deeper pixel wells give better isolation between capture elements so that you don’t get that speckle that results in color confusion between two pixels.”
The high dynamic range (HDR) shooting is also singled out as great by multiple reviewers.
Wireless charging is a worthwhile update
Wireless charging is considered a worthy upgrade, although not exceptional. The Verge writes that:
“Qi is pretty slow … [and while] Apple’s goal is to match the charging speed of its own 5W pack-in charger … I only saw about 15 percent more charge on the 8 Plus every 30 minutes with the Mophie, which is especially pokey when you consider that you can’t pick up and use your phone during that time. A future iOS update will let the iPhone 8 draw more power out of the Mophie and Belkin pads Apple sells in stores, so hopefully things speed up when that happens.”
CNN, meanwhile, praises the feature, but says that it’s more about Apple playing “catch up” than anything else. (Although they appreciate Apple not incorporating a proprietary standard):
“Apple is not doing anything revolutionary here — a number of Samsung devices already support the Qi standard. But it feels like a real improvement over the wired charging, especially if you plop your phone down in the same spot every night before bed.”
A good, nonessential, upgrade
The Verge notes:
“After spending a week with the 8, I can’t think of a single compelling reason to upgrade from an iPhone 7. The 7 is still extremely fast, offers virtually the same design in a lighter package with a bigger battery, and will get almost every feature of the 8 with iOS 11. If you really want Qi wireless charging, you can get a slim $15 case that supports it. And if you’re dying for Portrait Lighting, there are tons of photo apps in the App Store that offer similar effects. Of course, if you’re upgrading from anything older than an iPhone 7, the improvements in the camera and the overall speed of the phone are going to really impress you.”
The Wall Street Journal echoes the sentiment by suggesting that the iPhone 8 falls somewhere between the existing iPhones and the new iPhone X:
“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.”
Other reviews are slightly nicer, pointing out that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are still great phones in their own right. However, for most people, it seems that this may be one iPhone you don’t need to rush out and buy — unless the iPhone X is truly too pricey and you absolutely need the latest camera.