Apple iPhone 8 Plus review
Wrapping it up
The "plus" iPhones are typically the ones that stand out. The ones that close the specs gap between Apple and the rest, the ones that are more likely to get Android users interested if you will. The ones that get the better treatment and superior equipment. The ones that can do more and do it better.
This doesn't directly translate into sales numbers and Apple typically sells more of the regular model than the Plus version but, last season, the 7 Plus was very close behind. In a usual year, the gap could've been closed, the trend reversed, but this is not a typical Apple year. And this is the first time we are just not sure.
There's a big unknown, aptly called X, and it's smaller and bigger than the Plus. Outlandish, unexpected, different. Better? We hope so - and not because we want the 8's to fail.
That's the thing. People are always drawn to the novel, the latest - and that's at least twofold when Apple is involved. The sales reports are already showing that while there is robust demand for the iPhone 8, it's not as big as in the past couple of years. Looks like people are simply waiting.
Now, that could be a mistake. If the iPhone 8 Plus is to be judged by the cover and always with the X in mind, many users, Apple fans or not, might be missing out on a great opportunity.
Let's think about it. What are we getting with the iPhone X? An infinity OLED screen of a higher resolution is a good enough reason to wait and see. FaceID replacing the highly convenient TouchID is close to a mini-revolution, but we have yet to see how this works with glasses and beards. And for payments.
How you navigate without a Home button is another thing that probably everyone is curious about. Apple is probably the least likely company to release a half-baked novelty just for the sake of it - and we hope there're enough people at Apple that don't want another Apple Maps debacle. Yes, all that new stuff is risky - and that perhaps makes you even more curious.
There's nothing about the iPhone 8 Plus to tingle your curiosity. It's familiar. It's safe. Is that a bad thing? It's probably the last phablet from Apple, for a while at least, and if you love big phones, this one could be the one to get. It has great build quality, its screen is truly impressive, and it's just incredibly fast. The new camera setup has some very nice improvements, and the loud stereo speakers will easily impress you. The base storage is doubled and the new file formats for photo and video take up half the space.
Apple iPhone 8 Plus key test findings:
- The iPhone 8 Plus looks similar to its predecessors, but the glass back makes it special enough. It is built to the highest standards, water-proof, and still one of the best-looking flagships, bezels or not. We like the no-nonsense design, but the "toughest glass" didn't live up to the expectations and it's easy to scratch.
- The iPhone 8 Plus has a class-leading IPS LCD in terms of brightness and color calibration. True Tone adjustment. The 401ppi is behind most of the recent Android flagships but it's still in the flagship ballpark. Sunlight contrast is superb for an LCD screen.
- Battery life is above average with an Endurance rating of 81 hours. The phone has well-balanced scores across all tests. Wireless charging is finally here as is fast charging. Too bad you need a chunky and expensive MacBook USB-C charger to enjoy it. We hope third-party makers will step in and provide more portable and affordable options.
- The connectivity is improved with Cat.12 LTE support, and for the first time ever, reading standard NFC tags is also supported. The lack of analog audio port is a turn-off. At least there is a free adapter in the package.
- Performance-wise, the A11-powered iPhone 8 Plus is arguably the most powerful smartphone in the world right now. Its CPU and GPU performance, as well as the overall experience, are unrivaled (unless we count the iPhone 8, which is even more powerful due to lower screen resolution).
- Apple iOS 11 is great, a nice step forward with a refined interface, Notification and Control centers. It makes a better use of 3D Touch, has better Siri, a file manager, dark mode, among others. Apple has an industry-leading software update program - you are guaranteed to get all iOS updates in the next few years as soon as they are out. However, iOS still lacks any customization options such as UI themes or icon packs.
- The stereo speakers scored an Excellent mark for loudness, which is as high as an iPhone has ever achieved, and subjectively, they sound great.
- The audio quality through the Lighting to 3.5mm converter is very good, but not quite the best in class.
- The main camera offers the same great levels of detail, superb processing and class-leading dynamic range of its predecessor and is better in low light - lower noise, sharper images and better color and white balance.
- The telephoto camera has a neat Portrait mode which offers one of the best, if not the best, software bokeh effect on any smartphone. It's nice to have a 2x zoom camera in good light, but the smaller sensor and smaller aperture make the telephoto camera unusable in low light. Portrait Lightning effects are super cool, but they are still in beta and require further fine tuning.
- First ever 4K videos at 60fps and they turned out great, even though little softer than the 30fps. The regular 4K videos offer great detail, superb processing, and once again class-leading dynamic range. They still come with mono audio recording though. 1080p videos provide high enough quality to be considered usable in the age of 4K. Finally, the HEVC codec uses less storage for videos and doesn't hurt the quality, so we recommend it.
- The front 7MP selfie camera takes nice images though not the best we've seen.
Samsung vs Apple is the dilemma of late and you can't think of the one without the other. Indeed, Samsung has a lot to offer this year, the cutting-edge Galaxy Note8 is out now and it has everything the iPhone 8 Plus has and then some. For the S-Pen fans it's the only choice, for the Android faithful, it's one of, if not the best droid out there.
There is also the Galaxy S8+, which lacks the S-Pen and the second camera, but makes up for that with a reduced price. The S8+ has a smaller footprint and a futuristic infinity screen design, but it's not the most practical of handsets, with a somewhat compromised grip.
If the bezel-less displays are your thing, the LG V30 and G6 have plenty to offer. Both deliver flagship-performance and pretty unique camera experience and quality. Those two deserve every praise, be it for the display, camera, or audio. The LG G6 costs half the price of an iPhone, while the V30 is thereabout.
Huawei was quick enough to adopt the dual-camera and the P10 Plus is probably one of the most prominent cameraphones out there. It may lack water-proofing but has a high-res AMOLED screen, a powerful processor, beautiful design, stereo speakers and, of course, the second-gen Leica Dual Camera 2.0 Pro with wide apertures and native monochrome photography. While it doesn't offer the same Portrait mode effects, there are equally creative camera modes, including full manual mode and variable aperture. It costs much less than an iPhone.
The Huawei Mate 10 is just around the corner and is expected to bring a bezel-less AMOLED screen, water-proofing, an arguably more powerful chipset than the A11, and the third-generation Leica camera. It will most probably cost a fortune, just like the iPhone - so it better be worth the wait... and the cash.
Sony's Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium both shine with durable industrial designs, extra-solid performance and 960fps slow-mo videos. The duo lacks a second camera and relies on a high-res 19MP sensor. It's not as capable in low-light, but does great the rest of the time. If you have other Sony gadgets, those would play nicely with your Xperia, so that's another point in its favor.
The Android purist would surely like the Nokia 8 and OnePlus 5. They both come wrapped in metal, have the latest Qualcomm chips, and offer dual-camera setups on the back. Cheaper than the iPhone, those two are surely some sensible offers to consider.
The second-generation Google Pixel XL is just around the corner and should beat the iPhone with a higher-res AMOLED screen. It has a single camera on the back and a peculiar design, plus the Pixel is quite expensive too and not available on many markets so they might not even be an option where you live.
The iPhone 7 Plus is cheaper, and it's got a pretty relevant skill set still. If you can live without wireless charging, you'll be getting an all-metal design and solid enough chipset and camera.
Finally, the iPhone X. The iPhone to look forward to. It has a higher-resolution edge-to-edge AMOLED screen, a brand new design with Face ID replacing Touch ID and no Home button whatsoever. The X adds OIS to the telephoto camera and Portrait mode on the selfie one, too. But its price is north of €1000/$1000, which is taking smartphone pricing to new territories. Even worse, pundits doubt Apple's ability to catch up with the demand before the spring of next year. So... how about an iPhone 8 Plus instead?
Well, how about it really? The iPhone 8 Plus is pricey, there is no two-ways about it. It's one of the most expensive smartphones and that will be that until the iPhone X arrives.
For the price though, you're getting the fastest phone there is, a truly impressive camera and a superb quality screen. Yet, for the first time in history a Plus model is not at the top of the food chain and it doesn't have a whole year before the next iPhone arrives.
There is a shadow hanging over the 8 series and we guess the Plus could be hit worse than the regular 8. In a typical Apple year, the iPhone 8 Plus would've been the better twin. This time around, it's the middle triplet. We'll know soon enough how bad this can be. But the worst thing is, the imminent iPhone X is making it harder for everybody to notice how good the iPhone 8 Plus really is.