As journalists from across the world trouped out of the Steve Jobs Theatre in the demo zone just outside as the Apple keynote ended, there was one clear trend: the lines were visibly longer for a hands-on with the Apple iPhone X in comparison to the iPhone 8 series. The bezel-less, home button-less, fingerprint scanner-less version of the iPhone was garnering much more attention that the Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus which enjoyed just about 15 minutes of fame.
But the Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus is what the world will get to experience and buy first as the iPhone X will not hit stores before November first week. But that in no way means the iPhone 8 is a pushover. Over the past four days I have chronicled my life with the Apple iPhone 8 Plus as my primary phone, looking at various aspects of the phone.
Day 4: Issues and should you buy
The Apple iPhone 8 Plus is a very powerful phone and stands out for what I think is the best smartphone camera money can buy. If there is one issue with the phone, it is the battery. No, it is not that the battery is bad. It is just that it should have been better. While Apple says the phone is doing much more than before, but still has the same battery life, the way I would look at it is that you need to reach for the charger by the end of the working day if you use the phone like you are supposed to. I managed to squeeze out 12 hours by being careful of what I do and also by minimising the screen brightness. Still, this should not be a choice I have to make with a premium smartphone, any premium smartphone.
Interestingly, I used the iPhone 8 Plus for a few days in the US with a local number. Then the phone lasted much longer thanks to the stable networks. In India that is not the case, the constant searching for networks drain any phone out. In Kerala this weekend, I spend a day at a resort near the sea and far away from the networks. There the battery drained in a few hours as there were no 4G networks to be found. I would hope Apple packs its next version with a battery that lasts 24 hours of usage. That will be the innovation users will cheer.
The iPhone 8 series has come into the market and presented buyers as well as Apple with a new problem. It is not always that loyal Apple users have to make a choice when it comes to a flagship. This time they have to decide whether to go for the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus now, or wait for the iPhone X when it hits the stores a few weeks from now. Having played a bit with the latter, I think the iPhone X is a much better phone because it offers a superb screen and a much better from camera. But does everyone need these? No.
So, if you are looking for an upgrade from any Apple iPhone that is older than the iPhone 6S then go ahead and buy this iPhone 8 series. If you are looking for an upgrade and price is not really a factor, then maybe you should wait for the iPhone X. Also, having moved from the iPhone 7 Plus, I think that phone still offers buyers immense value and certainly the case for those users upgrading to the iPhone 8 Plus is not that strong.
The Apple iPhone 8 Plus is a very good phone, but for a change the users have to decide if they will buy this phone or wait for the sexier sibling expected next month.
Day 3: Camera and video
Apple has proved time and again that when it comes to smartphone cameras it is a notch above the competition. Interestingly, Apple cameras stand out despite it not bothering to offer the highest megapixel numbers and new camera or pixel technologies. Last year, the iPhone 7 Plus set the standard for dual cameras. This year, the iPhone 8 Plus takes it step further.
When I say a step further, I mean the dual camera of the iPhone is well out of the beta stage. It now offers DSLR-like portraits every time, given that you have the light and distance right. Even in low light, it is better than the iPhone 7 Plus as it has managed to reduce noise to a great extent — still, portrait mode is not something you would really want to use in low light.
Also, it is using the A11 Bionic chip to offer more to the portrait mode in the form of contour and studio lighting. You can select these before composing the frame or after having clicked it, and that is a really interesting feature in this camera. I was impressed by the natural lighting and the contour lighting, but the new stage lighting and the mono version of the same are certainly in beta and needs a lot more work before it becomes perfect. I am indeed a bit surprised that Apple has had two, what I would call beta versions of its camera app in the past two years. But to Apple’s credit is the fact that now there is no lag while clicking images using the dual camera.
Overall, the camera is much better than all earlier versions of the iPhone. In fact, during a shoot in Kochi this week, our video editor was more than once tempted use the iPhone 8 Plus for her shots in place of the DSLR. Also, I noticed that this camera offers the best colour reproduction results, with details and gradient colours which you would not have seen in a smartphone camera otherwise.
Plus, the video qualities of this phone are amazing. I shot a bit of video in 4K at 30fps and played them back on the TV. I am sure no one who saw the final footage would have guessed the source. Also, the phone has enough fire power to handle 4K videography and stay cool all through.
It is better to show the results. Here are some photos shot on the Apple iPhone 8 Plus:
Day 2: Performance and something else you would like to hear
Every year, when a new iPhone is launched it is touted as the fastest iPhone ever. This year the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8 is powered by Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip, again the fastest Apple has ever produced. The initial benchmark scores from across the world, rank the new iPhones well ahead of competition.
I am not a big fan of benchmarks, as at the end of the day it is just a number you can’t really infer much from. But what I am a fan of is the actual experience while using a phone. Moving from an iPhone 7 Plus, which had started becoming a bit lethargic thanks to the need to update to iOS 11, this phone felt like a horse that had just been unfettered. The iPhone 8 Plus is clearly the fastest, smoothest phone experience I have had ever — the caveat here being that I have not used the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which I am sure will be similar.
The thing about the performance of the iPhone 8 is its ability to move from one app to the other without so much as the semblance of a pause. Also, from the iPhone 7 Plus to the iPhone 8 Plus, the experience around the dual camera has also improved drastically, because now there is not delay between the click as the time taken for the image is saved. The A11 Bionic chip is definitely at work when you shoot 4K video as this phone manages to stay cool even after a few minutes of rolling.
The A11 chips help the iPhone 8 Plus make the best out of the AR Kit. With the AR Kit apps you can add more than a virtual layer on top of your real world — like bring a tiger or a dancing girl inside your room, or use an imaginative tape measure to map the height of the chair in your room. Frankly, none of these technologies are new, it is just that using an AR app has now become much more smoother and natural because of the processing power. In fact, you get a better feel of this in the portrait mode of the camera app, where the phone is able to understand the edges of a subject and blur out the rest of the image.
PS: With the iPad Pro last year, Apple created the best audio experience in a mobile device. Now, the iPhone 8 Plus is in my books the best sounding smartphone you can buy. I am a bit surprised that Apple did not tout this feature enough at keynote or after that. The audio is loud, sharp and spatial making the entire experience very good.
Day 1: Design and everything related
Over the past week or so I have been carrying the iPhone 8 Plus with me. No one has really noticed, except for those with a keen (tech) eye and those who knew I already had this phone. This is because the iPhone 8 Plus, and its smaller version, look identical to its predecessor, the iPhone 7 series. But it is not that same and that is because instead of a metal back this one sports a glass rear. This design change is why Apple decided to called it iPhone 8 and not iPhone 7S. Also, the glass back is what lets this phone charge without wires.
The review unit we have is a Gold version, which has a more than regular dose of copper in it. A fan of anything black or dark, I was not very sure about carrying this around. But then you get used to it as it is a subtle sort of bling. I do wish Apple has a Jet Black of this phone too. Even with a cover on, the phone shows of some of its pinkish colours. So there is no hiding this one. With the gold, the rim around the dual camera feels a bit more prominent too.
The other noticeable difference is the weight of the phone. Though it is just 14 grams heavier at 202 grams, almost everyone who held the phone felt the change in weight. But I like heavy phones as they give you a sort of assurance that this will work… blame me for having started my cellular journey with an Ericsson brick phone 15 years ago.
As I said, the one significant change here is the glass back. And this is needed to ensure the phone can make the best of wireless charging which Apple is ushering in with the iPhone 8 series. While Apple does not have a wireless charger of its own yet, I got to use the Belkin Boost Up wireless charging pad. Yes, it is quite convenient as you just need to place the phone on top for it to start charging — you need to be careful and keep it back in the middle for this to work. However, I found that wirelessly it takes a bit more time to charge that via the regular mode. Also, I am pretty sure you wont be carrying the wireless charger around in your office bag. This is meant to kept in one place: on your office table or chest of drawers and doesn’t really have mobile intentions.
Have questions about the Apple iPhone 8 Plus? Tweet out to @nandu79