Last week something unfortunate happened… my iPhone 6s Plus died! Over the past four or five months the overall performance and battery life of the device had been completely awful which I presumed was down to the iOS 11 developer betas however, it was so awful that all system animations stuttered, apps would take 30 or so seconds to open, it would lag even in scrolling in Safari and battery life was down to 2-3 hours. After suffering with the device for months, upon a visit to Apple in St. Louis and a consultation with one of the store employees we decided it was best to purchase a new model to fix these ongoing issues.
The only problem was I still owed my carrier, AT&T $220, however Apple advised they would buy my device from me as part of their recycle scheme for $250, meaning I was able to pick up a brand new iPhone 8 Plus with a sizeable chunk off the retail price!
At first I was a little disappointed by the design of the device when unveiled during the Apple keynote back in September, but I have really warmed up to it. As you probably know, the back is now made of glass, and on paper this should make for a really nice looking phone but as you know, glass is breakable. I am really curious why Apple didn’t go with a ceramic backing or some sort of ceramic compound. This would allow the device to keep a very similar appearance but it would be way way more durable.
Personally, the new gold isn’t for me. I’ve heard from many people that they love the gold color and that’s great! I think its just a weird colour. The silver (white) glass looks incredible! The Apple logo on the back is even in a reflective silver, it’s an incredible design. The space grey (black) is also a creamy black and it’s not my favorite and I’ll leave it at that. Apple also says that this is the strongest glass on any smartphone as its now steal reinforced. iPhone 8 and 8 Plus now have a metal frame which helps reinforce the glass on both sides as well as keeping the structural integrity of the iPhone. I like the silver and gold frames on those models but the black frame on the space grey model just doesn’t match. It has an iPhone 5 black aluminium which is lighter than true black, the front glass is a deep dark black, and the back glass is a creamy glass. It’s 3 different colors and it looks weird. There’s also a new coating on the display glass which generates less friction when you touch it. It’s really weird, you can be gliding your finger for scrolling and it doesn’t really feel like you’re touching anything.
Starting with iPhone 6s Plus Apple included their Taptic Engine on iPhone which was first introduced with Apple Watch. With iPhone 7 Apple stepped up the game with two Taptic Engines, and now with iPhone 8 Apple has taken it a step further. This is a really unexplainable phenomenon but the best way I can describe it as is “It’s like you’re feeling the software”. When I opened a picker in Safari (the menu that looks like a roledex), each option would generate haptic feedback so I would be scrolling through a menu and I could feel it clicking with each option. When you zoom in/out too much in Safari, Photos, and other apps there is a rubber band feeling like when you scroll too much on Apple Watch. It’s as if you see the rubber band effect and feel it. Another thing I noticed is when you pull to refresh something (like Mail), iPhone will pulsate a little. Also when you 3D Touch an icon on the Home Screen and move your finger up to select a shortcut option, iPhone will click with every option you glide over.
It’s just a really weird feeling but I am loving everything about it! Of course there’s many other instances where iPhone uses Haptic Feedback that I didn’t mention, however if I did this would just be one huge review that our editor, Tom Sykes really wouldn’t want to publish! This was also introduced with iPhone 7 but this is my first time using it so I felt I should mention it here. The new Home Button, it’s crazy that you click it in and it’s all an illusion! With the first generation iPad in 2010, the Home Button was firm and very “clicky”, every Home Button that’s been released since has always felt really mushy. This new Home Button generates a very satisfying click that I love!
Qi “Wireless” Charging
Okay, this is a very hot topic with me. About a decade ago Apple filed for patents that would allow a device placed in an iMac to generate power and wirelessly distribute it to your mobile devices. Since they were granted the patent, they must have had a working prototype. Fast forward to today and there hasn’t been a lot of progress on this. It is worth mentioning that there are prototypes by other companies with this technology working. Apple is famously quoted saying that Apple doesn’t want to introduce inductive charging on their products because they want to “do it right”. Meaning that if Apple did some sort of wireless charging, that it would be real wireless charging. Many Android handsets have utilized the Qi charging system which is nice because you can lay your device on a charging mat and your device will charge without plugging something in. This is not wireless charging as there is still a wire that connects the pad to power. Wireless charging by definition is transmitting electricity over airwaves with the device not having to make contact with any other tool in order for the transfer of electricity. This is not a new concept, in fact in the early 1900s Tesla had this working but unfortunately, a lot of work was either covered up or passed off as someone’s else’s idea.
That being said I did purchase a Qi charging mat made by Belkin and I am loving it. It’s really convenient to just place my iPhone on this mat to charge. iPhone does not use the Qi quick charging standard so this will be dramatically slower than a wired connection. iPhone 8 also supports fast charge so if you have Apple’s 29W USB-C brick with a USB-C to Lightening cable then your iPhone will essentially charge to 75% in 15 minutes. I have found that if my iPhone is not in Do Not Disturb mode that the haptic feedback pulses from notifications will shake my iPhone off the charging mat so it is worth turning on DND mode right before you charge your device. More than likely you charge your iPhone while you sleep so DND mode is already enabled.
With iPhone 7, Apple introduced stereo speakers for iPhone and it just blew me away! With iPhone 8 Apple stepped up their speaker game again and let me tell you, when I heard them play music I did not believe that was coming out of a phone. Music was so sharp and had a decent bass. On the bottom of iPhone there are dual speakers which sounds amazing and on the top Apple has a speaker right next to the earpiece which lives in the headpiece cut out. The truly incredible thing is that iPhone will now vibrate (from the speakers) in the correct tones to what you’re listening to and this allows the sound to reverb on the surface the device is sitting on and bounce sound off walls that are around the handset. This whole setup not only delivers an incredible sound when you’re in front of the speakers, this makes sound seem like it is room filling. I’m not an audiophile but I do know how to appreciate good audio and iPhone 8 exceeds my standards.
iPhone 8 now has a True Tone display! I have never used a True Tone display before so this was a very interesting experience for me. There are sensors on iPhone that’ll find the dominant light color in wherever you are and the True Tone display will slightly tint your display that color so your content has accurate colors to what would be displayed in that room. This is absolutely incredible technology. That being said it is very annoying when I’m trying to look at a photo or working on a project in Pixelmator. When I’m working with photos I want to see the actual colors of the photo, it has happened a few times where I edit a photo in Pixelmator and I send it to someone and they’ll point out it looks terrible because I was adjusting colors for the True Tone display. Thankfully True Tone can be turned off and on in Control Center.
Do yourself a favor and check out this display in person! The new colors iPhone 8’s display can generate is just truly incredible. I’ve never seen such color accuracy of any display before and it’s just breathtaking. With the addition of HDR movies in iTunes, iPhone 8 actually has an HDR display. While it is 1080p and not 4K, HDR is present and it was just jaw dropping the first time I saw it. I can’t really explain it, I would only say to go check it out in person because my words will not do it justice. Along with the new color accuracy, iPhone 8’s display uses Dual-Domain pixels which means that a pixel’s content can be viewed in another pixel’s location when looking at the display from any angle. This pretty much means you can view iPhone 8 at ANY angle. It’s very cool! Back in my day I used a Toshiba Satellite PC in the 90s which used a TFT display that was only visible when you looked straight at it. The moment you tilted your head slightly the display’s contrast would start to change and if you looked at the display from a slight angle the display would essentially just look grey. It’s amazing that in only 20 years mobile displays have gone from that to the iPhone 8’s display. It is truly the best display I have ever looked at.
iPhone 8 packs some incredible silicon inside. Apple introduced the A11 “Bionic” Central Processing Unit (CPU) which features six cores. Six cores in a phone processor! My 2008 iMac had a dual core CPU which I thought was the bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. The bomb digity. Okay that’s enough of that… Just looking at raw Geekbench numbers, iPhone 8 received a single-core benchmark of 4206 and a multi-core benchmark of 10016. Seriously, that’s a phone’s actual CPU benchmarks. iPhone 8 Plus is even more impressive at 4213 for single-core and 10113 for multi-core. To put that in perspective, my 2008 iMac (which had a upgraded CPU) received a single-core benchmark of 1870 and 3278 for multi-core! In raw benchmarks alone, iPhone 8 Plus has three times the performance of a computer that is just nine years old. Of course actual usage may vary. To have some more fun, my $4000 iMac from late 2012 has a single core benchmark of 3652 and a multi-core of 11618. My $4000 iMac from just a few years ago only has a slight lead in multi-core performance over a $700 cell phone. It’s amazing that in 2017 we have cell phones with desktop class CPU performance but we don’t have the technology to make a weed eater that threads the string properly!
What is nice about the A11’s 6-Core setup is that there are four low efficiency cores and two high efficiency cores. Like dual graphics options in the MacBook Pro, A11 detects if you are performing light duties and carries them out on the low efficiency cores and when A11 detects you are performing a task that requires intense compute power then it’ll switch over to the high efficiency cores. This allows iPhone to get great battery life with light tasks and have incredible power when you need it. There’s also a new neural engine on the A11 which is a dedicated machine learning processor! There’s now special silicon inside of iPhone specifically for processing machine learning requests, artificial intelligence, advanced computer vision, image processing, and a whole lot more. What this means is that when your iPhone is analyzing your photos for objects and people there will be a dedicated chip to process that information without it affecting your main CPU. What’s also great is that since this runs independently of A11, it can be running in the background without degrading iPhone performance at all. This is very similar to how the M11 motion co-processor acts.
Apple didn’t stop there… For the first time in the company’s history, Apple designed a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)! This is a great thing because like Apple designing their own CPUs, Apple now has complete control over the GPU. Previously a 3rd party company was producing Apple’s iOS device GPUs and Apple had to release products on their schedule. Apple’s GPU also works with Apple’s legacy for hardware and software integration. This new GPU can perform three times better over the previous GPU and it was no slouch! While there are no hard numbers on this but trust me, graphics look phenomenal!
I saved the best for last… This is essentially the reason you want an iPhone 8. When I first saw Phil Schiller (Apple’s head of marketing) talk about the new iPhone 8 camera during the keynote I was not that impressed. It didn’t look any different over the iPhone 7. When I first used the iPhone 8 Plus’ camera, I had to sit down and catch my breath. I kept telling myself that a cell phone cannot take a photo like this. The images this iPhone can take are mind boggling good. For starters the iPhone 8’s camera can capture even more colors so right off the bat your photos would look night and day next to the previous iPhone if Apple only just made that one improvement, but thankfully they did everything else too. These new cameras are not just a slight improvement over previous iPhones, I’m talking total game changers.
- Low Light: iPhone 8’s camera can allow 80% more light into the sensors meaning low light performance is just unheard of like this in a camera that tiny. I tested this by turning on my nightstand lamp to around 10% (just enough for me to see). This is usually how I have the light on right before bed. I accidentally opened the camera app and I could see the other side of the room! iPhone was able to see the wall on the exact opposite corner and I could not believe it. Now that being said the image had huge amounts of noise but the image was clear enough to recognize what it was looking at and the items in the frame.
- Optical Stabilisation/Zoom: With the edition of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple introduced optical image stabilization (OIS to the iSight (rear) camera of iPhone. With iPhone 8 Plus OIS is back and better than ever! Not only is the front camera have OIS and the telephoto lens on the rear as OIS! This really helps when you have shaking hands and are just trying to get a clean photo or video. That being said I did just purchase the Osmo Mobile iPhone gimbal and I cannot wait to see what it can do! With the introduction of iPhone 7 Plus, Apple added optical zoom to iPhone. iPhone 8 still has the same great 2x zoom but now when you exceed 2x zoom, iPhone will use the telephoto else in tandem with the wide angle lens to produce a cleaner digital zoom.
- Portrait Mode: iPhone 7 Plus introduced a new photo mode called Portrait Mode which used the new dual camera system to detect a subject and blurred out the background based on how far away it was from them creating this beautiful DSLR portrait photo. I will say that if though if your subject has “wild” hair (meaning it is being blown in the wind or is just poofy) that iPhone may have trouble generating the correct blur. 95% of the time iPhone will produce beautiful portrait photos that are just earth shattering in quality. When I saw my first portrait photo off my iPhone 8 Plus, I knew I had a tool that’ll help advance my photography passion to the next level. As a fun fact about me, I have loved photography even as a kid but I never could afford a DSLR camera so I have used my Apple devices as my main camera. My first Apple camera was the video camera in the iPod nano 5th generation. Then I upgraded to an iPhone 3GS and every year that I have upgraded to a new iPhone my photos would get progressively better. I began wanting a DSLR less and less with each iPhone and I can honestly say I have no desire at all. I know a DSRL can do leaps and bounds more than an iPhone but at this point I don’t want to learn how to use a DSLR. I want to concentrate all my energy in finding the perfect shot/angle. iPhone 8 Plus has the ease of use of a point and shoot with a lot of the power of a DSLR. Especially with all the great lenses you can attach to an iPhone. Plus I love using my Apple Watch as a viewfinder for my iPhone when my iPhone is propped up on a tripod.
Here are some sample photos I took:
Along with the improved portrait mode on iPhone 8 Plus, Apple introduced Portrait Mode Lighting (PML) which simulates studio lighting with the depth data iPhone already collected with the dual camera. PML uses the iPhone’s neural engine to quickly analyze how different lighting effects would need to be placed on each portrait mode photo. It’s great how you can always change the lighting effect in Photos later. Even on another Apple device. In order of how they appear in the menu: Natural Light (default), Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, Stage Light Mono.
- Natural Light: Just as the photo was taken with natural light
- Studio Light: Brightens the subject while keeping the background untouched
- Contour Light: Darkens the shadows on the subject while keeping the background untouched
- Stage Light: Completely blackens the background and darkens the shadows and edges on and around the subject
- Stage Light Mono: Performs the action in Stage Light only the subject is now black and white
I love each and every PML option, each has a fantastic use in different scenarios. I’ve been using these a lot lately and there’s been use cases for each of these different effects. I personally LOVE the contour light and the stage light. Those generate a very professional styled image that just stand out.
iPhone 8 Plus now records video at 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS). For those that do not know, when a digital video camera records video it’s specified frame rate is how many images it shoots in a second. iPhone 8 now can shoot video in 60fps and this is a huge deal. This not only was the first smartphone to record in 4K@60, but it is essentially the most affordable and most widely available device in the world that can record video in such a fast frame rate at that massive resolution. – 60fps is nice because since there is a massive amount of frames being captured a second, video appears much much smoother.
What I personally like to do is record video in 60fps then downsample (artificially lower frame rate) it to 24fps when I export (save) my movies. This allows my videos to have all that great smooth motion data while generating a more cinematic feel. To put it in perspective, Sony just released a new camcorder that captures 4K@60 footage that costs $3000 and reviewers put it next to iPhone 8 and there’s virtually no difference. Seriously. Go Pro even released a new 4K@60 camera since iPhone 8 was released that costs $1000 and it looks like garbage next to iPhone. Seriously. Like I mentioned before, I cannot wait to start shooting my videos with the Osmo Mobile gimbal as I feel I now have the tools to make incredible films.
iPhone 8 also now records 240fps slow motion (slo mo) video in 1080p. While I was hoping for a new higher fps mode for iPhone’s slo mo camera, the addition of 240fps @1080 is very nice. This allows your slo mo videos to be even slower at that high resolution.
Along with PML, Apple introduced a new true tone flash which means that instead of the flash choosing between a red and blue light to shine on your subject, the flash can now generate any color to help amplify any dark subject without getting any bright spots on your subjects and helps generate better skin tones.
To sum up a feature introduced in iOS 11 is the new photo/video file formats. High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) and High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC aka h.265). Essentially your camera can take better looking photos at half the file size. Seriously. According to Apple:
A Minute of HEVC Video With:
720@30fps: 40MB 1080@30fps: 60MB 1080@60fps: 90MB 4K@24fps: 135MB 4K@30fps: 170MB 4K@60fps: 400MB
A Minute of HEVC Slo Mo Video:
1080@120fps: 170MB 1080@240fps: 480MB
When compared to H.264 compression
A Minute of H.264 Video With:
720@30fps: 60MB 1080@30fps: 130MB 1080@60fps: 175MB 4K@30fps: 350MB
I unfortunately was not able to locate information for Apple’s H.264 file sizes for slo mo video but as you can see that file sizes are nearly doubled compared to what they were on iOS 10 and below. Although that being said I did not know that capturing in HEVC and HEIF require a device with an A10 CPU as Apple included special hardware compression to allow your device to capture in these new formats in efficient time.
I will not deny that when I watched the keynote I was extremely underwhelmed with the iPhone 8 (and the iPhone X but that’s for another review) so I wasn’t all that excited to upgrade to an iPhone 8 Plus. If it was not for my iPhone 6s Plus taking a turn for the worse I would have never seen what the iPhone 8’s camera can do. I will include a link to my iCloud Photostream which exclusively has my best photos I have taken on my iPhones from the iPhone 3G S through the iPhone 8 Plus. I cannot begin to describe the new haptic feedback on iPhone 8 Plus just like I can’t describe how nice it feels when touching the glass display with the new anti friction coating. The display is the absolute best display I have ever looked at and iPhone 8’s display shows the most colors of any display I have ever looked at. Inductive charging is super convenient and the new speaker system sound phenomenal. Apple went above and beyond with their new silicon between the 6-Core CPU array to the new Apple designed GPU.
All and all, iPhone 8 Plus looks exactly like my iPhone 6s Plus (with a case on) although I can honestly say to you that this iPhone completely changes my iPhone experience because I can do things I never thought I could in a device that fits right in my pocket. While analytics predict millions will be pre-ordering the iPhone X this Friday, the X doesn’t overdo the iPhone 8 in all performance and ratings, for example iPhone 8 Plus has better battery life than iPhone X and iPhone 8 supports landscape applications unlike iPhone X. I absolutely love mine and I cannot imagine my life without it…
If you have any questions feel free to contact me @zmclearan on Twitter or leave a comment on this article in the comments section below.
iCloud Photostream: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0wGWZuqDGwdjap