With three new iPhones released in 2017, choosing an Apple smartphone has become a little more complicated.
What separates the iPhone 8 Plus from the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X? Which one has the best camera? Do they all run on iOS 11?
These were just some of the questions we had, so we took a closer look at the 8 Plus to see how it compares to the competition.
Let’s start with the general look and feel of the iPhone 8 Plus.
If you look at the iPhone X, with its all-screen design and ‘notch’ at the top, it’s easy to see a visual departure from Apple’s previous models.
The 8 Plus, however, looks extremely similar to the 7 Plus. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: its minimal aesthetic and smooth, rounded edges are pleasant to look at, even if the design isn’t groundbreaking.
The most noticeable difference between the 8 Plus and older models is the glass back, which is a first for Apple. The primary purpose of the glass is to enable wireless charging (hooray!), but it also gives the 8 Plus a sleek, two-toned appearance and makes it fairly easy to grip.
While we’re looking at the back of the 8 Plus, you may also notice it looks a little cleaner.
Why? On the back of the 7 Plus, Apple included disclaimer text underneath the word ‘iPhone’. The 8 Plus had this message written into the software, resulting in a much neater designer for the back of the device.
In terms of colours, the 8 Plus is available in a choice of space grey, silver or gold. Silver is definitely my preference of the three, but the gold is quite stunning and a great option for those who want a bit of extra pizzazz. Space grey is fairly forgettable, but each to their own.
The 8, 8 Plus and X all use Apple’s new iOS 11 and 64-bit A11 bionic chip, which is good news: you don’t have to go straight for the X just to get the best core hardware.
Size-wise, here’s a quick guide to the iPhone 8 Plus in comparison to the 7 Plus, 8 and X:
iPhone 8 Plus – 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm and 202g
iPhone 7 Plus – 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm and 188g
iPhone 8 – 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm and 148g
iPhone X – 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm and 174g
As you can see, the iPhone 8 Plus is the biggest and heaviest of the bunch. It won’t be much of a shock if you’re transitioning from the 6 Plus or 7 Plus, but it might take some getting used to if you are changing from a smaller phone.
Apple has also announced that the 8 Plus is splash, water and dust-resistant to an IP67 rating. Unsurprisingly, they have stated that this is not officially permanent and resistance may decrease over time due to normal wear.
Regardless, make sure you still treat it well.
The 8 Plus boasts a 5.5″ Retina HD display with 1920×1080 resolution at 401 ppi; basically, it’s a crisp, clear and colourful display which I haven’t had any complaints with.
What I like about the display of the 8 Plus is that it doesn’t face one of the X’s major challenges. Because the X removes the home button and extends its screen to every edge of the device, it changes the aspect ratio. What does this mean? Videos on the X often don’t fill up the whole screen.
The 8 Plus, meanwhile, keeps a healthy 16:9 ratio so you’ll have no such qualms while surfing YouTube or playing back recorded videos.
Another thing I noticed with the 8 Plus is the addition of ‘True Tone Display’ – a feature which is also present in the 8 and the X. Using sensors on the front of the phone, True Tone Display assesses the lighting of your environment and dynamically adjusts the screen’s white balance to improve clarity and comfort.
In other words, the screen will subtly change colour temperature based on where you are. This means the display will look slightly different whether you sit by the window, in a dark room or under overhead lighting.
It’s a minor change, but it makes the screen easier on the eyes – particularly when reading text.
In this category, the 8 Plus is closer to the X than the 8. While the 8 has a standalone 12-megapixel camera, both the 8 Plus and the X boast dual wide-angle (f/1.8 aperture) and telephoto (f/2.8) lenses on the rear.
This allows use 2x optical zoom, which is an absolute godsend. After using numerous phone cameras with digital zoom only, I have found the addition of optical zoom to be an absolute game changer. You can snap photos from further away without any sacrifice on image quality, and its performance in low light is more than satisfactory.
There’s even a handy button to instantly switch between 1x and 2x zoom while, which is extremely convenient.
The camera also comes with 10x digital zoom when the optical zoom isn’t quite enough. Given the overall quality of the camera, using the digital zoom (in moderation) still produces great results.
The second major feature of the rear camera is the all-new Portrait mode. Making use of both lenses, Portrait mode produces excellent close-up shots with a simulated background blur that’s actually really impressive.
Various smartphone manufacturers and app developers have used different techniques to add this ‘bokeh’ effect to photos, but most produce fairly uninspiring results. While Portrait mode isn’t perfect and occasionally blurs the wrong part of the image, it often results in excellent photos with beautiful depth of field (even if it’s not quite the real thing).
Portrait Lighting (still in beta) gives you access to several presets that simulate different lighting conditions. With options including studio lighting, contour lighting and stage lighting, it produces strange-looking results more often than not. It’s worth mentioning that it occasionally works quite well, but not often enough to make it a redeemable feature.
In terms of video recording, the 8 Plus shoots 4K video at 24, 30 or 60 fps, as well as 1080p HD video at 30 or 60 fps. You can also shoot incredible slow-motion video at 120 or 240 fps – with such high frame rates available, you can capture movement with precision.
While the X boasts a similar (but slightly different) setup for the TrueDepth front camera, the 8 Plus unfortunately gets the same 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera as the 8.
Don’t get me wrong, the front camera is still great and can take some seriously sharp selfies, but it means you can only use Portrait mode with the rear camera (we’ll have to settle for great selfies, not excellent ones).
With a new line of iPhones comes a new operating system, and iOS 11 has plenty of features to get excited about.
Coming from an Android phone, I was particularly intrigued by the all-new Control Centre. I’ve always liked the ability to swiftly change settings and access certain features through a quick-access menu, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out iOS 11’s Control Centre has made it much easier to do just that.
Plus, you can customise the shortcuts and add buttons for things like low-power mode.
While this is all well and good, there’s one major issue. Sometimes, it just doesn’t want to show up. The Control Centre is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, but it often takes multiple attempts to convince it to appear. It’s particularly bizarre given that the touchscreen is highly responsive during general use and when using other shortcuts.
At this stage, the 8 Plus suffers from another iOS 11 bug in iMessage, where the keyboard sometimes obscures what you are typing. I’ve also found that the most recent texts don’t always move up when the keyboard appears, meaning they remain anchored behind the letters so you can’t read them without restarting the app. But let’s hope this issue can be fixed soon.
Other notable iOS inclusions include a built-in screen recorder, improvements to Siri, a one-handed keyboard (particularly useful on the larger 8 Plus), AirPod customisation, a new SOS setting and the ability to automatically transfer all your settings to a new device.
The 8 Plus may not have the well-advertised Face ID capabilities of the X, but it does offer Touch ID fingerprint scanning on the home button. This is a welcome addition which makes unlocking the phone a quick and painless experience – plus, you can use it to make purchases and download apps.
As mentioned earlier, the phone also comes with wireless charging. While this impresses in terms of speed (it’s almost as fast as charging a cable), there’s no charging pad included with the phone so you’ll need to shell out for one yourself.
When it comes to battery life, the 8 Plus pleases but doesn’t excel. I had no problem using the phone for day-to-day tasks over the course of a full day (or even longer in some cases) before needing to charge, but you’ll find it drains faster when using more intensive apps.
On days where I took a lot of photos and recorded a lot of videos, for example, the battery didn’t make it into the evening. Obviously, this will vary based on how you use it.
Even though the iPhone X is now the premium model, the 8 Plus still carries a pretty hefty price tag.
In Australia, the 8 Plus is available outright for $1,229 for the 64GB model or $1,479 for 256GB.
The iPhone 8 can be bought for $1,070 (64GB) or $1,329 (256GB), while the X is priced at a whopping $1,579 (64GB) or $1,829 (256GB).
With the release of the X, many of us wondered if it would make the 8 Plus seem a little lacklustre. To be fair, it is easy to feel a little jealous of the premium model.
However, the iPhone 8 Plus is ultimately a solid device. It runs fast, it looks sleek, the display is sharp and responsive, the rear camera is far better than the 8 and touch ID is a treat.
There may not be too many features that will completely blow you away, and there are still some iOS 11 bugs needing to be fixed, but there’s no reason to be unhappy with the 8 Plus. It simply doesn’t feel like Apple held back just for the sake of making the X look good – there’s still enough to make this an impressive new iPhone.