The iPhone 8: A Worthy Refinement Before the Next Generation

Unsurprisingly, both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are very good phones. Most of Apple’s improvements over the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are minor, but if you have an older model, either of the 8s will feel like a solid upgrade. And if you are considering upgrading from an Android phone, there’s one area where the new iPhones still rank head and shoulders above their competition — the processor, the engine that runs the entire device, where Apple is so far ahead that it almost feels unfair.


The iPhone 8 Plus has a depth sensor that allows it to alter the background of a portrait photograph, mimicking the effects of a high-end camera. At left, with the “studio” preset; right, with the “stage mono” preset.

But let’s start with the basics.

• The iPhone’s overall design is very slightly improved in the 8. The new models have a glass back, which you would think would make them more delicate but which actually adds a slight grippiness, making them less prone to catastrophe. (I’d still use a case for the 8 Plus, which I find ungainly to hold; the 8, though, shines in its caseless glory.)

The glass back allows for the iPhone 8’s handiest new feature, wireless charging. This works just as it does on the many other phones that have long sported this trick: Set the phone down on a charging pad and it just starts charging, even through most cases. Apple said it would release its own charging mat next year; for now, you can use one of the many third-party mats that run the Qi wireless standard. (Over all, battery life on the 8 was comparable to that of the 7 — it lasted all day with light use, about half a day with heavy use, and always not long enough.)

• The display on the 8 and 8 Plus is better than on the 7, but only very slightly. In particular, the screen uses a technology Apple calls True Tone, which automatically adjusts the display’s white balance to match the lighting in your surroundings. This adds a subtle vibrancy to everything you see — though honestly the only time I was able to appreciate it was when I compared it side by side with the iPhone 7.

In other ways, the display is where the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus fall furthest short of their rivals. The 8s use a technology called LCD, while Apple’s rivals in the high-end phone market, including Samsung, use a newer screen technology called OLED. I won’t get into the differences here except to say OLEDs are noticeably superior —…

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