Let’s be honest – the iPhone 8 Plus would formerly have been known as an iPhone 7S Plus. It’s no slight on this phone to say that; previous iPhone ‘S’ handsets have been great moves forward and that is reflected here with a slew of updates that make it an admirable upgrade over the iPhone 6S Plus and previous models if not so much last year’s iPhone 7 Plus.
- Also check out our iPhone 8 review
If Apple has decided to abandon the iPhone 7S or iPhone 8S naming convention then it’s understandable; everyone else moves on a number every year.
And the competition is so strong. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is our favourite handset this year; it’s an awesome device. And if we have a Galaxy Note 9 (and indeed a Galaxy S9 and S9+) next year and a Huawei Mate 10 this month then the 7S moniker might look a bit worn.
Here it is up against the Note 8:
And, naturally there is also the incoming iPhone X or iPhone 10 that will reset the numbering sequence somewhat. Ah yes, we did manage to get two whole paragraphs before needing to mention the impending flagship iPhone X – the one that’s even more flagshippy than this flagship iPhone 8 Plus.
In terms of Apple’s handsets, the Plus series have always been our favoured models since the debut of the iPhone 6 Plus back in 2014. It’s the size, the dual-camera, the beefier specs (again the Plus-sized phone features 3GB of RAM instead of 2GB in the standard model). It also has a bigger battery, which we’ll come onto shortly.
iPhone 8 Plus design
However, the 8 Plus does look dated compared to its rivals and that is such a shame. The large bezels look simply ridiculous up against the Galaxy Note 8 and S8+ and surely this is the last iPhone line-up to look like this, with subsequent handsets – iPhone XI next year anybody? – looking like the iPhone X with the home button banished to history.
There is a caveat to that assumption - Apple must have a replacement for the hugely successful iPhone SE somewhere in the works and that will surely stick with the trusted design.
This time there are three colour options for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus; slate grey, silver and gold – although the new gold colour is a bit rosier in appearance than the old gold you can see on the iPhone 7 Plus below (but it isn’t as rosy rose gold, which has gone).
We preferred the old gold if we’re honest (top in the photo below) but there will be a commercial reason behind the decision for sure.
iPhone 8 Plus performance
There are two main strides with this latest version in our book; first is the A11 Bionic processor, which moves to six cores rather than the four inside the iPhone 7 Plus’ A10 Fusion. It is FAST. Faster than fast. According to our benchmarks this is easily the fastest phone on the market today.
Graphics, too, have been given a boost. These latest iPhones are actually mark quite a departure for Apple in terms of graphics because they’re the first handsets that use Apple’s own-design graphics processor instead of Imagination’s PowerVR graphics that it has used over the last decade.
These performance improvements show in general use and everything is very punchy when you’re adding effects to photos or editing them.
Anecdotally it is clearly faster than an iPhone 7 Plus in general use on iOS 11, but we weren’t using a box fresh iPhone 7 Plus.
iPhone 8 Plus specs and battery life
Secondly, the glass back means we can say hello to Qi-compatible wireless charging. As always Apple isn’t first with this tech – not by a mile – but it WILL make it mainstream and that’s great for wireless charging in general. Battery life is actually an area of great interest with this handset, because the battery is actually smaller than last year’s 7 Plus. 2,691mAh instead of 2,900mAh. Apple says that – thanks to improvements in efficiency – it should get clock up the same battery life as the iPhone 7 Plus despite the smaller pack.
While intensive use will drain the battery within the working day, occasional use will see you easily get through the day and into the first part of the next. We find that generally, we can get it to last 24 hours like the iPhone 7 Plus, charging it when we reach the office each day. By that time you are struggling for battery life a bit, but you can get it there.
An hour’s intensive use – streaming media or constant emails, social and chat - will drain the battery by 8-10 percent.
There are also many incremental updates like the True Tone display from the iPad Pro, Bluetooth 5.0, fast charging (if you have a USB-C to lightning cable) and more. There’s also a new ‘neural engine’. Inside the iPhone X this is used for Face ID, but inside the 8 and 8 Plus it will be used for augmented reality apps.
True Tone is really welcome, and you can see the slight difference between the screens when compared with the 7 Plus. While it will playback Dolby Vision and HDR10 content just like the new Apple TV 4K, the 8 Plus doesn’t have an HDR display unlike many rival handsets, so you won’t see the video in all its glory. While the display is very usable and most people don’t care, the fact is the 8 Plus’ Full HD display resolution now lags far behind rivals.
Apple has also beefed up the storage of the standard model from 32 to 64GB, while the larger 256GB model remains (the 256GB iPhone 7 Plus has now been dropped, leaving 128 and 32GB options available). The iPhone X also follows the 64/128GB pattern.
A lot of these won’t convince iPhone 7 Plus users to upgrade, but anyone with an older handset will be understandably keen to make the leap. It’s a tiny bit of a shame, therefore, that the appearance of the 8 Plus is quite so similar to its forerunner.
The glass back does look different, but the sides and front? So similar. Not that it really matters, because it’s still a good-looking phone from the rear. It’s worth noting that the dimensions are ever-so slightly different from the 7 Plus, with a tiny bit of extra thickness and weight.
iPhone 8 Plus camera
The camera has also received some love too, with a bunch of upgrades including the ability to record 60fps 4K video (which looks SWEET). The results are stunning thanks to a new larger sensor - the core camera specs are the same as last year’s model.
White balance has been significantly improved - you can easily see this in more accurate skin tones - and there's a new colour filter, too.
Portrait Mode has been taken a stage further with portrait lighting, enabling you to apply different lighting effects to the image, such as studio light. This is still in beta currently.
Note you can edit portrait effects in the gallery afterwards as we're doing here.
Image stabilisation is confined to the wide-angle lens as with the iPhone 7 Plus, but the dual camera on the iPhone X will also introduce it to the telephoto lens (as we saw on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8).
iPhone 8 Plus image gallery
The main question is whether you should buy this phone or wait for the incoming iPhone X. The greatest question of the next month! Our take is that you should only wait for the iPhone X if you can embrace change.
Most people can’t, which is why we bring it up. If you reckon you’ll miss that home button then stick with the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. However, if you’re ready then plump for the iPhone X.
Also, the 64GB iPhone X is only slightly more than the 256GB iPhone 8 Plus, so it’s worth careful consideration if you’re going to go for the higher capacity 8 Plus.
For our money, we currently think it is disappointing that Touch ID is about to go the way of the dodo on future flagship iPhones. But that’s because we haven’t witnessed Face ID as yet (we can’t wait to, by the way, and we’ve debated on the T3.com team whether it will be any good in practical use A LOT).
The proof is in the pudding, and you’re only a month or so away from our iPhone X review - check out all the iPhone X specs and details.
And don't forget to check out all the best iOS 11 features!