Review: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus | iLounge

Review

Review: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

A-
Highly Recommended
iPhone 8 Plus

B+
Recommended
iPhone 8

Company: Apple

Model: iPhone 8 / iPhone 8 Plus

Price: $699 – $949

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Jesse Hollington

Pros: Solid updates to both of Apple’s standard iPhone models offer the same horsepower as Apple’s upcoming iPhone X in a proven and familiar form factor. New all-glass design brings back some of the “museum-quality” elegance of the iPhone 4 era. Virtually identical dimensions mean that almost all previous cases should continue to fit. A11 processor unlocks new camera improvements and experiences such as augmented reality. True Tone display improves on-screen color reproduction. Despite the same specs, both models feature noticeable camera improvements. iPhone 8 Plus gains a new Portrait Lighting mode for even better portrait photos. Fast-charging provides a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes. Wireless Qi charging makes recharging more convenient, especially when using a case.

Cons: Modest improvements over the iPhone 7 make this year’s update feel less significant, particularly in comparison to the looming iPhone X. The iPhone 8 continues to lag behind its larger sibling for photography. Package still only includes the same 5W power adapter as before, so you’ll need to supply your own adapter for faster charging. Wireless charging also doesn’t offer any additional performance over the included 5W power adapter.

Although the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus come with slightly lower-capacity batteries than their predecessors — 1,821 and 2,691 mAh, respectively, versus 1,960 mAh and 2,900 mAh on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus — Apple promises that both models provide the same battery life, and our testing generally bore this out, producing the same 12+ hour results in our testing as last year. As usual, it’s a safe assumption that the A11 chip and other power management improvements have allowed Apple to lower its power requirements.

However, the real difference this year isn’t in the batteries, but in the charging improvements that Apple has brought to the iPhone 8 models. Arguably a long time coming, both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus now provide support for wireless charging and fast wired charging when using an appropriate power adapter.

When connected to an appropriate fast-charge capable adapter, Apple promises that both iPhone 8 models can regain a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, which was borne out by our testing with Apple’s 29W USB-C power adapter and USB-C to Lightning cable. Further, both models get to approximately 80 percent after an hour of fast charging, but afterwards drop to a normal charging speed, taking almost an hour more to reach a full 100 percent. Our testing with fast-charge compatible battery packs also produced similar results. This represents about a 60 percent increase over charging times using a 2.4A charger.

Despite this, however, Apple continues to include only a 1A charger in the box. While this is more than adequate for users who only charge their iPhones overnight, those who want to take advantage of faster charging speeds will need to supply their own chargers.

In terms of wireless charging, Apple notes the new iPhone 8 models are both Qi compatible, although in our experience your mileage may vary. Two generic Qi chargers we had on hand failed to consistently charge either of our iPhone 8 units, so we opted to wait until we could get our hands on the Apple-recommended Belkin Boost-Up Wireless Charging Pad ($60), to ensure that we could conduct proper testing.

The good news is that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus work very nicely when paired with a proper Qi charging pad. Charging is about as simple as you’d expect — just lay the iPhone face up on top of the charging pad. The bad news is that at this point wireless charging performs about as well as the included 5W USB power adapter — in other words, much more slowly than most users would hope for. Belkin’s charger actually puts out 7.5W of power, but at this point the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are limited to only drawing 5W; Apple has indicated that this should improve in a future iOS update, although it will likely still remain slower than even standard USB charging — certainly the 7.5W put out by Belkin’s charger still comes in at only around 60 percent of the power output of Apple’s 12W charger. For the time being it would seem that wireless charging is more about convenience than performance, and users will have to choose whether to invest in a wireless charger for easy charging or a 12W or 29W power adapter for faster charging.

More good news, however, is that for those wondering about cases, not only is there no need to remove your iPhone from your case to charge it, but even in spite of Belkin’s claims that Boost-Up “can charge through most lightweight cases” (emphasis ours), we actually couldn’t find a case in our very extensive collection that Boost-Up wouldn’t charge through — including UAG’s Monarch, the waterproof Catalyst Case, Twelve South’s Journal and BookBook, X-Doria’s Defense Lux Wood, Speck’s Presidio Ultra, and OtterBox’s Pursuit, just to name a few. None of the cases appeared to impact charging performance in any way either.

It’s also worth noting that many of the cases we tried were older cases designed for prior iPhone models, so there doesn’t appear to be a requirement for manufacturers to make specific allowances for wireless charging in their case designs. Of course it seems likely that cases with a substantial amount of metal might interfere with charging, although those are so uncommon these days that we couldn’t even find any on hand for testing. While there doesn’t appear to be any problem charging through wallet cases, we’d recommend removing your credit cards before charging to prevent the magnetic charging from demagnetizing them.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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