It’s not very often that two new iPhone models are upstaged at their own launch, but that’s exactly what happened at Apple’s September event this year. The iPhone X was the star of the show, the cool new kid everyone wanted to hang out with, while the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus were relegated to the role of the designated driver – boring, reliable, the one you know will be there once you are done partying with your new friends.
That was certainly the case at the hands-on area post the launch event at the Steve Jobs Theatre, where everyone stood in line just to spend some time with the iPhone X, while most iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus units waited for an audience. But as quickly as it came, the cool new thing was gone, not to be seen again until November. Having seen the one with the X-factor, it seems not everyone is excited at that prospect of getting reunited with their ‘boring’ old friends.
If there’s one thing that being in your 30s teaches you, it’s that ‘boring’ has a lot going for it. You learn to value familiarity over the latest trend and appreciate the reliability that comes with the tried and tested. Have doubts about Face ID on the iPhone X? Touch ID on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus works great as always. Can’t get your head around the ‘notch’? No such thing on the ‘standard’ models. It’s this familiarity and reliability that these two models hope to appeal to, though Apple wouldn’t want the ‘boring’ tag anywhere near the duo, even if we frequently use the word as a compliment.
Let’s forget about the iPhone X for a bit and see how the other two new iPhone models fare in a world where their sibling doesn’t exist. Are they compelling enough upgrades in their own right? Let’s find out.
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus design and display
From the front, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are practically indistinguishable from their predecessors. Virtually everyone we showed our review units to opened with “Oh, it looks just like the [iPhone] 7” before we asked them to turn them around and look at the all-glass backs. That’s right, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are all-glass on the front and the back, a throwback to the design last seen in the iPhone 4S. Apple says it has used “the most durable glass ever in a smartphone”, a claim that millions will no doubt put to the test in everyday life in the days to come.
During the couple of weeks that we’ve spent with these phones, we – accidentally, we promise – managed to drop them once each. First, the iPhone 8, face down, from a coffee table, and then the iPhone 8 Plus from a height of about four feet. While the iPhone 8 escaped unhurt, its bigger sibling landed on tiles on one of its corners and had a little abrasion to show for it afterwards – a stark reminder as to why most people choose to cover their precious phones in cases. While on the subject, though the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are marginally bigger than their predecessors, we had no problem fitting our Apple leather cases from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus onto them. Most existing third-party cases designed for the older iPhone models should fit just fine as well.
At 148 grams, the iPhone 8 is the heaviest non-Plus iPhone to date, while the iPhone 8 Plus crosses the 200g mark. The extra weight would be noticeable if you used an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus without a case, but if you are someone who changes your case quite often, you are probably used to the overall weight fluctuating slightly and are unlikely to notice these differences. Still, it’s interesting to see a company obsessed with ‘thin and light’ move in the opposite direction with two of its marquee products.
If showing the world you have the latest and greatest iPhone (we told you to forget about the iPhone X, remember?) is important to you, hiding your iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus in a non-transparent case would not be the best idea. As we said earlier, the front is virtually identical to that of the previous generation iPhone models, so the only visible difference is in the back. From five (not counting the Product Red) colour options in the previous generation – Rose Gold, Gold, Silver, Black, and Jet Black – we are down to three – Gold, Silver, and Space Grey.