For many people, the iPhone 8 Plus was perhaps the weakest link in the three new iPhones launched by Apple. The rationale went that while the iPhone 8 was on a good wicket as it was the most compact and affordable new iPhone, the 8 Plus (poor thing) was priced too close to the high-profile iPhone X, and would be a casualty of its popularity. Well, we have spent a few days with the largest iPhone of them all, and we think it does bring a few new things to the table. At least seven of them as compared to its predecessor.
That glass back and new colors
All right, so there is no way of distinguishing between all the ‘Plus’ iPhones from the front – all have the same 5.5-inch display, with a round fingerprint scanner beneath them, and bezels around the display (yup, Apple has steered clear of the bezel butchery that is the current tech fashion). That said, flip the phones around, and we can bet that the iPhone 8 Plus will be the most distinct of the lot, thanks to its shiny glass back (oh yeah, here come the fingerprints and smudges, notwithstanding Apple’s claims of it being the strongest in the industry ), and the new shades which are not anything like what they sound: space grey (which looks closer to black), silver (which is sort of white) and gold (whose pinkish frame gives it a rather rose gold-ish touch). Yes, we are still mourning the demise of Jet Black, but if you are not parking a cover on your larger iPhone, the 8 Plus is the most distinct of the lot. And it feels very good too – not as slippery as the 7 Plus.
Weight and size…are actually UP
This is where it gets really interesting – at a time when most phone manufacturers are working out ways to make their devices more compact, Apple has actually taken a contrary path. No, it will not hit you immediately, but the fact is that the iPhone 8 Plus is actually bigger and heavier than the 7 Plus – 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm as against 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm. At 202 grams, it is also heavier than the iPhone 7 Plus which tipped the scales at 188 grams and is actually even heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which squeezes an S-Pen and bigger display into a frame that weighs 195 grams. It is not a matter of aesthetics anymore – we must confess to being totally puzzled by Apple’s refusal to fiddle with the size and weight issues of the Plus range, which are among the largest 5.5-inch display devices out there.
Better chip, charge…and everything else
Of course, that larger frame now claims to pack in better innards. Starting from the 5.5-inch display which doggedly stays in full HD resolution, but now comes with True Tone technology (which automatically adjusts white balance as per light conditions), a wide colour gamut and (jargon alert) dual domain pixels for better viewing angles – the display DOES seem discernibly brighter and more colourful, to be honest. The glass back also facilitates wireless changing, and yes, the phone remains dust and water resistant. And then, of course, there is the little (huge!) matter of a new chip, the A11 Bionic, which comes with six cores and is predictably hyped up as the most powerful and smartest chip ever seen in a smartphone. There is also a new three core GPU from Apple itself. Simple English? This thing is gonna be fast and power efficient, as per promises. So far, it does seem very speedy, but then it has not been burdened by too much.
Those cameras got better? Yep
The reason why we did not include the cameras in the list of upgrades in the previous point is simple – apart from the display, the cameras are the biggest distinguishing factors between the smaller and larger iPhones. Apple has continued with the dual camera formula with a telephoto (2x zoom) for the 8 Plus and has retained the megapixel count of each at 12 with an f/1.8 aperture for the main camera and f/2.8 for the telephoto (the selfie camera is also still 7.0-megapixels with f/2.2 aperture and retina flash).But there have been improvements made – a ‘larger, faster sensor’, a new color filter and (jargon alert) deeper pixels. Round that off with OIS and Apple claims that the cameras on the 8 Plus will be significantly better than their predecessors, in normal as well as low light. Early indications based on some initial snaps seem to support Apple’s claim. Which of course takes us to the next point…
Ooh portrait pic stuff
…which is the ‘portrait mode’ or snaps with sharp subjects and background bokeh, iPhone style. The iPhone 8 Plus claims to have further improved portrait mode, with sharper subjects and more “naturally blurred” backgrounds. And there are also studio lighting effects, which means that you can take portrait snaps in different lighting modes as per your preference. We have tried a few snaps (more on this in detail in the coming days), and honestly they do seem a little filter-y but definitely, add a new dimension to the whole portrait mode phenomenon.
And the same battery life!
The display and camera might have been the most over points that distinguished the Plus iPhones from their smaller predecessors, but the battery was the most covert one. The Plus iPhones shattered the myth that an iPhone could not last a day on a single charge. However, we must confess that we were disappointed to see that on paper, the 8 Plus’ battery “lasts about the same as the iPhone 7 Plus.” Yes, that would still mean slightly more than a day of normal use, but with that bigger frame and greater weight, we did expect some more battery power. Oh well…
No longer the flagship? Convince us, X!
But perhaps the biggest change in the 8 Plus is the fact that unlike its Plussy predecessors, it is not being seen as the flagship in the iPhone line up. For this, it has to thank the X which is expected in early November. There are many who believe that at Rs 73,000 (64 GB) and Rs 86,000 (256 GB), the iPhone 8 Plus is too close to the more hyped and more “advanced” iPhone X which starts at Rs 89,000. That may be the case for some, but after a few days with the iPhone 8 Plus, we must confess that it does have a few aces up its own sleeve – there are many who will prefer the fingerprint scanner to a face scan, and so far, the performance of the device has been blazing fast. Yes, the looks are familiar, but then they were never bad, were they? And the camera seems to be a big improvement over that on the 7 Plus (and many would have us believe that even that was good enough). Add that all up and we feel that the additions to the iPhone 7 Plus make the 8 Plus a formidable contender for the flagship in its own right. It is speedy and distinct. Stay tuned for our detailed review, but from what we have seen so far, the X has its task cut out beating it.