Hands on: iPhone 8 review

The latest 'basic' iPhone is still well worth a look

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Our Early Verdict

The iPhone 8 is an incremental update over the iPhone 7 – it's strange that Apple decided against the 7S name here, as there's not a lot of new technology on offer beyond the improved screen and faster innards.

For

  • Finally Full HD
  • New color gold is attractive
  • AR-capable

Against

  • No dual camera, no Portrait Mode
  • Similar design again

Update: We're putting the iPhone 8 through our in-depth review process right now, and we'll have our full review ready for you soon.

It's never fun being the second child, is it? That's how the iPhone 8 must be feeling after the release of the iPhone X.

The phone is now available to buy online and in-store, and this is the phone that many will be looking at if they're thinking of getting a new iPhone, but can't stomach the thought of spending a huge amount on a flagship device.

The iPhone 8 is basically the iPhone 7S, coming with a slight upgrade to the internals and some improved hardware on the outside to make it the affordable upgrade for those coming from the iPhone 6S – or those who held onto the iPhone 6 as long as they could.

The upgrades are fairly minimal compared to the iPhone X, but there's still enough here to warrant an upgrade if it's time. Let's take a look and see what's changed.

iPhone 8 release date and price

The iPhone 8 is a more palatable choice for those looking to spend a 'normal' amount on a phone, with the price not rising much from last year. 

The iPhone 8 price starts at $699 / £699 / AU$1,079 for the 64GB variant, while the larger, 256GB version is $849 / £849 / $1,329.

The iPhone 8 release date was September 22, 2017, with the handset now widely available around the world.

iPhone 8 hands on gallery

Image 1 of 7

Image 2 of 7

Image 3 of 7

Image 4 of 7

Image 5 of 7

Image 6 of 7

Image 7 of 7

Faster innards

One of the main upgrades for the iPhone 8 is the new A11 Bionic chip inside, which is rumored to have been manufactured using a new 10nm process.

If that doesn't mean much to you, it basically means the chip can run more efficiently, so the battery life can be increased and/or the power improved, allowing you to take advantage of new higher-power apps and extending the life of the battery over previous iterations.

That's not going to make a big difference from last year's phone, simply because we're already seeing iPhones becoming a little more powerful than is needed for most apps, but it'll keep things running smoother for longer.

The chip is incredibly powerful for a phone of this size – and basically is used to push the AR experience.

It seems a little like overkill for this handset, given that it doesn't really have the higher-power camera, but the battery should be made more efficient as a result.

Wireless charging and glass back

The design of the iPhone 8 isn't that dissimilar to the iPhone 7, which is a bit of a shame when the world is always clamoring for a new design (and doesn't want to spend hugely on the iPhone X), but at least there's a glass back on this phone.

That means you can now charge this device wirelessly, with the new functionality coming to all the new iPhones launched at the 2017 event. It'll use the Qi standard, which looks to be the de rigueur way of charging phones in the future.

It's hard to say more about this, other than you'll plop the phone on the charging pad and go. It won't be as rapid as plugging in a cable, but it will be far more convenient (especially if you have a newer car with the capability built in).

The glass back gives the iPhone 8 a slightly lighter feel, with the 4.7-inch display taking up less space in the hand, and it's easy to tap the Touch ID button on the bottom without having to jiggle the phone around in the hand.

The overall design is very similar to before, but you do feel this is a slight improvement – and the new gold color is attractive with the two-tone effect.

iPhone 8 screen

The screen has been given a slight upgrade over the iPhone 7, which is the least we'd expect given that this phone has jumped a whole number forward. 

The  LCD screen is clear and bright to look at, with the new Retina display offering a nice-looking vista to peer at. 

It has a sharper appearance - partly due to the color reproduction - but as has been pointed out to us, it's not Full HD Retina, just the same sub-Full HD resolution that places Apple at the back of the flagship pack when it comes to pixel density.

It pales in comparison to the OLED display of the iPhone X, and it definitely could do with being a touch brighter for the iPhone 8 to qualify as a real flagship phone given the current competition.

It's got the True Tone technology we've enjoyed from the iPad Pro – and it does make a difference to the color of the display; however, in the demo area it was hard to say if there was a massive change from the iPhone 7 in quality.

Improved camera

Apple has gone for a slight boost in the camera again, although it's sticking with its tried-and-tested 12MP sensor in the back.

It's – rather disappointingly – still the single sensor we saw on the iPhone 7 last year. It's not terrible, as that phone was capable of taking some great pictures, but we'd hoped for two sensors this year.

That's a feeling exacerbated by the jump to the iPhone 8 name – we'd have assumed this wouldn't just be a minor camera upgrade.

The overall quality of the pictures is still superb though – you're likely to be more than happy with your snaps, and zooming into images shows that things are still clear, bright and crisp.

Early verdict

The iPhone 8 is a surprising name for this phone, given that Apple hasn't really changed a whole heap – the big changes have been saved for the iPhone X.

There are the expected updates on board, mostly centered around the faster chipset (which Apple claims will lead to extended battery life), but on the whole this phone pales in comparison to its impressive X-badged sibling.

The screen looks a touch sharper and brighter in the hand, but isn't any higher-res than last year... that's just the improved True Tone technology at work, presumably.

However, it's a lot more accessible cost-wise compared to the insanely high-priced X, so if you're looking for a more affordable iPhone (relatively speaking – it's still a jolly expensive flagship phone like most out there), this is the one to go for.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.