Apple iPhone 8 Plus review: Fast but far from inspirational

Not a particularly exciting upgrade, or an essential one, but the iPhone 8 Plus is still a very fine phone

Price
£949

iPhone 8 Plus review: Performance and battery life

Apple's phones are usually pretty quick, but this year it has outdone itself. In fact, the hexa-core A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone 8 Plus is so good it leaves not only its predecessor but also every single Android flagship, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, in a trail of dust.

It's the fastest phone we've ever benchmarked, as the graphs below show.

Battery life on the iPhone 8 Plus is decent but not awe-inspiring. This may be explained by the fact that, although the chip is supposedly more efficient, Apple has actually reduced the size of the battery in the 8 Plus versus the 7 Plus to 2,675mAh from 2,900mAh. The iPhone 8 Plus does now support fast charging', promising 50% charge in 30 minutes if you use a 12W iPad Pro charger but this isn't as impressive as OnePlus' Dash charge, which we've seen charge to 75% capacity in 39 minutes.

In our video-rundown battery test, in which we run all handsets in Flight mode with screen brightness set to 170cd/m2, the iPhone 8 Plus lasted 13hrs 54mins, not bad but way behind the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus and OnePlus 5.

Running Qi-enabled wireless charging technology means you can place the iPhone 8 Plus on any compatible charger, should you start running low. These types of chargers are found in larger McDonalds and Starbucks stores and are even embedded into some Ikea furniture its Selje nightstands and Varv lights, for example.

The wireless charging option also means you can now listen to music and charge at the same time, something Apple made impossible when it removed the headphone jack. Yet wireless charging has removed the option of being able to use your phone while it's charging so Apple has given with one hand and taken away with the other.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus review: Cameras

Very little separates the cameras in flagship phones these days, and it won't until the technology moves on, but Apple's iPhone 8 Plus offers features at the most advanced end of this scale. In fact, it was the fastest I've ever used.

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But there isn't a huge deal more to shout about. The front-facing camera is the same as last year's: a 7-megapixel f/2.2 unit without a dedicated flash that takes detailed selfies.

On the rear, the iPhone 8 Plus comes with two 12-megapixel rear-facing shooters: one 28mm, the other a 2x telephoto 56mm lens, with apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.8 respectively, just like last year. This telephoto camera is now optically stabilised, so it performs slightly better in low light.

The iPhone 8 Plus' camera pair takes reliable photos in a range of lighting conditions, but then so did the iPhone 7 Plus'. Comparison shots, taken by Google's Pixel XL, show the latter slightly outperforming the former, a gap that may widen further when unveils its next-generation Pixel cameras at the start of October.

Video quality on the iPhone 8 Plus is also good. You can capture in 4K at up to 60fps and the stabilisation is superb, although again, this brings it in line with smooth video capture on the Pixel.

On the iPhone 8 Plus, software improvements elevate photos slightly. HDR is always on, and Apple's added new light options to its Portrait mode to add extra professional-looking effects to photos. DSLR fans will likely look down their nose at this technology, but for the average consumer (read Instagram user) it works well.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus: In conclusion

The Apple iPhone 8 Plus is a decent phone. Its battery life is good, the cameras are (still) impressive and wireless charging is a nice touch even if it does come years behind its Android rivals. But it's not the best you can buy.

Its blinding speed is a moot point seeing as most consumers won't notice such a leap and the improvements brought on with iOS 11 are largely available across almost all iPhones and iPads. That said, the new software has been designed to work most effectively with the new hardware.

If you don't want a dual camera, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus squeezes a larger 6.2-in AMOLED screen into a narrower, taller body and costs around 630, while the 5.7in Galaxy S8 is even less at below 550. Alternatively, there's the OnePlus 5, which packs everything you need in a 5.5in phone aside from dust- and water-resistance, but only costs 450.

If you're already locked into Apple's ecosystem, though, and you're moving up from an iPhone 6 or 6s, the iPhone 8 Plus is the model that makes the most sense in Apple's new range. It is one of the best phones Apple has ever made, packs in more features than the regular iPhone 8 and costs 200 less than the upcoming Apple iPhone X.

Verdict

We'd be lying if I said the iPhone 8 Plus had enough to offer anyone looking to upgrade from the 7 Plus. Especially given its £800 price tag, and that the 7 Plus has dropped to (an albeit still pricey) £669 since the iPhone 8 launch. It is worth the investment if you’re looking to jump from the 7, and is definitely worth the leap from iPhone 6 and 6s ranges.

The main issue, and it’s the same one that raises its head every year, is that you have to switch to Android to get a better phone. If you’re willing to do so, the obvious competitor to the 8 Plus is the Galaxy Note 8. It comes with dual-cameras and a larger 6.3in AMOLED screen squeezed into a body that’s only slightly bigger than the iPhone 8 Plus, but comes at a small premium, costing around £820.

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