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iPhone 8 Plus review: Apple's newest phablet has enough new features to warrant an upgrade

Alphr logo Alphr 14-09-2017 Victoria Woollaston

You typically have to wait a year for the latest Apple iPhone to be surpassed, yet at its most recent launch event, this took just 10 minutes. 

Fresh off the back of unveiling the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple launched its flagship iPhone X – a high-end model that completely redesigns how the iPhone looks and works, leaving the iPhone 8 range looking almost second-rate. 

Also read: New Apple Watch launched, starts at $399

It's not though, and both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have a number of improvements that elevate it above its predecessors without the eye-watering price of the iPhone X. In this hands on, we reveal our first impressions of the larger of the two phones - the 5.5in iPhone 8 Plus. 

iPhone 8 Plus review: Key specifications and release date

Screen: 5.5in

CPU: A11 Bionic

Storage: 64GB and 256GB

Camera: 12MP rear-facing camera, 7MP front-facing camera

Price: £799 (64GB); £949 (256GB)

Release date: 22 September

iPhone 8 Plus review: Design, key features, and first impressions

The iPhone 8 Plus comes with design improvements, a more powerful processor inspired by the human brain, wireless charging and improved cameras, all designed to tempt you into upgrading, or even switching from Android.

Also read: Apple iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus India launch on Sept 29

 Its 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, for example, features a faster and larger sensor which Apple claims “delivers advanced pixel processing" and "faster autofocus in low light. The rear of the iPhone 8 is now made from reinforced glass, signaling a significant move away from the metal design of the iPhone 7 range, while giving a nod to the original iPhone from 2007. Beneath this glass panel is a wireless charging panel for the first time meaning the iPhone 8 Plus can be charged on any Qi standard charging plate. 

Its 5.5in display uses so-called True Tone technology to make the screen blend in more with its surroundings, giving it a more natural appearance, and the iPhone 8 Plus - like the iPhone 8 and iPhone X - runs on Apple’s neural networks, powered by its new A11 Bionic chip. The iPhone 8 Plus has also been “custom tuned” for the augmented reality features built into iOS 11.

Also read: 9 smart things you can do with an old iPhone

Before getting an iPhone 7 Plus, I never thought I liked larger screens. Having spent a year with it, I now can't use smaller models so the iPhone 8 Plus remains a familiar-sized handset. The larger form factor, compared to the iPhone 8, and the glass back make the phone feel extremely high-end, and the screen's size highlights the improvements that have been made to this display (namely the addition of True Tone and the Retina Display) much more than on the smaller iPhone 8. This larger display additionally helps showcase the ARKit features more effectively. 

Beyond the screen, the Portrait Mode introduced on the iPhone 7 Plus now comes with Portrait Lighting on the iPhone 8 Plus. You can mimic the kind of lighting effects created in professional studios, as well as stage lighting, and the results are seriously impressive.

"Portrait Lighting is based on extensive research into the art and science of portraiture and core photographic lighting principles,": Apple explains, and it uses the dual cameras as well as an image signal processor to recognise the scene, create a so-called depth map and separate the subject from the background. Machine learning is then used to create "facial landmarks and add lighting over contours of the face" in real time. 

iPhone 8 Plus review: Early verdict

Image of Apple iPhone 7 Plus 128 GB UK SIM-Free Smartphone - Jet Black © Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited Image of Apple iPhone 7 Plus 128 GB UK SIM-Free Smartphone - Jet Black

Apple iPhone 7 Plus 128 GB UK SIM-Free Smartphone - Jet Black

Like-for-like, the iPhone 8 Plus offers enough improvements to warrant an upgrade from the iPhone 7 Plus. An upgrade is especially warranted if you have the smaller iPhone 7 or previous iPhone models. 

The new glass design on the iPhone 8 range is a genuine delight, and its AR capabilities really do need to be seen to be believed. Having wireless charging is now a significant selling point for the iPhone 8 Plus, as well as the iPhone 8, and the more powerful, AI-based A11 Bionic chip feels like its worth the investment. It's also cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – £799 vs the Note 8's £869. 

That said, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 does come with expandable storage. Google's introduction of ARCore will see more Android devices taking advantage of augmented reality, and it already features wireless charging.

If you're looking to stick with iOS, or make the move, the iPhone 8 Plus is my favourite in terms of features and (relative) value for money from the three phones announced at Apple's September event. It's still an incredibly expensive piece of kit, but on the right pay-monthly package, it could prove a worthwhile treat.  

iPhone 8 Plus review: Apple's newest phablet has enough new features to warrant an upgrade © Alphr iPhone 8 Plus review: Apple's newest phablet has enough new features to warrant an upgrade

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