If the iPhone 8 is feeling left out, spare a thought for the iPhone 8 Plus. It’s the hidden child overshadowed by its sibling, but it’s very much worth looking at.
It’s got all the phablet power you’d want from an iPhone, plus powerful innards, while the camera – complete with Portrait Lighting – is a strong reason to buy this phone with extended battery life.
iPhone 8 Plus release date and price
The iPhone 8 Plus is going to be the far more palatable choice for those looking to spend a ‘normal’ amount on a larger-screened device. Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 8 Plus price will start at $799 ( (£799, AU$1,229). That’s for the starting 64GB version, but we don’t yet know how much the larger 256GB variant will be.
In terms of the iPhone 8 Plus release date, we’re looking at it being available for pre-order from September 15 around the world, with an actual on-shelf date of September 22.
Is bigger better?
In our opinion this is a far better choice than the iPhone 8, with the larger body offering more screen real estate, as well improving the battery life by dint of, well, just making more space to cram one in.
The design is similar to previous iPhones, with the rolling back curving into the hand, allowing it to feel as premium as the cost suggests. Make no mistake – although it’s cheaper than the iPhone X, the 8 Plus is still a pricey unit, and needs careful consideration against the smaller model as a result.
It has the same power under the hood in the shape of the improved A11 chipset, as well as the same 12MP camera bolted on the back. This has two sensors, just like the iPhone 7 Plus from last year, and a telephoto lens that’s capable of zooming in closer to the action without any loss of image quality.
However, that camera is what makes the difference, because it can use the Portrait Lighting mode, as seen in the iPhone X, which is a really neat feature.
The way it can work out who the subject of the photo is, and can dynamically light the image in so many ways, is really nice to look at.
The ability to lighten and darken things subtly, or create a stark background, is unlike anything we’ve seen on a phone.
When we tried it out, the ‘cutting out’ in the stage light mode, where it darkens out the background, was a little stark – but zooming in, it was really impressive to see how it detected the subject’s hair so easily.
This is going to be a great feature for iPhone users, and a real reason to go for the phablet.
The design has shifted slightly and we now have a glass back, which allows for wireless charging (as is the case across all the new iPhone models). It feels a little less robust than metal, but you’ll be able to juice up your phone more conveniently.
The glass back means there’s not as much of a curve as before, with a slight join between the glass and the metal frame. However, there’s a very familiar amount of iPhone DNA in here. This is a phone that most iPhablet fans will recognize.
It feels nice in the hand, but it’s still a struggle to get your finger the whole way across – the iPhone X is so much more usable, and has way more screen.
iPhone 8 Plus screen
Sadly, the screen on the iPhone 8 Plus is very similar to the one on the iPhone 7 Plus. Well, we say ‘sadly’, but the screen from last year (a Full HD 5.5-inch display) was clear and crisp, and didn’t rob the battery of power just to pack in the pixels.
It’s only sad because it makes deciding whether to upgrade that little bit more difficult. The 7 Plus is an attractive option alongside the 8 Plus, given that they look very similar, and if we’d seen some changes here it would have been an easier decision for potential upgraders to go for the better display.
There are some upgrades though – the new display now has the Retina HD option, which is a touch brighter… although it was hard to tell in the demo area where we got hands-on with the iPhone 8 Plus, where it looked as good as the display on the iPhone 7 Plus.
Video playback looked fine. We doubt you’d have any issue with the capabilities of movie playback or internet browsing, and the True Tone capability will make the iPhone 8 Plus look nicer in different scenarios – in the demo area the stark LED lighting didn’t really show it off too well.
Augmented reality is cool
We don’t think that augmented reality (AR) really has a place just yet in the smartphone as a critical feature, but what we saw on the iPhone 8 Plus was decent.
There were myriad games that made use of the table in front of us as a plane to work on (although the first demo, The Machines, took a while to work out what it was looking at) and they all had a good AR title to show off.
There was an educational option to look at, which allowed you to see the human heart in expanded view – it was really interesting and a novel way of teaching, using the phone screen as a portal.
If you’re a fan of the phablet, love Apple but can’t afford the iPhone X, it seems that all the things you’d need are right here in the iPhone 8 Plus.
However, the 7 Plus is an attractive option at a cheaper price too. If you’re not desperate for the improved speed inside then you’d probably get on well enough with last year’s model.
It’s impossible to shake the feeling that the iPhone 8 Plus is the option for the iPhone 6S Plus upgrader who doesn’t want the expensive iPhone X, which is unfair. This is the best iPhone on the market for those who don’t want to spend silly money, and the Portrait Lighting mode in particular is jolly impressive.