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Up close with the iPhone 8 Plus

We took Apple's new cameraphone out for a spin.

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Scott Stein, Sarah Tew
iPhone 8 Plus
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If you've seen one iPhone, you've seen them all... right? But while this iPhone 8 Plus might look familiar from this particular angle, there's more than meets the eye.

Cruise through our slideshow full of hands-on pictures, and I'll show you what I mean.

iPhone 8 Plus
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Notice anything different about this iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus? Perhaps something you haven't seen for a while on an Apple phone?

(I'm not talking about the dual camera, which was introduced on the iPhone 7 Plus.)

iPhone 8 Plus
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That's right -- the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have glass backs instead of aluminum. Apple claims it's "the most durable glass ever in a smartphone." 

iPhone 8 Plus
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But don't worry: The iPhone 8 Plus is still water- and dust-resistant, just like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were. They're rated IP67. (Here's what that means.)

iPhone 8 Plus
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The Plus is known as the photographer's phone for a reason -- the dual camera is remarkably versatile. The standard lens can take impressive photos, while a second 2x telephoto (zoom) lens can reach out a bit further.

iPhone 8 Plus
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Compared to last year's iPhone 7 Plus, the phone's actually a little bit bigger: 0.2mm wider in each direction, and 14g (about half an ounce) heavier.

iPhone 8 Plus
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But that transparent glass back allows Apple to add something new: Wireless inductive charging, so you can optionally set the phone down on a charging pad instead of plugging it in with a cable.

iPhone 8 Plus
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On the left, an iPhone 7 Plus with its all-aluminum casing. On the right, the iPhone 8 Plus, where aluminum is only used for the band around the edge. 

So how else has the iPhone 8 Plus improved?

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Now, Apple says the new iPhones 8 come with physically larger, faster camera sensors for even better low-light performance, a new color filter for richer colors, and a new Apple-designed image processor.

iPhone 8 Plus
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The iPhone 7 Plus was the first and only iPhone to offer Portrait Mode, giving you that signature blurry-background effect (aka "bokeh") you can usually only achieve with a dSLR. The iPhone 8 Plus has it too, but more so (see next slide).

iPhone 8 Plus
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Now, Apple's added an iPhone 8 Plus (and iPhone X) exclusive feature called Portrait Lighting. It uses the twin camera sensors to map your subject's face, then adds real-time, computer-generated lighting effects to make it look like the photo was shot in a pro studio.

iPhone 8 Plus
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Portrait Lighting is in beta, and we found it doesn't work flawlessly yet -- so don't expect too much.

There's also a new slow-sync flash mode so -- theoretically; we need to do more testing -- the light on your subject better matches the light in the background.

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And those aren't the only way the iPhone 8 Plus camera has improved.

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The iPhone 8 Plus still snaps with automatic HDR, bringing out color in this sky that our DSLR can't easily replicate. It feels even more colorful here. 

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Plus, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are the first iPhone with Apple's True Tone Display, which automatically adjusts the display's colors based on the light around you.

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Both of the new iPhones can shoot slow-mo 1080p HD video at a buttery 240 frames per second -- twice the speed as before.

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You can imagine using slow-mo to record a speeding car -- or a baby's first steps, perhaps. 

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You can also use the camera for augmented reality (ARKit) applications where you interact with virtual objects and games that appear to exist in the real world. You don't need a new iPhone for those, though -- they'll work on iPhone 6S and newer.

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Still, with a new six-core A11 processor that's up to 25 percent faster, with 30 percent faster graphics performance (says Apple), the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus might be better suited to these augmented reality apps.

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Mind you, the camera on the upcoming iPhone X is likely to be even better. While it's got the same chips and sensors inside, a new f/2.4 telephoto lens with optical image stablization should let in more light and reduce blur. The one you see here on iPhone 8 Plus has a narrower f/2.8 aperture.

iPhone 8 Plus
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In addition to new wireless charging, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus can do fast *wired* charging as well -- as long as you're using a new USB-C charger, like the kind you'd get with a new MacBook or MacBook Pro. You'll also need a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. 

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While those glass backs are pretty glossy, Apple says it applied an oleophobic coating (which has been standard on iPhone screens) to resist fingerprints and let you easily wipe them away.

iPhone 8 Plus
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That coating might also have something to do with the shape of the water on these screens.

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Here, you can barely see (top-left corner) how the glass back slightly curves at the edges.

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With those new glass backs, the iPhone's colors have changed, too. The silver looks a bit blue-ish, and the gold is a reddish rose gold now. You can also get each iPhone in Space gray, but not black or jet black. For now, those are exclusive to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

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The rose is most striking in sunlight.

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Here's the aluminum edge of that gold-colored iPhone 8 Plus.

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The iPhone 8 Plus still features Apple's Lightning port and a pair of stereo speakers. You're actually only looking at one speaker -- the second is in the earpiece up top. Apple says they're 25 percent louder, and we noticed a slight difference too.

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Here's how it looks in a different light.

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And the back of the phone.

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This should give you a better idea of the size difference between the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

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How much taller is the iPhone 8 Plus? This much taller.

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iPhone 8 Plus
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Here's how far you can zoom, if you're willing to combine optical and digital zoom functions. (Digital reduces quality.)

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A few final shots of the iPhone 8 Plus.

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Not exactly its native habitat.

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And here's the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus next to an older glass-backed iPhone. 

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Don't mind these phones, they're just going for a swim.

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Here's the new, and customizable, iOS 11 Control Center. It's coming to other iPhones as well.

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Another camera comparison.

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Still a bit of a camera bulge.

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Just hanging out in traffic.

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