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iPhone 8 Plus hands-on: Will some prefer it to the iPhone X?

/ Updated: September 19, 2017 7:34 AM PDT
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Update: Check out our full iPhone 8 review and iPhone 8 Plus review

There are three new iPhones coming this fall, and Apple's range of iPhone models seems to be ever-expanding. The showcase flagship, the iPhone X, arrives in November. Meanwhile, the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have upgrades in camera, processor and add wireless charging, and arrive Sept. 22. And, maybe, for some people, that's more than enough.

I tried the 8 Plus briefly after the announcement at Apple Park. In one sense, it feels similar to last year's iPhone 7 Plus. But it's also the only 8 model to have dual rear cameras (the smaller iPhone 8 lacks them, still). That means it can do Portrait Mode, as well as take advantage of new Portrait Lighting camera effects for a range of other photo features.

apple-091217-iphone-8-3886

The new glass back gives it a glossier finish but similar design to the 7 Plus.

James Martin/CNET

The glass back is very shiny, and adds a glossy feel to the phone finish. How the new iPhone glass backs fare when dropped is still an unknown. But it does enable wireless Qi-compatible charging with existing accessories on the market, which is a big plus.

A new A11 Bionic processor promises to be better optimized for AR, too, and faster than last year's A10. All three new iPhones have the A11, meaning they should all fare equally well at new ARKit apps. In that sense, the 8 Plus may very well be just as a good a choice as the iPhone X.

Except, its rear dual cameras lack one thing the iPhone X has: better telephoto. While the 12MP wide-angle camera has optical image stabilization like last year, the f/2.8 telephoto closer-range camera on the iPhone 8 Plus still lacks optical image stabilization. Meanwhile, the iPhone X telephoto is f/2.4 and has OIS, which could make a significant difference in certain conditions. We haven't done comparative testing yet: I only got to see these briefly in a demo room.

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The X adds a more compact design with a larger screen, as well as a better front-facing camera that adds more effects, facial controls, front-facing Portrait Mode selfies and Face ID facial unlocking. But it drops the home button and Touch ID. The new interface and unlocking method may not yet be your cup of tea. In that case, the iPhone 8 Plus might be the best bet.

And, for some apps, the 8 Plus might still feel like the biggest screen option. The iPhone X has a screen cut-out near the camera, and it's unclear how that will feel across existing apps. The 8 Plus is a safer bet, but also seems like the go-to choice for a would-be iPhone 8 shopper who doesn't want to wait. For practical phone features, such as battery, camera, performance and price, this might be the model to beat.

It'll be available in 64GB and 256GB models, with prices starting at $799, £799 or AU$1,229. Preorders start Sept. 15. It's expected in-store on Sept. 22.

The iPhone 8 Plus' all-new glass design is reinforced by steel. The front and backs are made of glass and have steel trimming around the edge. The phones will be available in silver, space gray and gold. Both are water- and dust-resistant.

The iPhone 8 Plus camera boasts new chips and sensors which should help across the board, with faster autofocus and better low light performance. The speakers are also purportedly 27 percent louder than the iPhone 7 ($719.99 at Amazon Marketplace), with deeper bass.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Service Provider AT&T
    Verizon
    T-Mobile
    Sprint
  • Diagonal Size 5.5 in
  • Weight 7.13 oz
  • Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, three-axis gyro sensor, digital compass, barometer
  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Additional Features AirDrop function
    AirPlay 2 wireless streaming
    MIMO technology
    Neural Engine
    QuickType keyboard
    Wi-Fi Calling
    iBeacon microlocation
    iCloud Photo Sharing
    multitasking
    AirPrint wireless printing
    Apple TV support (2nd or later)
    CarPlay function
    FaceTime
    Fast Charging
    Handoff
    HomeKit
    M11 motion coprocessor