Reviews are a mad world. You could run all the benchmarks you want. You could sell the idea of openness, value for money, practicality and everything under the sun. But there’s experience, the most subjective of metrics and the single most influential one that any device manufacturer must consider. There’s one company that places user experience at the core of everything it does. You know that’s true even before I mention the name. Welcome to the Apple stable, and its latest iPhone 8. Here’s my review of this year’s iPhone.
The Apple aura
Minimalism, white space in design, fanboyism and persuasive marketing is Apple’s recipe for global dominance. It’s succeeding. This year, the iPhone came to India just a week after launching in the US. Over this past week, initial feedback about the newest Apple smartphone has been trickling in from across the world. And it has been largely positive.
As has been the case over the recent few years, there are two iPhone smartphones this time around as well. If you step into a store today, you’d still have just two options to buy from when it comes to the new range. This year, being the tenth anniversary, it was topped up with the iPhone X. So I’d get that out of the way right here – there’s really not much in the iPhone 8 to talk about given that almost everything that matters about the iPhone is reserved for the iPhone 8 Plus. Half of the eight pointers about the iPhone 8 that Apple communicates is about the iPhone 8 Plus.
Upgrades have to be better
When you do better-faster status quo – it’s got to be, well – better and faster. Status quo, in this case, would be the iPhone 7. Not the industry at large. Since experience is the factor upon which much of the comparison is based on, it ceases to be a specs fight. A lot of what the iPhone 8 brings is better and faster status quo.
Apple claims the iPhone 8 is 70 percent faster than the iPhone 7. Some powerful guts aside, there’s not much that’s changed in the iPhone 8. I’ve been using the iPhone 7 for a year now. I’ve very briefly used the iPhone 7 Plus, on and off. And I’m guilty of envying my friends who’ve used the extra features on the larger avatar. I’ve also always questioned the need for the iPhone 7. Now it works well for me.
Which is why I’ve prefered the more portable iPhone compared to a slab of glass on the larger variant that stretches my carpals and phalanges. My palms aren’t among the smallest. Yet, wobbly travel and use-case needs me to have a good grip over the device for fear of dropping off. Indian roads aren’t as stable as the German autobahn. You’d find yourself holding on to your phone tightly while travelling. And you’d rather have a smaller device I’d say. Size alone isn’t reason enough. Unless, of course, you’re not photography obsessed. You’re probably not social media obsessed. Because if you love clicking pictures and impressing your circle of friends with what you capture, what you really need is the iPhone 8 Plus.
For essential photography, the iPhone 8 works well. I’ve noticed better response on the iPhone 8 compared to iPhone 7. I’m just not sure if it’s because of the vast list of apps that I have installed, or if it is because of the fact that the iPhone 8 is a relatively clean set up right now. Perhaps it’s the stronger guts. If you use the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8, you’d notice the iPhone 7 lags a bit in terms of focusing on your subject before capturing the final image. The iPhone 8 seamlessly accomplishes this task. But if photography is all that matters to you, you need to look at the iPhone 8 Plus. Stay tuned for our review of the iPhone 8 Plus, which will tell you exactly why you get so much more than the iPhone 8 with the 8 Plus.
Innovation that doesn’t work for me
This is the devil’s advocate, also taking pessimism a bit too far. And you’re free to disagree with me here, but I’ve pondered over it for long. Not that I disagree with opinions of a lot of my friends around, but there’s so much more to the iPhone game. Money has different meanings for different people. Some borrow to splurge, some save to spend. Innovation is fun when it helps you do better and more. Work less, and gain more. Beyond that, innovation is reduced to the need to display what wealth can get you.
Sans Apple Pay
I’m expected to just review the device, more so its hardware. It’s better, faster, and all that. It’s good. So what’s the fuss about? It’s a great device, a must buy. Having said that, I hope you still do want to know the longer, deeper story. Apple says India is an important market. But there’s no Apple Pay here. Might as well knock off those components and make it a better deal? Again, perspectives change. There will always be the option of using Apple Pay while you’re abroad.
On the contrary, Samsung Pay is here. And it’s beautiful. My colleague, who prefers Android to iOS, uses a Samsung Galaxy S8 as his primary device. Whenever we step out to a restaurant for lunch, we do end up going dutch. He just enjoys tapping his Galaxy S8 on the handheld terminal. The first time I saw it, I was left impressed. Now I just believe he brags about it. ALSO READ: How to use Samsung Pay in India: Our complete guide on how to setup and transact
In terms of payments in India, things have progressed at rapid scale. Samsung continues to focus even towards getting feature phones glued into its payment system. Even Google Tez is here. What if Android Pay isn’t? P2P payments in India is relatively solved with UPI. But taking plastic money, such as debit cards and credit cards and turning them digital is where innovation is easing lives. Full marks to Samsung here. Apple has a long way ahead.
Apple Pay is currently that line in the specification sheet which is hidden ammo in your battle with Android fans. Your Samsung cousins will continue to demo convenient card payments at kiosks, while you still adamantly reason out with the ubercool Apple experience.
To be fair, Apple doesn’t bundle a wireless charger out of the box in the US either. So this time, you’re not losing out per se. The fact that Apple has opted for Qi (pronounced Chi as in tai-chi) as a standard, is as open as Apple could ever get. This way, at least you could buy any charger from the market and use it. In the US, you could walk into any Starbucks with the option of charging your devices using wireless chargers at your disposal. Ever thought of doing that in India?
The latest iPhones support wireless charging. All well, but you’d need to buy a Qi-wireless charger at an additional cost. I’m not entirely bought into wireless charging. Personally for me, wireless charging is a gimmick, and what I need urgently is fast charging. Well, if we sit and you allow me to whine, I need bigger batteries and batteries which are more efficient. Don’t give me a workaround like software optimization, hardware and chipset design as an answer. ALSO READ: How to add wireless charging feature to any smartphone
Give me radically different technology. Time is more important than convenience. But that’s me. Again, you must just love the idea of placing your phone on a dock without a connector, and that moment gives you enough joy that you forget you are in fact waiting on the phone to charge. In case you want to mess around with your friends who are still stuck on conventional wired means of charging their smartphones, then you’re better off with the new wirelessly chargeable iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. It works through leather and silicone cases as well.
Imagine you’re traveling around and you need a quick refill of juice for your iPhone. You open your bag at the airport, and amidst all the plugged sockets, you clear off some space to plug your brand new Qi wireless charger. Can you fathom the envy on everyone’s face? What would you prefer? A faster wired charger or a wireless charging dock that’s different? Yes, it’s a universal problem. Oppo, OnePlus, Qualcomm – they all have their focus in the right direction. I’m sure that should come to an iPhone near you in a couple of years. Just like Qualcomm Quick Charge and OnePlus Dash Charge, iPhones need to come with iPad-spec chargers out of the box.
The only instance when I would be happily willing to try out wireless charging on the new iPhone is when I’m unwinding for the day. While I’m asleep in the night. But that’s exactly when charging isn’t something that’s needs conscious monitoring. Leave the phone on the charger through the night. And whatever they tell you, the battery doesn’t get damaged. Not before you voluntarily replace your iPhone in pursuit of a better upgrade. You’re practically going to replace your new smartphone in two-to-three years anyway.
Oodles of fanboyism
All said and done, none of the hurdles above would come as an impediment. As I said, the iPhone is an iPhone. And so much more. You don’t see local and global media go bonkers over the first customer to get an Android flagship. Like it or not, that’s what differentiates an Apple from an orange. Even a Pixel doesn’t elicit such a response from the media or consumers at large. I determine such a fan following as the litmus test for the success of a brand. The iPhone X aside, this year’s iPhones don’t bring much that’s radically different from last year’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively.
The future is AR. Some say the future is AI. Some say the future is machine learning. Either way, your phone will be more intuitive, conversational and interactive. But you’d never consider those aspects when you purchase a new phone. That’s a fact. When you consider buying a new smartphone, pointers are still rudimentary. Good battery life, compatibility with cellular bands, speed and performance. ALSO READ: ARKit: A definitive leap towards making augmented reality mainstream
Features such as assistants, or AR are still at the stage of being novelty. Eye-candy, so to speak. Currently, it’s all down to the operating system powering the device. And it’d take a while before assistants can become a practical consideration between platforms. That brings us to iOS 11.
The OS that powers the iPhone
The new iPhones run on iOS 11. Unlike Android where certain devices run the latest flavor of the operating system is a reason to consider one device over the other, iPhones have relatively higher adoption rates for the latest versions of the OS.
The experience with iOS 11 has been mixed. The initial week or so saw a significant drop in battery life. I found myself charging my device twice a day, compared to once a day that I’d normally do. For more on iOS, also read: iOS 11: It’s beyond just an upgrade, here’s your guide to get familiar with the new iPhone, iPad OS
iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus?
The question here is between the two. Whether to ignore the two luxury sedans and opt for the supercar isn’t the question. When the iPhone X is around, we’d look at it separately, but realistically, the question is between two equals. To repeat what I wrote earlier, money has different meanings to different people. Why would you buy an iPhone? For either of the following reasons:
You know of no other world than Apple
That’s reason strong enough. And that’s usually the case with Apple customers. They know no other world than Apple. This is the world, where everything is in order. Life is good. It has an element of bliss, and there exists no problems beyond battery life.
The world of an iPhone user is that of perfection. Every decision the customer would think about has already been taken by Apple. Do you need a fingerprint scanner on the front or back of the device? Do you need one or two camera modules. Do you need 10 percent white or 90 percent white light? How much brightness level is ideal? None of this would matter. Just go ahead and get yourself the latest iPhone.
You’re disillusioned with Android
This is the only other reason to warrant a switch to iOS. There’s no other platform that exists. The market is split between Android and iOS. Even Bill Gates uses an Android smartphone. But there are times in life, when you’re fed up with plain jam and bread. And you desire some tangy marmalade with toast. It adds bling to an otherwise plain-Jane morning without a sunny side. Android and iOS are similar yet apart in so many ways.
It’s never a case of being indifferent between the two platforms. The Android and Apple camps are strongly opinionated. So anyone crossing over and going to the other side is the outcast from the tribe. If Android didn’t serve you well, you have the iPhone. But for you, if you’re bothered with the price of the device, the iPhone 7 will give you great value, more so at a discounted price.