The iPhone 8 Plus remains a solid option in the iPhone family tree despite seeing some competition since it launched. Usually, when Apple announces new iPhones, older ones get the axe, but Apple keeps the iPhone 8 Plus securely in its line-up alongside the iPhone 8 as its affordable iOS devices. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus represent the last hurrah for the old iPhone design with a Home button and thick chin bezels. While we now have the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR to drool over, Apple has kept the iPhone 8 handsets on sale for pragmatic buyers.
In terms of what came before this phone though, the iPhone 8 Plus looks like the iPhone 7 Plus, which looks like the 6S Plus, which looks like the 6 Plus...you get the idea. The only thing that tips us off that the 8 Plus is the newest model is the addition of the glass back and the two-tone effect it creates… if it wasn't for that, it would be impossible to tell this and the 7 Plus apart.
Apple has never changed things for the sake of it, but the 8 Plus is the company's final nod to the design it relied on for years before the iPhone X arrived in 2017 to move the dial dramatically, plug in reams of new technology, and change the way we think about the iPhone.
We can only interpret that this is now the 'default' iPhone – the one for folks who aren't looking to spend exorbitant sums of money on a handset, or not keen on big changes, when shopping for a new iPhone. One benefit of the newer iPhone's appearing is that the iPhone 8 Plus is steadily getting cheaper. There are some strong upgrades from the iPhone 7 Plus too: the camera has been enhanced, the internal workings are still among the most powerful in the industry, and little tweaks throughout smooth off rough edges in a way that makes us feel Sir Jony Ive climbed inside his computer and lathed them off himself.
Add to that a better battery and screen, and the iPhone 8 Plus is the better iPhone compared to the smaller 8. The headline feature of the 12MP dual sensor on the rear camera is the enhanced bokeh mode – dubbed Portrait Lighting. The abilities here are pretty sensational and show how powerful the A11 Bionic chip is inside, being able to algorithmically work out the contours of the face and change the lighting dynamically.This can be done either while the picture is being taken or after, via the gallery. It's a powerful tool; albeit not one that really impressed anyone we showed it to. That's kind of indicative of the iPhone 8 Plus as a whole – while the overall experience is smoothed and enhanced, the headline features aren't really there. Portrait Lighting is, well, fine – and we almost feel guilty for not evangelizing about it more, given how much intelligence has gone into creating it. But taking a Portrait mode picture takes some setting up as it is – so achieving the level of quality where Portrait Lighting makes a big difference to the outcome is rare.