I’ve been using an iPhone 8 Plus for over a week. It looks like an iPhone, works like an iPhone, and delivers on everything it promises — just like every other iPhone before it since the first one.
Authenticity is boring
I’m going to try to share a few thoughts about the new device, but I’m going to skip the technical details you can read in Apple’s press release.
In the quest for “authenticity,” today’s critics are paid to be harsh, controversial and (all too frequently) incorrect. That’s certainly been the reaction to the all-new iPhone 8/Plus smartphones, and it’s really quite clear many of them are “holding it wrong” — at least in how they see it.
The myopic group-think that seems to be percolating across the web (because “authenticity” seems to mean saying what everyone else is saying) is that these new models are “boring.”
The iPhone 8 is a design classic
That argument seems to coalesce around some kind of notion that what a smartphone does is somehow less important than what shape it is. It’s a perverted aesthetic that conveniently ignores design mantras such as the need for form to follow function.
That kind of good design is far from boring. Every big product success, from Levis to the wheel, understands this.
Good design means the object gets out of your way so you can use it intuitively.[ Further reading: The 50+ best features in iOS 11 ]
That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about the visceral simplicity of the Home button, which (when you think about it) performs a multitude of tasks depending on your contextual reality.
Apple’s iPhone X represents the company’s next attempt to define good smartphone design. The iPhone 8 series maintains all the design finesse that has kept the Apple smartphone as the biggest selling mobile model for the last 10 years.
That’s rather less boring than critics repeating the same nonsense to each other at press parties in a tight and cozy circle of group-think.
Creativity is more than skin deep: Look at the A11 processor
That focus on shape means many now ignore where the creativity in Apple’s new devices sits. You find it in the internal hardware designs, the silicon and (of course) the software.
You find it in the machine intelligence and in the ways in which the company ensures all those elements work together. This beauty is much more than skin deep.
Look at the A11 processor: This Apple-designed chip is faster than anything else on the market. (In competitive terms, I see both the Pixel 2 and latest high-end Samsung’s as only being capable competitors to the iPhone 6s in terms of processor speed.) That kind of chip design creativity means your iPhone 8 — and iPhone X, which will use the same chip — are/will be the fastest smartphones in the world right now. Do you not think chip design is creative?
Every single Apple component has been tweaked
Apple has applied its talent for silicon all through the new devices: There are new camera sensors, an Apple-designed graphics processor, motion processor, Touch ID and more.
The iPhone teams have teased every hardware element so that it delivers the kind of performance you won’t see eclipsed for a while, possibly until Apple’s 2018 models. In fact, other than Face ID, what you have here is a smartphone that’s just as powerful as the company’s new flagship device, the iPhone X.
I do agree the company has had a hard time sourcing the latest display technologies for iPhone 8, but at least the company has been insistent at only using top category Retina displays, meaning you’ll get the best possible image quality and won’t get the dead pixels and other bothersome technological manifestations of poor manufacturing and weak display quality control.
OLED displays begin to appear in iPhone X. In the future, I’m pretty certain Apple’s display roadmap will see the company develop its own unique technologies to change that argument around. That’s the Apple way.
The amazing camera on the iPhone 8 Plus
Then there’s the camera. I’m using an iPhone 8 Plus, and I’m frankly astonished at what this can do. Now, I’ve seen the DxOMark data that claims other cameras are also good, but I think there’s another point to be made:
Apple isn’t just focused on hardware engineering, but also on software evolution, and the iPhone is packed with improvements for photography.
At its simplest, I can point my iPhone at a subject and get a great picture. I can then take that picture, edit it, apply filters to it, perform further editing in third-party apps, and create an image I can feel really proud of.
I can then share that image and — years later — find it just by naming the person in it, or by literally asking my iPhone’s Siri to “find a picture taken at [a certain place] at [a certain time].”
As Apple develops tools to work with the far wider range of metadata captured and kept within its newly chosen HEIC image format, you’ll see more interesting and amazing ways to use those images.
Reasons to love the iPhone’s bump
Can you do that with a digital camera? Not really. That’s why camera sales have tanked. Because they’ve become boring. Though it is typical that rather than focusing on how impressively all these technologies work together, the echo chamber prefers to mutter against the protruding camera lens, calling it “the bump.”
I like the bump. It enables the camera to take better pictures. And it disappears once you put your iPhone in a case. Which you should because it’s made completely of glass. And while Apple says glass is super-strong, I’m not about to throw my iPhone 8 Plus into a blender to prove a point.
Software is sexy, and Apple’s latest iOS 11 OS is packed with design enhancements that make it interesting to use all over again. You can’t ignore the OS when thinking about iPhone 8. The tight integration between hardware and software counts. It will make a difference in how you use it every time you do.
What about enterprise users?
Apple’s decision to invest in augmented reality (AR) development with iOS 11’s ARKit is already generating a ripple, but this will become a wave.
With this in mind, enterprise users should seriously consider exploring the potential of AR for their business/industry. We’re going to see that potential realized rapidly in real time across the next 12-months. This, and the fact that you can now use Apple’s software to create experiences for hundreds of millions of users, should be enough to keep enterprise decision makers interested in Apple’s new hardware.
Enterprise users will be interested in iPhone X, but I suspect more conservative-minded buyers will opt for iPhone 8 partly because they already have security policy in place for Touch ID and because they know they can rely on regular security and software patches and a growing range of third-party deployment and development services to enable the device on their existing enterprise ecosystems.
What about the X factor?
I want an iPhone X. I can’t lie about that. I’m incredibly curious to find out what that device feels like to use. Will I find it as instantaneously intuitive as I found the first iPhone when I used it in the summer 2007? We’ll see.
I’m not alone. I believe there is plenty of pent-up demand to get hold of one of these new smartphones when they arrive. We all expect demand to exceed supply.
All the same, it is worth noting that iPhone 8 has been fully invested with major improvements that mean (with the exception of the display) you have a device that delivers all the performance you’ll get from an iPhone X but through a familiar and time-tested user interface.
That means it is capable of handling AR, runs iOS 11 incredibly effectively — and (one more thing) has given me way over 24 hours of battery life in normal use.
iPhone 8 purchasing advice
Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.”
As I see it, the “iPhone 8 is boring” crowd is just as wrong, just as one-sided, and just as free of charm as the tired old “Apple is doomed” chatterers.
Far from being boring, iPhone 8 is the quintessence of 10 years of iPhone design. It is iconic, delivers everything we have grown to expect from the brand, and is a traditional and time-tested counterpoint to the new-fangled iPhone X.
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