Between the X and the 8: Are these the iPhones for you?

The new iPhones when compared are different, but not obviously so. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
The new iPhones when compared are different, but not obviously so. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

CUPERTINO (California), Sept 14 — I expected this year’s Apple iPhone launch to be the tech event of the year. It was; not so much because of the devices but the overall experience. 

Say what you will about Apple but when it comes to presentations, they set the platinum standard. 

But could you say that about the devices? Here’s what I thought after spending some (limited) time with the phones.

Does X hit the spot?

The iPhone X (pronounced ‘10’ not ‘x’) was the highlight of the event, being the “one last thing” that has become synonymous with Apple launches.

It is the company’s first device with a 5.8-inch display and the first to use an OLED screen. 

Apple said that this was the first OLED display to meet its standards, saying that previous technology just did not meet its requirements. 

Of course, competing companies have already started using OLED tech in their phones, such as Samsung with its Galaxy S8 range. The displays to beat right now are Samsung’s and Apple’s Super Retina screen is a monster, as far as sheer pixels are concerned. 

For the specs-boffins we’re talking a 2436x1125 pixel screen with a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Translated into normal-speak: think the brightest, sharpest images you’ve ever seen on a phone or tablet or even TV.  The Super Retina is 10 times better. 

Most of the iPhone X’s cost is attributed to this display as it’s fairly new and expensive to produce right now, as it hasn’t reached the economy of scale LED screens offer.

Yes, you’re mostly paying for the damn screen. And if you regularly consume high-res, 4K media, this is the iPhone for you.

Let’s also mention it’s the first iPhone ever to have a screen that stretches from edge-to-edge.

The other thing that is the big deal about the phone is the Face ID technology enabled by the front camera with TrueDepth technology. 

Using neural network tech, the camera maps out your face to the extent it will recognise you even if you’ve aged, grown a beard or are wearing a truly hideous hat.

Besides letting you unlock your phone with your face, it even lets you play with Apple’s new animated Animojis. It’s Snapchat on steroids and is an exceptionally frivolous, totally unnecessary but absolutely hilarious new feature. Apple gave us animated poop, let the records show.

The rear camera is also weird, for Apple. Unlike the previous dual-camera setups that were placed horizontally, these dual sensors are aligned vertically, with OIS enabled for both sensors. It’s the best camera Apple’s ever produced so if that’s what you must have, then you’ve got no other option.

Otherwise the internals are the same with the iPhone 8/8 Plus: a super-powerful A11 Bionic processor that I suspect is more powerful than all the computers I’ve ever owned as well as Apple’s first in-house graphics processor.

If you’re into bleeding-edge tech and have to have the best iPhone in the universe, this is it. 

What you really need to ask is if you need this in your life because to be frank, the iPhone 8 is pretty good. Except maybe if you already have an iPhone 7.

Eight might be enough

Apple has a terribly predictable track record; the last few years have seen it perform minor updates each year to the iPhone as opposed to major overhauls. 

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus now have glass backs and fronts, creating a glossy, reflective surface and making wireless charging possible. Both phones now feature updated camera sensors, nothing as fancy as the iPhone X but still a big update over the iPhone 7.

As far as the display and battery life goes, there’s no change from the iPhone 7 but there’s no fancy edge-to-edge screen here.

You could say the iPhone 8 has all the nice touches you wish your iPhone 7 had — if you’ve had Android envy, that is. 

Wireless charging took a long time to come to Apple, but being able to charge everything you love at once — the new upcoming charging pad will charge your watch, phone and AirPods in one go — is definitely appealing.

It still has that excellent new processor that the iPhone X has and if you don’t need to create talking poop emojis to annoy your friends with, and would be fine not using your face to unlock your phone, the iPhone 8 isn’t an inferior choice.

If you’re in the market for a new iPhone, the 8 and 8 Plus offer all the things Apple users love about the iPhone. iPhone 7 users might not be so keen to upgrade though, especially if they’re fine without wireless charging and don’t mind waiting for the iPhone X sequel next year, or hope that the iPhone X prices come down by then.

What’s also great is that Apple now only has two storage options for all the iPhones: either 64GB or 256GB. 

Apple has also discounted older iPhones so if you don’t need the latest and greatest, all older models (except the iPhone SE) are now RM450 cheaper. The iPhone SE, already the best value model, is now RM200 cheaper at retail.

Which iPhone then

The choice is pretty clear as far as I’m concerned. You want all the power no matter what the price? Then get the iPhone X — though as the failed “live” demo shows, Face ID still has some kinks to work out but if you thought the iPhone 7 was almost perfect, then the iPhone 8 just might be the phone that improves on it while not changing the basics.

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