The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus arrived and they are indeed very similar to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Exactly the same size, same biggish and now somewhat out of fashion bezels, only a tad heavier and with the steel-meshed glass back for wireless charging rather than aluminium on the older device.

That the iPhone 8 devices look almost identical to the iPhone 7 ones could be a marketing problem for Apple.

Inside the phone it is a different story, but how often do you think about the bits inside your smartphone?


Probably not ever. As long as your device isn't laggy and slow, and there's enough storage for music, pictures and video then why would you care what its electronics can or can't do?

That's why you need visual design clues on the outside, so that people think about all the new stuff on the inside.

Because, compared to last year's model, the 64-bit 11 Bionic chipset which will be in the iPhone X as well is a big upgrade on the A10 Fusion.

It's an new design with two performance cores, and four power saving high-efficiency ones running at 2.2GHz; all six cores can now work together for demanding tasks thanks to a new controller.

Like the iPhone 7 Plus there's three gigabytes of memory for the processor, and my review device came 256GB of non-expandable storage.

The A11 Bionic silicon is fast: testing with Geekbench 4.1.2, the single-core score hit 4,252 and the multi-core result 10,508.

I ran the same test on an iPhone 7 Plus with the two-by-two core A10 Fusion chip set, and it scored 2,550 and 5,383 respectively, partly because it can only use two cores at the time; the A11 Bionic is about 50-60 per cent quicker than its predecessor on Geekbench tests, an impressive performance upgrade.

The A10 was already faster per core than the processors used by Android competitors like Samsung, and the A11 Bionic really extends that lead.

In fact, the single-core result is a little bit better than a 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 processor.

It'll be interesting to see how the A11 Bionic fares when Apple updates the iPad Pro range with the new chip, as the tablet can fit more memory and have better cooling thanks to the larger case.

Both of those factors wring out even more performance, as is evident in the 10.7-inch iPad Pro with the A10X Fusion which is an up-rated version of what's inside the iPhone 7 devices. On Geekbench 4, the iPad Pro scores 3921 and 9360 in single and multi-core tests respectively, not very far from the iPhone 8 Plus. This points to the next iPad Pro being very quick indeed.

Graphics testing showed a substantial speed bump too, but this is compared to already fast hardware in both Apple and Android devices.

Why making your own chips matters

More interesting, and hard to benchmark, is Apple designing hardware to fit its software: the A11 Bionic adds custom hardware for computational photography and to speed up artificial intelligence and machine learning applications.

That sounds pretty geeky, and the technology and terminology like neural networks are quite opaque, but it means the A11 Bionic hardware can process a huge amount of data from different sensors and make something great out of it.

I'm not sure if animated emojis or animojis fall into the useful category, but changing the lighting in a picture on the fly, and measuring depth with the two cameras on the iPhone 8 Plus definitely do. They are also features that you don't get with older iPhones even when they're upgraded to the new iOS 11.

Apple's betting big on Augmented Reality (AR) to drive iPhone sales - and it's funny to see the tech only now hitting the mainstream, because those of with way too long memories will recall the first attempts at AR that appeared in the original Google G1 Android smartphone nine years ago.

Apple's betting big on Augmented Reality (AR) to drive iPhone sales - and it's funny to see the tech only now hitting the mainstream.


Apple's A11 chipset has what it takes to power games and educational apps with figures and object that appear to float and move around in front of you as you look through the screen.

The AR apps I tried, like the mildly gruesome Insight Heart and the contemplative Night Sky as well as games are great.

AR really does take mobile computing to a different level, and we'll see more of the technology soon - better yet, it doesn't require  claustrophobia-inducing goggles like Virtual Reality (VR) does.

Sorry developers, we can't let you do that

With great power comes great responsibility, a saying that applies to the new tech in the Apple devices.

It's been quite interesting to see how Apple has had to balance the opportunities for developers that its new hardware (and software) bring, while limiting features that can be abused.

Developers for instance can't use the new depth-mapping technology in the iPhone 8 Plus which uses the small distance or parallax between the cameras, and the more complex Face ID system on the iPhone X to create apps that record people's visages, something that could be easily be abused.

Nevertheless, developers are a creative lot and there's no doubt they'll come up with novel uses for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X features that Apple didn't think of. Some could be controversial and I think Apple has its work cut out here, being a hugely popular platform with developers who are well aware of the massive value that extremely personal technology like smartphones bring.

iPhone 8 or iPhone Plus?

The two cameras - both upgraded with new sensors - combined with the A11 Bionic chipset is what decides between the smaller iPhone 8 and its bigger iPhone 8 Plus cousin for me.

Both are expensive, starting at $1,249 and $1,449 respectively for the 64GB storage models.

Nevertheless, you're buying a premium device and paying $200 more for the iPhone 8 Plus with dual cameras that can be used with depth sensing apps (tradies will love this for measuring) makes sense.

Besides, the bigger 5.5-inch 1920 by 1080 resolution screen on the iPhone 8 Plus, as opposed to the 4.7-inch 1334 by 750 pixels on the iPhone 8 makes for a much nicer experience overall, especially with AR games and apps.

If you want a small iPhone, the $599 SE is very capable with a good camera to boot, or you could look for a second-hand iPhone 7.

Speaking of cameras, I'll have a fuller review of the iPhone 8 Plus imagers next week.

Should Apple have updated the design of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus to differentiate between the new devices and iPhone 7s (and iPhone 6)? Yes, I think most buyers would have liked that.

Even so, the iPhone 8 Plus especially is an amazingly powerful device that can do heaps more than its predecessors. If you have the money for one, the iPhone 8 Plus won't disappoint - and the AR capabilities are amazing.