The A11 Bionic running the iPhone 8 is Apple’s most impressive processor yet. It has an impact on everything that happens inside the iPhone, from the way iOS 11 handles AR apps, to how it offsets the smaller battery.
Both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus run the same A11 Bionic chip, and so does the upcoming iPhone X. The difference is in the RAM offering: the iPhone 8 has only 2GB of RAM and the Plus has 3GB of RAM – we don’t yet know how much the iPhone X will include, although I’d take a guess at 3GB.
Is the lack of a gigabyte evident? Not that I’ve noticed. The iPhone 8 is just as competent at holding apps in memory as the 8 Plus, and it feels as though the extra memory is mainly present for the intensive camera modes.
The A11 Bionic is a six-core processor, with two high-power and four low-power cores that churn through absolutely anything with ease. In benchmarks, it picked up a score of 9037 in the multi-core Geekbench 4 test, which comfortably beats off any of the Android competition.
I do wish that with all this power at their disposal, app developers would do more to make the most of it all. A big push with iPhone 8 and, specifically, iOS 11 is augmented reality (AR), which layers graphical elements over the real world. There are already a few apps that use this feature – the IKEA app lets you place furniture around home, for example – but they all appear to run just as well on an iPhone 6S as they do on the iPhone 8.
The same is true of games; I can’t find anything that performs notably better on the iPhone 8 than the iPhone 7. This isn’t really Apple’s fault, but it does mean that the performance boost is quite hard to utilise.
More noticeable are the improved front-facing stereo speakers. Apple says these are ‘25% louder than the iPhone 7’, and whether or not these numbers are accurate, they do sound very good indeed. Call quality, too, is excellent, as is cellular and Wi-Fi reception.
The iPhone 8 comes running iOS 11, but considering every iPhone since the 5S has recently received that update, it’s hardly a reason to upgrade your phone. It does add plenty of nice features, though.
I’ll point you towards our in-depth iOS 11 review for the full overview, but in short there’s a big push towards a more cohesive design this time around. The Control Center has been completely rebuilt, native apps have been spruced up and, of course, there’s the AR support.
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The Control Center is now a single panel of various-sized bubbles, some even offering shrunken down versions of apps. The Remote shortcut can be 3D-Touched to offer full functionality, as can the Home bubble.
Siri has a more natural-sounding voice, although still struggles to properly understand my requests, and there’s a lot bold text in apps. I’d have liked to see a bigger change to the gridded homescreen layout, but maybe that will come in iOS 12.
iOS still lags behind Android in a few areas, however. Notifications, for one, are frustratingly archaic, requiring you to dig around and endlessly scroll if you have lots of messages.
In addition, split-screen multitasking on iOS 11 is still lacking, even though it’s become a staple feature of Android. I can sort of understand why you wouldn’t want two apps running concurrently on a 4.7-inch phone, but not so much on the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.