Should you buy an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X?

Note: This article was first published on 21st September 2017.

iPhone owners usually have an easy upgrade decision to make this time of the year; either get the new iPhone with the regular screen or the iPhone Plus for the bigger display.

This year, however, the iPhone X looms over the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, making the decision more complicated. So, if you’re undecided, which iPhone should you get? Well, it helps to know what’s important to you.

If you have the money, go for the best iPhone — but be prepared to wait. The iPhone X is Apple’s best iPhone. It has an all-screen look that’s the biggest redesign for the iPhone since, well, iPhone. It has the best screen, it has the best cameras, it has a nicer stainless steel frame, and it’s the only iPhone with Face ID, which unlocks the iPhone when it recognizes your face.

However, the iPhone X will cost you. It’s the most expensive iPhone ever at S$1,648 (64GB) and S$1,888 (256GB). In comparison, the iPhone 8 costs S$1,148 (64GB) and S$1,388 (256GB), and the 8 Plus costs S$1,308 (64GB) and S$1,548 (256GB).

And you’ll need to wait. In fact, we expect the phone to sell out very shortly after pre-orders start on Apple Store online on 27 October. The iPhone X will hit retail on 3 November, and it’s expected to have high demand but extremely limited supplies. Apple Store Orchard will have stocks on the day for walk-in customers from 8AM, and suffice to say, it's foolish to think you can just stroll in at lunch time to get one.

If you need an iPhone now, get the 8 or 8 Plus. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are readily available since 22 September, while the iPhone X will only ship on 3 November, and we expect they’ll be harder to get. If you absolutely need a new iPhone as soon as possible, get the 8 or 8 Plus.

If you want the biggest screen, get the iPhone 8 Plus. While the iPhone X’s display measures 5.8” diagonally and the 8 Plus’ display measures 5.5”, the 8 Plus actually has a larger usable screen area.

It’s a little complicated, but it comes down to math and the way we view our content. The iPhone 8 has the smallest display among the three, with a screen that measures 4.7” diagonally. But the iPhone X’s display is only marginally wider than that of the iPhone 8 - it has a width of 2.5” while the iPhone 8 measures 2.3”. The iPhone 8 Plus still has the widest screen at 2.7”.

The iPhone X has a longer diagonal, because it has the tallest screen, at about 5.3”. In comparison, the iPhone 8 has a screen height of about 4.1” and the 8 Plus has a screen that’s 4.8” tall.

The iPhone X has an odd 19.5:9 aspect ratio, making it even taller than the Samsung Note8, which has an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. Most video content is in 16:9, which means that you’ll get black borders on both sides of the X’s screen. 

The iPhone X also has the camera notch on the top of the display, which further reduces usable screen estate. If you zoom into a photo, video or app, it’ll cut into the camera notch at the top of the display. That may not be a deal breaker for you, but it’s not a problem on the iPhone 8 Plus. The iPhone 8 Plus, on the other hand, has an aspect ratio of 16:9, which makes it ideal for watching videos - you don't get black borders.

There is one caveat. If you simply want a larger screen than the iPhone 8 but don’t want a larger phone, then get the iPhone X. You get a longer display, and in a chassis that’s not much bigger than the iPhone 8.

However, while the iPhone 8 Plus has the largest screen, it doesn’t have the best screen, and to talk more about that we have to go to the next page … 

(Note: Apple doesn’t specify the display measurements and nobody has actually taken a ruler to measure the iPhone X’s display, but kudos to Serenity Caldwell from iMore who worked out the physical measurements.)

If you want the best quality screen, get the iPhone X. If you want the bigger screen, get the iPhone 8 Plus, but if you want the better screen, get the iPhone X. The iPhone X is the first and only iPhone to ship with an OLED display, the other iPhones still use LCD displays.

OLED displays provide deeper blacks, and thus stronger contrasts. Contrast is what makes a display ‘pop,’ consider that the iPhone X’s display has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, while the iPhone 8 Plus has a 1,300:1 contrast ratio and the iPhone 8 has 1,400:1. The iPhone X also has the highest PPI (pixel per inch) count, and supports HDR (HDR10 and Dolby HDR) videos.

If you want the fastest processor, all of the new iPhones ship with the new A11 Bionic chip, neural engine, completely Apple-designed GPU, and embedded M11 motion co-processor.

If you want wireless charging, all of the new iPhones support Qi wireless charging. Here’s the catch though: you’ll need to buy a wireless charger yourself, there’s none included in the box.

If you want the best cameras, get the iPhone X. The iPhone 8 has a single wide-angle rear camera, while the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X both have dual rear cameras; a wide-angle and a telephoto, or basically, a normal lens and a zoom lens.

The rear wide-angle cameras on all three iPhones are identical — 12MP cameras with f/1.8 lenses — but the telephoto camera on the 8 Plus and X are slightly different.

While the iPhone 8 Plus’ telephoto camera lens has an f/2.8 aperture, the iPhone X’s telephoto camera has a faster f/2.4 aperture, which will help gather more light in low light settings. The iPhone X’s telephoto camera also comes with optical image stabilization, but not on the 8 Plus. This will help you get sharper images when shooting with the zoom, and steady video when capturing video.

Without Portrait Mode (left) and with Portrait Mode (right).

It’s worth noting that both the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X can shoot with Portrait Mode, which simulates nice background blur, and the new Portrait Lighting mode, which mimics the effects of studio lighting. All the new iPhones get a 7MP front camera with f/2.2 aperture, but the X is the only one that can shoot with Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting (beta) using both the front and rear cameras. Check out Portrait Lighting in action:-

If you like animoji, get the iPhone X. Only the front camera on the iPhone X can let you animate a poop emoji using your face. Looks like fun, actually.

If you want a lot of storage without breaking the bank, get the iPhone 8. You can get 256GB of storage on an iPhone 8 for S$1,388, while the same amount of storage on an iPhone 8 Plus will set you back by S$1,548, and on the iPhone X it’s a whopping S$1,888.

If you want the longest battery life, get the iPhone 8 Plus. Based on Apple’s specs, it looks like the iPhone 8 Plus has slightly longer battery life than the iPhone X. They both have the same talk time of 21 hours and audio playback of 60 hours, but the iPhone 8 Plus has one hour more of internet use at 13 hours, and one more hour of wireless video playback at 14 hours.

It’s not a significant advantage, and battery life always varies depending on usage. But if you must eke out the most from your iPhone, it looks like the 8 Plus will last longer.

Should you even upgrade? If you own an older iPhone, here’s a rundown of the new, significant features you get if you upgrade (we’ve left out features from this list, like splash/water/dust resistance, which were already available on previous iPhones).

  iPhone X iPhone 8 Plus iPhone 8
Cameras 12MP dual rear cameras with new sensor 12MP dual rear cameras with new sensor 12MP rear camera with new sensor
Optical image stabilization Dual OIS (new) OIS on wide-angle camera (available since iPhone 6 Plus) OIS on wide-angle camera (available since iPhone 7)
Flash Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync
Portrait Mode Available Available (also available on iPhone 7 Plus) N.A.
Portrait Lighting (beta) Available Available N.A.
Front Camera Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting Available N.A. N.A.
Video Recording Up to 4K at 60fps Up to 4K at 60fps Up to 4K at 60fps
Display 5.8” OLED screen with True Tone display 5.5” LCD screen with True Tone display 4.7” LCD screen with True Tone display
Secure Authentication Face ID Touch ID (available since iPhone 5S) Touch ID (available since iPhone 5S)
Processors A11 Bionic chip A11 Bionic chip A11 Bionic chip
Wireless charging Works with Qi chargers Works with Qi chargers Works with Qi chargers

 

Still can’t decide? If you’re still unsure which iPhone to get, read our review of the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X where we go deeper into the new iPhones.

And catch our iPhone X on video, then read about our first impressions from using the iPhone X. Also, see our hands-on galleries with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and the iPhone X, as well as our thoughts on the new iPhones’ wireless charging capabilities

Apple also has a helpful comparison page where you can compare the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X at a glance.

Good hunting!

 

This article was first published on Sep 21, 2017.