One year on: Apple iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and the Apple Watch Series 3

We look back at how our Apple iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X and the Watch S3 have fared over the past year.

On the eve of Apple's iPhone launch event, where the Cupertino giant is expected to announce three new iPhones, our reviewers at tech2 take a long, hard look at how the 2017 iPhone lineup and the Apple Watch have fared over the past year.

Ankit Vengurlekar gives us a deep dive into what he hates and loves about his iPhone X, while Sheldon Pinto tells us how he will miss the iPhone 8 Plus and its home button. Anirudh Regidi tells us a story about how he remains quite happy and satisfied with the iPhone 8, while Nimish Sawant explains why the non-LTE version of the third-gen Apple Watch is a much better choice.

 

Ankit Vengurlekar on the Apple iPhone X

"The iPhone X makes me angry, quite angry"

I’ve spent the last year using Apple iPhone X and while I am extremely happy using Cupertino’s flagship, I am also angry, quite angry.

The main reason for my displeasure is the lack of a second SIM card slot. Think about it, you spend over Rs 1 lakh, and you’re using a Vodafone/Airtel/Idea SIM card and you’ve recently got yourself a spanking new Jio SIM… I mean why not right? The data plans are great and so is the 4G net speed… for most part… But to be able to use a secondary SIM, you need to buy another phone… how ridiculous is that.

I’ve never been a fan of tech companies making decisions for consumers. I am hence not a fan of the forced omission of the 3.5 mm headphone jack from all new the iPhones. I am not a fan of NOT being able to use last year’s MOST celebrated software feature… Animojis across social media or messaging apps. YES! Apple iPhone’s Animojis can only be used to express your animated expressions on iMessage. I mean… how arrogant and myopic do you have to be!

One year on: Apple iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and the Apple Watch Series 3

The 2017 iPhone line up. Image: tech2/Rehan Hooda

Unfortunately in today’s environment, if you as much as as utter a critical word against any company, you’re immediately divided in camps. "...Oh but he’s an Apple hater." "...Oh but he’s an Android fanboy!" Truth is, I am both a fan and hater of Apple and Android, and of every other technology out there. Because, we humans aren’t binary and contrary to popular belief we have more than 50 shades of grey in our minds.

I have absolutely LOVED using the Apple iPhone X because of my use case. I am a video content creator. As editor of tech2, I have traveled to countless conferences across the world and in India and have use the iPhone X with my trusty DJI Osmo Mobile gimbal to make cinematic looking videos. The A11 chip is unbelievably efficient and powerful. The ease of shooting, editing and uploading a 4K video right from your phone still continues to blow my mind. As most creative folks, photographers and filmmakers can vouch for, the iPhone’s colours are the most true to life and neutral, allowing tinkerers to play with the final output in post processing.

Apple iPhone X in Silver. Image: tech2/Rehan Hooda

Apple iPhone X in Silver. Image: tech2/Rehan Hooda

The edge to edge 5.8-inch display is stunning to hold, look at and use on a daily basis. Folks might laugh at me, but I have slapped on tempered glass screen protectors and in a year of usage, have seen two of them shatter and yet keep my phone safe and scratch free. The silicon case that costs about Rs 3,500 is absolutely fantastic in the grip and protection it offers. It was pristine white when I got it, and continues to resemble some shade of white through a year of running, trekking, partying and desk-ing. Oh did I mention battery life? It isn't great. I don't mind plugging in the charge twice everyday...but in a landscape that has OnePlus' Dash Charge and Oppo's SuperVOOC quick charging tech, the ridiculously long time it takes to charge the Iphone X with a standard 2.4A charger is tragic and hilarious. Of course, you may buy the 12 watt fast charger or a USB-C to lightning cable and adapter, but that costs extra... You and I have incredible contribution in making Apple the world's first 1 trillion dollar company (rolls eyes).  NOTHING beats the experience of plugging in your phone for 30 minutes for 80 percent charge, OnePlus and Oppo have outdone Apple in that department.

Image: tech2/Rehan Hooda

Image: tech2/Rehan Hooda

The Achilles heel of iPhone X has been the shitty software experience. I’ve used iPhones for about 5 years. And never before was the iOS experience so bad, so half baked and so unreliable. I’ve had countless screen freezes. I’ve had hundreds of occasions of apps crashing mid-use. I’ve had annoying formatting issues on apps like WhatsApp and Instagram… only because the world wasn’t ready for that notch design. Yes, that notch… I’ve grown to ignore it. It doesn’t annoy me as much today as it annoyed me a year ago. Yes, iOS 11 has gotten better with every successive update… but every time the software misbehaved, I cussed under my breath. We’re all too familiar with the infamous Telugu character bug that crashed all iPhones. This has been the MOST unstable iPhone I’ve ever used in all my years of reviewing phones. I sincerely hope that iOS 12 brings a stable and reliable software experience.

Apple iPhone X may be the best that Cupertino can do, but it isn’t the best phone in the world anymore.

In conclusion, I’ll say this. Apple iPhone X may be the best that Cupertino can do, but it isn’t the best phone in the world anymore. I have spent more than Rs 4,000 on charging cables. More than Rs 10,000 on bluetooth earphones (airpods don't fit in my ears) and I don’t think one can out a price on the frustration caused by the buggy iOS 11 software. So net net, good phone, but not the best. I’d pick up my Pixel 2 XL every single time even time to take a photograph. And I’d pick up the iPhone X to shoot a video.

 

Sheldon Pinto on the Apple iPhone 8 Plus

"Practical and notch-free, but definitely needs a makeover"

Having switched to iOS, after the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, as my daily driver, the iPhone 8 Plus felt at home when I started using it a year ago. It’s like no other iPhone in existence today. It’s huge, heavy, and bulky but surprisingly a better device to use than the recently launched Samsung Galaxy Note 9 that I reviewed not too long ago.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

It’s been through a surprising number or drops and it has the scars and the dents to show. It’s also been through the Mumbai monsoons, placing calls like boss, despite getting soaked in the pouring rain. And it is for this very reason, it would be my 'go to' smartphone whether I was attending events or travelling on a vacation.

But there are couple of problems.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

As much as I love the iPhone 8 Plus and I have primarily been a ‘Plus’ device user, it’s easy to point out how outdated the 8 Plus looked as soon as it was launched. In a world of “almost bezel-less” and “truly bezel-less” Android devices that I have been reviewing through the year, the 8 Plus just would not be the smartphone that most buyers would have picked last year, unless they were on a budget and desperately needed better battery life. The iPhone X indeed stole the show.

The iPhone X indeed stole the show.

The camera, despite performing well after launch has now been outdone by the Google Pixel 2, the Huawei P20 Pro and Galaxy S9 Plus and the Galaxy Note 9. Low light performance is a joke for a device with an asking price upwards of Rs 77,560 in 2018.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

But there are reasons why I will miss the iPhone 8 Plus.

While “bezel-less” is the buzzword among smartphone manufacturers these days, they are not really practical when it comes to daily tasks. I play a lot of games on my iPhone 8 Plus, and I’m going to miss those bezels that let me hold on to this massive phone with one hand using my thumb without touching the display and interfering with my game. Another reason I will miss the bezel is because of Touch ID.

At the moment, it’s hard for me to use a face unlock system (or Face ID) because it does not work as flawlessly or as quickly as a fingerprint reader. More so, I hate the idea of staring at my phone to unlock it.

And with the missing (static) button, everyone who loves the Home button (like I do) will have to get used to gestures. I absolutely hate the idea of swiping to get to the home screen, which almost feels counter-intuitive when compared to a straightforward tap on the home button.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Image: tech2 / Sheldon Pinto

Want to unlock your iPhone when it lying next your keyboard on your office desk? Well, get used to peeping over your phone to show your mug because that’s what everyone who upgrades from an iPhone 8 and an iPhone 8 Plus will be in for.

While I would readily appreciate the upgrade to an OLED display and the intrusive display notch, the iPhone 8 Plus may still be an attractive buy for old school iPhone users even in 2019.

 

Anirudh Regidi on the Apple iPhone 8

"Still a solid 8/10"

My iPhone 8 has been used and abused in all corners of the world. It’s gone swimming off the coast of Hawaii — in sea water, shot 50-minute interviews at 4K 60 fps, covered the crazy chaos of ChinaJoy 2018, entertained me on 15-hr flights and has been my constant companion on my 3-hr commute.

I’ve shot video in the pouring rain, dropped it down the stairs (only once, I swear), have edited hours of 4K footage and sent thousands upon thousands on messages, all from that little screen.

Not once in all that time did this little marvel of engineering let me down. It’s been a true workhorse.

This unassuming little phone has proven itself to be quite the workhorse. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

This unassuming little phone has proven itself to be quite the workhorse. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

There have been moments of weakness when I’ve considered other phones. When I use the Note 8, I’m mesmerised by that stunning OLED display. When I use the OnePlus 6, my skin tingles at the sensation of raw performance. When I use the Pixel 2, I’m tempted away by the stunning camera.

There’s nothing, other than the camera, that I actually like about the phone.

But I keep going back to the iPhone 8. The Note 8’s display is beautiful, but Samsung’s UI sucks and the phone is too big. The OnePlus 6 is almost perfect, but its video capabilities are disappointing and that display is just too oversaturated. With the Pixel 2, I don’t even know where to start. There’s nothing, other than the camera, that I actually like about the phone.

The rear camera is very good for stills, but is unmatched in the video department. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

The rear camera is very good for stills, but is unmatched in the video department. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

One year later, the iPhone 8 is running exactly as well as it did at launch. There has been some wear and tear of course, but being a premium phone, that wear and tear is much less than one would expect:

The screen, on which I’ve never used a scratch-guard, has a couple of tiny scratches but is otherwise fine.

The frame has a couple of dents from falls, but is othewise pristine. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

The frame has a couple of dents from falls, but is othewise pristine. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

The oleophobic coating on the screen has long since disappeared so the display does get smudged easily. That being said, the coating lasted 6-8 months, which is far longer than anything I’ve experienced in the Android world.

Battery life is still as abysmal as it was at launch, but when you pick a phone with a 1,900 mAh battery, that’s something you’ve already made peace with. In terms of wear, the battery health indicator in iOS 11 tells me that I have 88 percent of capacity left, which is impressive since I end up charging the phone twice a day at a minimum.

Despite using a case, or probably because of it, the glass-covered rear has a few, near-invisible scratches at the edges.

The aluminium frame is clean except for a couple of minor dents from falling off my bed a couple of times.

Minor iOS bugs aside, the phone has been very stable.

There's a bit of grime collected on the very edges of the frame. It shows up more prominently because the phone is white. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

There's a bit of grime collected on the very edges of the frame. It shows up more prominently because the phone is white. Image: tech2 / Anirudh Regidi

The one place that’s a bit icky is the frame of the display glass. The phone’s front glass, at the edges, curves into a tiny plastic lip. That lip has collected a tiny amount of dirt, and that dirt is black, which stands out on my silver (almost white) iPhone 8. This can be hidden behind a case, though.

One year later, I still think the iPhone 8 is a joy to use. I’d love a better camera though.

 

Nimish Sawant on the Apple Watch

"One year on, the Apple Watch non-LTE version still shines"

Apple had announced two Watch editions last generation — a GPS variant and a GPS+LTE variant — at the Apple event this time last year. I used the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS variant for the first six months and have been using the LTE variant since April this year. After having used both these watches for a significant amount of time, one thing that stood out for me was that I would use the calling functionality on the LTE edition Watch only around 8-10 times. And half of that was while was I was reviewing the Series 3 Watch with LTE.

The mobile data signal shows up only when the Watch is not in the vicinity of the paired iPhone. Image: tech2/Prannoy Palav

The mobile data signal shows up only when the Watch is not in the vicinity of the paired iPhone. Image: tech2/Prannoy Palav

The Apple Watch Series 3 has been a great companion to the Apple iPhone X that I have been using for close to a year. I particularly love the workout modes on the Watch which also supports the autopause feature, a boon when you are running in Mumbai traffic, where you have to constantly halt at traffic signals. The Watch's build quality is commendable as I noticed that no matter how many times the display of the Watch scratched along walls with rough surfaces, it didn't leave any scratch marks on. The aluminum case housing the watch is equally sturdy towards any sort of scratches.

Considering a lot of third-party apps have stopped support for its watchOS apps, I noticed that apart from being a secondary display for my notifications, I didn't really have much scope to do much interaction purely via the Watch. Yes, I could respond to iMessages with voice commands or by typing on the Watch's display (it's annoying, to be honest). But the software lends itself really well whenever you are listening to music. Changing tracks, increasing or decreasing the volume can all be done without pulling out the iPhone from your pocket. With the LTE variant, I didn't even have to carry my iPhone on the runs. Pairing the Watch, I downloaded all my playlists and using the AirPods or any other Bluetooth headset it was easy to listen to music or even stream it while on the run. Of course with GPS on, LTE on and music on, it takes a toll on the battery life of the Watch.

The optical heart rate sensor on the Apple Watch. Image: tech2/Prannoy Palav

The optical heart rate sensor on the Apple Watch. Image: tech2/Prannoy Palav

The health features on the Watch are what make it valuable for a lot of users. Even after a six month period, the Breathe app never failed to nudge me whenever I was feeling a bit stressed. The constant heart rate monitoring allows the Watch to notice the slightest bit of change in your pulse rate, which can be triggered by any event. The Breathe app trigger which involves some breathing exercises certainly helps bring down high pulse rate. It's a good stress buster and alerts you to unnatural changes in pulse rates even when you are just sitting quietly.

The health features on the Watch are what make it valuable for a lot of users.

In terms of battery life, I did not notice a huge drop over the six month period. The non-LTE variant certainly gives slightly more battery life than the LTE variant. Barring the use of cellular signal on the LTE variant, battery life is pretty much the same on both Watch variants, which is around two days on regular use.

Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular with different watch bands. Image: Apple

Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular with different watch bands. Image: Apple

But if you are a serious runner, the battery life can be a downer. The major drawback that I found with the running tracker was that it would not really last beyond 3 hours. For a majority of runners that is good enough. But if you are preparing for the full marathon (42.195 km) and take around 4-5 hours to complete it, it would not be a good idea to have the Watch on, as the battery on it would drain by the 22-25 km mark. I've gone on many runs, and despite getting out of the house with a 100 percent battery, I could stretch it 25 km at best, before the battery on the Watch went under 10 percent and I had to end the run.

As the new Watch is announced at the Apple Gather Round event, if you already are an iPhone user on the fence about buying a Watch, I'd suggest you go for the non-LTE variant, unless you really do want to use that calling feature. I am really looking forward to a Watch which would last longer when you are working out though. Will the Series 4 Watch fulfill that requirement?

To keep up with live updates and analysis of the Apple Keynote, head to our live blog.

To keep up with all the latest updates regarding Apple launch, head to our Apple 2018 page.

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