The key differences between the iPhone X and iPhone 8

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Apple’s Phil Schiller debuts the iPhone X at the company’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Apple (AAPL) brought us some huge news on Tuesday by unveiling three new versions of its iconic iPhone: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the top-of-the-line iPhone X.

Rolling out a trio of phones was an unusual, though not unexpected, move by Apple. But, if you’re an Apple fan, you’ve got a big decision to make: Which phone do you get?

To make your decision easier, I’m breaking down the differences between the 8, 8 Plus and X. Here are the basic differences:

  • Price — iPhone X costs $999, 8 Plus costs $799, 8 costs $699
  • Screen size — iPhone X 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display vs iPhone 8 4.7-inch screen and iPhone 8 Plus 5.5-inch panel
  • Cameras — iPhone X has a dual-lens, 12-MP camera with a larger aperture on its telephoto lens than the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus have; iPhone X and 8 Plus support Portrait and Portrait Lighting depth-of-field effects, while the iPhone 8 does not have this feature
  • Security —  iPhone X is the only one of the three to offer Face ID facial recognition
  • Battery — iPhone 8 Plus has a longer battery life than the iPhone X and iPhone 8
  • Home button — The iPhone X ditches the Home button for a gesture-style interface, while the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus get to keep it.

The screens

The most recognizable addition to the iPhone X is its slick new 5.8-inch edge-to-edge OLED screen that Apple calls its Super Retina HD display. Apple says the panel has a higher contrast ratio than the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus: 1 million to 1 versus 1,400 to 1 on the 4.7-inch 8 and 1,300 to 1 on the 5.5-inch 8 Plus.

The iPhone X on the left next to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

What does that mean? Well, colors will look truer to life and blacks will appear endlessly dark on the X. That’s not to say that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus’ Retina HD panels are bad. Like the X, the 8 and 8 Plus feature Apple’s True Tone display technology and 3D Touch. Basically, if you already love the iPhone’s display, the 8 and 8 Plus will be just as, if not more, beautiful as the 7 and 7 Plus.

But if you want the undisputed best iPhone screen, then the X will likely be the way to go.

The size

The iPhone X’s edge-to-edge panel means Apple was able to cram more screen onto the smaller phone body. Take the iPhone 8 Plus, for example. Its 5.5-inch screen and large top and bottom bezels push its frame to 6.2 x 3.1 x 0.30 inches. The iPhone 8, meanwhile, has a 4.7-inch display with a body that measures 5.5 x 2.7 0.29 inches.

But the iPhone X’s 5.8-inch screen is laid onto a device that’s 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.30 inches, or just about between the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. I don’t have any issues fitting my iPhone 7 Plus into my pocket, so the 8 Plus won’t make much of a difference to me. But there are times when its size can be a burden, like when I’m trying to use the phone with one hand while holding onto the subway pole during my morning commute. That’s where the iPhone X’s more compact size will be a welcome benefit.

The Home button

While the iPhone X’s new display gives you more real estate for videos and apps, it also means the death of the company’s iconic Home button. Yes, the simple circle that’s been a part of the iPhone since day one is gone. In its place is a gesture-style interface.

To get Home, you’ll now swipe up from the bottom of the display. If you want to navigate to an already open app, you’ll now swipe up from the bottom and pause. It seems intuitive, but it could confuse users who appreciate the fact that the iPhone’s fundamental design has remained unchanged through the years.

Apple has done away with the Home button on the iPhone X.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone Plus, on the other hand, keep the classic Home button, since they don’t have the extra screen space to contend with. That makes the 8 and 8 Plus ideal for shoppers who are more comfortable with the physical button rather than the digital interface. Or people like me who are easily frightened by change.

What does that mean for Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner? They’re still there on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but the X will use Apple’s new Face ID facial recognition system. Taking advantage of Apple’s TrueDepth camera, Face ID will be able to unlock your phone using your gorgeous mug in a snap. Apple says the technology is far more secure than Touch ID, claiming that there is just a 1 in 1 million chance that another person will be able to unlock your phone using Face ID.

What’s more, the company says it has ensured that Face ID can’t be tricked using masks or photos, something that tripped up Samsung’s facial recognition tech.

The cameras

The iPhone X sports a new dual-lens 12-MP rear camera in a vertical orientation rather than the horizontal style found on the iPhone 8 Plus.

The X is the big dog of the lineup, so it only makes sense that it also has the best camera of Apple’s new trio. Both of the X’s lenses offer optical image stabilization (OIS), which ensures that your images aren’t impacted when your hands shake. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 has a similar feature.

The X has a 1.8-aperture wide-angle lens and 2.4-aperture telephoto lens, while the iPhone 8 Plus has a 1.8-aperture wide-angle lens and 2.8-aperture telephoto lens. A smaller number actually means a larger aperture. And, since a larger aperture allows in more light, the X should provide better low-light images, as well as a greater depth-of-field.

The iPhone X gets a 12-MP, dual-lens camera.

The X has also been specifically designed to play nice with Apple’s new AR Kit augmented reality software. That’s not to say the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus won’t be able to use apps running on AR Kit, just that the X is better suited for the technology.

Both the iPhone X and 8 Plus also come with the company’s new Portrait Mode for creating a bokeh effect that blurs the background of a photo while keeping the subject nice and clear in the foreground. They’ll also support Apple’s new Portrait Lighting feature that can simulate the kind of lighting you’d experience in different settings such as a photo shoot.

The iPhone 8 doesn’t offer either Portrait or Portrait Lighting mode since it only has a single camera.

Performance and battery

Each of the new iPhones come with Apple’s A11 Bionic chip, which includes the company’s own neural engine and embedded M11 motion coprocessor. The A11 is designed for augmented reality, facial recognition and graphics-intensive gaming.

With 6 cores, Apple says the chip is faster and more power efficient than the A10 Fusion chip found in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

As far as battery life, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are said to offer about as much juice as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, so expect about a full day’s worth of use from the 8 and more from the 8 Plus. Apple says the iPhone X, meanwhile will get 2 hours more battery life than the iPhone 8, but a bit less than the 8 Plus.

You’ll be able to wireless charge the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

The three handsets also support Qi wireless charging technology, something Android smartphone makers have offered for several years now. The name, however, is a bit deceiving, as you’ll still need a wire to plug in the charging mat you put your phone on.

More interesting, though, is the fact that the 8, 8 Plus and X are the first iPhones to get fast-charging technology. In fact, Apple says you’ll get about 50% of a charge in about 30 minutes. I’ll take a faster fill-up over a fancy wireless charging any day of the week.

That price

The iPhone X’s gorgeous new screen might be its most striking feature, but what truly differentiates the phone from the 8 and 8 Plus is its price tag. Starting at $999 for a 64 GB model, the iPhone X is one of the priciest iPhones ever. A 256 GB handset will set you back $1,149.

The iPhone 8, on the other hand will start at $699 for a 64 GB of storage and $849 for 256 GB. The 8 Plus, meanwhile, will cost you $799 64 GB of space and $949 for 256 GB.

Apple’s entire iPhone line-up.

If money is no object, the iPhone X’s price probably won’t phase you. But if the thought of crossing into quadruple-digit territory sends a shiver down your spine and into your wallet, then you’ll probably stick with the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.

Those are the biggest differences between the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus, though there are sure to be others we’ll uncover as we spend more time with the handsets.

Be sure to check out our hands-on previews of the trio, and don’t forget to watch for our review of the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus in the coming weeks.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

 

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