Mobile Technology

A closer look at the key differences between all three new iPhones

A closer look at the key diffe...
Apple has three new iPhones for 2017 – so how can you tell them apart?
Apple has three new iPhones for 2017 – so how can you tell them apart?
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Apple has three new iPhones for 2017 – so how can you tell them apart?
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Apple has three new iPhones for 2017 – so how can you tell them apart?
Any 2017 iPhone can be charged wirelessly
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Any 2017 iPhone can be charged wirelessly
The premium iPhone X features a vertically aligned dual-sensor camera
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The premium iPhone X features a vertically aligned dual-sensor camera
All three models share the same IP67 waterproof rating
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All three models share the same IP67 waterproof rating
The iPhone X does away with the front bezels, and Touch ID at the same time
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The iPhone X does away with the front bezels, and Touch ID at the same time
Get used to Face ID if you buy an iPhone X
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Get used to Face ID if you buy an iPhone X

Now the dust has settled on the 2017 iPhone launch, we have a bit more information about the specs and options for the iPhone X, the iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. Whether you're planning to pre-order or just curious, here's what you need to know about how the phones stack up against each other.

This sort of deeper dive isn't usually possible until the day after an Apple show, because the company doesn't have time to reveal everything on stage, and it normally takes a few hours for all the details to get confirmed. Broadly speaking, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are this year's incremental upgrades, whereas the iPhone X represents a more substantial jump forward, especially in terms of the display.

Specs shared by all three new iPhones

Any 2017 iPhone can be charged wirelessly
Any 2017 iPhone can be charged wirelessly

Despite the substantial variations in price, these three new iPhones have more similarities than you might think. They're all powered by Apple's new A11 Bionic processor, which has six cores and is between 25-70 percent faster than last year's A10 chip, depending on the task at hand. We can't tell you about system memory though, as Apple never reveals information about RAM for its phones.

They all support wireless charging via the Qi standard, they all come with 64 GB or 256 GB of storage, and they're all splash-, dust-, and water-resistant with an IP67 rating – essentially they can survive the rain and a short, shallow dunking, but don't drop them in the pool for an extended period of time.

The displays are all different, which we'll get on to in a moment, but they all support 3D Touch, the same maximum brightness (625 cd/m2), the same wide color gamut, and Apple's True Tone technology, which adjusts the color temperature and intensity of the screen based on the surrounding lighting conditions.

What's more, they will of course all run iOS 11 out of the box. Apple's latest and greatest mobile operating system adds a host of improvements, including a more personalized Siri experience, some augmented reality superpowers, a revamped Control Center, more editing and filter options for your photos, and much more besides.

Differences in camera configurations

The premium iPhone X features a vertically aligned dual-sensor camera
The premium iPhone X features a vertically aligned dual-sensor camera

All three new iPhones make use of the same 12 MP sensors, but there are some differences here. On paper, there doesn't seem to be a huge jump from those used in the cameras of last year's iPhones, but Apple says its all-new sensors take in more light, work faster, and are better at reproducing colors.

One of these 12 MP sensors, with a f/1.8 aperture lens and optical image stabilization, is fitted to the iPhone 8. Step up to the iPhone 8 Plus and, like last year, you get two 12 MP cameras: one with a wide-angle f/1.8 aperture lens and one with a telephoto f/2.8 aperture lens, arranged horizontally. That extra camera allows for 2x optical zoom and the Portrait Mode effect (where the background of a shot is automatically blurred). New this year in the iPhone 8 Plus is a Portrait Lighting effect, where you can quickly adjust lighting styles.

The iPhone X also uses two 12 MP sensors, arranged vertically this time – there's a wide-angle f/1.8 aperture lens on one, and a telephoto f/2.4 aperture lens on the other, so that slightly wider aperture should let in slightly more light compared with the iPhone 8 Plus. You get everything included with the iPhone 8 Plus, including 2x optical zoom, Portrait Mode, and Portrait Lighting, as well as what Apple calls "dual optical image stabilization," so that's separate stabilizing mechanisms on each of the sensors.

All three phones can record video in 4K at up to 60 frames-per-second this year. And finally what of ARKit, the augmented reality platform coming with iOS 11? According to Apple all these phones are "calibrated" for AR, so you'll be able to run the same AR experiences through any of them. The only difference that's been highlighted so far is with the front-facing camera on the iPhone X – due to its advanced scanning capabilities, which we'll get to below – it can pull off tricks like face filters with more accuracy.

Differences in design and display

All three models share the same IP67 waterproof rating
All three models share the same IP67 waterproof rating

As you'll have realized looking at the press shots of these devices, whereas the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus follow the design approach of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (only this time with all-glass backs to enable wireless charging), the iPhone X goes for a revamped, bezel-free, full-screen approach, similar to other flagships we've seen this year.

That 5.8-inch iPhone X screen packs in 2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458 ppi) and adds HDR support for good measure. It also uses OLED technology rather than the IPS LCD on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which should result in a brighter, more vivid display. Finally, it boasts a whopping 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio (the difference between whites and blacks), so the display really is the star of the show on Apple's new premium level iPhone.

Compare that to the 5.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel (401 ppi) panel on the iPhone 8 Plus, with a typical 1,300:1 contrast ratio; or the 4.7-inch, 1,334 x 750 pixel (326 ppi) panel on the iPhone 8. Those numbers match up exactly with the screens used in last year's iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7, by the way, if you're wondering whether to upgrade.

The iPhone X does away with the front bezels, and Touch ID at the same time
The iPhone X does away with the front bezels, and Touch ID at the same time

Although it has a bigger screen, banishing the bezels means the iPhone X is actually smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus – 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.303 in) versus 158.4 x 78.1 7.5 mm (6.24 x 3.08 x 0.295 in). The iPhone 8 measures 138.4 x 67. 3 mm (5.45 x 2.65 in) and is the thinnest of the lot at 7.3 mm (0.287 in). In weight too, the iPhone X sits between the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus.

That all-encompassing screen is the reason for the other major "exclusive' feature on the iPhone X – Face ID – which we've already covered in detail. Apple either didn't want to use Touch ID under its new screen, or couldn't get it working in time, so you unlock the phone by glancing at it (a method Apple says is even more secure than Touch ID). As we've already mentioned, those advanced scanning sensors near the front camera enable some clever 3D effects, including animated emoji responses.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus feature the Touch ID of old, with no 3D facial recognition and no so-called "animoji." The lack of a traditional Home button forces some other changes on the iPhone X too: you swipe up to go to the home screen, for example, and swipe down from the top right to get to the Control Center.

The early verdict

Get used to Face ID if you buy an iPhone X
Get used to Face ID if you buy an iPhone X

If you're bamboozled by the three new iPhones that Apple's unveiled, the differences aren't actually that difficult to get your head around. The internals are very similar, but the iPhone X offers a radical redesign and a screen that's an upgrade in just about every way possible: HDR, OLED, pixel resolution, contrast and so on. If that matters to you, it might be worth the extra outlay. If not, the markup may feel pretty huge.

There's no doubt cost is going to be a big factor for anyone buying an iPhone this year. Without a contract, you'll pay an upfront cost of US$699 (64 GB) or $849 (256 GB) for the iPhone 8, $799 (64 GB) or $949 (256 GB) for the iPhone 8 Plus, and $999 (64 GB) or $1,149 (256 GB) for the iPhone X.

There's a rumor that supplies of the iPhone X are limited, which seems to be backed up by the pre-order and shipping dates: October 27 and November 3 respectively, compared with September 15 and September 22 for the two iPhone 8 models. And if color matters to you, gold is only an option on the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. Silver and space gray are the other color options across all three models.

It won't be until reviewers and users alike have physically got hold of these phones that we'll know just how successful the 2017 iPhones are going to be, but from the start it's clear that Apple is betting big on the iPhone X being the future standard for the smartphone – the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus feel like afterthoughts by comparison, and on their own wouldn't have tempted many to upgrade their iPhones this year. Whether Apple fans have the cash and Apple has the stock to make the iPhone X a success, we'll have to wait and see.

Product page: Apple

1 comment
Rustgecko
The FaceID is a solution without a problem. During the presentation there was an applause for the increase in security from 1:50,000 to 1:1milion. Is anyone lying awake at night worrying that their iPhone6/7 has an "only" 1:50k security? Is anyone worried that their iphone6/7 finger print takes 1/2 second to open? I think not. I am afraid this is a case where they have found a new toy and are trying to justify it. (NB I am not for one moment saying the iPhoneX won't sell like hotcakes.)