Don't underestimate the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

Any other year, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus would feel, well, magical. Apple's two new smartphones address some long-standing complaints from iPhone owners, like including wireless charging support; they look sleek, have improved cameras, and borrow clever screen technology from the iPad Pro. Of course, this year there's a shadow looming over both new handsets.

That's the iPhone X, and though it won't be available in stores for a month and a half – and even then, actually finding stock looks set to be a bigger challenge than Frodo faced getting to Mount Doom – it's already taken some of the shine off "iPhone day". While many Apple Stores around the world did have lines outside, their diminished numbers left the carefully roped-off forecourts looking almost comical.

It's not hard to see why. Although they may be called the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, these two new devices are clearly iterations on their predecessors, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple could have called them the 7S and 7S Plus, and nobody would've argued. That makes the comparisons with the legitimately different iPhone X all the more stark.

To be frank, not everybody is a fan of the iPhone X design. That notched display may allow Apple to fit in its fiendishly clever TrueDepth camera system, but it also looks, in honesty, a bit weird. It has a knock-on effect to the interface in iOS 11, too, and the price... well, that's been well discussed too. Sometimes it seems like, for every person who says they can't wait to buy the iPhone X, there's another saying they couldn't bring themselves to cough up a thousand dollars for it.

Even so, it's unmistakably new, where the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus don't look that way next to their predecessors, and for a lot of people that counts for something. It's a shame, too. I've been living with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus for the past few days, and there are some legitimate reasons why you shouldn't discount them, just because the person next to you might not realize you've upgraded your phone at first glance.

One of the biggest changes, for me, is something I forgot was part of the new iPhone until it ran me through the initial setup. TrueTone is familiar from the iPad Pro, using a clever ambient light sensor that not only measures the brightness of the space you're in, but the temperature of the light.

From that, it can adjust the color temperature of the screen accordingly. TrueTone is turned on by default – though it's easy enough to turn off if you prefer – and, honestly, most of the time you won't realize it's actually doing anything. That's by design: the iPhone 8 just wants the display to look like a sheet of white paper in whatever lighting you happen to be using it.

Indeed, I only really noticed the glaring difference – literally – when comparing the iPhone 7 Plus I'd been using previously with the iPhone 8 Plus. I've a terrible habit of using my phone at times I shouldn't, whether that be first thing in the morning to check the messages and alerts that have cropped up overnight, or in the evening when the bluish hue of the non-TrueTone display is, some research would suggest, spoiling my sleep patterns. It's anecdotal, yes, but I do feel like my eyes are less uncomfortable with TrueTone, and it's just more pleasant to use than my old iPhone was.

The other huge change is wireless charging. Sure, Android phones have had this for years; I've also been able to add it to previous iPhones with third-party cases from Mophie and others. It's not new in general, but in terms of specifically having it built into the iPhone? Game-changer.

Being able to drop my iPhone on a wireless pad and have it top up is just so much easier than plugging it in. I already have a Qi charger on my nightstand: dropping the iPhone 8 Plus on there required a pleasant change of muscle-memory. In short, if you've lived with wireless charging before, you'll know how great it is, and if the iPhone 8 is your first taste of it, you won't ever want to give it up.

MORE The iPhone X demands faith

I get it, the iPhone X is exciting. I've played with it myself, and I'm eager to spend more time with it. It certainly feels like the direction Apple is looking to take iPhone in for the next decade, while the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus feel more like the last hurrah of the old-school.

All the same, don't be too quick to discount them. Compared to earlier iPhones – heck, even to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus – there are strong, compelling reasons to upgrade. Apple may not have been inundated with lines of eager buyers this morning, but I suspect the mass market will find plenty to like in both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus.