Apple’s two phone upgrades coming next week feel like modest improvements. Is that enough?

After months of rumors and speculation, the new iPhones are finally here. In addition to the special-edition iPhone X and a larger 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus counterpart, the iPhone 8 serves as the successor to last year’s iPhone 7 ($826.00 at Amazon Marketplace). You can preorder the new iPhone on Friday, Sept. 15, and it’ll be available next week on Sept. 22. The phone comes in two memory capacities, 64GB and 256GB. In the US it starts at $699. If you live in the UK it starts at £699 and in Australia it costs AU$1,079.

Like its predecessor, the iPhone 8 features a 4.7-inch Retina HD display and an aluminum body. But it has a slightly new look, with a steel-reinforced glass back, which allows for wireless charging. The iPhone is still dust- and water-resistant (satisfying the IP67 protection standards) and comes in silver, space gray and gold.

Apple also updated the iPhone’s camera chops. Though it still has a 12-megapixel rear shooter and optical image stabilization, it features additional color filters, a new sensor and software tweaks that make it easier to adjust lighting effects. Slow-motion video capture at 1080p gets smoother as well, at 240 frames per second (doubled from last year). 

Hands-on impressions: Familiar territory

Hey, isn’t that the iPhone 7? You’re going to get that a lot if you use the iPhone 8.

Apple’s phone that isn’t the fancy iPhone X feels like an odd in-betweener. Both the 8 and 8 Plus look casually identical to the 7 and 7 Plus (and pretty close to the 6S and 6S Plus, or for that matter, the 6 and 6 Plus). The back is glass now, which is shiny. The color finishes are a bit different. 

The glass feels sleek, but how durable is it? Will it shatter more than the older iPhones? Will it scratch? I don’t know.

New camera modes, like the Portrait Lighting beta that adds fancy lighting effects to Portrait Mode photos, seemed like a mixed bag in my brief time. Some were sharp, others seemed weird-looking.

As far as processor and camera quality, the promises seem incremental. In a quick demo, they’re impossible to appreciate.

The 8 is an under-the-hood upgrade at best, like a laptop with a new processor inside. In that sense, this phone feels like more of the same. How well it can handle improved AR, as Apple promises, remains to be seen. And it’s disappointing that the smaller 8 doesn’t have dual cameras. As a result, it can’t do Portrait Mode camera effects at all.

Powered by a proprietary six-core, 64-bit A11 Bionic processor, the iPhone 8 purportedly runs 30 percent faster than last year’s A10 CPU and runs more efficiently at half the power. With the A11 processor, Apple ushers its iPhone into AR-related apps and games, an industry that’s already been explored by rival companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft. It also features iOS 11 out of the box, which features new animated emojis, more languages with Siri’s translation services and a refreshed Control Center menu.

Apple Sept. 12 iPhone event live coverage: Read everything that happened at the event on CNET’s live blog.

iPhone X, iPhone 8: Everything we know about Apple’s new iPhones.

Here’s everything Apple announced Sept. 12: Apple TV, wireless charging and more.   

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