Samsung, last week, announced the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus smartphones, after seeing it leaked many times ahead of the announcement. Samsung seemingly checked all of the boxes with these two devices, but that doesn't mean it's the perfect smartphone. And now that both devices are available for pre-order, many are wondering whether they should take the plunge and pick up either device. Well, we are going to help you with that decision, by explaining what's good about both smartphones, what's bad, and what's ugly about them.
Samsung didn't make a big deal about the aspect ratio on their displays for both smartphones here, and that's likely due to the fact that Samsung did a better job at making existing content work great on these taller displays. While the LG G6 display is 18:9, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus displays are slightly taller at 18.5:9. Samsung has built in a few tricks to make 16:9 video play better on these smartphones. Including a way to zoom into a video and cut off the edges, in apps like YouTube.
With a curved screen comes some new software features. All of the usual Edge features are present on this family of devices this year. So you can swipe in from the edge for different apps, shortcuts and even contacts. Samsung decided to make both models a curved smartphone, which means this year your only choice is the size, and not a curved or a flat display. Since the Galaxy S7 Edge sold much better than the Galaxy S7 last year, this isn't a huge surprise.
Of course, the fact that the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus ship with 64GB of storage inside is a good thing. Where many smartphones – including the LG G6 – are still shipping with 32GB as the base storage (and some aren't even offering a higher storage capacity), this is a good thing. While Samsung's overlay is known for taking up a good amount of space, bumping up the storage to 64GB is still a good thing. And if that isn't enough storage, there is still a micro SD card slot available, to expand the storage further if needed.
Inside the Galaxy S8 is the Snapdragon 835, and this was truly our first experience using a Snapdragon 835-powered device, as the Galaxy S8 does have an exclusive on that chipset. While we didn't use it for that long at Unpacked, we did still have a good experience with the chipset. It's not going to be a huge improvement over the Snapdragon 821, but it is an octa-core chipset, instead of a quad-core like the Snapdragon 820 and 821 SoC's were. Which means there are a few more low-powered cores that will allow for better standby time.
One thing that Samsung does better than almost everyone, is announcing a smartphone and telling people exactly when they can pre-order it and when it can be purchased. Out of all the phones announced at Mobile World Congress, none of them stated when pre-orders opened up, nor when they would be available in store. But for Samsung, they opened pre-orders that night, at 9PM PDT, and then announced that they'll be available on April 21st. Which is less than a month after announcing the device. This is what manufacturers need to do. Because if you leave more time between the unveiling and the availability, people will forget about the device, and perhaps move onto looking to purchase something else. So good on Samsung for getting pre-orders going quickly, and making it available relatively quickly as well.
While it's not that much of a surprise, the pricing of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus is not good. Starting at about $720 (although most places price it at $750), the Galaxy S8 is not a cheap smartphone. It's priced very similarly to the iPhone, which is something that Android fans typically make fun of Apple users about. Now, Samsung is offering up some freebies that make the price sting a little less, but that is still quite a bit of cash for a smartphone. Samsung is bundling in a pair of AKG earbuds, that are typically $100, so that does also help drive up the cost, unfortunately.
The fingerprint sensor is by far the worst part of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus. Now that's saying a lot good and bad about the device, if the worst thing we can complain about is the position of the fingerprint reader. Samsung opted to put it next to the camera. Which is in a pretty awkward position for a fingerprint reader, and most people will end up touching the camera instead of the sensor, and getting that camera all dirty. This was rumored to be a last minute change – and it definitely looks like it – but on the bright side it does allow Samsung to add in a larger battery, and still have plenty of room for it to breathe without it experiencing the same issues as the Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung went safe with the capacity of the batteries on these new smartphones. Keeping the same 3000mAh battery in the Galaxy S8 and actually reducing the capacity from the Galaxy S7 Edge to the Galaxy S8 Plus at 3500mAh. Now the numbers that Samsung is touting on these batteries, for battery life, is fairly similar if not the same as last year's flagships. But those numbers always need to be taken with a bit of salt. The reason for that is these numbers come from a lab, but when users actually use their smartphones, they aren't using it like it's in a lab. So while Samsung may say you can get 12 hours of talk time on a device, you actually might get more or less, depending on other factors. And with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus sporting larger displays, it's tough to say whether battery life will be good or not this year, until we get our hands on them to do more testing.
Bixby. I hate to say it, but it's another half-baked feature that Samsung has implemented into their devices. It's another feature that duplicates a Google feature that is already on the device. Bixby is cool and all, from the time we spent with it at Unpacked, but there's a lot missing here. For one, it only currently works with a handful of apps. As is usually the case with new smartphone features, Samsung is relying on developers to make Bixby really good, by adding support in their apps. This didn't work that well for Multi-window (at least not in the first couple of years) and that will likely be the case for Bixby, unfortunately. Additionally, it's basically Google Now, but for Samsung. This is going to be confusing to users, because many of them already use Google Now, and Google Now gives them more information. Also, Google Now, and even Google Assistant have one important feature that makes them way better than Bixby, and it's in their name. Google. Bixby does not have Google's knowledge graph behind it. So asking Bixby questions about the president, or what year LeBron James started in the NBA, won't work with Bixby, but it will with Google Assistant.
DeX is an interesting feature, but definitely not a practical one. Think about it, it's cool that you can dock your Galaxy S8 into this DeX dock and have it connected to a monitor and a mouse and keyboard setup, and use the device as a desktop computer. Definitely cool. But how often are you actually going to use that? Probably not that often if ever. If you're traveling, you'd need to bring a monitor, mouse and keyboard. Which is just not practical at all. While many of us do travel with a mouse, that's much more practical than bringing basically an entire desktop setup. Most people will just opt to bring a laptop, or even a Chromebook (the Samsung Chromebook Plus is a good option) with them. Not to mention the fact that the dock starts at $149, making it pretty expensive, and likely to not sell well at all.
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus are not compatible with Google's Daydream platform, and it's hard to figure out why. They both meet all of the requirements for Daydream, including having an AMOLED display. Our best guess is that either Samsung has not worked with Google to enable support just yet, or that Samsung may be looking to push consumers to use Gear VR rather than Daydream. Which could very well be true, and it's similar to what they have done with other apps and services in the past.