The Samsung Galaxy S8 is finally here and has a lot riding on it. Not only is it the successor to the Galaxy S7 which was probably the best phone from last year but is also Samsung’s flagship product after the recall of Note 7. Thus it comes as no surprise that Samsung has put almost everything it could on the Galaxy S8. I got a chance to play with the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ at the launch event and here are my initial impressions on these new phones.
Lets start with the design and the screen. That screen. Samsung calls the display on the S8 the “Infinity Display” to highlight how the body of the phone fades away from the front with tiny bezels on the top and bottom. It’s all about the display on the Galaxy S8 which has a screen size of 5.8-inches and the Galaxy S8+ which has a display of 6.2-inch. Even though the Galaxy S8 has a larger display than the Galaxy S7 edge, the overall size of the device is smaller and feels fantastic in your hands. Between the S8 and the S8+, I preferred the smaller version because it fits really well in your hands.
The massive screen on the front means that Samsung had to let go of it’s signature home button and capacitive keys that have been present on almost every Samsung phone that I can remember. Instead, the S8 has a virtual home button that is pressure sensitive with haptic feedback along with onscreen buttons. The pressure sensitive area will need some getting used to but worked as expected. Because of the lack of a physical button on the front, Samsung has also moved the finger print sensor on the back next to the camera. Again, it’s something that will require a bit of getting used to but works well.
To compensate, Samsung has added a new feature for unlocking your phone through face recognition and it's fast! Samsung has also added a more secure Iris Scanner to the S8 which was originally introduced with the Note 7. In order to use Samsung Pay, you will need to use the fingerprint sensor or the Iris scanner to authenticate which Samsung states are more secure- face recognition will only unlock the phone.
The build quality of the S8 is what you’d expect- impeccable. You get the usual set of buttons such as power and volume on the side along with a new button for bringing up Bixby- Samsung’s new voice assistant/hub of all things moving forward. While I was shown a demo of Bixby in action, the device I tested did not have it enabled. Based on the demo, Bixby can get to almost any action on your phone such as “increasing brightness to full” or “send the last picture taken to Joe.”
Samsung isn’t counting on Bixby to completely replace the touch functions on the phone and instead prefers to call it a “Talk and Type” experience. From what I saw, Bixby feels more like a work in progress- it was a bit slow to respond to commands. Samsung did mention that it will be rolling out updates on an almost weekly or biweekly basis to improve Bixby as well as add features. Bixby currently only works with Samsung apps but support for third party apps is also planned.
Coming to the specs, the Galaxy S8 will come equipped with a 10nm Exynos processor in the Middle East along with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. A microSD card slot is also present to increase storage. The phone felt incredibly zippy and fast during my few minutes with it but I’ll reserve the final judgement when I have one for a longer period of time with all my apps installed.
One area of the S8 that was a bit of a let down was the lack of a camera update. The Galaxy S8 uses the same back camera found on the Galaxy S7 which is fantastic, however, Samsung’s top competitors have all moved to a dual camera setup. Whether that’s done to provide a zoom, a wider angle shot or a better contrast, from a specs point of view, this could hurt the Galaxy S8. Samsung has improved the front camera though- it is now an 8MP variant with smart autofocus and facial recognition. Again, I’ll reserve my opinion on the camera when I get more time to play with it in different lighting conditions.
Overall, the Samsung S8 feels like a solid upgrade on the S7 and I have no doubts that it will be a very successful product. Even though LG is launching the G6 and Huawei is launching the P10 at the same time as the S8, I can bet that the Galaxy S8 will rise above both and carve its place amongst the best phones for this year. I know I'm buying it the day it's released.
Pricing and availability for the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ in the Middle East will be announced at a later stage. It will be available in a dual SIM variant and most likely in Black, Silver and Gold Colors in the region.