After the entire Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Samsung comes back strong with the new Galaxy S8.
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S8 packs the best Android hardware you can have: four gigs of RAM, a Snapdragon 835, and a 64GB internal storage that can be expanded using a microSD card. It's a flagship device, so of course everything in it was put together to give a full-throttle experience.
During their Unpacked event last March 29, Samsung executives spoke at length about the new screen. They called it the Infinity Display, which sounds like the company is cashing in on Marvel's almost-guaranteed hit Avengers: Infinity War. In reality, the Infinity Display is just a fancy name for an improved dual-curved, pseudo-bezel-less screen. It's an OLED screen (meaning the pixels emit their own light) which, in both paper and to the ears, sounds cool. And it is.
You can configure the screen into three
different settings: 720p (HD+), 1080p (FHD+), and 1440p (UHD). Samsung warns
you that tuning up the screen into UHD with increased brightness will drain
battery life even faster.
Part of what makes the Infinity Display so big is the absence of a physical home button. This allowed Samsung to design the Galaxy S8 with a much larger screen without bloating up the phone to incredulous levels. I don't miss the home button as much as I thought I would, as the basic home, back, and menu buttons appear on screen itself.
On the right side of the screen is a virtual drawer that you can slide and bring out Edge features like People Edge and Apps Edge, which act as shortcuts. It's something that I personally never found useful as there are simpler and faster ways to reach your favorite contacts list, and apps shortcuts can be sorted out anyway. Suffice to say, the People and Apps Edge only give you a nice-looking, more organized way of navigation.
I am a huge fan of stock Android. Just plain vanilla Android, for reasons that should be really obvious if you know your tech. And it finally seems Samsung has started listening to people. The Galaxy S8's UX is all Samsung yet it looks so much like stock Android - simple and clean. This makes it hard to let go.
You can bring out all your apps by swiping up or down, which is really nice. Also, it's nice to point out that Galaxy S8 has Force Touch features. By tapping and holding on to the app, you can bring out a pop-up menu that allows you to do different things. Though there is still a lot of room for further developments here, it's a welcome feature nonetheless.
My major complaint about the Galaxy S8 (and this
is something I'm not alone in) is the placement of the fingerprint sensor.
Look, Samsung, we understand you have your own thing by refusing to put fingerprint sensors at the back of the phone, but I can't understand why you would put it on the right side of the camera. It's annoying. I'm left-handed and it takes my hand a bit of a stretch to reach the fingerprint sensor. This is an even bigger concern for people using the Galaxy S8+, which is an even larger phone. For the right-handed majority of the world's population however, you will be glad to know that I didn't find any problem with using the sensor with my right hand at all.
There were concerns that due to the sensor being on the side, people would end up smudging their camera with prints. This wasn't the case on our unit, as I squeezed out the grease between the microscopic creases of my fingers and rubbed them all over the camera and it didn't affect the picture quality.
However, our black unit (or whatever shade Samsung has decided to call their version of black) is a fingerprint muncher. Mere moments after admiring the phone, it was immediately smeared with prints everywhere. It's quite a nasty thing to look at because when clean, the Galaxy S8 looks really good.
I have not encountered issues with the fingerprint sensor after over 24-hours with it, unlike my experiences with other devices where it takes repeated tries for the phone to unlock. I found the fingerprint sensor to be the most effective and convenient layer of security. I dislike the facial recognition and iris scanner tech that Samsung is so proud of, simply because it makes you look like you're taking a selfie. I'm not into selfies and it bugs me that Samsung is actually encouraging me to do so.
And speaking of selfies, picture-taking, and whatnot, Samsung has integrated their own Snapchat-ish features onto their 12MP dual-pixel rear camera and 8MP front camera. In the light of things, I suppose it's because Samsung is trying to save you time, effort, and memory space by providing something you can use from the get-go instead of downloading an app from the Google Play Store.
It's amazing to note to that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0. This means you can pair these devices from a much larger distance between each other. It also means fast wireless transfer speeds.
But the biggest advantage of Bluetooth 5.0 is having enough bandwidth to allow two of the same devices to pair to the phone. For instance, you can now pair two Bluetooth headphones to a single Galaxy S8 unit. This removes the need to share earpieces with your significant other. You can also pair two different speakers if need be.
One of my least explored features of the phone is Samsung's own digital assistant, Bixby. It functions the same way as Google Assistant and supposed to be better than Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Microsoft's Cortana. It's kind of like that old S Voice that everyone hoped would just die and Samsung buried it hoping that no one would even remember it. But Bixby is different (or so Samsung says). Considering Bixby is of Samsung's own design, the AI is designed to do a lot more in in your phone such as change settings. In the Samsung website, it described Bixby as "constantly learning your ways so it can get better and better." That's so vague and scary at the same time.
On the left side of the phone below the volume rockers is the Bixby button. For Samsung to go so far as to put a physical button to summon the AI, I get the sense that the company plans to use him a lot more in the foreseeable future. Going in-depth about Bixby requires an article of its own, so we'll leave that for another day.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a great phone. Our local telcos will be happy to create promos and plans to rip you off. Give Samsung a clap folks; if the Galaxy Note 7 had damaged their reputation (and your pants), then the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will redeem them.