If you’re wondering why there were no Tweets from me today about the long-awaited Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ launches, it’s because Samsung didn’t invite me to its latest (and arguably most significant) Unpacked event.
But I couldn’t sit by without writing something about these devices, given the fact these phones are as big as any new iPhone launch.
You see, no matter what else the industry comes up with in the Android space, most consumers, retailers and network operators are going to be focussing their interest on these devices. Just wait and see how much Samsung will spend on marketing in the coming months, or how much space is set aside in every shop to demonstrate the phones.
The S8 and S8+ were leaked widely weeks ago, and everything that leaked was entirely accurate. About the only details people needed to get from the formal launch today was price and a release date, and we got both of these.
Pricing will be £689 for the S8 and £779 for the S8+, with both models bundled with high-performance AKG earphones by Harman (which will also be sold separately). Not exactly cheap, but nobody expected anything else. In fact, I was expecting the prices to be higher.
So we already knew about the near bezel-less phones with the latest edge-to-edge screen technology, and the fact that both phones have huge displays. The lower S8 model having a 5.8-inch display, and the higher S8+ model coming with a 6.2-inch display.
Given the slightly different aspect ratio, and almost no bezels, the larger sized screens don’t mean the phones are absolutely massive either, although the S8+ is perhaps going to be a little too tall for all tastes.
But that’s exactly why there are two to choose from.
What people can’t choose is a model without the edge display, and in terms of usability over great design, that might be the only real issue that anyone has once the phones get into the wild. Reviews will be glowing, naturally, but does everyone like this screen design?
|Galaxy S8||Galaxy S8+|
|OS||Android 7.0 Nougat|
|Network||LTE Cat. 16|
|Dimension||148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm, 155g||159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173g|
|AP||Octa core (2.3GHz Quad + 1.7GHz Quad), 64 bit, 10 nm process
Octa core (2.35GHz Quad + 1.9GHz Quad), 64 bit, 10 nm process
*May differ by markets and mobile operators
|Memory||4GB RAM (LPDDR4), 64GB (UFS 2.1)
*May differ by markets and mobile operators
|Display||5.8” (146.5mm) Quad HD+
|6.2” (158.1mm) Quad HD+
|Note: Screen measured diagonally as a full rectangle without accounting for the rounded corners|
|Camera||Rear: Dual Pixel 12MP OIS (F1.7), Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)|
|Battery||3,000 mAh||3,500 mAh|
|Fast Charging on wired and wireless
Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM
Bluetooth® v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), ANT+, USB Type-C, NFC,
Location (GPS, Galileo*, Glonass, BeiDou*)
*Galileo and BeiDou coverage may be limited.
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor,
Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Heart Rate Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Iris Sensor, Pressure Sensor
|Audio||MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, DSF, DFF|
|Video||MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM|
The huge AMOLED displays are HDR Premium accredited by the UHD Alliance, and the phones are waterproofed, with Gorilla Glass 5 protection front and rear.
Wireless charging is supported on all variants, unlike the confusing setup that sees European LG G6 customers having to go without.
Memory expansion (up to 256GB) is retained and both models support Gigabit 4G (1050 DL/150Mbps UL) for incredible 4G speeds, where supported. European users will get the Samsung made Exynos powered chipset, while in the US it will be Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835.
Benchmarking results are already starting to appear online, and time will tell if either has any major advantages (or disadvantages) over the other.
Security comes from a range of options, from PIN codes to patterns, to fingerprint reading, IRIS scanning and facial recognition. Pretty much everything is covered here, although the battery capacities seem lower than I would have liked on a 2017 flagship phone – even if the 10nm process chipset promises to reduce power consumption and battery-killing heat.
Early reports suggest the camera isn’t just similar to that of last year’s flagship, but actually identical. The only changes come in software.
However, there are a few more tricks like some funny Snapchat-style features (see BTekt’s video below) and optimisation to get better shots in low-light.
In the coming days, those who got review devices will be posting photos and video from the phones and I am keen to see just how good the camera is – now there’s some incredible competition on the market.
The top accessory of interest for the S8 and S8+ is the DeX Station, which is Samsung’s take on Microsoft’s Continuum, which was a take on a feature introduced on Motorola’s Atrix some years ago.
DeX is a dock that gives two USB 2 ports, Ethernet, and outputs a desktop image with Android apps running within windows. Connect a keyboard and mouse and it’s like carrying a desktop computer in your pocket.
The same dock also fast-charges the S8 or S8+, similar to the more simple fast charging dock that can be adjusted to let you place the phone flat on it, or prop it up like the dock.
Whereas Motorola was ahead of its time and didn’t have the hardware to fully realise the potential, Microsoft and Samsung has managed to take advantage of modern-day tech. The difference is, Windows 10 for mobile is going nowhere. The S8 and S8+ are phones that are going to sell in huge numbers.
Whether that’s enough to make such an idea really take off, even with adapted apps from Microsoft and Adobe to make better use of a larger display, remains to be seen – but it’s the best chance the concept has had so far.
Personally, I think that combining a normal Android smartphone with a Chromebook (that can run Android apps too) is a better way to do things, but for outright portability the DeX dock might be very appealing to many – and it looks damn cool to boot!
Samsung also launched an updated Gear 360 camera (a 360 degree camera that records in 4K) with new software to let you stream 360-degree video in real-time on many popular social media networks. It’s sleeker and very interesting in its own right.
A new Gear VR with controller, powered by Oculus, enhances the VR experience, while Bixby is a new voice assistant that Samsung has developed to compete with other existing services, and also to work seamlessly with Samsung’s range of IoT devices.
I’m in two minds over whether AI and IoT can become mass market when so many differing standards and services exist. Why waste time trying to do so many of the same things when there’s so much other work to be done still.
My guess is Samsung is, as ever, trying to ensure it has some of its own tech for when the day comes that it decides to ditch Google and go it alone. Historically, Bada and Tizen OSes, and a range of ‘S-Apps’ were Samsung’s way of preparing to leave Android (and look how they turned out).
Finally, comes a range of accessories – of which many more designs will come in the future – both official and third-party.
Samsung has to recover from a tarnished reputation after the Note 7, but I think it can easily pull that off. In the UK, the Note line was never really a big thing anyway. Besides the tired jokes that appear in any commenting on any Samsung-related article, I don’t think anyone has stopped considering (or owning) a Samsung phone.
But if there is one thing that might put some people off (more so than the edge design that isn’t necessary to all tastes), it’s the fingerprint sensor location – on the right of the camera lens.
Samsung wasn’t happy with the tech that was meant to make the reader part of the screen itself (which would have been pretty awesome). To avoid further negative publicity that going with something that didn’t work perfectly would have brought, a physical sensor had to be put back on.
But where it ended up has to be the worst possible place to put it – and I say that as someone who has always liked the position on the back, just in the middle and not too close to the camera.
Sure, muscle memory should mean that within a few days any owner will get used to it, but it’s definitely something that partially spoiled the excitement around the new phones.
I expect this to be mentioned, and derided, in every single review this phone is going to get.
The Samsung S8 and S8+ will be released on the 28th April, although those who pre-order will get their devices on the 20th. Pre-ordering is available now via Samsung’s own store and direct from network websites.
Please let me know your thoughts on the phone below.