Samsung Galaxy S8: Everything you need to know
Get to know the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ from Samsung.
Samsung is an absolutely massive player in the smartphone space, and that all comes down from up high with the flagship Galaxy S line. The latest in the lineup, the Galaxy S8 and its larger partner the Galaxy S8+, build on the core features and experiences from the Galaxy S7 and bring things into the future with great new design and a few eye-catching features that are all new for 2017.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.
Galaxy S8 and S8+: The basics
The two phones, which are only differentiated by their screen size and battery capacity, come in at 5.8-inches and 6.2-inches with extra-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio displays. That battery difference is pretty subtle: 3500mAh for the Galaxy S8+ and 3000mAh for the standard Galaxy S8. You may note that the Galaxy S8+’s battery is actually 100mAh smaller than the Galaxy S7 edge of last year, while the Galaxy S8’s is the same size as the Galaxy S7 despite being a larger phone.
Though the batteries haven’t increased in size, the hope is that the improved efficiency of the new 10 nm processor inside — that’ll be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or the Samsung Exynos 8895, depending on the region — will provide some help. The processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM, an increase to 64GB of storage, and of course a microSD card slot. Waterproofing and wireless charging are still here as well, plus a new USB-C port on the bottom. The rear camera is unchanged in terms of its 12MP sensor and f/1.7 lens, but will have improved processing thanks to new software and a new ISP (image signal processor).
This is some beautiful hardware all around.
The overall design for the phones is identical on both sizes, and is still shimmering glass and metal much like the previous generation. It’s punctuated by the long edges of the displays curving subtly off the side, more so like the Galaxy Note 7 than the more dramatic Galaxy S7 edge — and to that point, there is no “edge” model here, as both phones sport the curves.
The displays have a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a QHD+ resolution, meaning they’re extra tall while staying relatively narrow. Samsung has also moved to on-screen buttons and reduced bezel size dramatically in order to fit as much screen into the body as possible. That necessitated the movement of the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phones, where it sits somewhat-awkwardly next to the camera lens. Iris scanning makes its return in a new-and-improved version from the Note 7 to hopefully pick up the slack.
Get familiar with all of the Galaxy S8’s specs
Samsung is trying to drive a narrative that we’ve moved beyond specs (and you can definitely argue that we have), but the enthusiasts will always want to know the details of what’s powering the latest phones. You get just about everything in here that you’d expect — basically, think of a Galaxy S7, and bump up a few areas to 2017 standards. That means you’re getting 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage with an SD card slot, QHD+ resolution AMOLED displays, USB-C, fast charging, wireless charging and the latest Qualcomm or Samsung processor inside.
As for the two different models, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are identical internally aside from the batteries and of course screen sizes.
Notable camera improvements on the GS8
On the face of it, the spec hounds among us won’t be satisfied with the fact that Samsung has stuck with the same camera specs from the Galaxy S7 in the new Galaxy S8. Yes that means we’re looking at a 12MP “Dual Pixel” camera with an f/1.7 lens — but remember that the software and ISP (image signal processor) have been improved since last year, and this was arguably the best camera of 2016. On the other side, Samsung has completely revamped the front-facing camera to an 8MP unit with auto focus — all the better for your selfies of all types.
How does it all come together? Here’s Daniel’s take from our Galaxy S8 review:
Since the Galaxy S8 has the same fundamentals as its predecessor, it’s still one of the fastest, most reliable cameras on any phone. […] Unlike some of the other substantive hardware improvements, the Galaxy S8’s rear camera is another solid effort, but not more.
Compared to the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S8 takes naturally sharper photos (meaning it uses less artificial sharpening), and also takes less-saturated and more accurate photos. Those are both overall quality improvements, while the GS8 also remains lightning quick with lots of extra software features to boot.
The Galaxy S8 has what it takes to capture wonderful photos with extreme reliability, but unlike this time last year it is challenged overall by the flagship competition — namely the LG G6 and Pixel Xl.
All of the new software features in the Galaxy S8
As Samsung often does, we got a good sneak peak at the Galaxy S8’s software experience in the form of the Android Nougat update for the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. But there are some changes to make note of.
What you’ll find on the Galaxy S8 is very similar in terms of its design, core apps and behaviors, but you’ll also find a new launcher layout, new icons, on-screen buttons and of course a bunch of new features. Not the least of which being Bixby, DeX, S Pen-styled note taking features and more.
Bixby is a whole new way to use your phone … well, in the future
Bixby isn’t so much a head-to-head competitor with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but instead an assistant to help you on the phone phone itself. That means Bixby is designed to help you locally throughout the phone using the screen, the camera and eventually your voice. The problem is Bixby isn’t fully ready for prime time at the launch of the phones. Right now it only has a small set of features, limited to some intelligent information offered in “Bixby Home” on your home screen, and “Bixby Vision” for identifying objects using the camera.
Bixby is initially limited, but shows promise.
The big feature of Bixby, its voice control interface, isn’t coming until later — and when it does launch, it will only be for a handful of Samsung apps and only in the U.S. and South Korea. That’s frustrating, but the system itself has potential. It can basically respond to any command and perform actions within whatever app you’re using as if you tapped though the software yourself. Samsung also claims Bixby can fail more gracefully when it doesn’t understand your query entirely, getting you through the answer as far as it can before asking for more information. Samsung is betting this is the next interface paradigm, and it’s exciting to watch the developments on the Galaxy S8.
This is Samsung’s DeX desktop dock for the Galaxy S8
Far on the other end of interaction from Bixby is the new “DeX” desktop docking system for the Galaxy S8. It’s a little piece of hardware no larger than a wireless charger that lets you plug in your Galaxy S8, attaching it to a keyboard, mouse and monitor to transform it into a desktop-like environment. The Galaxy S8’s interface scales up gracefully to fill the large monitor, and Samsung’s own apps have been designed to be resized and operated with a keyboard and mouse.
Samsung has also struck deals with Adobe and Microsoft to bring their most popular apps to the big screen — the only question is how it works with other non-optimized apps, and who will invest in these docks and this setup to use DeX on a regular basis.
Compare the Galaxy S8 today’s hot devices
Plenty of people will just pick up the Galaxy S8 or S8+ because Samsung is the brand they know, but many of us will comparing it head to head with other leading devices. To help you make up your mind on which phone is right for you, we’ve compared the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ to the likes of the Pixel and Pixel XL, LG G6 and of course the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
Which one should you buy?
So now that you have all the information, which one should you buy? You have a big phone and a bigger phone; one with a big battery and a bigger battery. There are so few differences between the Galaxy S flagships this year that it comes down to size and battery preference alone, and that may make your decision even harder.
Where to buy the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are now on sale. In the U.S., you’ll have your choice of the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+, both in 64GB storage configuration, in one of three colors: black, silver or orchid grey. Best Buy lists the U.S. unlocked models of both phones being up for pre-order starting May 9. Prices are in the range of $720-750 for the Galaxy S8, and $820-$850 for the Galaxy S8+.