Our early impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S8 are very good
After months of fevered anticipation and blurry leaked images, Samsung has finally taken the wraps off the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.
And spoiler alert – it was definitely worth the wait.
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ sport a stunning new industrial design that builds on the beautiful dual-curved display of their predecessor, and yet simultaneously, look unlike anything else we’ve seen from Samsung.
The brilliant 5.8inch AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S8 bleeds to the very edge of the chassis, leaving just a hairline bezel, and ensuring the physical footprint of the device remains manageable despite the phablet-esque size of the screen.
Samsung calls this stunning new edge-to-edge design the Infinity Display – and it certainly lives up to the lofty title.
Samsung Galaxy S8 release – Latest smartphone in pictures Wed, March 29, 2017 Play slideshow EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS 1 of 35
Samsung Galaxy S8 release in pictures
Picking up the Samsung Galaxy S8 for the first time, the phone feels like an illusion. A contradiction.
The first thing you notice is the display – which feels enormous.
Place a Galaxy S8 besides the iPhone 7 Plus and the 5.8inch Infinity Display dwarfs Apple’s already sizeable offering. But holding the latest Galaxy phone in your hand, it feels compact and manageable.
Samsung has pulled off a remarkable feat.
When Samsung first debuted its curved display technology with the Galaxy Note Edge, it was a useless gimmick. It’s amazing just how far the South Korean company has come – and what that gimmick has now allowed them to achieve.
It’s no exaggeration to say that after using the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ for a short while, every other phone looks outdated – with comically large bezels.
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When compared to the Samsung Galaxy S8, everything else appears to have comically large bezels
In order to achieve this stunning new design, Samsung dropped all physical and capacitive buttons from the front of the device, replacing them with virtual on-screen counterparts.
Rival Android manufacturers have long-favoured these on-screen buttons, and they work well enough, although new users might be a little intimated by disappearance of a reassuring physical button.
Samsung has overhauled the stock virtual buttons used in Android 7.0 Marshmallow, the operating system that powers the latest Samsung phone.
We heralded the Galaxy S7 Edge as the best Android smartphone ever built – that’s a hell of a starting point for the Galaxy S8
The company has dropped the simple circle, square and triangle used in stock Android to serve as the Home Button, Multi-Tasking and Back button.
Instead, Samsung has introduced its own design language – and kept the back button on the right-hand side, the opposite to the vast majority of its Android competitors, although this can be changed within the settings menu.
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also have a pressure-sensitive display, which simulates a click sensation when you press down on the on-screen Home Button. Its a pleasant enough sensation, and lets phone users return to the Home Page – even when the virtual button has minimised on the display.
The technology is very similar to the pressure-sensitive display that powers 3D Touch in the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7, albeit much more rudimentary.
And since the feature is so hidden – and only has one real use case – it’s very difficult to imagine customers using the pressure-sensitivity in the months following the Galaxy S8 launch.
The first thing you notice is the display – which feels enormous
Still, it’s nice to see Samsung experimenting with new technologies, and hopefully, the company will expand its functionality with future software updates to bring it closer to the new input system Apple has built for its latest iPhone hardware.
Samsung might have dropped all physical buttons from the face of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, but it did include a new one on the side.
The latest Galaxy phones boast a new button on the left-hand side, positioned beneath the volume rocker, dedicated to entirely Bixby.
Bixby is the company’s new voice-controlled assistant, which it hopes will rival the likes of Amazon Alexa, Cortana, and Siri.
That might be the case one day, but for now, Bixby is pretty limited.
Samsung has built its own smart assistant, dubbed Bixby, which debuts with the Galaxy S8
At launch, the smart assistant can only interact with a handful of Samsung's own native apps, including Camera, Contacts, Gallery, Messages and Settings.
It allows Galaxy S8 owners to interact with these apps using their voice.
Bixby is context aware, which means that, provided you are within a compatible app, you can refer directly to things that are happening on-screen.
Commands like "make a folder with these photos”, “when was this taken?” or "what is this?” will work with the new assistant – unlike many of its rivals.
Users can also shop, search for similar images and get details on real-world locations using Bixby’s image recognition technology directly from within the Samsung camera app.
Although we saw many of these features demoed (where they seemed to work well enough) we were unable to test Bixby ourselves, since many features of the smart assistant won’t be coming to UK until late this year.
Samsung reassured us that it has much more ambitious plans to expand Bixby’s capabilities to encompass more of its apps – as well as third-party applications.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ ships with the same rear camera sensor as its predecessor – a 12MP Dual Pixel sensor with f/1.7 to maximise performance in low-light situations.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 sport 5.8inch and 6.2inch displays
Express.co.uk was thoroughly impressed with the camera on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, so there’s no reason this new upgrade will be any different.
Samsung claims it has refined and improved the computational photography that happens behind-the-scenes, but we weren’t able to really see the benefits of these tweaks during our brief stint with the phone.
Express.co.uk will be putting this new flagship device through its paces in the coming weeks to test the camera improvements.
The default Samsung camera app has been overhauled and simplified, and Samsung now says the software can be used one-handed.
The front-facing camera has been bumped up to eight megapixels and now has smart autofocus, which should improve your selfies and video calls.
Like its predecessor, the latest Galaxy S smartphone is built entirely from glass and metal, with the front and back of the device protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. As a result, it feels premium and solid in the hand.
Like the Galaxy S7, the new Galaxy phones are also rated IP68 for water and dust resistance. That means the new devices will be able to withstand 30 minutes at a depth of 1.5 metres in fresh water.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ also boast an always-on display, as well as fast and wireless charging. Both ship with 64GB of in-built storage, with the option to increase that up to 256GB via microSD support.
Powering the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ is the industry’s first 10nm chip, enabling heightened speed and efficiency.
It is also gigabit LTE and gigabit Wi-Fi ready with support for up to 1Gbps so users can quickly download files, regardless of their size.
And that’s about it.
Honestly, once you have seen the beautiful new design (and subsequently retrieved your jaw from the floor) there’s not a lot to say.
The new design drops physical buttons in favour of an edge-to-edge display
Underneath the staggering new industrial design, not much has changed. And that’s not a criticism.
Samsung has completely overhauled the outside of its phone, and in doing so, redefined what a modern smartphone should look like. It’s not surprising that they haven’t managed to do the same for the internals.
And the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are still phenomenally good phones, with one of the best cameras on the market, and a chipset more than capable of handling most users’ needs.
The Galaxy S8 doesn't always improve on the Galaxy S7, but then again, it really didn’t need to.
Last year, we heralded the Galaxy S7 Edge as the best Android smartphone ever built – that’s a hell of a starting point for the Galaxy S8. As a result, it looks pretty likely that the Galaxy S8 is going to inherit the lofty title this year, too.
Samsung has achieved something extraordinary with the Galaxy S8.
And other smartphone manufacturers better adapt and follow in the South Korean company’s footsteps – or their devices will inevitably look antiquated when placed side-by-side with the Galaxy S8.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 will retail at £689 in the UK.
Meanwhile, the larger 6.2inch Galaxy S8+ will retail at £779.
Unfortunately, only two colours finishes will be available in the UK – Midnight Black and Orchid Grey. Potential availability of the third Galaxy S8 and S8+ colour, Arctic Silver, will be announced in due course, Samsung has told us.
Express.co.uk will have a full, in-depth review in the coming weeks.