The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ have both launched at MWC 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. As expected, design wise they’re not massively different from the Galaxy S8 generation. However, they do feature all-new and MUCH faster processor hardware, while the Galaxy S9+ comes with 6GB of onboard RAM. Both phones feature new variable aperture camera capabilities, with the Galaxy S9+ also introducing the Galaxy Note 8-style dual-sensor for the first time on the flagship Galaxy S series.
Both handsets are already up for pre-order in the UK and the global landing date for shipping and in-store sales is March 16.
As is often the case running up to a major new flagship launch (and afterwards), the price is starting to drop on last years’ lead model – the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. In a bid to clear stock, some retailers are offering very appealing reduced price deals on both phones. In the US, an eBay-based retailer is offering unlocked Galaxy S8 handsets for $476. These are the proper US edition too, with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor. They’re ex-display units and excess inventory units, meaning there’s only one colour option from this retailer, which is the Midnight Black version, and they only come with the wall charger and no retail box.
The retailer also has manufacturer-refurbished Galaxy S8+ units, with model number G955U, for $490, and Galaxy Note 8 N950U for $610.
On top of that, Amazon in the US is now getting in on the Galaxy S8 price reductions. It’s a limited time deal, but 17% has been knocked off the usual $724.99 price tag, knocking $125 off and bringing it down to $599.99 with free shipping included. This is all for the unlocked 64GB storage model Galaxy S8+ in Midnight Black.
In the UK there are similar savings to be made. On Amazon you can pick up a brand new, single-SIM, G950F (Exynos-based) Galaxy S8 for £475, or via Alternate for £490. Refurbished handsets are also available on eBay for as low as £430 for a “Pristine” condition model or £360 for a “Good” condition.
The Galaxy S8 is still a viable competitor even inside 2018’s marketplace, and Samsung is determined not to let last year’s lead model fade into obscurity.
Android Oreo is now officially rolling out to Samsung Galaxy S8 series handsets with the files now being pushed over-the-air. Europe is first up, specifically Germany, but it will roll out further in the next few days and weeks. Naturally this primarily applies to unlocked handsets, as if yours is carrier locked you’ve still got to wait for the network to approve everything.
As well as the Oreo features and the new UI, the update includes the usual slew of bug fixes, optimisations, and enhancements. It’s a 487MB download, hilariously codenamed as build version G955XXU1CRAP. No, we’re not making that up!
Latest Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus contract and SIM-free deals
Android Oreo’s new features are as follows:
- 2x faster: Get started on your favorite tasks more quickly with 2x the boot speed when powering up*
- *boot time as measured on Google Pixel
- Background limits: Android Oreo helps minimize background activity in the apps you use least, it’s the superpower you can’t even see.
- Autofill: With your permission, Autofill remembers your logins to get you into your favorite apps at supersonic speed.
- Smart text selection: Android Oreo recognizes text when you tap or select, then recommends a next logical step via a suggested app.
- Picture-in-Picture: Allows you to see two apps at once, it’s like having super strength and laser vision.
- Notification Dots: Press the notification dots to quickly see what’s new, and easily clear them by swiping away.
- Android Instant Apps: Teleport directly into new apps right from your browser, no installation needed.
Ahead of the Galaxy S9 launch, Samsung has officially detailed some of the features of the soon-to-arrive Android Oreo software update for the Galaxy S8 series, dubbed “Experience 9”.
Samsung published an infographic previewing the new features – to be clear, although the update will bring the Galaxy S8 up to Android Oreo, the features Samsung is focusing on are part of its own Experience 9 UI feature updates that will be bundled in with it, they’re not part of Oreo itself, and are instead bespoke features.
This will also likely give us a hint of what to expect on the Galaxy S9 series when it lands.
Samsung has made enhancements to Bixby and the Samsung Keyboard – the latter has four new modes and a new quickbar at the top, as well as a streamlined settings menu. Check the (long) infographic below for the full run-down.
Samsung is the biggest name in the Android space, so it’s ittle wonder that its flagships draw so much attention. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ have been out for the greater part of a year now – soon to be usurped by the Galaxy S9 series – but just as with previous generations of Samsung’s lead models they have remained some of the best and most compelling devices for the entire year through, and will remain highly competetive for some time to come.
That said, the Galaxy S8 series has faced much tougher compeition than in previous years and doesn’t have quite such a stranglehold as far as recommendable phones are concerned; unlike the last couple of years, there’s a lot out there now which we are able to recommend for being at least “as good” as the Galaxy S8 series; the Pixel 2 series, the LG V30, the OnePlus 5, and certain aspects of the HTC U11, to name but a few.
But that doesn’t diminish the Samsung flagship’s positive qualities one iota.
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Google has announced that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ now support Google Daydream VR. In a Google+ post, the firm’s Google VR account said that a Daydream update is “rolling out now” to both devices in the Samsung flagship range. It will mean full compatiblity with all of Google’s current catalogue of applications, games, and experiences inside the Daydream ecosystem.
Samsung has now released a promotional video showcasing Samsung DeX, the hardware dock which allows you to use the Galaxy S8 as a desktop computer, together with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse input. Samsung debuted the device alongside the Galaxy S8 at launch, but until now has not released much in the way of promotional material – this is the first video showcase illustrating what it can do. Samsung’s aiming big with DeX, however, with the tagline “leave your laptop behind.”
Although DeX is unlikely to be a full laptop replacement in most people’s tech armouries, the showcase nonetheless shows a lot of versatlity which is sure to come in useful. We get a look at note taking and photography on the move with the Galaxy S8, before the handset is hooked up to a DeX station for editing and further productivity, including multitasking and video calls while the phone is docked, which is pretty neat.
I’ve just spent a little over two weeks with the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus now and we’re ready to tell you just what it’s like to get to grips with day-in, day-out.
Hunker down with a cuppa, as this review’s a long one.
So without further ado, let’s crack on…
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Design & Build
Good or bad smartphone visual design is, of course, subjective, and it’s fairly safe to say that anyone who’s been unimpressed by Samsung’s aesthetic to date is probably not going to be swayed by the Galaxy S8+.
Likewise, fans of the firm’s prior devices will be just as happy with the latest edition as they were with what came before.
The main thing is that the Galaxy S8 series has only become curvier and more streamlined than its already notably curved predecessors; the corners are completely smoothed and rounded, while the curvature of the edge display follows a continuous line from front to back where it meets a perfectly symmetrical rear panel, with only a thin sliver of bodywork separating the two.
The top and bottom edges are also curved but it’s not as pronounced and doesn’t curve the display itself along these edges.
Holding the phone it’s very apparent that you’re gripping what virtually amounts to a solid piece of curved glass – yes there’s a metal frame holding it together, but it’s barely noticeable.
This actually presents the first stumbling block for the Galaxy S8+; in my time with the device I never felt entirely safe holding onto it; it’s slippery as anything and the edges are so wafer thin coupled with the curved slippery glass surface. Samsung allegedly tweaked the edge curvature to improve grip but I don’t really feel this has been successful and I’d strongly recommend some kind of case to improve grip more substantially and prevent drops.
That particular gripe aside, the Galaxy S8+ feels incredibly solid in terms of its construction; there is zero wobble or flex in the frame or component panels, and it’s got a nice bit of heft to it without being heavy. You’ve also got the reassurance that it’s an IP-rated water resistant handset, so there’s no fear in taking it near the wet stuff.
Aesthetically I rather enjoy the Galaxy S8+ design, it’s still got that quasi-industrial style that is so popular just lately with the punched speaker grille and emphasis on metal and glass, but the added curviness does lend it a certain unique presence that is very futuristic and elegant.
Our review unit is the black coloured model, which Samsung has made entirely black; the glass, the metal surround, the fittings and furniture. Everything is black. This again gives it a very sci-fi, 2001: A Space Odyssey obelisk-like appearance.
It’s a “stealth” phone, the kind of thing Batman might design. However, the shiny glossy glass does also show up fingerprints a fair bit, particularly on this black model. It won’t stay pristine for very long.
Of course you can get other colour options which are not quite so extreme and feature metallic trim that’s a bit more visible. Here the detail of the visual design is a bit more apparent.
Samsung Galaxy S8 & Galaxy S8+ Coral Blue
For the last few years, Samsung, like many other manufacturers, has launched its flagship smartphones in a range of colours and has then subsequently launched new colour variants after the initial release. In 2016 the Galaxy S7 was updated with a new colour model dubbed Coral Blue, which got everyone quite excited when it was in the rumour phase, and sold quite well on arrival.
Samsung’s pulled the same trick in 2017 with a Coral Blue hue for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.
The Coral Blue Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launched in the US from July 13, where it was an exclusive to retailer Best Buy. Best Buy sells both unlocked and carrier specific editions of the Azure-flavoured Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, including models for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.
EE UK Exclusively Carries Arctic Silver Galaxy S8
Another colour option is available via UK network EE as an exclusive.
A 24 month contract can be had for £10 up-front and monthly payments of £57.99 with 25GB of data as well as unlimited texts and minutes. The Galaxy S8+ can be had on the same package but costs £50 up-front.
Alternatively you can pay £30 up-front and £48 per month on a 24-month contract for 2GB of data and unlimited texts and calls.
Note that EE’s exclusivity only extends as far as networks in the UK getting the phone in on contract. Retailers on Amazon are able to provide the handset in this colour SIM-free, shipped from Italy from £512.96 plus £17 shipping.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Display
Samsung has been playing the long game as far as display technology is concerned. It started investing heavily in OLED while everyone else was saying it was too complicated or expensive, even though many could see it would outclass LCD if done properly. The firm also started developing flexible OLED way ahead of everyone else and is now starting to reap the benefits of that as a market leader. Rivals such as Apple are now looking to source flexible OLED from Samsung’s factories.
Samsung’s history with OLED hasn’t always been smooth, there have been some tough learning experiences – early on the firm’s screens came under flak for some instances of poor colour calibration and pixelation due to earlier PenTile technology.
But it persevered, and is now the undisputed ruler of the OLED market, which also virtually puts it in position as the dominant force in the display market too – OLED is now widely recognised as superior to LCD, so much so that Apple and many others are jumping on the bandwagon.
For anyone who has seen the Galaxy S7 EDGE or the Galaxy S6 EDGE in person, the display of the Galaxy S8+ will be familiar territory. It curves around the edges of the handset just like before, and it has an Always On function so that even when in sleep mode it’ll show the time, date, and some notifications while barely consuming any power at all.
However, as the bodywork has expanded on this model, the display size and ratio has also increased. The display is now a 6.2in Super AMOLED – nearly as big as the Galaxy Note – but the screen pushes out to much more of the front fascia, indeed, the phone’s front is virtually all screen with an 84% screen-to-body ratio and an 18:9 aspect ratio. As the screen and aspect ratio has expanded, the resolution has increased accordingly to 1440 x 2960 WQHD+ (3K) at 529 pixels-per-inch (ppi).
The image quality is what we’ve come to expect as typical for a Samsung flagship. In a word; superb.
It’s incredibly sharp with no pixelation or blurring to be found. Text in particular is very crisp. It also features a full 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, the very same one used on 4K TV sets and certified by the UHD Alliance for Mobile HDR Premium. In short, if content has been produced for 4K UHD Premium TVs, it’ll look as good on the Galaxy S8+.
A new high saturation “Deep Red” OLED display technology Samsung has implemented here means the Native Colour gamut has a wider range too, well over 100% coverage for both DCI-P3 and sRGB. This, together with the excellent brightness levels (as much as 20% brighter than the Galaxy S7 and peak brightness over 1,000 nits) makes outdoor use in bright sunlight a breeze.
All of the previous standout features from Samsung’s Galaxy S7 display have returned, including the excellent adaptive brightness and contrast, user-adjustable colour profiles, performance and power saving modes, and the acclaimed personalised auto brightness control feature.
The customisable EDGE display features, which allow you to configure quick access shortcuts along the curved screen edges, has also been expanded. It’s quicker and easier to set up, and you can add applications, contacts, and a selection of smart editing tools, all on three customisable and swipe-able panels; it’s a bit like having a whole separate selection of homescreens hidden in the display edge.
From using the phone I can certainly say the colour is rich and vibrant, in Samsung’s typical style. Contrast is also fantastic with inky deep blacks and viewing angles are insanely wide.
The long and the short of it is this is a gorgeous display with fantastic visual quality and smooth touch input. I can’t really imagine anyone getting tired of ogling or prodding this screen after any length of time, and it’s highly tailorable to your needs as the viewer. You really can have it your way by tweaking the settings however you please.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Battery Life
Long battery life is pretty much the Holy Grail for many smartphone users these days. There are plenty of flagship-grade smartphones which offer relatively good battery life, and a few which offer excellent battery life. It’s not too rare now to find devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, the Huawei Mate 8 and 9, the bigger iPhone Plus models, and Google’s Pixel XL which will still see you sitting comfortably at somewhere around the 70%-76% range for the battery charge after watching a two hour movie on full brightness.
This sort of usage tends to translate into being able to watch films pretty much for eight hours straight on a single charge. Likewise, you tend to end up with a phone that’ll last days, or even a good chunk of a week if largely left idling, ticking away between 7%-10% per day.
But this will probably last a day and a half at most if you’re like most of us and are often giving it a poke for some reason or another throughout your typical day. You can bring that down further again if we’re talking a lot of intensive stuff like gaming.
So where does the Galaxy S8+ and its 3,500mAh setup fit into this? Well for the two hour movie test using Mad Max: Fury Road, on full brightness, with the film downloaded to storage, and Wi-Fi and other connectivity switched off, it went from 100% charge to, get this, 86%. Yes you read that right, a two hour film on full brightness only cost 14% of the battery charge.
This is madness. I kid you not I have never seen anything quite like this in my time of reviewing smartphones. I reckon upwards of 10 hours of movie playback is not at all unrealistic here. You can easily expect a couple of days of normal smartphone use on a single charge, in some cases perhaps three, and if you leave this phone alone save for a few calls or the occasional email, web browsing session or message, it will last you a good three or four days, possibly more.
In short, the Galaxy S8+ has the best battery of any smartphone I have ever tested. It just keeps going. I’ve pretty much only had to charge it a couple of times since I got hold of it.
Granted, I am sure you will still be able to burn through it in a day if you really push things, but let’s be real here, no smartphone will survive on a single charge if you insist on playing Super Mario Run or Star Wars Lego from dawn until dusk, only taking breaks to watch YouTube in between.
But for most standard users this is a dream come true. This is a phone you can rely on to be alive and kicking from when you leave the house in the morning right through to the next day, and you don’t have to be too careful with it to achieve this, as long as you don’t rinse it like crazy. At the very least this kind of battery usage makes it easier to plan around. I have not been caught short by the Galaxy S8+ leaving me high and dry unexpectedly as so many other phones are liable to do.
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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Camera
The much-rumoured dual-lens camera for the Galaxy S8+ hasn’t come to pass, sadly, which did leave me wondering how much attention the phone’s imaging capabilities would receive.
To be clear, however, Samsung camera hardware has impressed me for some time now; the last handful of flagships have always sported very capable cameras which, for me, had the perfect combination of “right stuff”.
What do I mean by this? Well for one thing Samsung stopped chasing the megapixel rating, instead opting to increase the pixel size, and crucially go for better apertures. It started off with wide f/2.0 but has gradually improved this to where we now stand with an f/1.7 aperture on a 12MP sensor – nice and open, letting in lots of light and detail.
But this alone isn’t enough to ensure good quality photography. Several iterations of Samsung’s hardware have been plenty capable, but with the last generation it introduced what was, at the time, a unique feature; dual-pixel phase detection autofocus.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+, like its predecessor, is still one of only a few handsets to use this technology, and it really makes a difference in terms of focusing speed and capture speed. This means the image is captured very quickly after focusing (also very quickly), so that the wide aperture doesn’t let in too much light and cause blurring, overexposure, and other undesirable consequences. In other words, the Galaxy S8+ is fine tuned down to fractions of a second so that it’s optimised to take a photo in the best way possible.
Together with Samsung’s wonderfully simple and user-friendly camera UI, this also means it’s very easy to use by all comers, not just photography buffs – another pillar of what I’d consider the “right stuff” for a mass-marketed flagship. It really is easy to just point, click, shoot, and capture amazing quality photos in next to no time.
Naturally, there is also the now the required “Pro” mode for experts to fine tune things like exposure, ISO, focus, and white balance, amongst many other settings.
So what’s the result? Well as you can see the images speak for themselves. The colour is rich and vibrant in Samsung’s typical style, but the detail, sharpness, and dynamic range are all fantastic. The handset particularly excels at close-in shots and there’s no need to tweak the settings to Macro mode in order to achieve this; standard Auto mode will do it just fine with a quick tap-to-focus on the subject before hitting the shutter button. I’m pretty blown away by how crisp everything is.
The Auto features also seem to be very intelligent in adjusting for different lighting conditions; plenty of snaps in less-than-ideal light, which on any other phone might come out a bit dull or far too over-exposed, seemed to adjust and get things just right to make a fantastic, crisp photo with excellent range and colours which pop.
This also means the phone excels in low-light and night-time shooting. The sunset shots below show this in an outdoor scenario, but the photo of the wine bottles was taken indoors, in the evening, in a hallway with no windows; I was to all intents and purposes, in the dark while taking it. What’s more, even with the flash on Auto, the phone didn’t bother to use it, and it obviously knew it didn’t need to – despite all this the photo looks like a perfectly normal daytime shot in a reasonably well-lit room.
In truth, I am not sure I’ve seen a phone that handles low-light and night-time shooting this well before. It’s much, much better than the Huawei Mate 9’s dual-camera which I’ve been using on my holiday, and which was rather disappointing in low-light.
The front camera – the first in the world to feature autofocus – is plenty capable too, and also excels at close-ups. Check out the lion statue below which was taken on the 8MP front snapper, which also features the same f/1.7 aperture as its rear-mounted sibling. Naturally things aren’t quite as sharp as the main sensor, but they’re still damn impressive and should offer you some of the most detailed selfies available. Maybe too detailed, as you won’t be able to hide any blemishes quite so easily without heavy use of filters and post-processing!
Overall I’m tremendously impressed with the Galaxy S8+ camera. I wasn’t expecting big changes from Samsung with the dual-camera being axed, and in truth, it has not changed the setup extensively from its predecessor. However, what small tweaks that have been performed have been very careful and precise, and they’ve made a huge difference to the overall quality and shooting experience.
Top marks here.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Hardware
Our review unit is the international SM-G955F Galaxy S8+ model, which is the edition powered by Samsung’s 64-bit Exynos 9 8895 octa-core processor. This CPU features four 2.3GHz Exynos M2 “Mongoose” cores and four 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A53 cores, under ARMv8 microarchitecture on 10nm FinFET semiconductor fabrication. It also packs a Mali-G71 MP20 GPU clocked at 546MHz and 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM.
All of those fancy words and numbers boil down to the fact that it’s equipped with one of the top three mobile processor designs in the world at time of launch. Some reports from the states suggest that the US model, running a 10nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, is getting slightly higher performance results.
But after a certain point of high-end hardware and the extensive software optimisation we’ve seen in recent years, it seems to stop making much of a difference; at least as far as the end user experience is concerned.
Indeed, this is the reason that Apple has stopped revealing much of what it does to its processors between new iPhone models – as long as it maintains the same high standards of software performance, consumers don’t seem to care. Other OEMs appear to be catching on too.
There were similar apparent disparities in performance between the Galaxy S7’s various processor variants, again both Exynos and Snapdragon editions. However, extensive testing by various online experts and pundits ended up with a general consensus that there wasn’t much in it.
I suspect the same may turn out to be true here, though naturally I should temper this by recognizing it as an assumption, and pointing out the fact that I haven’t had a go with a Snapdragon 835-based model; and probably won’t have the opportunity to do so with it being a US-exclusive.
All that said, the long and the short of it, which I must boil things down to, is this; does this phone’s performance behave in a way I’d expect of a brand new Samsung flagship, in 2017, based on the latest processing hardware? Does it feel as fast and responsive as it should, as per what we’ve come to expect from the brand?
And to these questions, the answer is yes.
Android 7.0 Nougat is overlaid with Samsung’s newest UI and it’s clear that an immense amount of effort has been made here to ensure the smoothest and most fluid experience possible. You won’t find any snagging or stuttering at all, and app load speeds are incredibly quick, near-instantaneous; quicker for those which don’t immediately ping for data from the internet.
It is one of the fastest and most responsive handsets I’ve used for some time, in particular the touch input feels significantly more refined than most rivals. It doesn’t balk at multitasking either, happily racking up app after app in the background, and the memory seems intelligent enough to keep switching smooth when restoring a hibernating app.
One of the more intensive things you can ask of a phone, however, is gaming.
Let’s face it, these days the flashiest games with the best graphics are generally shameless brand cash-ins and/or massive pay-to-win micro-transaction farms with very little substance. The fun and innovative titles tend to lean more to the simple, retro, artistic or even pixel-based graphics and aren’t really that demanding anyway.
But I digress. I tried out a handful of titles of varying levels of graphical intensity; CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars, Nonstop Chuck Norris, Ninja Arashi, and Dawn of Titans. Most of these ran like a charm with no hiccuping, and unlike older phones on less efficient CPUs there was very little heat on the back panel.
However, I should point out that Dawn of Titans was the most graphically demanding title and the only one the phone struggled with, both in loading times and in some snagging during play. It wasn’t clear whether this was an issue with the phone or possibly poor optimization on the part of the game developer, an all too common problem.
So I got hold of a few more demanding games to test the theory; CoverFire and Gangstar Vegas ran much smoother but were not quite as heavy on the high-end textures, particles and post-processing effects. Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, Star Wars: Force Arena and N.O.V.A Legacy, on the other hand, were a bit more flashy and ran perfectly fine.
N.O.V.A Legacy in particular was buttery smooth and just as impressive graphically as Dawn of Titans, which put my concerns about performance started by the latter to rest once and for all.
As a final note, you can see from running Geekbench benchmarking tests the Galaxy S8+ outpaces a lot of the competition…
Moving away from the CPU, the phone’s audio via the speakers is quite impressive in quality and maintaining this at high volumes. I also found the off-centre positioning of the rear fingerprint scanner has finally brought me round to the back panel position which I’d previously hated. It is definitely a natural place for the forefinger to rest, though I should mention this is as a right-handed user; I doubt the same could be said for lefties as your finger must cross the camera lens and it’s a bit of a stretch.
The Type-C USB port is a welcome sight to make charging a bit less fussy, but the charging speed is also noteworthy as it’s pretty damn quick. It also seemed to me that the dual-band Wi-Fi onboard was particularly robust in terms of connection quality. The handset also has full GPS connectivity, 4G LTE, NFC, and Bluetooth 5.0.
For onboard storage 64GB is decent, but I can understand some power users wondering where the 128GB edition is considering the size of some apps and content these days – it’s in China, matter of fact, along with 6GB of RAM. Expansion is welcome via microSD with support for up to 256GB, which is great for content that is supported this way on Android, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all fix for people who’ll find 64GB lacking.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Software & UI
As I outlined above, the performance here is great, this is an incredibly well optimised software package and runs about as well as stock Android Nougat does on the Pixel series.
But it’s not just the performance that impresses, I’ll cover the other good stuff before getting on to my gripes and grumbles.
A lot of the positive points are returning features; things like the Always-On display showing notifications, and the date and time even when the phone sleeps; and it really doesn’t sap your battery life in a noticable way at all.
Likewise, the multitasking is what we’ve come to expect from the most recent iterations of Android with very clear and smooth functionality, but Samsung’s addition of split-screen applications also makes a welcome return and works brilliantly.
As an aside, I rather like the fact that the screenshot capture has automatic sharing and editing features built-in to a pop-up.
By default the Samsung UI has the traditional app drawer shortcut in the low bar switched off, which is kind of annoying, but it’s easy enough to go into Settings and toggle it back on. It does, however, appear to be fixed in the lower right corner.
The notifications drop down has all the best Android bells and whistles, whether in the homescreen or lock screen; that means full expandable notifications functionality, something still sorely missing from many other Android handsets and UI overlays.
In the main homescreen mode it also has a full set of quick settings shortcuts with multiple swipable screens that are customisable.
Because Samsung has added more and more functionality with every successive phone, the Galaxy S8’s Settings menu is pretty vast, but this is undoubtedly one of the cleanest and tidiest Settings screens I’ve seen for some time with a white background, a sharp, thin font, and simple colour-coded icons with neat and succinct little summaries for each sub-menu. While many busy Settings screens, even some of Samsung’s in the past, have made it very easy to get lost and confused, it’s not really an issue here.
On top of that, Samsung has added a bunch of prompts at the bottom of the menu screens where you can get help and guidance if you are struggling to find what you need.
The Samsung UI is highly customisable via the use of themes, and Samsung has its own Theme store embedded inside Bixby, including static wallpapers alongside the animtated ones which move with your phone, like the default “Galaxy” one.
However, at this stage some of the themes aren’t optimised for the “Infinity Mode” of Samsung’s new display, so they won’t necessarily look their best.
Right, now, let’s talk about Bixby.
Ahead of our review we had this notification from a Samsung spokesperson:
“All Bixby functionality, bar Voice, will be available at launch. This includes Home, Reminder and Vision. Bixby Voice will be available in Korean and U.S English later this spring, and will expand to more languages globally over time.”
So in other words, here in the UK we don’t have the Voice component of the Bixby assistant and we don’t know when it will be added.
Bixby is continuously present and can be accessed either via the dedicated Bixby button or by swiping from the left of the homescreen. In its current state it’s rather a lot like the old Samsung news feed but with an array of widgets and a few added extra bits for the reminders and calendar stuff.
If you want voice control, however, you’re going to have to resort to Google Assistant, which is already onboard and can be accessed via a long press of the Home key. Once set up it also works via the “OK Google,” voice command.
Bixby Vision is also usable, although it seems somewhat hit and miss. I tried getting the handset to recognise a couple of other phones I had lying around and it didn’t really catch on. A copy of a Hellboy graphic novel did manage to get the phone to point me to several online shopping vendors where I could buy it, however.
So far my only grumbles are as follows:
- The “EDGE” functionality is welcome, but does still feel a bit gimmicky. I like having the extra shortcuts overlay, but you don’t really leverage the curvature of the screen to do this, it could just as easily come from another gesture swipe from the edge of a flat display. What’s more, it only uses one side of the screen, the other one is dedicated to Bixby. Lastly on this subject, nothing is really displayed along the curved EDGE like the time or date or any of the app shortcuts. There doesn’t appear to be that “bedside” functionality.
- Bixby, without voice, is kind of redundant.
- While this is undoubtedly the cleanest, most Android-y, and best optimised Samsung UI to date, there is still an element of Samsung stamping its stamp on things somewhat arbitrarily. I mean in the sense that so much of the UI is based around swishy fancy-pants gestures rather than straightforward control familiar to the average user. Even things like the default setup hiding the app drawer smacks of a Huawei-style move of reminding you you’re on a brand device at the expense of making the UI as streamlined and accessible as possible, and this is something that plays out in a broader sense too. It’s easily possible to whittle away these layers down to a much purer Android experience, so on the whole I like the Samsung UI, but to get there you have to know what you’re doing, and not every buyer necessarily will, and may end up frustrated or not having the most optimised user experience for themselves.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Review: Verdict
Having said the immediately above, those few bullet-pointed gripes at the end of the UI section are just about my only dislikes with the Galaxy S8+, and they are minor, somewhat nitpicky I’ll readily admit, and oh so easily looked past in practice when using this phone on the daily.
By now you may have gathered I’m rather fond of this phone. My overall impression is very positive. I liked using it, I found it easy and seamless, rather refreshing really. It feels thoughtful and clever, though one or two bits are still glaringly missing, we are promised they’ll be patched in later.
From a hardware perspective it’s an absolute diamond. The camera is incredible and you really must try this, even if you’ve no intention of buying this phone I heartily encourage you to get down to a showroom and try the camera out if only to show you what’s possible and what we should be expecting of future flagships as some kind of baseline. Meanwhile, on the display and processor front, Samsung continues to push boundaries and deliver excellent quality.
And on the subject of design and build, well, it’s a matter of taste but I think Samsung has gone from strength to strength and here has delivered something very refined indeed.
The real icing on the cake, however, is that battery life. It’s just phenomenal. This is easily the best phone on the market when it comes to battery life, so if you’re looking for a handset that will go the distance – look no further.
Best Samsung Galaxy S8 Deals UK and US
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ International variants – that is, the version with the Samsung Exynos processor – have both been given price cuts on Amazon. The Galaxy S8 has been slashed to $666, while the larger Galaxy S8+ is now $747, a 25% price decrease for both models. As international models they will work globally on most carriers, and in the US will work with AT&T and T-Mobile networks.
At time of writing, the Galaxy S8 has very low stock on the listing, but Amazon should get more stock in over time. The Galaxy S8+ is in stock. Shipments for orders will begin from July 3 and there is no information on when this reduced price offer may end.
Best Samsung Galaxy S8 Deals UK
- Cheapest – 5GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £45.99 Per Month (£79.99 Upfront Cost)
- Best Value – 15GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts – £50.99 Per Month (£59.99 Upfront Cost)
- Exclusive Deal – 10GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts – £45.99 Per Month (£59.99 Upfront Cost)
- Cheapest – 1GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £44 Per Month (£69.99 Upfront Cost)
- Best Value – 10GB DATA Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £45.99 Per Month (£59.99 Upfront Cost
Vodafone – Click Here For More Deals
- Cheapest – 4GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £46 Per Month (£50 Upfront Cost)
- Best Value – 10GB DATA Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £45.99 Per Month (£59.99 Upfront Cost
- Cheapest – 4GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £45.99 Per Month (£29.99 Upfront Cost)
- Best Value – 10GB DATA, Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Texts; £45.99 Per Month (£59.99 Upfront Cost)
Best Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Deals US
AT&T – Click Here For Details
Galaxy S8: $750 full retail
AT&T Next: $25 / mo for 30 months
AT&T Next Every Year: $31.25 / mo for 24 months
Galaxy S8 Plus: $850 full retail
AT&T Next: $28.34 / mo for 30 months
AT&T Next Every Year: $35.42 / mo for 24 months
T-MOBILE – Click Here For Details
Galaxy S8: $750 full retail ($729 at MetroPCS)
Monthly installments: $30 down payment + $30 / mo for 24 months
Jump! On Demand: $0 down +$33 / mo for 24 months
Galaxy S8 Plus: $850 full retail
Monthly installments: $130 down payment + $30 / mo for 24 months
Jump! On Demand: Same as monthly installments
VERIZON – Click Here For Details
Galaxy S8: $720 full retail
Monthly installments: $30 / mo for 24 months
Galaxy S8 Plus: $840 full retail
Monthly installments: $35 / mo for 24 months