For Samsung, the past year has been quite tumultuous — there was the whole drama surrounding the fiery Galaxy Note 7, as well as being in the center of a scandal leading to the impeachment of the South Korean president. But despite all of this, the company managed to release one of the most important smartphones in its history, the Galaxy S8, and also have it be a huge market success.
But this is old news by now, so it may be time for us to look in the future instead. For you see, Samsung has introduced a brand-new combatant to the smartphone battlefield — one that is fresh and exciting, and yet instantly familiar to all Samsung fans out there.
If you've been paying any attention to the tech-obsessed parts of the internet in the past few months, there's little doubt you've already heard and seen tons about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Just like the Galaxy S8 before it, the Korean giant's latest flagship phablet had a knack for being exposed via... unofficial means.
But now that the device is out in the open, we finally have the full picture in front of us — and we'd love to introduce you to it.
In short, this phone proves that the Galaxy S8 wasn't just a one-off, as the two devices share a fair amount of similarities, both inside and out (though we'll get to the former in a bit). Visually, the Note 8 is a mix between Samsung's mainline flagship and last year's Note 7, but with a couple of new elements sprinkled on for good measure.
So the front of the device features its own take on the Infinity Display idea found in the S8, but with the sharper corners and more imposing profile that have defined the Note line so far. And that means that the Note 7's physical buttons are now gone, its bezels have been shrunk down, and the sides of the screen are now curved. And while the Note 8 is just barely bigger than the already large S8+, its overall look gives off the impression of a considerably taller frame.
The back is a slightly different story, however: while it does inherit the S8's awkward fingerprint scanner position, it does so a tad more gracefully by placing it further from the camera lens. And that same camera is the big story here, as the Note 8 marks the first-ever occasion where a Samsung smartphone has featured 2017's hottest trend — the dual camera.
The Note 8 in (clockwise) Midnight Black, Deepsea Blue, Orchid Grey, and Maple Gold
On the left side of the phone, just below the volume rocker, you'll once again find a dedicated Bixby button — and you can bet it's still not remappable. And on the bottom of the Note 8 you'll find a noticeably off-center USB-C connector, a loudspeaker, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and — of course — the S Pen tray.
Four color variants have been announced: Midnight Black, Orchid Grey, Maple Gold, and a brand-new Deepsea Blue. As was the case with the S8, they are only visible on the device's sides and back, while the front is entirely black. However, the dual-camera and fingerprint sensor array is now also entirely black, which can look a bit jarring on the more colorful models.
Fans of the Galaxy S8's curved Infinity Display will be glad to know it's now making its sophomore appearance in the Note 8, but in a form with sharper corners that is more appropriate for a device in the Note series. Specs-wise, the panel is 6.3 inches in size with a 18.5:9 aspect ratio, using Samsung's Super AMOLED technology and sporting the same 1440 x 2960 resolution as the S8.
And just as was the case with the Galaxy S8, the bottom center of the display is pressure-sensitive and provides tactile feedback. In practical terms, this means that by pushing hard on the display, you can press the home button even when it's hidden by an app, which can be a very handy feature.
Thanks to the addition of the first-ever dual camera in a Galaxy smartphone, the Note 8 now has an impressive four camera sensors stuffed inside it — two for the rear camera, one for the front, and one used for iris recognition, just like the one found in the Galaxy S8.
Samsung's take on the dual camera is one we've seen before — there's two 12 MP sensors, one of which is equipped with a regular, f/1.7 lens, and another with a telephoto, f/2.4 lens allowing for 2x optical zoom. The new thing here is that both sensors are equipped with optical stabilization, which is a first for smartphone dual cameras, though only the regular sensor is equipped with Samsung's ultra-fast Dual Pixel focusing.
Samsung's own variant of the portrait mode is called Live Focus, with its unique feature being the ability to choose how much blur to apply, both while you're taking the shot, and after it has already been taken. But besides that, you can also use the camera in Dual Capture mode, which takes both a regular and a zoomed-in photo at the same time.
As for the front camera, it's pretty much the same 8 MP shooter with autofocus capabilities as the one in the Galaxy S8, which should serve you just fine in most situations.
On the inside you'll find the same chipsets as in the Galaxy S8 — Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 or Samsung's own Exynos 8895 outside the U.S. — but the RAM has now been bumped up to 6 GB. Internal storage starts at the same capacity as the Galaxy S8 — 64 GB, though there will also be 128 GB and 256 GB variants as well.
Given the Note 7's spontaneous combustion problems, it's no surprise that the battery capacity has been reduced this time around. It is now 3,300 mAh — lower than what the smaller Galaxy S8+ had to offer — a decision we understand, but aren't particularly thrilled about.
Perhaps the strongest point of the Note 8, as well as the rest of the Note line, is the built-in digital stylus, called the S Pen. And as it turns out, the one found inside the Note 8 is literally the exact same one as in the Note 7, down to the 0.7 mm tip size and the 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Software-wise, the device offers a number of ways you can make use of the S Pen: making a return are features like Screen-off Memo, which allows you to draw over the always-on display while your device is locked; the hover menu which allows you to magnify parts of the screen or translate text.
A new addition is Live Message, which allows you to take a quick note, which is then sent as an animated GIF showing all your pen strokes.The feature also supports different stroke colors and backgrounds, and can be accessed both via the Edge panel and through the Samsung Keyboard.
As for the rest of the software, the Note 8 comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, with the Samsung Experience UX laid on top — the just-released Android 8.0 Oreo is unsurprisingly nowhere to be found. So this means that, apart from the S Pen-related additions, the feature set will be pretty similar to the one found on the Galaxy S8.
Given the curved nature of the Note 8's display, it's only natural for Samsung to bring the Edge Panel back — though there is a small but useful new addition to its feature set. It's called App Pairs, and is essentially the ability to launch two apps in split-screen mode with a single tap, which should be pretty handy for people who frequently use multitasking.
And lastly, Samsung's virtual assistant Bixby is also making an appearance (in case the dedicated button didn't already clue you in). And seeing how its voice capabilities have just launched worldwide, using it may become a considerably better experience for people outside of the United States and Korea (though it's still available in two languages only).
Price & release date
You can pre-order the both the carrier-specific and the unlocked versions of the Note 8 starting August 23, the same day as its announcement. However, its actual release date is set for September 15, which is more than three weeks later, so prepare to wait for a while.
So far, Samsung has only confirmed the following color variants: Midnight Black and Orchid Grey for the U.S., and Midnight Black, Maple Gold and Deepsea Blue for the rest of the world. However, we imagine each region's respective color options will grow in time, so we'll make sure to keep you posted.
When it comes to the price, things aren't very pretty: the Note 8 will be sold for a minimum of $930 in the United States, and presumably even more outside of it (as is often the case). So if you're interested in the device, you better start preparing your wallet right now.