The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are now official: the biggest and most beautiful Galaxy flagships so far


After months of speculation, Samsung’s latest flagship pair, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, are finally official. They’re the company’s biggest effort to date to recapture its user base’s trust following a couple of high-profile incidents, and it shows: the S8 pair is bigger and better in almost every way, from the upgraded internals to the new software capabilities.

But the first thing that strikes even the casual onlooker is most definitely the Galaxy S8’s completely new look, which serves both as the company’s entry into the latest smartphone craze – that of the almost bezel-less screen, as well as an immediately obvious visual indicator of the new direction the company is taking.

And for the consumer who wants more than just a rehash of last year’s device, Samsung delivers a ton of new features, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Firstly, let’s start with the raw specs:

Samsung Galaxy S8Samsung Galaxy S8+
PlatformAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.0 Nougat
Dimensions, Weight148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm, 155g159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173g
Display5.8” Quad HD+ Super AMOLED (1440 x 2960)6.2” Quad HD+ Super AMOLED (1440 x 2960)
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 835 / Samsung Exynos 8895Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 / Samsung Exynos 8895
RAM4 GB RAM (LPDDR4)4 GB RAM (LPDDR4)
CamerasRear: Dual Pixel 12MP OIS (F1.7)
Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)
Rear: Dual Pixel 12MP OIS (F1.7)
Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)
Storage64 GB64 GB
Battery3,000 mAh3,500 mAh
Special featuresIP68 water resistance, Wireless charging, BixbyIP68 water resistance, Wireless charging, Bixby

Beautiful design


Earlier, when we mentioned the pair being “bigger and better” we meant that in a quite literal sense – both the S8 and the S8+ tower over most smartphones with their extremely tall frames, an effect further enhanced by the devices’ unusual screen aspect ratio. And, boy, that screen – while we’ve seen curved edges on devices before the S8, with Samsung itself spearheading the movement with the Galaxy S6 edge, S7 edge, and Note 7, the screen shape here is much more pleasing to the eye. This is, in large part, thanks to the S8’s new curved corners, which give the S8 a smooth and pleasing outline, a fact which Samsung’s marketing department heavily exploited in the teasers leading up to today’s announcement.

Both the regular S8 and the larger S8+ feature tall, large displays – 5.8 and 6.2 inches, respectively. Both have an aspect ratio of 18.5:9, with that .5 being dedicated to the on-screen buttons replacing the physical keys below the screen. The displays themselves are, as usual, Samsung's own Super AMOLED panels, but the resolution has been bumped to 1440 x 2960 pixels. Samsung calls the S8's display an "Infinity Display", thanks to its minimal side bezels which flush with the side of the device.

The S8’s design also lacks one of its predecessors' significant features: the physical home button. And for good reason – the S8’s minimal top and bottom bezels were made to be as unobtrusive as possible, making the decision to remove the buttons a necessary one. At the top of the S8’s front sits an array of sensors, including the much-rumored iris scanner, as inherited from the Galaxy Note 7. However, this addition came at a slight cost – the large amount of sensors on the top bezel make it look slightly unwieldy, a problem somewhat alleviated by Samsung’s decision to make the front all-black in all color versions.

Moving to the back, where much less has changed compared with the S7, possibly the first thing one notices is the addition of a rear-facing fingerprint sensor, placed right next to the camera. This is a decision widely critiqued by many even before the reveal, and one that is likely to cause an avalanche of finger smudges on the camera lens. The S8's back is made out of subtly textured glass, a choice made to enable for the inclusion of wireless charging.

The sides on the S8 are heavily curved, with the biggest new addition being a fourth side button, sitting on the left edge, just below the volume controls. This is a special-purpose button for Bixby, the new AI assistant making its debut together with the S8, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The bottom of the device thankfully has a headphone jack, and beside it sits the phone’s speaker, which we would’ve liked better if it weren’t mono, but as far as problems go, this is a pretty minor one.


What's hiding inside


The Galaxy S8 has the curious distinction of debuting not just one, but two new chipsets: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 in the US, and the Samsung Exynos 8895 in the rest of the world. While there’s been some drama concerning their respective benchmarks, the differences will most probably be minor, just like it was in previous models.

We won’t go into too much detail here, but the new generation of chipsets comes with new, 10-nm designs which promise better battery efficiency than before. Along with this, however, Samsung has also packed its new flagship pair with large batteries – a 3,000 mAh one for the S8, and a 3,500 mAh one for the S8+. These are similar figures to the Galaxy S7, so we imagine we’ll get slightly better battery life this time around, which would be a good thing, as we found last year’s flagship pair somewhat lacking in this department.

Just like its predecessors, the S8 and S8+ will also come with 4 GB of RAM, which should be plenty for almost everyone. Included storage is 64 GB, which, as is traditional for the company, is expandable via microSD card.

A good but ordinary camera


Unlike many of its competitors, the S8 features almost the same rear camera as its predecessor, a 12 MP, f/1.7 shooter. Even though the image processing capabilities have improved, the camera itself has none of the flashy new dual-camera capabilities that have been gaining popularity recently. It’s worth noting, however, that, just like the S7, the S8’s sensor features the so-called Dual Pixel technology, which enables for much better autofocusing than the regular PDAF solution. Also interesting is the front camera, which has bumped up the sensor from 5 MP to 8 MP, and has also added face-detection autofocus.

Perhaps the biggest additions are on the software side: Samsung promises the S8's camera will perform much better in low-light conditions, thanks to the built-in HDR mode. However, what most users will notice are the newly-added filters and stickers, which are much like what could previously only be found in third-party apps, such as Snapchat.

Samsung's latest take on Android


While back in the day we all loved to hate on Samsung’s custom UI, TouchWiz, its recent developments, which include a name change to Samsung Experience, have helped immensely in making Samsung’s software feel less bloated. Its latest iteration, which is based on Android 7.0 Nougat, is in full view here, and offers new, better-looking iconography, which, combined with the many improvements to the user interface, give it a beautiful and uniform look, though fans of Android’s stock UI will almost certainly be displeased.


Due to the omission of navigation buttons below the screen, Samsung has added on-screen buttons, which are a first for the line. Unsurprisingly, they feature their own custom designs, in line with Samsung Experience’s new shift towards curved lines depicting more complex shapes, which can be found most everywhere in the phone’s interface. People who dislike Samsung's layout of the navigation buttons – back button on the right, recents on the left – should also be happy to know they can finally reverse it to Google's stock layout, which has the back button on the left side.

Furthermore, Samsung has added a small but noticeable enhancement to the on-screen buttons with a new haptic feedback engine, similar to the iPhone 7's 3D Touch. This is a move to please fans of the now-missing physical button, as it gives noticeable feedback similar to actual clicking.

Bixby


And speaking of buttons, let’s address the elephant in the room: the S8’s new virtual assistant, Bixby, is such a big feature of the device, that Samsung’s deemed it necessary to add a special button entirely dedicated to it. Whether this was a necessary move is still up for debate, as we’ll have to spend some time with the assistant to tell how good it is, but it’s worth mentioning that even though its functions are limited for now, Samsung has promised it will expand its capabilities in the near future.

Bixby supports many basic functions expected of virtual assistants nowadays – there's the basic question responses, as well as scheduling functionality you would find in competitors like Google Assistant and Siri, as well as some more advanced features like product recognition and real-time camera-based translation. But the biggest thing about Bixby is the functionality it doesn't yet have – Samsung has promised it will offer feature parity with the traditional touch interface of apps. Or in other words, users should be able to do everything they normally can via voice commands, which is an impressive proposition, though it remains to be seen whether the company is actually capable of achieving it.


Expectations, price, and release date


Seeing as this is one of the biggest smartphone launches of the year, it’s clear that consumer expectations are high. Following the Note 7’s notoriety, Samsung needed a new hit, and from what we’ve seen so far, the Galaxy S8 seems to be exactly that. 

The small S8 will cost $750, while its larger sibling, the S8+ will be slightly more expensive, at $850. The S8 will be available in five colors total – black, orchid gray, silver, blue, and maple gold, though only the first three will be available in the US.

The Galaxy S8 will officially launch on April 21 in the United States, but Samsung is running a massive pre-order campaign to reward early adopters. Pre-orders start on Thursday, March 30, and come with a free Gear VR headset, together with a controller. Apart from that, every S8 will also come bundled with a pair of AKG-branded earphones worth $100.

Some buyers may also get the chance to get their phones shipped before the street release date, though we wouldn’t count on it, considering the large amount of interest in the device.





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Galaxy S8
  • Display 5.8 inches
    2960 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Single camera)
    8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh
  • OS Android 9.0 Pie
    Samsung One UI
Galaxy S8+
  • Display 6.2 inches
    2960 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Single camera)
    8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 3500 mAh
  • OS Android 9.0 Pie
    Samsung One UI

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