Samsung Galaxy S8 vs OnePlus 3T
Interface and Functionality
A new cleaner and more refined Samsung UI looks well polished and organized, intuitive. The OnePlus offers nice customization options, but does not look as cool.
Samsung continues its successful work on making its user experience (some still call it TouchWiz, others refer to it as Grace UI) better and it shows on the S8. The home screen is cleaner, the notification dropdown looks sleek and has all that you need, the settings menu is well arranged. The new swipe gesture to bring the app drawer is quick, and the keyboard experience is one of the finest on a phone.
The OnePlus 3T features a much cleaner interface that is closer to stock Android. It features some neat customization options: you can choose to use virtual navigation buttons, or you can disable them, you can switch the places of the recents and back keys (you can also do this on the S8). We love the shortcuts that OnePlus adds: you can assign a shortcut to long pressing the back key for instance, or another shortcut for double tapping it. This is genuinely useful and helps you be quicker and more productive.
In terms of software updates, Samsung is still not perfect, though. In fact, a small company like OnePlus has been surprisingly quick to bring the Android 7.1 Nougat update to the OnePlus series, while the S8 still runs on 7.0. Neither of these two phones can match the day 1 update cycle on phones like the Google Pixel, though.
If you dive in the more advanced features, both phones have things like split-screen multitasking, but it makes a lot more sense on the taller S8 display. The taller screen also becomes an advantage in some optimized apps, where this kind of bigger information density is a clear advantage.
The extremely fast and smart Google Assistant is available on both phones, and that’s great news. Samsung, however, is preparing something on top of that, a new Bixby assistant, reserved for the Galaxy S8. There is even a dedicated Bixby key on the left of the S8. Unfortunately, the full functionality of Bixby has been delayed and will launch in the near future. Currently, Bixby without the voice part look a lot like colorful Google Now cards. Useful, but not ground-breaking. It also works in the camera by automatically recognizing products and QR codes, and providing shopping links, but that’s hardly the ground-breaking assistant we were expecting.
Processor, Performance and Memory
The Galaxy S8’s 10nm Snapdragon 835 is the fastest chip on Android, but you see stutter here and there. The OnePlus rocks a Snapdragon 821 and also lacks a bit in fluidity.
Samsung is in a unique position among phone makers: it’s the biggest of them all and the most profitable one in the Android world, and this opens some doors. This year, it opened the doors at Qualcomm: the S8 is the first phone to come with Qualcomm’s latest and most powerful Snapdragon 835, a clear competitive advantage. That is the chip that the S8 features in the US, in other parts of the world, Samsung equips it with the similarly powerful Exynos (that one gets slightly better battery stats actually).
The OnePlus, on its part, was released earlier and has the less capable Snapdragon 821 system chip. The 821 is made on 14nm manufacturing technology, while the 835 is made on 10nm tech. This is important because it means the S8 chip is more power efficient.
All of this is great, but what we want here is not stats and numbers, but real-life impressions. Unfortunately both phones do not completely live up to the highest of standards here. The S8 is a bit stuttery, while the OnePlus 3T lacks the smooth transition animations in many places, and the effect is that both feel less smooth, less fluid than we would like. Of course, this does not mean that they are bad or slow by any means, but if you compare them to devices like the Google Pixel or the Apple iPhone, they lack those levels of smoothness.
Speaking of performance, we also have to mention the new Samsung DeX dock. This clever dock allows you to connect your S8 to an external monitor and use the S8 as the processor. The phone will then display a desktop interface on the external monitor, so that you can do all the things you do on a large desktop screen, without actually owning a desktop computer. Sounds cool, right? Not so much in real life use: a ton of apps are not supported, you will not even be able to size up Facebook to a full-screen app, and opening more than one app results in delayed key input and annoying lag. The Samsung DeX costs $150 and it’s a toy for technologists who want to experiment with new ideas, but not a real desktop replacement, not even for lighter users.
Next up: storage. Here both phones do well: you have a nice, 64 GB base storage option on both phones. Only the S8 supports a microSD card slot, so that you can pop in a card to expand that storage at any time. The OnePlus does not have that option, but if you want more storage it is also available in a 128 GB model that costs $40 more than the base version.
Internet and Connectivity
The OnePlus does not work on Verizon and Sprint in the United States, while the S8 is offered on all major US carriers. Where they work, though, both support 4G LTE.
The one thing you should know about the OnePlus 3T if you live in the United States, is that neither of the four big US carriers carries the phone. You need to buy it at the OnePlus official store for its full retail price. You should also remember that the OnePlus is not a CDMA phone, so it will not work on Verizon Wireless or Sprint. The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, is offered in both unlocked version and on all major carriers, which is a plus.
Both phones support proper 4G LTE bands for the carriers that they work on, so you should not worry about LTE connectivity issues.
The OnePlus 3T, as we’ve mentioned previously, is also a dual SIM phone, which will be particularly well appreciated in some markets.
In terms of the Internet and browsing experience, the taller screen on the Galaxy S8 makes a difference as you need to scroll less, and you see a bit more on this larger display, plus you can multitask easier as well. The rest of the experience does not differ much.
Other connectivity options include NFC on both phones. The S8 support Samsung Pay for wireless payments (including support for older, magnetic terminals), while the OnePlus only works with Android Pay. Dual-band Wi-Fi is also on board on both, a useful feature in urban areas congested with many Wi-Fi networks.