The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are finally out in the open. Here are the biggest innovations found on the new devices.
The Infinity Display and Invisible Home Button
The almost bezel-less Infinity Display is the most obvious improvement. Not only are the edge-to-edge curves visually striking, but they’ve also allowed Samsung to pack 5.8- and 6.2-inch screens into small form factors. In fact, the new S8 is roughly the same size as the S7 and S7 edge while packing a screen that’s 0.3 inches bigger. The comparison to Google’s Pixel devices is even more drastic. The base S8 is barely taller than the standard Pixel, but its screen is a whopping 0.8-inches larger. Both the S8 and S8+ also boast PPIs above 520 and are certified for HDR content by the UHD alliance.
The high screen-to-body ratio does mean the devices have fairly weird aspect ratios — 18.5:9. It’s not clear how this will affect viewing certain types of content or apps not optimized for the display, but Samsung did share that the phone can automatically stretch content to fit.
Unlike what most thought from early leaks, Samsung has likewise managed to integrate an “invisible” home button beneath the infinity display, which works in a similar fashion to the virtual home button on the iPhone, minus the fingerprint sensor and physical call out on the bottom of the phone. And speaking of the fingerprint sensor, it’s been moved to the rear of the device next to the camera. That’s clearly not an ideal position and we’d guess the rear camera lens will need to be wiped frequently for fingerprints.
The Galaxy line has always vied for the title of best camera phone, so it’s a bit of a surprise that the camera setup found on the S8 and S8+ is similar to the excellent unit found on the S7. It’s the same 12MP rear shooter paired with a f/1.7 lens. However, some software upgrades allow the phone to combine burst shots to create a single ideal image, matching what the Google Pixel currently offers through so-called HDR+. The front-facing camera has been upgraded though over the S7 to an 8MP unit with autofocus.
In light of the Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Samsung has introduced an “eight-point battery safety check that goes beyond the industry standard,” according to Justin Denison, SVP of product strategy. The S8 contains a 3,000mAh battery while the S8 Plus jumps to 3,500mAh version — the same size that was found in the Note 7. In use this should translate to a full day of power, but likely not much beyond that.
Luckily support for wireless charging is included in the S8, along with quick charging technology. The exact type of quick charging supported will depend on the processor. US versions of the phone should include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, which can reach up to hours of battery life in just 15 minutes of charging. S8’s sold elsewhere will include Samsung’s own Exynos processor with similar capabilities.
Bixby Virtual Assistant
Samsung finally has a virtual assistant to go along with every other tech company. Bixby’s focus revolves around four core interactions of “talk,” “see,” “recommend” and “remind.” It’s too early to say how effective or different Bixby really is compared to others, but Samsung is touting Bixby’s ability to move seamlessly between voice and touch as a big selling point. Specifically, this means users can ask Bixby to handle most actions in select apps that were previously limited to just touch. Examples include asking Bixby to rotate an image or take a screenshot.
Bixby recognizes the context of what’s on your phone screen and incorporates that into its decision-making. It’s also deeply tied to the camera and can understand what the camera sees, allowing so-called “Bixby Vision” to do things like identify items and then deliver results to users on where they can buy it.
For now, Bixby is compatible with Samsung’s core apps that handle basic functions like messaging, web browsing, photos etc. Eventually, Bixby will be able to work with third-party software using an SDK.
Bixby also powers another feature of the phone known as Bixby Home, which resembles the functionality of Google Now, providing users with various “cards” of information like directions, step counts, relevant web stories to read, etc. that evolve based on a user’s habits.
Desktop Functionality Via Samsung DeX
DeX is a docking accessory for the S8 and S8+ that features an HDMI port, two USB ports, and a cooling fan. It allows owners to connect their phones to a monitor and interact with a custom desktop version of the phone’s software via a traditional mouse and keyboard. Samsung showed off how the phone can mimic the activities business users might follow on a laptop like editing a PowerPoint presentation or dragging an attachment to an email. How relevant this feature will be in the long run, though, remains to be seen; one could guess it will depend a lot on the final price of the dock accessory. Also, full-fledged computers tend to lurk in places where monitors reside, so it’s not clear why a smartphone would usurp them.
Iris Scanning, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LTE, AKG Earbuds and More
Beyond the high-level advances above, there’s a bevy of other enhancements that easily make the S8 and S8+ the most technically advanced phones on the market right now.
Bluetooth 5.0 is one example. The S8 is the first device to include the upgrade, which offers significant improvements in audio quality and speed, and up to four times the connection range over the previous standard (or roughly 800 feet). The S8 can also broadcast audio to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously and adjust the volume for both sources independently, which could come in handy for sharing songs between people now that wireless headphones are becoming the standard. And yes, there’s still a headphone jack. Samsung will even include a pair of wired AKG earbuds along with each phone, which is valued at $99 when sold separately.
The S8 family will also be the first phones capable of supporting gigabit LTE speeds, though it’s unlikely you’ll ever encounter this kind of bandwidth in the real world. Still, this could give the S8 the fastest web browsing experience of any mobile device if the cell tower gods align right.
Those worried about the rear placement of the phone’s fingerprint scanner should also take comfort knowing the iris scanning system launched on the Note 7 is now on the S8. Samsung designed a new facial recognition feature to unlock the device too, which supposedly greatly improves on the process baked into some Android devices in the past. The bottom line is users will have a variety of other secure ways to quickly unlock their device without reaching around to the fingerprint sensor.
Both phones are IP68 certified, meaning they’re essentially waterproof within reason, and feature 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and an expandable SD card slot.
Expect devices to officially ship on April 21 in 5 color options, with an estimated starting price of around $750 for the S8.
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