From the quite-literal ashes of the Note 7, Samsung seeks to redeem its charred image with the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+. We attended Samsung’s launch event in New York City to get a feel for the South Korean conglomerate’s new crown jewel(s).
There have been non-stop leaks regarding the S8’s design, so we know what to expect upon setting eyes on the phone. But, man, you really need to see it in person to fully appreciate Samsung’s craftsmanship here.
Bezels are Bad
The feature that grabbed the most headlines is the S8’s new screen design. Aping the Xiaomi Mi Mix and the LG G6 with their trendy “bezel-less” screens, Samsung probably has the best execution out of all of them. The 5.8 inches of the regular S8 (the S8+ comes at 6.2) sounds huge, but remember, the screen now occupies the space where the hardware buttons and logo formerly sat. Because of that, the S8 is still compact, not much bigger than the S7.
Another significant change is the shift to software buttons on the bottom of the screen. This is in no way original to an Android phone, as Samsung is probably the last flagship manufacturer to ship hardware buttons on its phones. However, this design change is a significant departure for Samsung and a welcome one for Android enthusiasts for the customisation it allows. We can now put the back button where it truly belongs.
A design element that we approved of but never really had time to enjoy was the Note 7’s frame. The S8 adopts that style, where the front edges no longer end abruptly into the back. Now it curves to the back seamlessly, and it is a joy to hold in hand.
The back is still glass, though, of which we are sceptical. It is easy to manufacture, sure, but glass has durability risks where metal does not. Apple somewhat justifies its premium pricing for a sturdy aluminium back, and even OnePlus will sell you one for much, much cheaper. Therefore, the decision to stick with glass is a bewildering one.
Then there’s the fingerprint sensor, which moves to the back of the phone – not below the camera, which is probably the most sensible location, but on its left side. Again, it is a baffling design decision on Samsung’s part, as we did not find it comfortable to try to reach all the way beside the camera just to unlock the phone. For lefties, it is practically impossible. We will have to see until we spend more time with the S8, but we are not optimistic.
A new addition to Samsung’s template is the hardware button for launching Bixby – a voice-activated digital assistant similar to Google Now. Trying out the voice commands were a little iffy as it did not respond as well as Google Now does, but it is probably inevitable given that it is beta software.
Activating Bixby through the screen shows information cards and widgets, like weather, a pedometer, etc. If Bixby is not your cup of tea, Google Now is still available when you press and hold the home key.
So far, that is all we have experienced in the new Samsung Galaxy S8, but stay tuned for our full review in the coming weeks.