The elephant in the room was always going to be the exploding Note 7, Samsung has gone out of their way in order to try and address the issue, but is it enough? it was later explained what they later put in place in order to avoid the issue from happening again, an apparent 8-point battery safety check has now been put in place, they seemed to want to make it very clear that this new method is in place for the launch of the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and future devices.
It is with the S8 and S8 Plus that Samsung’s latest flagship phones have ditched the physical home button, the exact same thing that Apple has been rumoured to be doing with the iPhone 8 for a while now. Samsung have also decided to jump into the virtual assistant arena with the newly announced Bixby. Rather than having two different versions of the same phone (like the S7 and S7 Edge) Samsung has decided that both the S8 and S8 Plus will have the curved sides, this in itself can be an issue with many people complaining on their social media page that the Edge model of the S7 had a screen that would break far too easy due to the curve.
The display of the S8 and S8 Plus (5.8in S8 and 6.2in for the S8 Plus) means a more stretched out aspect ratio than ever before, by removing the bezels and pushing the screens closer to the top of and bottom of the handsets. This means some subtle changes like the lack of a Samsung logo on the front of the device’s, also the removal of the physical home button which has been replaced with an on screen icon (in a similar fashion to LG) however a pressure sensor and vibration module have been built behind the new virtual button to provide the user with haptic like feedback (much like the home button on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus). Samsung took the opportunity to point out that the new screen ratio makes the new phones better suited to running two apps side by side (what Samsung don’t tell you is that this can only be done with their own apps), for example there is space to watch a video and use a chat app while still having room for a full touch keyboard.
The screens are the same resolution (weirdly Samsung have kept the same resolution for both the S8 and the S8 Plus) but are brighter and they now support high dynamic range (HDR) playback. Samsung also point out that both the S8 and S8 Plus can be used with one hand.
Along with the S8 and S8 Plus Samsung announced Bixby their entry into the virtual assistant. The assistant is activated by pressing a dedicated side-button and allows 10 built in apps including a photo gallery, messages and weather to be controlled by voice (much like Apple’s “Hey Siri”) Samsung were very keen to highlight that Bixby is “context aware” giving users the ability to ask follow up questions and is aware of what is currently on the display, Samsung are expecting users to mix both voice commands and physical controls together – for example asking to see photo’s taken that day (much like you can with Apple’s Siri) tapping them and then asking for them to be messaged to a friend, however i’m not sure that many people will do this, if you have to physically touch the phone it is much better to just send the photo’s yourself in a messaging app. The software can also be used to recognise object seen via the phone’s camera, for example it can be used in order to identify a landmark or tell the owner how much a product will cost to buy online, Bixby works with Google Music (Exactly like Apple’s Siri works with Apple Music) and Samsung say that they intend to open it up to other third party apps in the future, however a date was not given. One of the biggest downsides to this is that Bixby is only designed to recognise US and Korean voice at launch. The other downside is privacy, do users really want a virtual assistant that can listen to people understand them in context and even be able to recognise where they are? can users REALY trust Samsung? after all it was revealed that Samsung Smart TV’s can be hacked and they can listen to what you are saying.
Let’s not forget that in the past Samsung features have sounded good but in reality and when used on a daily basis they have not been good at all (Yes Galaxy S4 I’m looking at you)
other improvements include:
eight megapixel front camera
rear camera remains at 12 megapixels
New Samsung Connect app
While the design of the S8 and S8 Plus looks nice and Samsung have come a long way since the days of the plastic looking and cheap feel of the S4 for example. I do not share Samsung’s bold (and i think delusional) declaration that the S8 is a “work of art” and a “dream to overcome Apple” apart from adding the curve display to both their flagship models, a bigger and better display along with their virtual assistant Bixby, Samsung are still at the core the same old Samsung that uses Toucwiz on top of Google’s Android operation system. It is the OS that ruins the nice look of Samsung’s latest phones that are on the outside designed well (giving credit where it’s due).
Until Samsung do what Apple have been doing for many years, control the software and the hardware their devices will continue to have the same issues (many people report that Samsung phone’s slow down and become laggy over time due to the Touchwiz OS) Samsung devices also rarely get updates to the latest operating systems this means that security issues can remain un-patched unlike Apple’s IOS which is given regular updates and security updates). With the S8 and S8 Plus Samsung chose to put the finger print reader on the back but worse than that is where they put it, very close to the camera in fact if you move your finger or forget where the reader is and move your finger upwards you are likely to touch the camera which will leave fingerprints on it and no doubt frustrate users in the process.
If Samsung decided to take the OS more serious, build Touchwiz and remove Android while also removing the bloatware that appears on all of their devices (both from Samsung and networks such as T-Mobile for example). They could have a really nice smartphone that not only looks good on the outside but also on the inside.
Prices for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are £689 and £779 for 64GB compared to £699 and £819 for Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus 128GB.