GIMME: Dazzling new stars in the Samsung galaxy
The S8 and S8+ are not quite the ‘whole new form factor’ Samsung promised, but they are spectacular devices
The launch of the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices was a big deal for fans of the brand and technology-focused media, with two simultaneous live events (in New York and London), as well as live-streaming launches for media in several countries.
As expected, Samsung had made all kinds of promises before the event, including, most intriguingly, that there would be a "whole new form factor" for smartphones.
So, do the S8 and S8+ live up to the hype?
There’s no doubt that these are spectacular devices. They are the latest in a line of solid handsets that (mostly) just keep getting better across the range of specs: display, camera, processing performance, battery life and so on.
The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch screen, while that of the S8+ is 6.2 inches. Both have an elongated 18:9 ratio display (compared with the more traditional 16:9). Most of the bezel has been stripped back, providing even more screen space — which Samsung is calling Infinity Display. Even the physical home and back buttons are gone, and have been replaced with on-screen versions.
This smart nip-and-tuck might not sound like much, but it adds up to a distinct and dazzling package.
The right-hand curved edge offers a menu and functionality similar to those of the S7 Edge devices, while swiping in from the left provides access to Bixby — Samsung’s new "assistant", which learns from your behaviour to give you context-specific and personalised options such as "my schedule", "today’s activity" and tailored news.
The fingerprint scanner is now located on the back, and a couple of reviewers have highlighted their distaste for the new position. It is a smidge awkward, but if you must use biometrics to unlock and you’re struggling with the fingerprint, these models now include iris scanning and face recognition.
The battery life is a welcome change: the S8 has legs (happily cruising through a full day), and the S8+ is ready for marathons, promising battery life of 24 hours and counting. That’s good enough, but paired with battery-thirsty attributes such as the cinematic screen and powerful processor, it’s downright impressive.
Front and rear cameras are two more bragging points. The front camera offers 8MP, front flash and smart auto-focus. The rear "dual pixel" camera provides 12MP, with multiframe image processing and excellent low-light handling. It’s also water and dust resistant.
The devices are available at present in Midnight Black, Orchid Gray and Maple Gold, with more colours expected later in the year. It runs on Android Nougat. You can expect to fork out R15,499 for the S8 and R17,499 for the S8+.
Am I convinced that a rectangular curved display equates with a whole new form? Not quite. But with all the other cool updates — including Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor and a diamond-sharp immersive display — frankly, who wants to quibble over semantics?