To Infinity and Beyond… – Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8 Plus

JToInfinity2A flagship phone launch is important to every company but this time, it’s more so for Samsung. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are the first flagship devices after Samsung recalled its Galaxy Note7 smartphone last year. But are the devices great enough to prove Samsung’s point that it is still the number one Android manufacturer? Read on.

Design and Build Quality
Let’s get this straight: the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are beautifully designed phones. Last year’s Galaxy S7 edge was a stunner in its own right but Samsung has clearly outdone itself. Interestingly, Samsung has gone with curved displays for both the variants unlike what the brand did with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 series. There are other changes as well. For instance, the bezel-less screen takes up literally the whole front, which means a physical home button with integrated fingerprint sensor has been given a miss. Instead, Samsung has put the home button under the screen and the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back. The glass back looks pretty good but make sure you have a handy cloth with you at all times, because it is a fingerprint magnet.

As for the button and port placements, the right side hosts the power button whereas the left features the volume buttons along with the dedicated Bixby button. The top side features the Dual SIM hybrid slot while the bottom side sports a the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port and loudspeaker. There’s also an iris scanner placed on the front. Oh, and the phones retain the IP68 certification so that you can dunk them in water in 1.5m for up to 30 minutes.

Samsung should be proud of these two new-lookers in its repertoire. The brand has certainly set a benchmark for other smartphone makers when it comes to design.

Key Features
The Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ screens are known as Infinity Display and all it takes is one look at them to know why they are called so. The 5.8-inch screen on the Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inch Galaxy S8+ virtually take up the front area entirely (barring the top and bottom bezel), giving you an all-screen illusion. It’s a Super AMOLED panel with both phones supporting up to Quad HD+ resolution (2960×1440). Interestingly, the default resolution of the display is Full HD+ (2220×1080) but can be easily tweaked in the display menu.

The Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ come with two different processors. However, for the Indian market, Samsung sells both the variants with Exynos chip. The new phones are equipped with Samsung’s latest 10nm Exynos 8895 processor, which in simple words, means more efficient performance and improved battery life compared to last year’s 14nm processor found in the Galaxy S7 series.

Coupled with 4GB RAM, the phones work smooth as butter. They run Android 7 Nougat and are based on new UI dubbed Samsung Experience. While you’d see some nuances of TouchWiz, as a whole, the new interface is cleaner and faster. The dedicated app icon has been removed for an upward or downward swipe to reveal the app drawer. The edge panels and edge lighting stay but edge feeds that used to reveal content in a locked state have been shown the door in the Galaxy S8 series.

There are other software enhancements like Game mode, One-handed mode, Multi-window mode and Panic mode, which, on pressing the power key three times, calls India’s emergency service number, 112. However, the inclusion of Panic mode has necessitated the removal of the handy quick camera access found on global variants. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also support Samsung Pay in India, which allows users to transact through a credit card, debit card, Paytm or even UPI. In terms of security, the phones are equipped with an oddly placed fingerprint sensor at the back and an iris scanner at the front.

The Always-On display has got some improvements as well. In addition to showing off the time, notifications and calendar, Always-On display now supports FaceWidgets that give quick access to music controls, today’s schedule and alarm.

The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also come with Bixby, Samsung’s new virtual assistant, which can be activated with a press of a dedicated button on the phone. Bixby collates information, just like Google Now, and shows everything in one place, such as today’s schedule, Samsung Health info, apps and lots more. The display cards and other information vary according to the use of the phone and the location.

Both phones come with a 12MP f/1.7 at the rear and an upgraded 8MP f/1.7 on the front. The device offers Raw image capture and records 4K videos at 30 fps. There is a provision to capture a 9-megapixel still image while recording 4K videos.

The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ feature 3000mAh and 3500mAh battery respectively and going just by the capacity, it’s safe to say that Galaxy S8+ offers better battery life. In our regular use, the Galaxy S8 offered about 10-12 hours of battery life on a single charge, whereas Galaxy S8+ crossed 17-18 hours with ease. Both phones were subjected to moderate to heavy use, from watching videos and web surfing to attending calls and playing music. Both phones support fast as well as wireless charging but there’s no improvement in the charging time when compared to Galaxy S7 series.

Both Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are taller but narrower than the previous models, which ensures a good grip. The Galaxy S8, we feel, has the perfect size while the Galaxy S8+ is manageable, but would require both the hands for regular use. The placement of the fingerprint reader is adjacent to the camera sensor, which in our opinion, is rather odd and increases the chances for the fingers to touch the camera glass inadvertently. The colours are vivid, as is typically the case with OLED panels, with the option to adjust colour temperature, sharpness and saturation. Our unit did not face the red tint issue – a recent software update has added a bit more colour customisation to take care of that. Other display adjustments include the option to activate or deactivate the blue light filter and the ability to run apps in full screen. Do note though, not all apps and games will work full screen.