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article imageA hands-on look at the Samsung Galaxy S8+

By Jack Derricourt     May 15, 2017 in Technology
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is an exciting phone to behold. The infinity display is the kind of trend in smartphone design that could push things forward. But does it live up the hype? Digital Journal took the phone for a spin to find out.
Samsung has a lot riding on the flagship phone. The company’s executives even pledged that this model would be their big attempt to beat the iPhone — and with a well-received iPhone 7 (sans headphone jack woes) the competition is fierce. While the jury remains out on whether the Galaxy S8 or S8+ will suffer the same explosive dissatisfaction from customers — there are only so many things you can test with a new phone after all — we can take a hard look at whether this new smartphone will be the one to rebuild consumer trust in Samsung mobile products.
So, can Samsung pull off a big win with this phone?
First impressions
The phone is sleek. There’s no other way to put it. With the glass stretching all the way over the edges to sit in the slim metal frame, it looks like the Stanley Kubrick answer to a phone of the future.
It feels like it too. The phone has a great handfeel, and all the glass makes it very comfortable to hold. With all that glass, you’d be worried the thing would slip right out of your hand. But on the plus side/down side, the phone is a fingerprint magnet, making your grip dependable, but also messy.
Scrolling through Digital Journal’s mobile site on the phone was simply gorgeous, and I could see why users would get a big kick out of such a different take on the display.
The gesture controls take a front seat in terms of interactions. They aren’t anything too innovative, as we've seen gesture controls come into play more often, but they're still integrated nicely into the UI.
So let’s take a look at the big features that come with Samsung’s shiny flagship.
Infinity display
I really wondered about this. Is the bezel-less display just a gimmick or does this offer the future of functionality?
The great look of media on the screen is hard to knock — though it could maybe make it way too easy to eat up your data browsing through cool stories and cat videos.
You can definitely see more easily with such a gorgeous display, and so much of it. There’s just a ton of screen to work with. The downside to this is that not all apps will use all of this new real estate.
Also, with so much screen, sometimes it’s hard to move your fingers to where they need to get to to scroll or type; the one-handed mode in settings helps this a bit, but in the end, the size of the phone is the size of the phone, and there’s not much to be done
AI assistants are a huge sales appeal for consumers. Samsung’s Bixby has been fully integrated into the Galaxy S8 and S8+, and it’s accessible with its own button on the left side of the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S8 - Bixby
Samsung Galaxy S8 - Bixby
Unfortunately, for now, the voice control portion of Bixby is a ghost in the shell. Bixby Home and Bixby Vision are working, but there are no controls via voice, which is a big drag for reviewers and viral marketers everywhere. Bixby Home offers up cards similar to Google Now, customisable preferences on which cards you want to see, which widgets you want. It’s not the groundbreaking Bixby we were expecting, but it’s nicely integrated into the gesture-based UI.
The Software
The new Galaxy has a stripped-down UI — no bloatware in sight. It reminded me of Google’s setup for its range of phones — a simple, transparent home base for mobile users to build upon themselves. It’s fast, lean and offers up a lot of options to customize through settings.
The Camera
This was the big test if Samsung really wants to compete with the iPhone. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ come loaded with a variety of filters and settings, encouraging users to get out there and share their content.
Both models come with a 12 MP rear camera and a 8 MP front camera. The gesture-activated selfie function is pretty cool, especially for the selfie-hesitant — when taking a selfie is just one swipe away, why not give it a try?
Toronto s Distillery District as seen through the iPhone 7 Plus
Toronto's Distillery District as seen through the iPhone 7 Plus
Digital Journal
Toronto s Distillery District seen through the Samsung Galaxy S8+ camera
Toronto's Distillery District seen through the Samsung Galaxy S8+ camera
Digital Journal
While the digital zoom has no hope of comparing with the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras, the overall picture quality between the two higher-end phones is negligible. Apple better watch out!
List of other cool features we liked the look of
-answered the age-old questions, ‘What is the sound of one-hand smartphone using’ with the one-handed mode
-blue light filter to reduce eye strain
-the snappiness of the GUI isn’t anything unprecedented — it pretty much responded to multitasking and RAM-heavy apps the way
I expected it to from my experiences with Samsung's previous flagship phone — and that’s good enough for me
-the water and dust resistance is cool, but we didn’t try it out — we didn’t really want to dunk our review copy in a jug of dusty water
-expandable memory — another staple of any solid Android phone — goes up to 11 in both of Samsung's new flagship phone models, with memory that is upgradeable to 256 MB
-the battery life was similar to what we’ve seen from the iPhone and the Galaxy S7 — oh, and it didn’t explode!
Weighed, measured and found wanting
-always-on display is lackluster; we might see more customization come along, allowing you to toggle which widgets show up on the screen, rather than just a clock, but the feature as is just rubbed me the wrong way
-the new security features were more of a pain than a blessing. I want one touch, swipe, retina scan activation. The multiple layers of unlocking could be just what security-minded users are waiting for, but they felt clumsy and overwrought in my experiences with the S8+
-lack of Bixby voice is a big deal — a big part of what makes the phone a true competitor to Apple and Siri — and not being able to play around with it leaves me feeling like a mid-tantrum toddler
-the glossy look makes it a fingerprint and scratch magnet; so much glass is going to beg for a case from more rowdy phone owners like yours truly, which pretty much hides away one of the phone's coolest features
Final thoughts
Will this phone reassure customers that Samsung is a trustworthy name in smartphone technology? Absolutely.
Is this phone everything Samsung says it is? I feel that's a more complicated question to answer.
In a way I feel like I didn’t really get my hands on the Galaxy S8+ even though our review copy became a familiar face around the office. Without Bixby Voice, it really seemed like I wasn’t getting the whole package. So while there was a great deal to like about Samsung’s new flagship phone, I didn’t find it to be the groundbreaking, earth-shattering experience that I was hoping for.
If you like a phone that pushes the design envelope and keeps trucking along with all the things that make Android worth picking over iOS, I’d advise you to pick up the Galaxy S8 or S8+. However, if you’re on the fence, I’d say there’s not too much here to suggest you go either way between Apple and Android. Check back when Bixby Voice is on the scene.
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