I have had the pleasure of using Samsung’s flagship smartphone for 2017, the Galaxy S8, for a month.
There is so much to take away from the device and the effort put in making it.
1. TouchWiz (or whatever they call it) has come of age
Yup, you heard that right. Samsung’s custom user interface on the Galaxy S8 is not the greatest but it’s good and very usable.
That settings app that we are always complaining of being cluttered? Samsung found a way of making it less messy and even threw in some help tips to follow users around whenever they are in the settings app.
The gallery app has some nice little tweaks. It is no longer 2013 when Story Album (remember it?) was all the rage but Samsung has somehow found a way to auto-create “stories” a la Google Photos. Then there’s this killer feature in the gallery app: any time you take a screenshot from the Samsung Internet browser app or the Chrome browser app, you get an option to directly visit the page from where that particular screen grab was captured by simply clicking on “Go to URL” when viewing the screenshot from the stock gallery app. Neat!
The Galaxy S8 appears to be the culmination of all the flak that Samsung has had to take over the years with regards to its almost always wonky software. To counter accusations of preloading useless apps/bloatware, save for the mandatory Google apps, a user is presented with an option to choose the Samsung apps they want pre-installed on their device. A first!
You can mark any incoming SMS as read right from the notification shade. There’s a quick settings tile for directly sending your latest Twitter missive. It’s the little things.
Overall, the rounded icons are a nice touch even though the sandboxing at times can be annoying. For instance, I cannot see the new Play Store icon despite having the updated Play Store. Sigh.
2. That display is still to die for
I remember writing moments after its launch that the display on the Galaxy S8 is to die for. After spending some quality time with the device, I am convinced more than ever before that it actually is. It’s everything you want in a smartphone. Well, except the bit where it’s a chore watching full-screen YouTube videos on the Galaxy S8 thanks to its weird 18.5:9 aspect ratio or you are anxious that you might drop the device and have to pay through the nose to have it repaired.
That users get to choose the display’s resolution all the way from HD+ to FHD+ to WQHD+ is a nice touch and now I am convinced that it is a feature that every device should have.
3. Battery life is a hit and miss
Mobile data (4G) all day long, constant Twitter chat (even at work), emails on fleek, queer selfie-taking habits (selfies everywhere) and, when the occassion demands it, videos, collaboration on Google Docs while on the go, typing articles like this into Google Keep/Evernote/Docs, nearly unlimited Spotify etc – that’s my typical day at a glance. Any device I use should be able to get to at least 8PM despite having been fully charged by 6AM in the morning. Big ask?
I am so used to squeezing a full day and then some more from the devices I was using prior to getting the Galaxy S8. Shock on me when I started getting 4 hours screen on time on a regular basis and having to turn to the power socket just as the clock hit 4 PM and, at least in my own unique world, work just started in earnest. That happens a lot when the display resolution has been cranked up all the way to WQHD+ but I expected better…
4. There is no need for the Galaxy S8+
Better battery life I say? The Galaxy S8’s larger sibling, the Galaxy S8+, has a much larger battery unit and since in our current world a large battery unit almost always means better battery life, that is what you should be turning to.
Only that I would advise against that since the Galaxy S8 is already quite a handful thanks to its weird screen aspect ratio. Handling the Galaxy S8+ will be quite tasking.
5. The best camera on any phone you can officially buy in the Kenyan market right now
The camera on last year’s Galaxy S7/S7 Edge duo was the best I ever used. As such, every other camera I got to use on subsequent devices always fell in the shadow of the S7’s camera and either just got close enough or failed to match it completely. That was the case when I encountered, and got to use, the Huawei P9 and, later, the Huawei Mate 9. It looks like this year will likely be the same because the camera on the Galaxy S8 is a killer. Selfies are popping, night shots are popping, products of its food mode will get you hungry any time of day and, overall, images are at their best.
Since the Galaxy S8 is a bit longer, Samsung has added a floating camera button to allow users to be able to take snaps whichever way they are holding the phone without having to fumble finding the shutter or struggling to reach the volume rocker (for those with tiny
Donald Trump hands).
There is no camera bump too. You will notice this the moment you lift up the Galaxy S8. It is quite refreshing to note that this is actually happening. No wobbling when the device is placed on a flat surface. Perfect!
6. Edge lighting is the only way to do notifications on a smartphone
Forget OPPO’s Skyline light or whatever Chinese brand Tecno calls theirs, Samsung has a winner. When enabled from the settings app or the quick settings (it is turned on by default), users get this excellent light outlining the Infinity Display of the Galaxy S8 every time there is a new text message, WhatsApp message or any other notification.
7. Where was Samsung’s facial recognition all this time?
Take your phone out of your pocket, look at it, boom! It’s unlocked. As simple as that. It’s nearly perfect. It won’t work in poorly lit conditions but it will blow you away. In fact, thanks to it, the iris scanner that was famous when it debuted on the Galaxy Note 7 last year can easily be forgotten. I found it quite tasking using the fingerprint scanner and never fancied the iris scanner. The Galaxy S8’s facial recognition tech ensured I never missed either of them.
8. The pressure-sensitive on-screen home button needs more use cases
While the shift from the physical home button is welcome, the on-screen button that replaces it needs to do more than just sit pretty and wait for a short or long press. Seriously.
9. The placement of the fingerprint sensor at the back is the worst thing to happen to the Galaxy S8
Despite using the Galaxy S8 for a month, I still find myself tapping at the back camera with the hope of unlocking LastPass or Telegram or even the phone itself when I can’t use its facial recognition. Things are that bad. The end result? A properly smudged back camera most of the time more so when I am using my right hand to unlock the device since it has to go all the way. Samsung could’ve done better here, definitely.
10. The device looks and feels light and it’s slippery as an eel
You wouldn’t even expect this but the Galaxy S8 might probably be at least three-quarters of the weight of the smartphone you are using to read this. Yes, that feature set and Gorilla Glass on the front and back has been done in such a way that you don’t feel it.
Also, if you were to spend your day holding an Amazonian eel, how you feel when handling the Galaxy S8 is exactly what you’d feel. It’s very slippery and you almost always get the feeling that you are going to drop it the next minute. The temptation to go out and buy a cover is quite high as a result. I have managed to resist that, maybe because I do not have much choice but I am not sure many other buyers of the device will be able to. I’ve already met two who have gone ahead to slump some rather ugly cases on top of such a beautiful device and it felt like a gross violation of the device’s personality if it had any.