The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a polished device with amazing performance and an unmatched, gorgeous design – but it does have one striking weakness.
Samsung’s latest flagship pushes the boundaries when it comes to bezel-less displays and creates a new benchmark for premium phones.
It’s a device which achieves greatness, but falls short of perfection – despite having many of the right ingredients.
So what is the S8 experience like and what are the flaws holding it back?
Samsung was not the first phonemaker to introduce bezel-less displays or high screen-to-body ratios. However, the company has definitely leaped ahead of its competitors to provide the most aesthetically pleasing iteration of the concept combined with ease of use.
While a few skeptics questioned the phone’s strange aspect ratio of 9:18.5, the unique measurements have provided a great display experience while still allowing for comfortable, one-handed usage.
Sometimes the screen does feel a bit tall when you’re playing games, but this is far more preferable to wide screens which force the user to use both hands.
The Infinity Edge display and all-glass exterior are the phone’s crowning glory. Phones that were once the pinnacle of beautiful design now pale in comparison to the sleek S8.
It is true that smartphone design has significantly stagnated in recent years, with manufacturers only making incremental changes in design. For a long time, most handsets seem to just be differentiations of the core iPhone design.
Samsung tested the waters for curved screens with their S6 Edge and S7 Edge handsets. Meanwhile, Xiaomi proved the desire for bezel-less displays when its Mi Mix handset was met with hungry, almost desperate demand.
But the S8 has moved past this to create a new standard for manufacturers when it comes to design. In terms of aesthetics, the S8 is the phone to beat.
Its incredible appearance is also what is drawing many fans to the phone. Not only is it an excellent device, but it looks amazing. Despite my reservations on certain aspects of the phone, I still find myself eyeing the handset enviously whenever I see someone with it.
High performance with a stunning display
While much of the hype and praise around the S8 is based on its appearance, it is more than just a pretty face.
Under that sleek exterior is powerful hardware which helps power the QHD screen. The S8 was the first phone to use the Snapdragon 835 processor (however it has an Exynos 9 Octa 8895 outside of the United States). But soon after, Xiaomi’s Mi 6 has joined the party with the same Snapdragon CPU, meaning Samsung’s S8 and S8+ are no longer the only phones with the technology.
But brand names and model numbers aren’t exactly what the average user is looking for when it comes to their phone’s performance. What’s really important is the experience.
And I can say that the S8 is one of the best smartphone experiences in terms of performance. Multi-tasking is a breeze and switching between apps is seamless and instant. Games don’t drop frames, while your camera launches quickly and easily.
This is only emphasized further through the phone’s great display. You have to increase the resolution yourself if you want a 4K resolution, as the mode consumes more battery power and is therefore opt-in.
While it does drain the battery a little faster, the device flawlessly displays crisp images and videos. The screen replicates colors beautifully and brightly, easily outpacing many competitors. It’s odd to look back at the S6, which is only two years old, and see just how far Samsung’s flagships have come. While I still love my S6, nothing made it feel as out-of-date as using the S8.
Samsung’s flagships have had some of the best smartphone cameras in recent years, and the S8 is no different.
There isn’t much difference between the S8’s camera and the S7’s camera in terms of hardware. However the S8 doesn’t lag behind current generation flagships from its competitors.
A direct comparison between the LG G6 and Galaxy S8’s camera shows that the S8 is significantly better when it comes to capturing images in low light conditions.
This, combined with great color capturing and crisp images, makes the S8’s camera one of the best on the market. This is despite that fact that Samsung’s flagship hasn’t joined the dual lens party.
So what is the Achilles’ heel?
There is one drawback besides price that can deter users from buying their own S8 – and that is the phone’s notorious fragility.
The beauty of the phone’s all-glass exterior comes at a cost – one drop is likely to crack the screen or back cover. My own review unit took a two-foot dive out of my pocket and chipped where it fell. Another S8 owner I know dropped the phone from three feet, with a cover on, and had cracks on both the front and back.
There are repeated reports of the screen cracking from small drops – with SquareTrade’s drop test famously naming the S8 the most fragile phone they’ve tested.
This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if Samsung’s ADH repair warranty was in place for the phone. However, with the new handsets, users will have to pay for a special type of insurance that covers accidental damage – with an excess for each repair.
This is where the true problem lies: the S8 is an expensive handset but its exterior breaks easily. Budget-conscious consumers will be hesitant to doll out the cash needed for the device in the first place, never mind paying for repeated cosmetic repairs. The likelihood of having to pay $99 to repair the screen soon after paying around $750 for the device might be what drives some consumers away from the otherwise brilliant smartphone.
Room For Improvement
As with any device, there is still room for improvement when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy S8. However, if you take away the fragility of the handset, it is the closest I’ve seen any device come to smartphone perfection so far.
Sure, the fingerprint scanner isn’t in the most convenient position, but you soon get better at placing your finger in the right spot.
Bixby is also not anything to write home about yet, considering the AI assistant’s integral Voice feature is still not available to the majority of S8 owners.
It also doesn’t have longest lasting battery, but you can see why Samsung has remained a bit more conservative in light of the Note 7 disaster. Regardless, the battery is still impressive despite not being the best on the market. It also has a customizable battery-saving mode to add hours of extra battery life to the device.
While the S8’s fragility is a significant deterrent, especially for those who don’t have money to burn; the phone is ahead in the running for the smartphone of the year.
It will take a lot to beat the S8’s design and performance, which feel like the pinnacle of smartphone technology at the moment.
One phone that may end up outdoing it is the Galaxy Note 8, considering Samsung is taking what it has learnt from the S8 and tweaking their new handset accordingly (including shifting the fingerprint scanner slightly).
While it won’t be long before manufacturers manage to outpace the S8’s hardware and software, beating its design will be a challenge. While other handsets have achieved bezel-less displays with a high screen-to-body ratio, none have the gorgeous curves of the S8.
We’ll have to see what Apple has in store with their next iteration of the iPhone to see whether the S8 will be dethroned. But so far, things are looking great for Samsung.
The main drawback of the phone though is its price coupled with the high likelihood you will drop and damage the screen on more than one occasion.
Would you consider purchasing Samsung’s flagship device? Or do you already have it? Let us know in the comments below…