After months of leaks, Samsung has officially unveiled its newest set of flagship phones, the Galaxy S8 and S8+, which confirms what VentureBeat previously reported. Coming more than a year after their predecessor was introduced, the new devices are designed to provide more screen real estate while fitting comfortable in the palm of your hand and helping you be more productive through Samsung’s Bixby intelligent assistant.
Samsung is accepting preorders for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ premium smartphones starting March 30 and will also include the new Gear VR headset, Oculus-powered controller, and a game pack for free. The phones will be available in stores on April 21, at which time they’ll come with free AKG by Harman earbuds.
Pricing has not been revealed for the devices, but it’s said that they could run for more than the S7, at least in Europe. VentureBeat has previously reported that in the region, the S8 will be €799 while the S8+ will be €899.
The S8 and S8+ will be available in five colors globally: Midnight black, orchid grey, coral blue, arctic silver, and maple gold.
An interesting thing to note is that Samsung has done away with the “edge” moniker for the larger phone model, instead opting to use “+”. The company declined to explain the reasoning.
Bigger and more connected phones
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are bigger than previous models, with a 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch 1 Quad HD+ screen, respectively. Both have 2960×1440 screen resolution. The devices also have an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. By comparison, the Galaxy S7 has a Super AMOLED Quad HD screen and 2560×1440 resolution. “There’s an idea that everyone wants a big screen, but not everyone wants to carry a big phone,” a company spokesperson explained. “How do you carry around a big screen without it feeling like a big phone?”
While the screen size might seem daunting for those considering the S8 or S8+, from our initial hands-on, the devices felt snug in the palm of our hand. Samsung said it has tried to remove all the bezels, providing what it calls an “infinity display” to make watching videos and doing other things more immersive. In fact, 83 percent of the entire device is now covered by the display.
“We tried to remove all of the bezels,” the company said. “It wraps around the display and is symmetrical on the front and the back. To do this, we had to redesign [the phone] from the inside out….the key part…is that people are consuming a lot of content. When it comes to browsing, shopping, ebooks, etc., you can see more and scroll less immediately from the display. It’s an amazing viewing experience for videos — almost like movie-style.”
Samsung said that its new phones have been certified by the Ultra High Definition Alliance, offering assurances to content creators that their work will be viewed exactly the way it was intended.
Because of the enlarged screen area, the fingerprint scanner and home button have been removed from the front of the device. Instead, the S8 and S8+ have a virtual home button — a pressure-sensitive area at the bottom of the screen to provide tactile feedback. It’s in this area that you’ll also find the back button and the option to view open apps and tabs.
The fingerprint scanner has been relegated to the back of the device (to the right of the camera, where the flash once was). While newer Android devices like the Google Pixel have also had the scanner in the back, this is the first time Samsung has done so. The positioning may seem off-putting, but the company didn’t offer an explanation except to state that it was a design choice.
In terms of the operating system, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S8 lineup with the most recent version of Android: 7.0 Nougat. The device’s predecessor had Android 6.0 Marshmallow installed.
Both S8 models are also IP68 water- and dust-resistant.
As for the other specifications of the S8 and S8+:
The S8 weighs 5.46 ounces and measure at 5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches while its sibling is heavier at 6.1 ounces and has dimensions of 6.2 x 2.88 x 0.31 inches. The phones are billed as being 1.5mm slimmer than before and possess “half a million more pixels.”
The devices come with either a Octa core (2.3GHz Quad and 1.7GHz Quad) or a Octa core (2.3GHz Quad and 1.9GHz Quad) processor, depending on the market and mobile operator. Regardless, it has a 10 nanometer processor that Samsung manufactured that the company believes will provide higher performance and more efficient power consumption while consuming less battery.
Both the S8 and S8+ are equipped with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. While the RAM remains the same, Samsung has doubled the size of the hard drive, perhaps due to the Galaxy’s evolution from being just a consumer device into also appealing towards the working professional. The phones also possess a microSD slot that allows expanded storage of at least 256GB.
Yes, it still exists.
Both Samsung devices support Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth v5.0 with LE up to 2Mbps, USB Type-C and near-field communications (e.g. Samsung Pay).
The S8 has the same size battery as its predecessor at 3,000 mAh, but the S8+ is smaller than the S7 edge at 3,500 mAh (it previously was 3,600 mAh). Wireless and fast charging is supported and Samsung has also redesigned the docking station with a more modern and sleek look.
In light of the battery issue that plagued the Note7, during a briefing, Samsung paid particular attention to describing how that was a “learning experience and we’ve done a lot of work to take the learnings to define new processes and understand innovation is also about the same spirit with quality.” The company sought to remind everyone that the batteries undergo an eight-point test to ensure safety.
As mentioned earlier, the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back of the device, but that’s not the only security measure that Samsung has included in the S8 and S8+.
Besides the scanner, standard PIN code and pattern features, there’s also the iris scanner that was introduced with the Note7. On the front of the device are two cameras, one intended for photos while the other is specifically designed to scan your iris. Unfortunately you’ll only be able to accept one iris scan and if you have prescription glasses, you might have to remove them before scanning.
Something new to the S8 is face recognition, which seems similar to iris scanning, but Samsung believes it’ll provides more security.
With the plethora of protective measures on this device, it’s also backed by the Knox service which could appeal to those in the enterprise. Samsung said that it’s about “giving consumers choice in how they want to secure their device.”
For all the updates being made to the S8 and S8+, the camera is perhaps a big disappointment where minimal updates have been made. While both versions have the same 12 megapixel dual pixel (f/1.7) rear-facing camera, the front-facing one has been improved from 5 megapixels to 8 megapixels (f/1.7). A big improvement in the front camera is intended to improve the quality of selfies and group shots, even those captured with a selfie stick, so Samsung has also updated the software accordingly to quickly identify and focus on faces.
Many of the features from the S7 and S7 edge remain, such as being able to capture sharper and better images in low light and super-fast autofocus — for the first time, this feature also works for the front-facing lens.
But even if you’re upset that the camera hasn’t seen significant improvements, there are other capabilities that it opens up. In fact, Samsung described the lens as the “entry point to intelligence.”
Perhaps the biggest addition to the Galaxy S8 line is Bixby, the artificial intelligence tool that Samsung hopes will compete against Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa (if it was on a mobile device), and Microsoft Cortana. Not only does the S8 and S8+ come with Bixby, but also Google Now, but Samsung doesn’t think it’ll conflict with anything you’re doing, but rather complement it.
To activate the assistant, you can either utter the wake word “Bixby” or press a button on the side of the device. There’s also a dedicated page called Bixby Home on the S8 and S8+ if you swipe right from the home screen, replacing the Flipboard offering that was available on the Galaxy phones for several years.
While AI assistants are largely voice-based, Samsung has leveraged the camera on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ to apply image recognition. With it, you can scan products to identify them, make recommendations, or even purchase it using Bixby.
Much of Bixby’s capabilities have already been revealed and the company took time to demonstrate the capabilities, showing its potential. However, during a hands-on session, Samsung declined to make the AI available for reporters to try themselves.
But Bixby is intended to be more than just an AI assistant on your phone — it’s to connect all smart devices together to make managing your home a lot easier. At first, Samsung is limiting the integrations to a “handful” of apps, including its native ones, but additional developer support is expected. However, could the company be overhyping the potential?
Bringing the best of the Note7 into the S8/S8+
In the aftermath of the Note7 meltdown, there was some questions about what would happen with the advanced features Samsung had bestowed on the device. It’s good to see that the iris recognition, secure folders, and others being incorporated into the S8 and S8+. But it’s also an indication of a changing mindset Samsung has, opting to make the new phones appealing to both consumers and working professionals.
Besides revealing the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Samsung has also announced a slew of other devices, such as the DeX, a dock that will transform your phone into a desktop PC — you can leave your laptop at home and just use your phone for all your needs, whether at a desk or on the go.
Whether you need the added security and features for work or at the home, Samsung believes that the S8 can be the device managing the gateway into your connected life, whether in the living room, kitchen, or anywhere else in the home.
In addition to new phones and Samsung DeX, other announcements from today’s Unpacked event include a new Samsung Connect Home Wi-Fi mesh router with a built-in SmartThings hub, updated Gear VR headset with Oculus-powered controller, and a upgraded Gear 360 camera.