Samsung’s Galaxy S8 will arrive in the UK on April 28 (or earlier, if you put in a pre-order now), along with its big brother, the Galaxy S8+.
Early reviews for the two phones are positive. Some people think the curved screen, which covers the sides of the phone, makes the S8 “one of the most attractive phones you can buy.”
I found the phone frustrating from the moment I picked it up, though I did only spend a short time with it.
While the 5.8-inch curved screen looks pretty great when the S8 is sitting on a display table, the size makes the phone difficult to hold. I currently have a 5.2-inch phone, the Huawei P9, and I can just about manage to use it with one hand. The S8+ has a 6.2-inch screen, which is edging into tablet territory.
Even basic navigation felt cumbersome as a result.
For example, Samsung has removed the physical home button from the S8, instead adding digital keys at the bottom of the screen display.
And on the left side of the phone, Samsung’s added a physical button for Bixby, its new digital assistant.
It’s impossible to reach both the Bixby button and then reach the home button while holding the S8 in one hand.
So if you were to activate Bixby to check your diary, or the weather, you would then have to manoeuvre the S8 awkwardly in your hand to return to the home screen.
That problem might go away if Bixby could be activated by voice, but Samsung hasn’t added voice controls in the UK yet. It isn’t clear when this will happen, if ever. I’ll come back to Bixby’s unfinished qualities later.
The camera was another disappointment. It felt less immediately impressive than my Huawei P9, which came with a fantastic dual-lens camera when it was released in 2016. The S8 matches its rivals with a 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, which means pictures will look as good as any other current, high-end phone on the market.
One fun feature with the S8’s camera is the Snapchat-like filters, which I could see myself using.
Samsung has tried to differentiate its camera with Bixby Vision, a feature that turns the S8’s camera into a visual search engine.
Point the camera up to a famous building, for example, and Bixby will (theoretically) suggest restaurants nearby and give you other relevant information. Until Bixby looks more complete and works properly, though, it’s hard to tell whether this is more useful or gimmick.
There are a few really neat tricks. The iris scanner on the front of the S8 lets you unlock the phone faster than a fingerprint scanner would. You can also unlock the phone using facial recognition, though this might be less secure.
And there’s no doubting that the curved, almost bezel-free display is really lovely when it comes to reading on the S8.
But if you need something more manageable in the hand than Samsung’s jumbo phones, the S8 and S8+ probably won’t be for you.
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