Phones have become a little stale. Whether it’s an iPhone 7, Huawei P10, Sony Xperia XZ Premium or any other flagship phone, they all look and feel the same. But just when I thought a phone couldn’t surprise and delight me any more, the Samsung Galaxy S8 has proved me wrong.
From the moment I picked up the S8 – and its larger, 6.2-inch sibling the Galaxy S8+ – I realised it was even more special than I expected. This is a phone that feels innovative, a phone that I can’t help but recommend.
Nothing comes close to the Galaxy S8 design-wise. It’s the best-looking phone I’ve ever seen, leaving every other handset trailing in its wake.
The curved rear, as seen on the Galaxy S7, nestles perfectly in your palm, while the glass shimmers as the light hits it. The device is available in three colours – a dark black, bright silver and a grey with a blueish tinge – with no ugly white front plate in sight.
My review unit is the black option, and it’s properly black all over, with shiny sides that blend into the display. It feels like one complete piece, with the glass, screen and metal combining all together.
The volume rocker and standby switch are joined by a new button on the side. This is a dedicated Bixby button – which I’ll cover in more detail in the Software section – and while it shows Samsung is taking its new virtual assistant seriously, it feels too much for Bixby to have its own button.
The S8 is thin and incredibly light at 155g, but it feels sturdy and precisely made. The last time Samsung opted for a huge change of direction with its flagship, many of the basic features were lost in the transition.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case here. A microSD slot continues to sit tucked away with the nano-SIM, the criminally underrated Qi wireless charging is also present, and the device is IP68 water- and dust-resistant too, so it will survive a dunk in water for 30 minutes to depths of 1.5 metres.
Samsung has also retained the headphone jack; I’d be very surprised to hear that anyone thinks that’s a bad idea. Apple’s decision to remove a physical headphone connection looked like it might signal the demise of the 3.5mm jack, but Samsung has gone in the other direction, by including a pair of very good AKG wired buds in the box.
Like the recently launched LG G6, the front of the Samsung Galaxy S8 is almost all screen – and it’s this that really makes the S8 stand out. Unlike with the G6, though, the display here melts into the sturdy metal rim.
Not only has Samsung crafted what is, in my opinion, the best-looking phone out there, but it’s slapped on the finest display too. Although, when you consider that Samsung has demonstrated the best screen tech for a number of years, this isn’t really a surprise.
There’s more to the display than just the curves. First, it has a new aspect ratio of 18.5:9, rather than 16:9. This means it’s taller, essentially giving you more space in a body that isn’t that much bigger than that of the S7. While the Galaxy S7 had a 5.1-inch display, the S8 bumps that to 5.8.
It sounds huge, but the phone itself is compact and Samsung is keen to point out that it can still be used comfortably in one hand. I wouldn’t say that you can do quite ‘everything’ with one hand – especially reaching to pull down the notification tray – but this is far from a phablet.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is the best phone out there for media binging, and I’ve started picking it up instead of my iPad when I want to watch something on the go. T
here’s a clever mode called ‘Video Enhancer’, which boosts the contrast and brightness in certain apps – Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube and so on – to give a pseudo-HDR effect. I wouldn’t recommend keeping it on all the time, due to the increased battery drain, but it does make a fantastic display even better.