It’s always news when Samsung updates its flagship handsets. But today’s Galaxy S8 announcement is particularly momentous, even for the world’s biggest maker of smartphones.
It’s been a tough year for Samsung, which suffered an historic recall for the Galaxy Note 7 and then temporarily ceded its sales crown to Apple when that firm’s iPhone 7 lineup sold much better than expected. But the Galaxy S8 family looks good enough to power a comeback.
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Let me dispense with two bits of nonsense that won’t matter in the slightest up-front: Bixby and DeX.
Bixby is Samsung’s digital personal assistant, and it would be interesting if something called Google Assistant wasn’t already built into Android. We do not need yet another one of these things, and I expect the world to simply ignore this.
DeX, meanwhile, works like Microsoft’s ignored Continuum technology: It lets you dock your handset and use an external display, keyboard, and mouse, creating a sort of Android-powered pseudo-PC. This is one of those ideas that is good on paper—I’m sure it’s a terrific demo—but makes almost zero sense in the real world. There are simpler ways to blast phone-based content to a big screen, and better devices—Chromebooks, PCs, and Macs, for starters—for those who need a computer.
OK, let’s get to the heart of the matter: The new phones—and, yes, there are two different models, the S8 and the S8 Plus—look pretty amazing.
Both are much bigger than Samsung’s previous flagships, sporting 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch displays, respectively. Those displays are both super-widescreen units that span almost the entire front surface of the devices. Those screens are also both wraparound unit, like previous Edge versions, so that’s no longer a model differentiator: You can’t get a Galaxy S8 with a flat screen. Instead, you get an S8, or you get an S8 Plus.
Both displays utilize the same resolution, which is 2960 x 1440. That works out to 570 ppi on the 5.8-inch model and 529 ppi on the 6.2-inch model. By comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus offers only 401 ppi on its smaller 5.5-inch display.
Internally, the Samsung Galaxy S8 packs exactly the punch you’d expect from a 2017 flagship: an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (in the US, anyway), 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of internal storage with microSD expansion. The rear camera is unchanged from last year—it’s the same 12 MP unit (with optical image stabilization) that Samsung used in the Galaxy S7—but that’s probably OK because that camera consistently rated at or near the top of all smartphone cameras. And Samsung claims that it’s improved things on the software side, for whatever that’s worth. (The front-facing camera is upgraded to 8 MP.)
The Galaxy S8 includes a 3000 mAh (non-removable) battery, while the bigger plus features a 3500 mAh version. Samsung says that it has fixed the problems that dogged last year’s Note 7, and has likewise improved matters so that the batteries should not degrade as quickly over time as previous versions. Both phones include Qualcomm Quick Charge technology and wireless charging.
The one thing I’m not particularly excited about, as usual, is Samsung’s software. From the goofy-like navigation bar buttons, which are inexplicably different from stock Android, to the system’s strange color scheme and icon style are just not my thing. Hopefully, you can replace all that nonsense with the stock Google launcher. One thing you won’t be able to replace is the Home button, which is now virtualized on the wide screen. Early reports suggest it’s not as natural as the haptic-powered Home screen that Apple uses on the iPhone 7. But you can sign-in with your face, using optical recognition.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I may need to pick one of these up. In the US, these phones will come in black, gray, and silver bodies, with blue and gold available only internationally. Pricing will start north of $700 and go from there, with availability beginning April 21 in the US.
<blockquote><em><a href="#94198">In reply to RM2016:</a></em></blockquote><p>Obviously many people use Android phones, but do medium to small businesses really use Android for business computing? I doubt they're using a Android phone for that purpose and Android tablets haven't been very successful.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94095">In reply to RM2016:</a></em></blockquote><p>Dex, like Continuum, is just an expensive way to turn a phone into a quasi desktop experience. A better price/performance ratio can be obtained with an inexpensive phone and medium cost PC. For those few who can afford a flagship phone, I guess it makes a nice demo, but it's a bit of a hassle to unplug the peripherals from the PC that the user inevitably already owns. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94197">In reply to RM2016:</a></em></blockquote><p>A basic smartphone is $100. A $300 laptop is fine for a kid. </p><p><br></p><p>The Galaxy phone alone will probably be at least $600, so we are already talking about a $200 difference. Then you have to add a monitor and keyboard. Even a modest monitor is going to be $100. Then you need to add a DeX doc that will probably cost at least $50-$100. At the end of the day you have a more expensive solution that will be limited to Android apps.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94283">In reply to Nicholas Kathrein:</a></em></blockquote><p>Unless your TV is sitting on a desk, using a TV as a monitor for a computer is a bad ergonomic setup. But for those who want to go that route there are much cheaper ways to do it that don't require a specific brand of TV, can run Windows applications and don't require an expensive smartphone.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94259">In reply to crfonseca:</a></em></blockquote><p>But if all you have is a smartphone, what you don't have includes a keyboard, mouse and monitor. If you do own those things you also have a desktop computer thus making Dex unnecessary. As I've said before, these schemes are like a cell phone you have to plug into the wall to make a call. If you have to be tethered you might just as well be using a desktop computer. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94329">In reply to Joseph Savage:</a></em></blockquote><p>If they've had only phones for a significant amount of time, their needs are probably too modest to justify buying a Dex hub and the rest of the perheripals. </p><p><br></p><p>Assuming your own a computer, wouldn't it be more efficient for your wife to use your computer 5% of the time? If she were going to use your monitor, keyboard, and mouse to connect to a Dex hub you won't be able to use your computer at the same time anyway. She could buy her own peripherals but it seems wasteful just for 5%. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94364">In reply to Joseph Savage:</a></em></blockquote><p> It just seems to me that the intersection of people who can afford a flagship smartphone, don't own a PC or mac, but are willing to spend extra money to turn their phone into a quasi-PC when they never needed one before is quite small.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94388">In reply to Jorge Garcia:</a></em></blockquote><p>The purpose of Dex is to allow a desktop-like experience to a Samsung phone when you get a Dex hub and peripherals. A Dex laptop makes no sense at all. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94393">In reply to Jorge Garcia:</a></em></blockquote><p>I don't see what's wrong with the Chromebook's UI. Personally I don't see much added value in running Android apps on them, but certainly Google could improve the way Android apps are displayed on them if it became an issue. No need to license DeX from Samsung. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94394">In reply to Jorge Garcia:</a></em></blockquote><p>Seems like a pretty speculative scenario. My daughters already have Windows laptops and haven't had any trouble with viruses. One of my teenage daughters doesn't even want a phone. I'm not worried about Apple's "evilness", I just don't want to pay a premium for the status of owning an Apple device. Social media will always be available via the web so we are covered there. Any games they play are either on a 3DS, a Wii or on the web. I realize our family may not be typical but I don't think your scenario is that typical either.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94475">In reply to Jorge Garcia:</a></em></blockquote><p>To say that MS has no Apps is a big exaggeration. But anyway, Windows has programs, millions (if not billions) of them. Mobile is fine for a limited subset of computing, primarily consuming content. Apps are important in mobile because the browsing experience in general on a phone is awful. The smartphone as CPU unit approach of Continuum and Dex is going to fail because it's essentially the same tethered experience as a desktop PC or Mac except with more constraints on performance and no access to most established productivity applications. Laptops (Windows, Mac, Linux) although bigger and heavier, are actually a better mobile solution than a smartphone with Dex-type capability because everything you need is integrated into one device. You don't have to live with a degraded experience just because you are on a train, a plane or Starbucks.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94545">In reply to jrickel96:</a></em></blockquote><p>I agree with how messy Android is, but it remains to be seen if Windows on ARM will really be fully compatible with Intel-based full Windows. It's still not clear if the price/performance ratio will be significantly better with ARM. While UWP and other schemes attempt to make it possible for an app to be usable on both a phone and desktop, in practice it always requires special programming effort to produce a quality experience on multiple platforms.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94623">In reply to Jorge Garcia:</a></em></blockquote><p>I think the mistake that is made is thinking that the sale of a smartphone is a loss for PCs or Macs. A lot of things people do on a smartphone are things that people never did on PCs. IMO they are different tools primarily used for different purposes. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#94545">In reply to jrickel96:</a></em></blockquote><p>I'm not as optimistic about UWP as you are. I see supporting UWP on XBox being more about promoting UWP than offering significant increased value. It seems to me that Windows on ARM is all about being able to run legacy apps, UWP runs on ARM already.</p>