11 Countries. 26 Days. 1 Smartphone. Welcome to my unbiased review of one the most awaited flagship devices of the year. Now, for a guy who spends a conspicuous amount of time solo traveling across the world, you can imagine how much of an integral role my smartphone plays in my life. Given the plethora of options available in the market today, it sure is a very challenging decision to choose which device will work best for your needs.
Curious to know what I loved about this phone? S8 is probably the only Samsung phone that I have ever used that doesn’t actually feel like a Samsung device. Yep. You heard me right. Samsung set the bar to another level with this device. It’s blazing fast. Has a ridiculously good camera and looks like as if the device was taken straight out of an uber gizmo spy flick. The screen is gorgeous with the bezel free display attracting a lot of attention when you take it out of your pocket.
Touchwiz is far more refined than ever before with no unnecessary clutter of useless apps. The phone comes with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box which also brings its own set of features to the table like Multi-Window Support and Bundled Notifications.
Underrated Features of the S8
- The Iris scanner isn’t a gimmick. It works lightening fast and doesn’t necessarily require you to hold the phone up to your face. A quick glimpse should do just fine.
- The Hybrid Sim slot. You can either use the hybrid sim slot for an additional sim or to insert a microSD card (supported up to 256GB). I know. Even I was surprised.
- Fast Wireless Charging. Took about 2 hours and 45 minutes for me to fully charge my phone with a Samsung Wireless Charger. This feature is a lot more convenient than you think.
- It’s actually one of the few devices that come with an IP 68 Water Resistance Rating out of the box
- Heart Rate Monitor at the back
- Has a Headphone jack (Take that Apple!)
- Always On Display (AOD) does really save you a lot of time and battery. A quick glance at the phone while being locked can show you the time, date and app notifications without actually unlocking your phone.
- Comes with a bundled Micro USB Type – A to USB Type C converter so if you have spare cables from your old smartphones, they aren’t going to waste.
- They’ve also been kind enough to include a free USB OTG adapter to connect your portable media drives
- Did I mention the earphones that come along with the phone are tuned by AKG?
- Samsung Pay is A.W.E.S.O.M.E (We’ll cover that in detail as you scroll below)
Most tech blogs today test smartphone cameras in different environments to get the most accurate results. We went one step further. I decided to test the Samsung S8’s much hyped camera in 11 different countries in different day to day scenarios as expected from a normal end user. Selfies, Wide Angle Shots, Panorama, Portraits, yeah covered them all.
If you want to take things further, the stock camera app does have a professional mode for you to adjust individual elements manually like the ISO settings etc.
For those of you concerned about the technical specs, The S8 camera comes with a 12 Megapixel Rear and 8 Megapixel front camera both capable of capturing images with an aperture of f1.7. Though the S8 lacks the dual-camera setup found in the likes of the iPhone 8 Plus or Huawei Mate 10, it does come with something called ‘Selective Focus’ which sorts of gives your images the bokeh effect. It’s not perfect but does the job pretty well.
Check out some of the sample shots I’ve managed to click throughout my trip.
Let’s face it. We’ve all heard someone or the other say, “Android is a sluggish OS that needs a lot of optimization” or “Bro your Samsung phone will lag after a few months. Get an iPhone”. Hold your horses people. Since the Samsung S7 came out, I can officially confirm Samsung has come a long way in terms of optimizing the device to yield maximum performance without compromising too much on battery life. The middle east version of the device comes with the Octa-Core Exynos 8895 processor variant manufactured using Samsung’s 10NM LPE process paired with 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of built in storage.
With so much of raw power, the Samsung S8 is no slacker. I’ve had multiple social media apps open in the background while watching Netflix and the phone didn’t seem to slow down. Didn’t crash even once. A lot of people seem put a lot of emphasis on benchmarking tests like Geekbench and Antutu. As a smartphone expert let me clarify this to you. These benchmark tests push the smartphone to its limits and don’t really translate to day to day regular use. This is because we don’t require so much power just to upload a few photos on Instagram or send a few selfies through Snapchat. As a flagship device, you can be rest assured, the Samsung S8 simply won’t let you down.
This is what makes the S8 stand apart from its competition. There’s no doubt about that. The screen has been so meticulously designed, such is that after using the S8 you probably wouldn’t be able to look at another phone the same way. Like ever. Colors look vivid and not over saturated. Blacks look rich thanks to its AMOLED display. However, I did have a few problems due to the unconventional screen ratio with games like Duet and Fruit Ninja. Videos seem to be automatically adjusted to fit the screen and doesn’t crop out anything.
A little odd thing I’ve discover though is that Samsung doesn’t activate the Quad HD feature out of the box. It seems to be set at 2220×1080 (Full HD+). This probably would have been done to save some battery life but other than that just seems a little weird not to make full use of the display’s potential.
The S8 comes with a 5.8inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Display with 570 pixels per inch (PPI). Yeah, it’s beautiful. No doubt.
It’s sleek. Feels premium. Doesn’t really slip out of your hands so easily. Ergonomics are pristine for watching movies and listening to music. At 8.0mm it isn’t exactly the slimmest device out there but it does not feel bulky either. At 155 grams it shouldn’t weigh down your pocket as well.
The only issue I’ve had with the display is finding a decent screen protector. Because the edges are curved, finding a quality tempered glass isn’t easy. Not one bit. Tried multiple variants from brands like Zagg and Panzer. They all had the issue of reduced multi-touch response. And that really gets annoying at times like when you get a call and you have to press down the screen for it to actually work. So, I’ve just decided to use the phone without any protection. I’ve dropped it a couple of times and it seems fine. Though most drop tests say otherwise because of its all glass body, I’d just recommend a decent bumper case should do the job. Even with a case on, it doesn’t seem to be too bulky.
Though Samsung is slowly rolling out this feature to its mid-tier phones like the A3, A5 and so on, let me tell you, Samsung Pay is brilliant. Best part – I’m not even sponsored by Samsung to say this. Any place that accepts card payment, Samsung Pay will work there. Unlike Apple Pay which solely relies on NFC Terminals for contactless payments, Samsung Pay supports both NFC and MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission). Now what MST essentially does is that it gets the card machine into thinking you’ve actually swiped a card. Brilliant, isn’t it? Samsung Pay is supported by most of the leading banks in the UAE. It personally took me about 3 minutes to enroll my Emirates NBD Debit and Credit card. Adding in loyalty cards is just a matter of scanning the barcode from the in-built feature. It really does lighten your wallet. Transactions are completed in a mere few seconds once the payment process is initiated. The feature is extremely secure with support for Pin, Fingerprint and Iris Scan as added security measures.
What I didn’t like about the phone
- Bixby Voice Assistant still requires a lot of work. Though it does give you a lot of control over the phone’s internal functions, it still seems like it could use some polishing. Hopefully we should see these issues attended to in Bixby 2.0
- The placement of the fingerprint sensor near the rear camera module is a big turn off. Though over a period of time you can get used to it, until then you’re just going to be smudging your camera lens.
- Though Samsung has promised Android 8.0 will be coming to the S8 soon, it’s sad that while most phones in the market have already been updated to 7.1, the S8 is still stuck on an outdate 7.0.
The price is pretty much at par with most flagship devices. Last checked, the device was priced at AED 2499 at the official Samsung Store in Deira City Center along with a lot of freebies like the Gear VR Headset, Memory Card and many more.
Colossal Battery Life (3000 mAH)
Edge to Edge Display
Value for Money
Bixy still needs a lot of work as a voice assistant
Accessories are expensive
Remapping the Bixby Button isn’t possible
Fingerprint reader placement is just a disaster
Full Glass body makes it more bound to scratches
By far my most favourite Android Smartphone so far. Hands down. If the S8 is so awesome, I can’t imagine what the S9 is going to be. But again, there are still plenty more handsets I’m looking forward to getting my hands on before the end of this year so we’ll have to wait until I make the decision to crown the best smartphone of 2017.