Receive up-to-the-minute news updates on the hottest topics with NewsHub. Install now.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Review: A Truly Exceptional Phone

July 12, 2017 12:11 PM
63 0
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus Review: A Truly Exceptional Phone

Nothing beats that new phone smell, and we just took the Galaxy S8+ out of its box!

Samsung's come a long way from dropping the ball with the Galaxy S5. The Galaxy S6 restored its reputation, but for one reason or another, failed to shift in massive numbers. The Galaxy S7 series, however, changed everything. At this point Samsung was most assuredly back on form with a handset that really had mass appeal - Samsung sold the Galaxy S7 in record numbers and record time, and it was so well received it has driven a massive amount of interest in the Galaxy S8.

Admittedly, Samsung did make a fumble in between the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S8. The Galaxy Note 7 was a complete debacle, as a production fault meant the batteries were highly volatile and prone to exploding. A mass recall put a big dent in Samsung's wallet and a reasonable scratch on the firm's reputation.

Competition is stiff in the Android space at the moment. LG’s G6 has been making a lot of friends since it first launched, and things will almost certainly get more ferocious in the second half of the year with the release of new Pixel phones, Apple’s iPhones, a new OnePlus release and also updates from HTC and Android’s smaller, bit-part players.

As of right now, though, the Galaxy S8 – and Galaxy S8 Plus – are the hottest handsets on the planet. The handsets that are designed to help Samsung retain its number one status as King of The Phone Market in 2017/18.

According to a report from Korean publication The Investor, the Samsung Galaxy S8 range has sold five million units worldwide in less than a month. Officially, detailed figures are being kept under wraps, but the paper reports having spoken to a Samsung rep, who said "combined" sales are "going smoothly around the globe" and "are already beyond 5 million units". Combined of course meaning both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+; previously reports indicated there was more or less a 50/50 split in terms of consumer interest in the different size models.

Another report from The Investor from late June reveals that Samsung has sold as many as 1.3 million Galaxy S8 series units in Korea alone. This revelation comes direct from the mouth of Samsung itself, which added that it estimates sales of around 12,000 units per day in the region, much higher than previous records.

Details from The Investor suggest that Samsung is selling Galaxy S8 units at twice the rate it did Galaxy S7 series devices for this time last year, at least according to the word of an unnamed Samsung official the publication spoke to. Essentially, from date of first sales the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 took 75 and 74 days respectively to hit the 10 million landmark sales figure; from the current pace of sales, the Samsung official says the Galaxy S8 should make that goal in half the time.

Although it had to wait until MWC Barcelona 2017 in March this year, last year's Samsung Galaxy S7 EDGE won the "Best Smartphone" of 2016 award at the event. Now, however, the Samsung Galaxy S8, has already won the "Best Smartphone" award at another MWC event in Shanghai; the Asia Mobile Awards.

"Samsung Electronics announced today that the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earned ‘Best Smartphone’ honors at the 2017 Asia Mobile Awards (‘the AMOs’), held each year to recognize game-changing mobile innovations at Asia’s largest mobile event, Mobile World Congress Shanghai."

In an interesting move, Samsung has now released a dual-SIM model of the Galaxy S8+ to the UK market. Normally dual-SIM editions are released in big countries where demand for such capabilities originated, places like China and India. In the past, UK residents who wanted dual-SIM functionality (for example, using one SIM for business and one for personal) had to import these models from outside Europe.

The dual-SIM Galaxy S8+ is now listed on Samsung's official webstore in black or grey colour options. The price is the same as the regular Galaxy S8+ at £779.

On a similar, though slightly different tack, Samsung has announced a Rose Pink Galaxy S8+ colour variant in Taiwan - as usual, it's got the same hardware as every other model so far, but it simply has a pink hue on the exterior finish. We don't have a lot of details right now, but on the face of things it appears to be exclusive to the Galaxy S8+ and exclusive to Taiwan. Naturally we'll be keeping an eye out for expansion of availability.

Update: Samsung has now released a promotional video showcasing Samsung DeX, the hardware dock which allows you to use the Galaxy S8 as a desktop computer, together with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse input. Samsung debuted the device alongside the Galaxy S8 at launch, but until now has not released much in the way of promotional material - this is the first video showcase illustrating what it can do. Samsung's aiming big with DeX, however, with the tagline "leave your laptop behind."

Although DeX is unlikely to be a full laptop replacement in most people's tech armouries, the showcase nonetheless shows a lot of versatlity which is sure to come in useful. We get a look at note taking and photography on the move with the Galaxy S8, before the handset is hooked up to a DeX station for editing and further productivity, including multitasking and video calls while the phone is docked, which is pretty neat.

I’ve just spent a little over two weeks with the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus now and we're ready to tell you just what it's like to get to grips with day-in, day-out. Hunker down with a cuppa, as this review’s a long one.

Good or bad smartphone visual design is, of course, subjective, and it’s fairly safe to say that anyone who’s been unimpressed by Samsung’s aesthetic to date is probably not going to be swayed by the Galaxy S8+.

Likewise, fans of the firm’s prior devices will be just as happy with the latest edition as they were with what came before.

The main thing is that the Galaxy S8 series has only become curvier and more streamlined than its already notably curved predecessors; the corners are completely smoothed and rounded, while the curvature of the edge display follows a continuous line from front to back where it meets a perfectly symmetrical rear panel, with only a thin sliver of bodywork separating the two.

The top and bottom edges are also curved but it’s not as pronounced and doesn’t curve the display itself along these edges.

Holding the phone it’s very apparent that you’re gripping what virtually amounts to a solid piece of curved glass - yes there’s a metal frame holding it together, but it’s barely noticeable.

This actually presents the first stumbling block for the Galaxy S8+; in my time with the device I never felt entirely safe holding onto it; it’s slippery as anything and the edges are so wafer thin coupled with the curved slippery glass surface. Samsung allegedly tweaked the edge curvature to improve grip but I don’t really feel this has been successful and I’d strongly recommend some kind of case to improve grip more substantially and prevent drops.

That particular gripe aside, the Galaxy S8+ feels incredibly solid in terms of its construction; there is zero wobble or flex in the frame or component panels, and it’s got a nice bit of heft to it without being heavy. You’ve also got the reassurance that it’s an IP-rated water resistant handset, so there’s no fear in taking it near the wet stuff.

Aesthetically I rather enjoy the Galaxy S8+ design, it’s still got that quasi-industrial style that is so popular just lately with the punched speaker grille and emphasis on metal and glass, but the added curviness does lend it a certain unique presence that is very futuristic and elegant.

Our review unit is the black coloured model, which Samsung has made entirely black; the glass, the metal surround, the fittings and furniture. Everything is black. This again gives it a very sci-fi, 2001: A Space Odyssey obelisk-like appearance.

It’s a “stealth” phone, the kind of thing Batman might design. However, the shiny glossy glass does also show up fingerprints a fair bit, particularly on this black model. It won't stay pristine for very long.

Of course you can get other colour options which are not quite so extreme and feature metallic trim that’s a bit more visible. Here the detail of the visual design is a bit more apparent.

For the last few years, Samsung, like many other manufacturers, has launched its flagship smartphones in a range of colours and has then subsequently launched new colour variants after the initial release. In 2016 the Galaxy S7 was updated with a new colour model dubbed Coral Blue, which got everyone quite excited when it was in the rumour phase, and sold quite well on arrival. It's not too surprising then, to learn that Samsung is apparently prepping the same Coral Blue hue for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. According to the leaked details, the phone is coming to the US market; this is from tips provided by reliable Twitter leakster @evleaks, aka Evan Blass.

Blass doesn't say much in the Tweet other than the handset colour variant is "US-bound", making it pretty much confirmed for that market. He doesn't give any indication on when exactly it might arrive, but our guess is within a few months given how these things usually pan out. There's also no indication on possible availability in other markets, it may be a US-exclusive, or it may not. Likewise, for the US market we don't know if it will be a carrier exclusive either.

Another colour option is coming to UK network EE as an exclusive; the phone is already widely available in the region in Midnight Black and Orchid Grey, but now EE will have dibs on the Arctic Silver variant. EE was tipped to begin taking pre-orders from June 23, but seems to have flipped the switch early on June 20 as the handset is now already available to pre-order on EE's 4GEE Max plans.

A 24 month contract can be had for £10 up-front and monthly payments of £57.99 with 25GB of data as well as unlimited texts and minutes. The Galaxy S8+ can be had on the same package but costs £50 up-front.

Alternatively you can pay £30 up-front and £48 per month on a 24-month contract for 2GB of data and unlimited texts and calls.

Note that EE's exclusivity only extends as far as networks in the UK getting the phone in on contract. Retailers on Amazon are able to provide the handset in this colour SIM-free, shipped from Italy from £512.96 plus £17 shipping.

Samsung has been playing the long game as far as display technology is concerned. It started investing heavily in OLED while everyone else was saying it was too complicated or expensive, even though many could see it would outclass LCD if done properly. The firm also started developing flexible OLED way ahead of everyone else and is now starting to reap the benefits of that as a market leader. Rivals such as Apple are now looking to source flexible OLED from Samsung's factories.

Samsung’s history with OLED hasn’t always been smooth, there have been some tough learning experiences - early on the firm’s screens came under flak for some instances of poor colour calibration and pixelation due to earlier PenTile technology.

But it persevered, and is now the undisputed ruler of the OLED market, which also virtually puts it in position as the dominant force in the display market too - OLED is now widely recognised as superior to LCD, so much so that Apple and many others are jumping on the bandwagon.

For anyone who has seen the Galaxy S7 EDGE or the Galaxy S6 EDGE in person, the display of the Galaxy S8+ will be familiar territory. It curves around the edges of the handset just like before, and it has an Always On function so that even when in sleep mode it’ll show the time, date, and some notifications while barely consuming any power at all.

However, as the bodywork has expanded on this model, the display size and ratio has also increased. The display is now a 6.2in Super AMOLED - nearly as big as the Galaxy Note - but the screen pushes out to much more of the front fascia, indeed, the phone’s front is virtually all screen with an 84% screen-to-body ratio and an 18:9 aspect ratio. As the screen and aspect ratio has expanded, the resolution has increased accordingly to 1440 x 2960 WQHD+ (3K) at 529 pixels-per-inch (ppi).

The image quality is what we’ve come to expect as typical for a Samsung flagship. In a word; superb.

It’s incredibly sharp with no pixelation or blurring to be found. Text in particular is very crisp. It also features a full 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, the very same one used on 4K TV sets and certified by the UHD Alliance for Mobile HDR Premium. In short, if content has been produced for 4K UHD Premium TVs, it’ll look as good on the Galaxy S8+.

A new high saturation “Deep Red” OLED display technology Samsung has implemented here means the Native Colour gamut has a wider range too, well over 100% coverage for both DCI-P3 and sRGB. This, together with the excellent brightness levels (as much as 20% brighter than the Galaxy S7 and peak brightness over 1,000 nits) makes outdoor use in bright sunlight a breeze.

All of the previous standout features from Samsung’s Galaxy S7 display have returned, including the excellent adaptive brightness and contrast, user-adjustable colour profiles, performance and power saving modes, and the acclaimed personalised auto brightness control feature.

The customisable EDGE display features, which allow you to configure quick access shortcuts along the curved screen edges, has also been expanded. It’s quicker and easier to set up, and you can add applications, contacts, and a selection of smart editing tools, all on three customisable and swipe-able panels; it’s a bit like having a whole separate selection of homescreens hidden in the display edge.

From using the phone I can certainly say the colour is rich and vibrant, in Samsung’s typical style. Contrast is also fantastic with inky deep blacks and viewing angles are insanely wide.

The long and the short of it is this is a gorgeous display with fantastic visual quality and smooth touch input. I can’t really imagine anyone getting tired of ogling or prodding this screen after any length of time, and it’s highly tailorable to your needs as the viewer. You really can have it your way by tweaking the settings however you please.

“It is not a quality problem and it can be adjusted with the phone itself. If the color still appears to be reddish, customers can change it at the service center.”

It’s our understanding that this isn’t a problem on every unit, but it is something we’ll be keeping an eye on and will update you with as more info emerges.

"Because there are some complaints about the red-tinted screens, we decided to upgrade the software next week for all Galaxy S8 clients."

Samsung also issued instructions to its Service Centres regarding the issue, saying, "There will be an additional update to make color revisions more minutely at the end of April"

Samsung has released another statement on the subject of the red-tint OLED display issue while conducting a conference call. The company's statement was reported by Korean source The Investor. Samsung revealed it has undertaken inspections of Galaxy S8 units, presumably red-tinted screen models returned by early adopters in Korea. The firm said thatin light of these inspections it remains confident about the handset quality and its quality control for production.

"Due to the nature of Super AMOLED displays, there can be natural differences in color. Users can optimize the color depending on their preferences."

In other words, this is just part and parcel of the technology which, using an organic component in the Organic Light-Emitting Diode, seems to have some degree of unpredictability.

Samsung further added that the software update it has promised will give the user greater control in calibrating and optimising their colour settings. Hopefully this means you can actively re-configure the screen to remove the red-tint rather than just mitigating it slightly to a lesser degree.

As of April 27, Samsung has now begun rolling out the promised update to fix the red-tint screen issue. The update has starting landing in Samsung's home region of South Korea, where the problem was first noticed and where distribution of handsets first began. The firm previously said it would deliver the update before the end of the month, and it seems it is taking the issue and its promised quite seriously.

Galaxy S8 owners will see the update prompt for version G950NKSU1AQDG, while Galaxy S8+ units will have version G955NKSU1AQDG.

The update adds new features to the Adaptive Display mode menu which give the user finer control of colour calibration and tuning. The Screen mode menu also has a new EDGE colour balance setting as well.

"Samsung has apparently promised to replace affected devices if their owners aren't satisfied with their colors after applying this update," reports GSMArena.

"Unfortunately the full screen color balance adjustment only works in Adaptive Display mode, so if you want a calibrated setting and the red tint gone, it looks like you're out of luck - so you may want to take advantage of that 'free replacement' promise from Samsung."

The update began rolling out in South Korea, but has now landed in Europe as of April 29. Handsets in the UK and Germany have now started receiving the software update, which is sized at 426MB.

Long battery life is pretty much the Holy Grail for many smartphone users these days. There are plenty of flagship-grade smartphones which offer relatively good battery life, and a few which offer excellent battery life. It’s not too rare now to find devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, the Huawei Mate 8 and 9, the bigger iPhone Plus models, and Google’s Pixel XL which will still see you sitting comfortably at somewhere around the 70%-76% range for the battery charge after watching a two hour movie on full brightness.

This sort of usage tends to translate into being able to watch films pretty much for eight hours straight on a single charge. Likewise, you tend to end up with a phone that’ll last days, or even a good chunk of a week if largely left idling, ticking away between 7%-10% per day.

But this will probably last a day and a half at most if you’re like most of us and are often giving it a poke for some reason or another throughout your typical day. You can bring that down further again if we’re talking a lot of intensive stuff like gaming.

So where does the Galaxy S8+ and its 3,500mAh setup fit into this? Well for the two hour movie test using Mad Max: Fury Road, on full brightness, with the film downloaded to storage, and Wi-Fi and other connectivity switched off, it went from 100% charge to, get this, 86%. Yes you read that right, a two hour film on full brightness only cost 14% of the battery charge.

This is madness. I kid you not I have never seen anything quite like this in my time of reviewing smartphones. I reckon upwards of 10 hours of movie playback is not at all unrealistic here. You can easily expect a couple of days of normal smartphone use on a single charge, in some cases perhaps three, and if you leave this phone alone save for a few calls or the occasional email, web browsing session or message, it will last you a good three or four days, possibly more.

In short, the Galaxy S8+ has the best battery of any smartphone I have ever tested. It just keeps going. I've pretty much only had to charge it a couple of times since I got hold of it.

Granted, I am sure you will still be able to burn through it in a day if you really push things, but let’s be real here, no smartphone will survive on a single charge if you insist on playing Super Mario Run or Star Wars Lego from dawn until dusk, only taking breaks to watch YouTube in between.

But for most standard users this is a dream come true. This is a phone you can rely on to be alive and kicking from when you leave the house in the morning right through to the next day, and you don't have to be too careful with it to achieve this, as long as you don't rinse it like crazy. At the very least this kind of battery usage makes it easier to plan around. I have not been caught short by the Galaxy S8+ leaving me high and dry unexpectedly as so many other phones are liable to do.

The much-rumoured dual-lens camera for the Galaxy S8+ hasn't come to pass, sadly, which did leave me wondering how much attention the phone's imaging capabilities would receive.

To be clear, however, Samsung camera hardware has impressed me for some time now; the last handful of flagships have always sported very capable cameras which, for me, had the perfect combination of "right stuff".

What do I mean by this? Well for one thing Samsung stopped chasing the megapixel rating, instead opting to increase the pixel size, and crucially go for better apertures. It started off with wide f/2.0 but has gradually improved this to where we now stand with an f/1.7 aperture on a 12MP sensor - nice and open, letting in lots of light and detail.

But this alone isn't enough to ensure good quality photography. Several iterations of Samsung's hardware have been plenty capable, but with the last generation it introduced what was, at the time, a unique feature; dual-pixel phase detection autofocus.

The Samsung Galaxy S8+, like its predecessor, is still one of only a few handsets to use this technology, and it really makes a difference in terms of focusing speed and capture speed. This means the image is captured very quickly after focusing (also very quickly), so that the wide aperture doesn't let in too much light and cause blurring, overexposure, and other undesirable consequences. In other words, the Galaxy S8+ is fine tuned down to fractions of a second so that it's optimised to take a photo in the best way possible.

Together with Samsung's wonderfully simple and user-friendly camera UI, this also means it's very easy to use by all comers, not just photography buffs - another pillar of what I'd consider the "right stuff" for a mass-marketed flagship. It really is easy to just point, click, shoot, and capture amazing quality photos in next to no time.

Naturally, there is also the now the required "Pro" mode for experts to fine tune things like exposure, ISO, focus, and white balance, amongst many other settings.

So what's the result? Well as you can see the images speak for themselves. The colour is rich and vibrant in Samsung's typical style, but the detail, sharpness, and dynamic range are all fantastic. The handset particularly excels at close-in shots and there's no need to tweak the settings to Macro mode in order to achieve this; standard Auto mode will do it just fine with a quick tap-to-focus on the subject before hitting the shutter button. I'm pretty blown away by how crisp everything is.

The Auto features also seem to be very intelligent in adjusting for different lighting conditions; plenty of snaps in less-than-ideal light, which on any other phone might come out a bit dull or far too over-exposed, seemed to adjust and get things just right to make a fantastic, crisp photo with excellent range and colours which pop.

This also means the phone excels in low-light and night-time shooting. The sunset shots below show this in an outdoor scenario, but the photo of the wine bottles was taken indoors, in the evening, in a hallway with no windows; I was to all intents and purposes, in the dark while taking it. What's more, even with the flash on Auto, the phone didn't bother to use it, and it obviously knew it didn't need to - despite all this the photo looks like a perfectly normal daytime shot in a reasonably well-lit room.

In truth, I am not sure I've seen a phone that handles low-light and night-time shooting this well before. It's much, much better than the Huawei Mate 9's dual-camera which I've been using on my holiday, and which was rather disappointing in low-light.

The front camera - the first in the world to feature autofocus - is plenty capable too, and also excels at close-ups. Check out the lion statue below which was taken on the 8MP front snapper, which also features the same f/1.7 aperture as its rear-mounted sibling. Naturally things aren't quite as sharp as the main sensor, but they're still damn impressive and should offer you some of the most detailed selfies available. Maybe too detailed, as you won't be able to hide any blemishes quite so easily without heavy use of filters and post-processing!

Overall I'm tremendously impressed with the Galaxy S8+ camera. I wasn't expecting big changes from Samsung with the dual-camera being axed, and in truth, it has not changed the setup extensively from its predecessor. However, what small tweaks that have been performed have been very careful and precise, and they've made a huge difference to the overall quality and shooting experience.

Our review unit is the international SM-G955F Galaxy S8+ model, which is the edition powered by Samsung's 64-bit Exynos 9 8895 octa-core processor. This CPU features four 2.3GHz Exynos M2 "Mongoose" cores and four 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A53 cores, under ARMv8 microarchitecture on 10nm FinFET semiconductor fabrication. It also packs a Mali-G71 MP20 GPU clocked at 546MHz and 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM.

All of those fancy words and numbers boil down to the fact that it's equipped with one of the top three mobile processor designs in the world at time of launch. Some reports from the states suggest that the US model, running a 10nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, is getting slightly higher performance results.

But after a certain point of high-end hardware and the extensive software optimisation we've seen in recent years, it seems to stop making much of a difference; at least as far as the end user experience is concerned.

Indeed, this is the reason that Apple has stopped revealing much of what it does to its processors between new iPhone models - as long as it maintains the same high standards of software performance, consumers don't seem to care. Other OEMs appear to be catching on too.

There were similar apparent disparities in performance between the Galaxy S7's various processor variants, again both Exynos and Snapdragon editions. However, extensive testing by various online experts and pundits ended up with a general consensus that there wasn't much in it.

I suspect the same may turn out to be true here, though naturally I should temper this by recognizing it as an assumption, and pointing out the fact that I haven't had a go with a Snapdragon 835-based model; and probably won't have the opportunity to do so with it being a US-exclusive.

All that said, the long and the short of it, which I must boil things down to, is this; does this phone's performance behave in a way I'd expect of a brand new Samsung flagship, in 2017, based on the latest processing hardware? Does it feel as fast and responsive as it should, as per what we've come to expect from the brand?

Android 7.0 Nougat is overlaid with Samsung's newest UI and it's clear that an immense amount of effort has been made here to ensure the smoothest and most fluid experience possible. You won't find any snagging or stuttering at all, and app load speeds are incredibly quick, near-instantaneous; quicker for those which don't immediately ping for data from the internet.

It is one of the fastest and most responsive handsets I've used for some time, in particular the touch input feels significantly more refined than most rivals. It doesn't balk at multitasking either, happily racking up app after app in the background, and the memory seems intelligent enough to keep switching smooth when restoring a hibernating app.

Let's face it, these days the flashiest games with the best graphics are generally shameless brand cash-ins and/or massive pay-to-win micro-transaction farms with very little substance. The fun and innovative titles tend to lean more to the simple, retro, artistic or even pixel-based graphics and aren't really that demanding anyway.

But I digress. I tried out a handful of titles of varying levels of graphical intensity; CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars, Nonstop Chuck Norris, Ninja Arashi, and Dawn of Titans. Most of these ran like a charm with no hiccuping, and unlike older phones on less efficient CPUs there was very little heat on the back panel.

However, I should point out that Dawn of Titans was the most graphically demanding title and the only one the phone struggled with, both in loading times and in some snagging during play. It wasn't clear whether this was an issue with the phone or possibly poor optimization on the part of the game developer, an all too common problem.

So I got hold of a few more demanding games to test the theory; CoverFire and Gangstar Vegas ran much smoother but were not quite as heavy on the high-end textures, particles and post-processing effects. Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, Star Wars: Force Arena and N.O.V.A Legacy, on the other hand, were a bit more flashy and ran perfectly fine.

N.O.V.A Legacy in particular was buttery smooth and just as impressive graphically as Dawn of Titans, which put my concerns about performance started by the latter to rest once and for all.

As a final note, you can see from running Geekbench benchmarking tests the Galaxy S8+ outpaces a lot of the competition...

Moving away from the CPU, the phone's audio via the speakers is quite impressive in quality and maintaining this at high volumes. I also found the off-centre positioning of the rear fingerprint scanner has finally brought me round to the back panel position which I'd previously hated. It is definitely a natural place for the forefinger to rest, though I should mention this is as a right-handed user; I doubt the same could be said for lefties as your finger must cross the camera lens and it's a bit of a stretch.

The Type-C USB port is a welcome sight to make charging a bit less fussy, but the charging speed is also noteworthy as it's pretty damn quick. It also seemed to me that the dual-band Wi-Fi onboard was particularly robust in terms of connection quality. The handset also has full GPS connectivity, 4G LTE, NFC, and Bluetooth 5.0.

For onboard storage 64GB is decent, but I can understand some power users wondering where the 128GB edition is considering the size of some apps and content these days - it's in China, matter of fact, along with 6GB of RAM. Expansion is welcome via microSD with support for up to 256GB, which is great for content that is supported this way on Android, but it's not a one-size-fits-all fix for people who'll find 64GB lacking.

We're now seeing news that Samsung will soon launch a new edition of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ in India - this is the 6GB RAM, 128GB storage variant already released as an exclusive in China and South Korea. Aside from the RAM and storage this is identical to the existing international model and still uses the Exynos processor.

Until now, Samsung has consistently launched these larger storage and higher RAM capacity models only in South Korea and China, both for the Galaxy S7 series and the Galaxy Note 7, so this is the first time it's also been extended to India.

While we'd like to think the 128GB Galaxy S8+ will make its way to Europe too. This is by no means a done deal, however, it is nice to see that Samsung is open to expanding the distribution, so it is a possibility, however remote.

As I outlined above, the performance here is great, this is an incredibly well optimised software package and runs about as well as stock Android Nougat does on the Pixel series.

Update: Samsung has begun issuing an urgent update over-the-air to Galaxy S8 series handsets. The update aims to fix a DQA issue (Device Quality Agent) which is affecting handsets in the US and Canada following the day-one software update. The issue means that users are constantly fending off pop-up warnings between a minute and 30 seconds apart which state "DQA keeps stopping". You can manually update via the Galaxy App Store too.

Another update is now being rolled out as of May 25, this one to address the Bluetooth connectivity issues some users have been experiencing. The rollout has started in the UAE but it will expand to other regions in short order.

"The update fixes a bug that caused the devices to reboot while controlling music playing through a wireless speaker," reports GSMArena. "In addition, the update also includes some SD card-related fixes, as well as the Android security patch for May."

In addition, the update kills a big which caused the Galaxy S8 to reboot when controlling music through a wireless speaker. Some changes have been made to microSD support and the May Security Patch is bundled-in too.

But it's not just the performance that impresses, I'll cover the other good stuff before getting on to my gripes and grumbles.

A lot of the positive points are returning features; things like the Always-On display showing notifications, and the date and time even when the phone sleeps; and it really doesn't sap your battery life in a noticable way at all.

Likewise, the multitasking is what we've come to expect from the most recent iterations of Android with very clear and smooth functionality, but Samsung's addition of split-screen applications also makes a welcome return and works brilliantly.

As an aside, I rather like the fact that the screenshot capture has automatic sharing and editing features built-in to a pop-up.

By default the Samsung UI has the traditional app drawer shortcut in the low bar switched off, which is kind of annoying, but it's easy enough to go into Settings and toggle it back on. It does, however, appear to be fixed in the lower right corner.

The notifications drop down has all the best Android bells and whistles, whether in the homescreen or lock screen; that means full expandable notifications functionality, something still sorely missing from many other Android handsets and UI overlays.

In the main homescreen mode it also has a full set of quick settings shortcuts with multiple swipable screens that are customisable.

Because Samsung has added more and more functionality with every successive phone, the Galaxy S8's Settings menu is pretty vast, but this is undoubtedly one of the cleanest and tidiest Settings screens I've seen for some time with a white background, a sharp, thin font, and simple colour-coded icons with neat and succinct little summaries for each sub-menu. While many busy Settings screens, even some of Samsung's in the past, have made it very easy to get lost and confused, it's not really an issue here.

On top of that, Samsung has added a bunch of prompts at the bottom of the menu screens where you can get help and guidance if you are struggling to find what you need.

The Samsung UI is highly customisable via the use of themes, and Samsung has its own Theme store embedded inside Bixby, including static wallpapers alongside the animtated ones which move with your phone, like the default "Galaxy" one.

However, at this stage some of the themes aren't optimised for the "Infinity Mode" of Samsung's new display, so they won't necessarily look their best.

"All Bixby functionality, bar Voice, will be available at launch. This includes Home, Reminder and Vision. Bixby Voice will be available in Korean and U.S English later this spring, and will expand to more languages globally over time."

So in other words, here in the UK we don't have the Voice component of the Bixby assistant and we don't know when it will be added.

Bixby is continuously present and can be accessed either via the dedicated Bixby button or by swiping from the left of the homescreen. In its current state it's rather a lot like the old Samsung news feed but with an array of widgets and a few added extra bits for the reminders and calendar stuff.

If you want voice control, however, you're going to have to resort to Google Assistant, which is already onboard and can be accessed via a long press of the Home key. Once set up it also works via the "OK Google," voice command.

Bixby Vision is also usable, although it seems somewhat hit and miss. I tried getting the handset to recognise a couple of other phones I had lying around and it didn't really catch on. A copy of a Hellboy graphic novel did manage to get the phone to point me to several online shopping vendors where I could buy it, however.

Update: On June 22, Bixby Voice has begun rolling out to Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ units in the US - however, it is hitting the handsets of users who signed up to Samsung's recently launched Bixby Early Access Program. Unfortunately, if you're now thinking of making a mad dash to sign up to the program, don't bother; Samsung isn't taking on any more testers at this time.

If you are part of the early access beta, you can go into the Galaxy App store and ensure all your Samsung apps are up to date. Once you've done this, Bixby will also update and will prompt you to set up voice features.

We've no clue as to when the Bixby Voice component will be released to the broader public, but considering Samsung originally promised "Spring" and we're now in Summer it's already well behind scheduled (and that's assuming you don't count the idea that it should have been ready on launch!). At a guess we'd say by the end of Summer, but that'd be for the US. The rest of the world? Maybe by the end of the year, if we're lucky, and by then we'll be looking at the Galaxy Note 8 and forthcoming Galaxy S9 anyway.

Having said the immediately above, those few bullet-pointed gripes at the end of the UI section are just about my only dislikes with the Galaxy S8+, and they are minor, somewhat nitpicky I'll readily admit, and oh so easily looked past in practice when using this phone on the daily.

By now you may have gathered I'm rather fond of this phone. My overall impression is very positive. I liked using it, I found it easy and seamless, rather refreshing really. It feels thoughtful and clever, though one or two bits are still glaringly missing, we are promised they'll be patched in later.

From a hardware perspective it's an absolute diamond. The camera is incredible and you really must try this, even if you've no intention of buying this phone I heartily encourage you to get down to a showroom and try the camera out if only to show you what's possible and what we should be expecting of future flagships as some kind of baseline. Meanwhile, on the display and processor front, Samsung continues to push boundaries and deliver excellent quality.

And on the subject of design and build, well, it's a matter of taste but I think Samsung has gone from strength to strength and here has delivered something very refined indeed.

The real icing on the cake, however, is that battery life. It's just phenomenal. This is easily the best phone on the market when it comes to battery life, so if you're looking for a handset that will go the distance - look no further.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ International variants - that is, the version with the Samsung Exynos processor - have both been given price cuts on Amazon. The Galaxy S8 has been slashed to $666, while the larger Galaxy S8+ is now $747, a 25% price decrease for both models. As international models they will work globally on most carriers, and in the US will work with AT&T and T-Mobile networks.

At time of writing, the Galaxy S8 has very low stock on the listing, but Amazon should get more stock in over time. The Galaxy S8+ is in stock. Shipments for orders will begin from July 3 and there is no information on when this reduced price offer may end.


Share in social networks:

Comments - 0