Samsung had two major hits last year. Between the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, the company could call 2017 somewhat of a success. But while the latter was still really good, there’s something about the former that makes it my favorite device Samsung introduced last year. The size, the speed, the software, the overall experience – whatever it is, it encouraged me and my team to get a hold of the device once again to check it out and see how our experience with it compares to when we reviewed it back in May. It’s also interesting to look at the device again considering its successor, the Galaxy S9, is right around the corner. Perhaps you’ll be able to save some cash and just buy an S8 rather the latest and greatest.
First things first, I can’t get over the design. It’s made of glass and metal and couldn’t feel better in the hand. I put the Mujjo black leather case I reviewed last year back on the device and it added a sleek finish to the shiny Arctic Silver build. It also made the phone, admittedly, easier to handle. I didn’t feel like it would fly out of my hand as opposed to using the phone naked.
My biggest gripe with the S8’s design that still annoys me, however, is the fingerprint sensor. I know you’re probably tired of hearing how Samsung put the sensor in the worst spot possible, but it’s the God’s honest truth. Seriously, anyone with smaller hands than me can’t reach the sensor without shimmying their hand up the phone. This basically destroys the one-handed-ness of the phone which is, otherwise, present thanks to the width of the phone which is very minimal. Of course, you can always use the iris scanner or facial recognition, but neither is as convenient or reliable as a fingerprint scanner. At least in this regard, Samsung could’ve done better with the S8’s design. Luckily, it looks like the company will be fixing this with the Galaxy S9.
That being said, the rest of the phone is still pretty fantastic and looks like it could’ve come out during 2018. Everything from the clicky buttons to the USB-C port, things just feel premium. Of course, the 3.5mm headphone jack is debatable as to whether it’s fitting for 2018 or not, but regardless, users will appreciate the feature since not everyone has converted to Bluetooth yet.
The specs inside the Galaxy S8 are also still pretty relevant for 2018, even though they aren’t the latest and greatest. The S8 packs a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. I’ve had no issues during my second round of testing in terms of speed and fluidity. Multitasking, playing games, and using the phone day-to-day all proved to be smoother and issue-free.
Part of the reason for this experience is definitely thanks to the new software the Galaxy S8 will soon receive. Android Oreo for the phone has been in beta for a while, and I sideloaded the latest version of the software to my device to see how well it performed and to see whether it made a difference compared to my experience earlier last year.
Off the bat, I’ve noticed the phone feels smoother. Before with Android 7.0 Nougat, I had stutters here and there, especially while playing games and switching between apps. Now with version 8.0 Oreo, I’m noticing everything seems to run a bit smoother. You won’t be totally out of the woods, but you’ll definitely notice things tend to be a bit snappier.
There’s also been some UI changes and added features in Oreo for the S8 that weren’t present in Nougat. For one, App Shortcuts are available from the default Samsung Experience launcher, and so is the ability to swipe down twice on the fingerprint sensor to bring up quick toggles. Some new iconography and changes in the settings app are also present which gives the device a fresh coat of paint for 2018.
App Pairs, a feature that first debuted in the Galaxy Note 8, have also made an appearance on the S8. The feature lets you select two apps to pair in one shortcut on an Edge panel that will let you launch them in a split-screen view. It’s a quick convenience to have, even though you may not use it all that much.
Finally, some new options for the always-on display, new Edge lighting settings, a GIF keyboard in the default Samsung keyboard, and new widgets also make an appearance in the updated software.
Besides what Samsung has brought to the table, you’re also getting all the standard Oreo features like better notification management, Autofill from Google, notification dots, picture-in-picture mode, better security, and improved optimization.
Overall, I’ve been really satisfied with what Oreo brings to the table for the S8. The feature set you obtain with the software is simply spectacular and improves your experience with the phone nearly every way you look at it. I say nearly because there’s one area of the S8 that hasn’t changed since I last used it in May, and that’s battery life.
I don’t know what it is with the S8, but the 3,000mAh battery inside the phone simply won’t last me more than 2 1/2 – 3 hours of screen-on time. Admittedly, I can usually get to around 8 PM before I need a charger, but I tend to go to bed at 11 so I wish the phone would at least last me another three hours or so.
That being said, charging the phone back up is still a pleasure. Fast charging gets me to 50% in under 30 minutes every time I plug in, and when I don’t feel like fiddling with cables, I use the wireless charger beside my bed and just place my phone down on my nightstand. Overall, when I do need to top up, the S8 makes things convenient.
You know what else is convenient? Having a cellular connection to connect to the outside world. For my re-review of the S8, we decided to obtain a unit through Verizon, and things have been pretty great. I’m seeing 10 Mbps upload speeds pretty consistently across South Jersey alongside up to 20 Mbps download speeds. I’ve found my experience with the service pretty impressive. Of course, things may vary based on where you live. But at least for what it’s worth, I had no issues with Verizon where I live.
I really shouldn’t have to, but let me just touch on the cameras. The S8 has a 12MP rear shooter and an 8MP selfie cam with autofocus. The former can shoot up to 4K video, while the latter can shoot up to Quad HD. Both are fantastic, offer excellent dynamic range, and still stand as some of the best on the market today. Samsung’s said to be changing things up significantly with the S9, but if you choose to buy an S8 instead, you won’t be disappointed.
Now look, I really don’t wanna talk about it, but it’s hard to go through an entire review of a recent Samsung flagship without mentioning Bixby at least once. So there you go. It’s there, it’s not that useful, it’s slow to respond, it’s integration with other products isn’t up to par with what Google and Amazon have with their assistants, and honestly, Google Assistant is just better. Sorry, Sammy.
Samsung will announce the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus on February 25th and the S8 will be history. But that shouldn’t make the device irrelevant. Most folks will probably hate spending upwards of $700 on their next phone, and buying a phone from last year is definitely a way to save a buck or two. And if you’re that kind of person, the Galaxy S8 should definitely be considered. Its speeds are fantastic, the cameras are glorious, the design is beautiful, and you’ll looove having a headphone jack. Sure, the battery life is still pretty bad, but that’s just one exception you need to make to get a phone that still holds its own as we enter 2018.
If you’re debating whether to buy a Galaxy S8 or just wait for an S9, here’s a tip: wait for the S9 to come out, then buy an S8. Prices will remain the same as what they were last year for an S8 for the time being, so just wait for the S9 to land and then search for an S8 at a discounted price. And by saving the money you could be spending on a new, shiny S9, the S8 won’t disappoint you if you opt for it. It definitely stands as one of my favorites, and I have a billion phones in my drawer.