We briefly checked out Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ and think they're likely going to be huge hits.
Samsung just needs to avoid the same battery problems that plagued the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7.
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are easily the best-looking smartphones of the year so far, thanks to what Samsung is billing as an "Infinity Display" that runs side to side and almost top to bottom. The two phones are identical except for size: The S8 display measures 5.8 inches diagonally while the S8+ is 6.2 inches. Both are a lot bigger than the competing phones from Apple — the iPhone 7 is only 4.7 inches and the iPhone 7 Plus measures 5.5 inches.
Plus, the phones are almost all screen, which means you get more space to work with. The home button is gone, replaced by a small area at the bottom of the screen that can be pushed in at any moment to return to the home screen. It works well and feels a bit magical in its execution. Apple is rumored to be considering something similar for the iPhone 8, which it totally should. Samsung's displays, which use AMOLED technology, are gorgeous for watching videos and generally pop with color. An iPhone with a similar display would easily outclass any iPhone before it, and potentially pave the way for VR, which relies on the sharper screens. Apple could also treat customers with larger displays without increasing the overall size of the iPhone if it adopts a similar strategy. It's something Apple should do as folks clamor for bigger spaces to game, watch movies and even multitask while sending emails.
Samsung managed to squeeze nearly every latest piece of tech into the Galaxy S8. You'll find Qualcomm's most advanced Snapdragon processor inside, which means the phones will support the next generation of super-fast wireless data networks (gigabit LTE, sometimes called 5G) when they roll out later this year. It should also offer better battery life and great support for processor-intensive apps like games. You'll also find the latest version of Android installed (Android Nougat), which has support for running applications side by side, the latest performance and security patches and built-in battery life savings.
There are also a variety of security features that would fill 007's Q with envy, including an iris scanner, a face recognition mechanism and a fingerprint reader. All worked rather well during our tests, though the fingerprint reader is on the back of the phone. It's a bad idea since the Galaxy S8's glass rear panel is extremely prone to fingerprints. Every device in our demo looked pretty gross.
There are other niceties in tow. The Galaxy S8 is water and dust resistant, so it can easily take a dunk in the pool (or the toilet!) and survive. It also comes with expandable storage, something Apple still doesn't include in the iPhone. That's important, since both models will only ship with 64GB of space. That space runs out pretty quick when you load up 4K videos, which you'll want to do if you plan to take advantage of the optional Gear VR headset or the phone's stellar screen.
Samsung's planning plenty of accessories for the Galaxy S8, though it's unclear when some of the cooler ones are launching. A "DeX" dock, for example, allows the phone to operate as a full computer. Attach a keyboard, mouse and HDMI display, and you're off to the races running Android programs in an environment that looks a bit like a standard desktop computer.
A new voice assistant named Bixby also lives on the Galaxy S8. It's Samsung's take on Siri and will allow you to check the weather, sports scores, schedule meetings and more. There's a dedicated button for bringing up the assistant – not exactly unique since you can hold the home button on an iPhone to do the same for Siri – or you can speak "Bixby" to bring the AI to life. Samsung's demo units weren't running Bixby properly just yet, however, so the jury's still out on how well it works. Plus, since the phones run Android, the excellent Google Assistant is also preinstalled, so it's not clear who Bixby is really for (except to show that Samsung can do AI).
The Galaxy Note 7 won plenty of praise last year but was ultimately recalled not once, but twice. Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ seem promising, and are certainly exciting devices both in person and on paper. Consumers will need to be cautious, though. It will take time, not just a couple of shiny new phablets, to earn back trust.