Samsung's Galaxy S8 is a powerful phone with great battery life and a seriously appealing design.
Samsung Galaxy S8 on Virgin Mobile $86/month 8GB data from Virgin Mobile
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- When does the Samsung Galaxy S8 come out? Australian availability from 21 April 2017
- What’s new about the Samsung Galaxy S8? Snapdragon 835, curved Super AMOLED display, Iris scanner
- How much will the Samsung Galaxy S8 cost? $1199 outright or on contract from $70 per month.
For as long as it has been in the Android game, Samsung’s Galaxy S phones have represented the best that the South Korean manufacturer could produce with the technology of the time. The market responded by making Samsung one of only two mobile manufacturers to regularly claim huge chunks of the sales profits from phones, and the only Android manufacturer to regularly do so.
2016 was, to put it politely, a mixed year for Samsung’s Android ambitions. It started the year with a bang, offering up the excellent Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phones at the 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. All year long every other Android maker scrambled to come up with something that was at least as good as those two handsets.
Unfortunately for Samsung it also ended the year on a bang, but in this case that sound was the noise made by its catastrophic Galaxy Note 7 handsets, which even after a recall had a disastrous flaw that made them a serious fire risk. Samsung has issued recalls for every Note 7 device, but that has left its previously solid premium Android image in tatters. It’s against that backdrop that it will have to launch the Galaxy S8 handsets. In regular fashion Samsung will also be releasing a beefed up counterpart to the Galaxy S8, with the Galaxy S8+.
Samsung Galaxy S8: What is it?
Samsung officially announced the Samsung Galaxy S8 on 21 April 2017, but plenty of leaks emerged well before that giving a serious picture of where Samsung intended to take its next generation premium smartphone handset.
It was at first widely expected that Samsung would announce the Galaxy S8, and either the Galaxy S8 Edge or a full-fledged Note replacement with a larger screen, at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress in 2017.
However, Samsung announced that it was not going to announce the Galaxy S8 at MWC. At the show though, the company did confirm it would launch the new phone on 29 March, which aligns with the date the rumours suggested would be the official announcement date.
Samsung sells two models of Galaxy S8 phone. There's the regular Galaxy S8 and the larger display Galaxy S8+ as the company moves away from having a secondary model with an "Edge" designation.
In terms of features, Samsung has matched what it did with previous Galaxy S generations, offering up a number of different internal configuration options depending on market. As a result it uses the same dual Qualcomm Snapdragon/Exynos strategy that it has used for previous Galaxy phones for the Galaxy S8.
On the Snapdragon side of the equation, Samsung has locked down supply of the Snapdragon 835 for its own flagship phone, which could give it a serious advantage against competitors as long as it can live up to expectations. Mind you, here in Australia we instead get the Exynos 8995 CPU based Galaxy S8 officially. If you want the Snapdragon variant, you'll have to source one from a direct importer.
Samsung has consistently pushed the edges of screen resolution with its Galaxy S range phones. For the Galaxy S8, it adopts the curved screen display previously reserved for its "Edge" Galaxy phones across the entire Galaxy S8 line. In terms of screen resolution, that translates to a 2960×1440 pixel Super AMOLED display for the Galaxy S8 with no embedded home button. Instead a "virtual" home button sits at the bottom of the screen, present even when you can't see it and activated with a long press on the area. Samsung's curved screens have certainly been eye catching, but the manufacturer has struggled to come up with a compelling use case for the extra screen size.
Samsung is also using the Galaxy S8 to deliver a renewed push for the Gear VR headset, although the new model was actually announced at Mobile World Congress back in late February. The improved processing power of the Galaxy S8 and the new controller built into the new Gear VR should make for a potent combination. Samsung still has to compete with a raft of VR solutions including the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
One feature that Samsung is heavily hyping on the Galaxy S8 is its own voice assistant. Dubbed "Bixby", it's an AI assistant app that Samsung intends to incorporate across its consumer electronics lines. Like Siri and Cortana before it, you'll be able to talk to Bixby, but Samsung's claim is that it will go further than those applications can over time. Specifically, it will be able to use all functions of a given Bixby-enabled app, and will learn to interpret incomplete suggestions so that even if you don't know the syntax, you'll still be able to be productive with it.
In camera terms, Samsung has come a very long way from what used be rather mediocre photo credentials. Phones released later in 2016 did rather overshadow the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge’s cameras, but at their time they were the best you could get, and it seems likely that Samsung will push hard to regain the smartphone camera supremacy crown. The Galaxy S8 will sport a 12MP single rear camera and 8MP front camera, essentially similar to last year's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge cameras.
Competitively speaking, Google opted for a single very good lens on its Pixel phones, but competitors Huawei, LG and Apple all offer dual lens phone options. LG will launch the LG G6 with dual cameras, Huawei has the upcoming Huawei P10 as well as the Huawei Mate 9, and Apple already sells the iPhone 7 Plus with a dual lens camera. What’s interesting there is that all three use dual lenses for a different photographic purpose. Huawei’s Leica-developed P10 opts for a secondary monochrome lens for added photographic contrast, LG’s pitch is for wide angle photography, and Apple uses its secondary lens for both optical zoom and the creation of portrait bokeh effects.
Samsung has also announced a new desktop dock for the Galaxy S8, known as DeX. It's a USB C connected dock that charges the phone, cools it, and provides USB, ethernet and HDMI output for what Samsung are touting as a "desktop" style experience.
One feature that Samsung has shifted across from the ill-fated Note 7 to the Galaxy S8 has been the iris scanner, used for unlocking the phone with a quick scan of your eyes. While we found that feature a bit hit and miss in our review of the Note 7, a few months of fine tuning could make it more compelling. If nothing else, it sounds interesting if you’ve not tested it before, and getting over that sales reticence in light of the Note 7’s disastrous entry is something that Samsung will no doubt be wanting to do. Alongside iris recognition, the Galaxy S8 also supports simple facial recognition for unlocking, although it does note that this is a less secure locking mechanism.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Australian release date
The Galaxy S8 will go on full sale in Australia on 28 April 2017, with pre-sales for direct purchase through Samsung's online store and contract carriers delivering handsets from 21 April 2017.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Price
In outright terms the Galaxy S8 sells for $1199. It is also be available through a variety of carriers, including Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and Woolworths Mobile.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Review
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a serious premium contender in 2017, matching powerful performance with solid battery life in a design that is truly eye catching.
The Galaxy S8 is a seriously sexy looking handset that backs up those good looks with plenty of power, both in a processing sense and in terms of its overall battery life. It’s the complete package, and easily the best phone we've tested in 2017 so far.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Specifications
|OS||Android 7.0 ("Nougat")|
|Screen size||5.8 inches|
|Resolution||2960×1440 Super AMOLED|
|Processor||Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895|