Samsung announces Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+

Alex Kidman 30 March 2017

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Samsung has lifted the veil off the phones it claims will reinvent the way we think about smartphones entirely.

As expected, Samsung has formally announced its new flagship phones at an event in New York City. One of the oddities of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launch was that ultimately there really wasn’t that much that wasn’t known about these phones well before the actual launch this morning. Everything from precise sharp pictures to specifications lists had leaked about both devices well before launch, although as with everything that tumbles around the smartphone rumour mill, you can never be entirely sure which rumours will pan out.

Samsung will release at least two variants of the S8, with the core difference being the underlying processor architecture. As it did with last year’s Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, one variant will sport a Qualcomm processor, in this case the highly anticipated Snapdragon 835 SoC that Samsung effectively scored itself an exclusive on.

Alongside the Snapdragon variant sits a model running on Samsung’s own Exynos 8995 processor. That’s the model we’ll most likely see in Australia if past history is any indication. Samsung did produce dual-SIM models of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, but it's unlikely that the carrier models sold under contract in Australia will include that feature. Samsung may opt to sell dual SIM models directly, but direct importing may be your best option if that's one of your requirements.

The display screen is the most striking aspect of the new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ phones, with Samsung deciding to go all-in on curved displays. Samsung's billing for the curved displays is as "infinity displays". Where last year you’d find such displays on the Edge variant of the Galaxy S7 as well as the ill-fated Galaxy Note7, both models of Galaxy S8 have a curved display with Samsung’s Edge UI built in. The Samsung Galaxy S8 features a 5.8 inch 2960×1440 Super AMOLED display.

The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is, as the name suggests, the larger-screened variant with a 6.2 inch 2960×1440 Super AMOLED. That higher screen size but identical resolution does mean it has a somewhat lower pixel density, although at that resolution it’s hardly likely to be immediately visually evident. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are IP68 rated for dust and water ingress, meaning that they've got considerable (but not indestructible) water resistance if you do happen to drop them into the bathtub.

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The new Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ won’t offer up the Google Assistant AI as found on the Google Pixel or LG’s new LG G6, but instead feature Samsung’s own take on AI, known as "Bixby". Samsung’s intention with Bixby is that it will eventually be ported to the majority of its consumer electronics lines to ensure a consistent experience in the smart home of the future. Like Google Assistant, Siri or Cortana, you can use Bixby for vocal phone commands at a simple level, but Samsung’s take on Bixby is that it should do much more, including access to every command within an app, rather than just a subset of the commands that its syntax can understand.

On the camera front, the Samsung has taken the bold step of eschewing dual camera lenses as found on phones such as the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei P10 or LG G6, instead opting for a single rear 12MP F/1.7 camera with a front facing 8MP camera.

The one feature that has come across from the ill-fated Galaxy Note7 is the inclusion of an iris scanner for fast unlocking of the phones rather than a fingerprint or PIN code. When we tested the Note7 we found the iris scanner a little inconsistent, so it will be interesting to see how well Samsung has refined its approach in this respect.

Both phones run Android 7.0 ("Nougat") with Samsung’s relatively light launcher on top, and predictably they’ll be compatible with Samsung’s own Samsung Pay as well as Android Pay.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8+ will be available in Australia from April 21 2017, with contract pre-orders opening up on 31 March through Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and Woolworths Mobile.

If you want the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ outright, they will cost $1,199 and $1,349 respectively when they launch, with availability through Samsung's online store.

However if you want a Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ on 21 April you'll need to pre-order quickly, with Samsung stating that the official in-store sale date will be 28 April 2017.

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