The first time I remember being so enthralled by a mobile smartphone device was the release of the first iPhone in June of 2007. I had just started blogging then, but I knew the release would be a part of history. The iPhone set the bar for every other smartphone to come.
The next time I was thrilled was when I first saw the Samsung Galaxy S3 in June of 2012. The cheap plastic build was barely noticeable due to the beautiful 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 pixel resolution screen. Remember – this was the year 2012. Now, a 4.8-inch screen is considered too small, and a smartphone that doesn’t have at least a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution screen is considered outdated (hello, regular iPhone 7!). The Galaxy S3 was not only beautiful to look at but was groundbreaking in features for the time.
Smartphone innovation has stalled in the past few years. The last three iPhones have been great, but not advanced. Then, there is Samsung, who got close to making the perfect smartphone with the Galaxy Note 7. Unfortunately, Samsung blew it – literally. Samsung’s reputation and future have been hanging by a thread. However, after 10 minutes holding and playing with the Galaxy S+, it’s safe to say that Samsung’s fortunes will be reversed immediately. The Galaxy S8+ instantly lures you in and reminds you that Samsung, despite the recent quality control disaster, is synonymous with quality.
The Galaxy S8+ provides an equal amount of style and substance. The first thing that pops out when looking at the S8+ is that it’s more screen than smartphone. This can be confusing at first, especially since most us are so used to physical buttons at the bottom of our Android phones. The pressure sensitive buttons underneath the screen are bewildering at first, but they feel very natural after a couple minutes of use. Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 helps the S8 minimize smudges, so you don’t have to worry about getting the screen dirty all of the time. Still, it’s always best to invest in a screen protector.
It’s hard to stop talking about the screen. One has to see the S8+ Super AMOLED 2960 x 1400 pixel resolution screen to believe it. The vivid colors and the fantastic contrast ratio make it seem as if the screen is actually looking at you rather than the other way around. My colleague was watching a colorful balloon video in full screen and softly said, “It’s alive.” That’s the best way to describe the Galaxy S8+ screen.
I didn’t have enough time with the S8+’s 12MP camera, but from what I’ve seen, it’s not much different from the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy Note 7 camera. That, of course, is not a bad thing. The iPhone 7 Plus still has the best smartphone camera, but the S8+ takes 4K videos with great stereo sound. The S8+ appears to take slightly better pictures than previous Samsung cameras when it comes to low light situations.
Then, there is Samsung’s digital assistant, Bixby. I didn’t use it enough myself to make a definite conclusion, but my colleague said that it seemed somewhat incomplete. He couldn’t get Bixby to open YouTube, and it’s possible that there was a little too much background noise at the time. However, Apple’s Siri never cared about background noise; perhaps her “ears” are better for cancelling out unnecessary ruckus. Even CNET notes that Bixby isn’t up to par – yet. Updates, including ones before the April 21 release date, are expected to improve him.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment on the Galaxy S8+ is the lack of stereo speakers – at least with the unit I tested. Many websites have claimed that like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the S8+ would use the earpiece as the second speaker. I’m hoping that I was using a defective unit; a screen like the one on the S8+ deserves stereo speakers. One can always use a Bluetooth stereo speaker or stereo headphones, but it’s always great having great stereo speakers on a device. This is something that HTC and, finally, Apple have noticed in the past few years.
It’s always true that once the honeymoon period wears off with a smartphone (or any technology device), some of the love disappears. And like a real life partner, a smartphone starts to reveal its faults after the initial thrill is gone. However, my brief time with the Galaxy S8+ didn’t feel like a honeymoon; it felt like an adventure. As someone who has reviewed smartphone products for the past 10 years, it was the type of adventure I thought I’d never experience again in the smartphone world. I can hardly wait to officially own the Samsung Galaxy S8+ on April 21.