Samsung's Siren Call

I could hear it calling to me.

“Touch me.”

“Hold me.”

“Feel me.”

I couldn’t resist!

I opened the rectangular black box and there it was - - - a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S8+!

It fit comfortably in my small(ish) hands, like we were made for each other.

Then practicality reared its ugly head. It is “just another smartphone” after all. But is it?

We were lucky enough to get the new wunderkind of the mobile phone universe a couple of days before its release in the U.S. and the experience, so far, has been intriguing. Overall, the S8+ is one of the best phones we’ve used, but, as with everything in the universe, there were also a few glitches.

First, the good stuff:

This is a beautiful piece of hardware. The large screen (three by six inches) takes up less real estate than other so-called phablets, basically because it’s all screen. There’s only an extremely thin bezel surrounding the screen to hold everything together. Also, all of the controls are embedded into the screen.

The so-called Super Amoled display is picture perfect at a resolution of 1440 by 2960.

Battery life is almost double that of our old Galaxy S6 Edge. We were able to get almost two days from a single charge.

Installation and activation was extremely easy, probably because we were upgrading from another Samsung phone. All we had to do was log into the new device using our Google and Samsung Cloud IDs and almost everything was installed on the new phone. The only apps we had to reinstall were for home security devices.

The response time was also faster than our older phone, which was probably due to its new MSM 8998 Octa Core 2.35Ghz processor.

Bluetooth 5.0 allows you to connect to two audio devices at the same time, which means you can be using a set of Bluetooth headphones while someone else uses speakers. In addition, the phone comes with a set of AKG in-ear earphones that retail for about $99.

Although the S8+ comes with 64 gigabytes of internal memory, the phone’s micro memory card slot can hold cards with up to 256 gigabytes of space.

Enough with the starry-eyed love-it stuff, you say? What’s the downside?

Let’s begin with the highly-touted Bixby assistant, which was supposed to make Google’s assistant obsolete. Sadly, except for a few “cards” that track news, sports and email notifications, Bixby is a no-show. In fact, the first thing we did after activating the phone, was dump Samsung’s Touch-Wiz format for Google’s interface. The folks at Samsung have said that Bixby “will be coming soon.”

On the positive side, we were able to use Bixby to assist us on our frequent shopping sprees. All we had to do was point the camera at an item and Bixby recognized it and showed us where we could find it at a lower price.

The front and rear cameras take decent pictures and have a few cool features, but there are phones (such as the Google Pixel XL) that do a better job. The S8+’s cameras are rated at 12 megapixels for photos and 8 for selfies.

The fingerprint sensor is placed next to the camera lens, which can result in smudges from fingers on the lens.

Two new highly-touted security features are just too “secure” to work consistently. We tried the image and iris sensors to lock and unlock our phone, but became so frustrated with them we went back to simply entering a PIN code.

Overall, we believe, once Bixby comes online, this is the phone to beat in 2017. So, the love affair continues, despite its flaws.

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