- Impossible dream
- Slim is in
- Fingerprint fumble
- Pure pixels
- Consolidation of power
- All-day pass
- Big bad Bixby
- Seeing isn’t believing
- Flying solo
- Super selfies
And then we have TouchWiz or, as it’s now called, Samsung Experience. Obviously it runs on Android Nougat, but it’s only 7.0 for now, still several updates behind schedule. Samsung has intimidated that it will be quickly updating the S8 to 7.1, but the lack of support at launch only serves to underscore our frustrations with Android phone makers.
But despite the outdated version, Samsung has done a fine job with its new interface. It will still have its share of detractors simply due to its deviation from stock Android, but it’s a massive improvement over the Marshmallow version. It take a lot of cues from the Galaxy S7’s Nougat build, but it all looks and feels like it was hand-made for the S8+. All of the unremovable Samsung apps and services are well represented of course (more than 15 in all, including a couple new ones), but they’ve all been redesigned for Nougat and some of them, such as the Calendar and Clock, aren’t half-bad. And I love how the broken-line icon motif matches the virtual home and navigation button.
The new weather widget is the home screen’s most striking feature, and while I liked it, it’s definitely an acquired taste. Its minimal, vertical design certainly fits the S8’s tall screen well, but like the rest of the Samsung Experience, it’s not quite as classy as the one on the Pixel Launcher. But what the new interface lacks in elegance it makes up for with its highly personal and intuitive interface. Along with the usual Touchwiz customizations to tweak the font style, LED indicator, always-on display, and that awesome shrunken-screen gesture for one-handed operation, there are handy little touches all over that make the interface much less aggravating than on previous Galaxy releases.
I particularly appreciated the small, mindful additions, such as the 3D touch-like icon menus, and switches to turn off all notifications and condense the status bar to the just the last three icons. But what most stood out about the interface is its smart and careful attention to detail. While I would probably still choose stock Android if a Google Play edition model ever made a comeback, there’s a sense here that Samsung is finally building its interface to take specific advantage of the hardware. It’s not unlike the way Google has optimized its own custom launcher for the Pixel, and it’ll be interesting to see if Samsung starts taking updates more seriously as a result.
Down to earth
The S8+ is every bit as stunning as the iPhone 7 Plus, and when put side by side, it shows how stale Apple’s design has become. And while it may be a millimeter thicker than the iPhone 7, its tapered edges make it feel every bit as svelte, and it has a headphone jack to boot. The iPhone 8 may very well put the pressure back on Samsung to up its game with the Galaxy S9, but for now, the best designed phone isn’t made in Cupertino.
And while it certainly exists in the same stratosphere as other premium phones, its price, $850 for 64GB of storage, is actually more of a value than previous Galaxy S phones. It has twice the storage and way better earbuds than the $800 S7 Edge, and let’s not forget that Samsung is bundling a $129 Gear VR with all pre-orders.
Even if virtual reality isn’t your thing, that’s a pretty intriguing package. The S8+’s marvelous screen makes VR look better than ever while the new controller brings the easy navigation that was missing from the first model. And the Oculus library is already way more extensive than the Daydream’s, with a slew of controller-ready titles on the way.
Should you buy it?
If you’ve gotten this far you already know the answer to this question. But I’ll say it anyway: If you want the very best Android has to offer, go get a Galaxy S8+. It’s not perfect, but it’s as close as you can get. And it’s hard to imagine another phone coming close anytime soon, except maybe the iPhone 8.
Bixby may be dead (or at least seriously injured) on arrival, but Samsung will surely continue to refine and perfect its AI system with regular updates, so it’s something that will likely get better over time. But Bixby is at best an added benefit and is in no way essential to the S8+ experience, so even if it never evolves into something you want to use, the value of the phone won’t be lessened as a result.
There are a lot of firsts for the S8+, but unlike prior Galaxy S models, it’s not just about getting there before Apple or Google. Bixby aside, the S8+ has a propitious relationship between hardware and software, and as such, it represents a massive leap over prior Galaxy efforts and finally feels like a complete end-to-end package.
If it wasn't for the downright hostile placement of the fingerprint sensor that frustrated me every single time I used it, the S8+ would be the first phone I've used worth of 5 stars, and that includes the iPhone 7 Plus.
Your move, Apple.
Galaxy S8+Greenbot Rating
With a gorgeous 6.2-inch display and a design that needs to be seen, the Galaxy S8+ truly changes the smartphone conversation.
- Amazing, brilliant, eye-popping display.
- An incredible design that makes a 6.2-inch screen feel like a 5.7-inch one.
- Camera offers nice refinements over the S7, especially for selfies.
- Fingerprint sensor is in a horrible location.
- Bixby isn't very useful or compelling.
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