The Galaxy S8 is Samsung’s newest flagship phone, a triumphant return to the spotlight after the disastrous Note 7. There’s a lot to love about the latest from Android’s largest manufacturer, but there’s also a lot to dislike. Let’s talk about it.
The Best Things About the Galaxy S8
I like to start with the good news then work my way back around the bad stuff, so let’s start on the shiny side of the coin: love or hate Samsung, the S8 has a lot of things going for it. The design is beautiful, it’s crazy-fast, and it’s packed full of awesome technology.
Waterproofing Is Really Handy to Have
This list comes in no particular order, but having a waterproof phone is undoubtedly excellent. The S8 follows in its predecessor’s footsteps with the waterproofing tech—It’s IP68 dust- and water-resistant, so it can be completely submerged in 1.5 meters of “fresh” water for up to 30 minutes. And it does it all without adding any extra bulk or gaudy port covers.
So go ahead and take your phone to the pool or lake. Splash away—you’re covered.
Wireless, Fast Charging Rocks
Wireless charging is a bit polarizing—users either love it or find it completely pointless. I’m convinced that the latter group of people have never actually used the feature, because it’s actually pretty incredible. Honestly, I wish every modern smartphone had it, but it seems like Samsung is the only one who still thinks there’s a future here.
On top of the convenience of wireless charging, the S8 also feature fast charging for both wired and wireless methods. That’s another must-have in my book, but fortunately every manufacturer includes some form of fast wired charging at this point.
Iris Scanning Is Super Fast and Convenient
I’m not going to lie about this one: I thought it was more of a novelty till I actually tried it (kind of like those silly anti-wireless charging folks we just talked about). But man, once you give it a go, it’s an insane way to unlock your phone.
What’s most surprising to me is how fast it is. Oftentimes, the iris scanner will have my phone unlocked before the preview image even shows up—it’s kind of surreal. It really makes up for the awkward positioning of the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone, which is my preferred unlocking method on pretty much all other phones.
The Camera Is Fantastic
I’m doing my best not to be generic with this list—I don’t want to go with the normal “display, battery life, etc.” list when it comes to best features, but you absolutely cannot ignore this phone’s camera. It’s amazing.
And to really unleash the power of the camera, Samsung has done an excellent job with the camera app—it’s full-featured and very powerful, all without feeling sluggish and bogged down.
Bluetooth 5.0 Is a Big Step Up
If I had to pick a favorite pair of features on the S8, this might be it. I’ll be straight up with you guys here: Bluetooth 5.0 is awesome. I think we can all agree that Bluetooth in itself is a janky technology, but so far Bluetooth 5.0 is the best iteration of this oft-hated connection method. It allows for things that we used to only hope for, like connecting one phone to multiple Bluetooth audio devices at once, or even playing audio from a specific app on a speaker while keeping all other media on the phone itself. It’s brilliant.
And for everything not wireless, the S8 has UBS-C, which is just as awesome. This is more of a given than it is a feature that sets the S8 apart from the pack—if you’re releasing an Android phone in 2017, it better have USB-C. Still, much like Bluetooth 5.0, it’s the best version of USB to date, so I think it’s worth giving a nod to.
The Worst Things About the Galaxy S8
Unfortunately, there’s always a dark side to the story. Not everything is rainbows and butterflies, and that couldn’t be more true than with the Galaxy S8. As much as there are things to love about this phone, there are also things that can potentially make you want to throw it into a wall, which I honestly wouldn’t recommend.
The S8 Is Fragile
If I could only pick one bad thing to say about the S8—one that I feel is even reason enough to not buy this phone—it’s how fragile it is. I can’t remember the last time I broke a phone (despite many, many drops), but my S8’s display was cracked within two weeks of having it. I dropped it about 18 inches or so onto a tile floor, and boom—the display was cracked at the bottom. And, yes, it even had a case on it. It made me sick.
And I’m not the only one. Basically every day I see someone posting pictures of their broken S8. I realize that people break phones every day, but I’m absolutely convinced that the S8’s display, and by extension the back, are more fragile than other phones.
To make matters worse, these things are ridiculously expensive to fix right now, thanks to that curved display. Ugh.
TouchWiz Still Exists
You know what? Samsung’s software layer isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. In fact, it’s kind of okay now. But it’s still a software layer, and it’s still loaded with superfluous “features.” It’s still bloated. And Samsung is somehow taking a step backwards and making it worse. I kind of hate it.
The Form Factor and Display Are Awkward
Yeah, I’m saying it: the 18.5:9 display ratio makes for a weird experience sometimes. It’s a tall, long display, and while it looks great, it’s not without its on share of quirks.
For example, some apps show black bars at the top and bottom, because they’re not optimized for this aspect ratio. You can force the apps to use the full screen, so at least there’s that.
Because of how narrow it is, though, I also find it really awkward to type on—and I have tiny hands! I honestly can’t imagine how anyone with big hands can mange to type anything out on this phone.
And all that goes without mentioning the rounded corners of the display, which I just can’t seem to get used to. It looks very unnatural to me, and to be honest, just slightly tacky. Plus, to avoid pushing a notification into the bend, there’s always a gap before the first notification. It just feels unrefined.
As good as the S8 could have been, I honestly think it’s a step backwards from the S7. As someone who hated Samsung and was won over by the S7, I’ve been left very unsatisfied with the S8—the fragile build quality and awkwardness of the display ratio, paired with the weird rounded corners on the display have made this phone harder for me to like than I expected. And while i know it will likely be the best selling Android phone of this season, I’ve had a hard time recommending it to friends and colleagues who are looking to pick up a new Android phone.