The last six months have been a rollercoaster for Samsung. The Galaxy Note 7, which was initially applauded by the tech industry for its sleek design and competitive specs, was subject to one of the biggest product recalls in tech history.
This in turn had a serious impact on Samsung’s profits, making the Galaxy S8 and S8+ launch perhaps their most important to date.
But how does the handset stack up in an increasingly competitive field, and can it help earn back the trust of the mobiles market?
The decision to move the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone has had a big impact on the look of the handset, creating what Samsung has referred to as an ‘Infinity Display’. The result is a sleek, slick and noticeably larger display than the Galaxy S7 – coming in at a whopping 5.8 inches on the S8, compared to the S7’s 5.1 inch display – on a phone that’s only slightly bigger.
The phone is marginally heavier thanks to the slight size upgrade, suggesting that unlike Apple’s iPhone SE offering, Samsung is making no efforts to accommodate those seeking a smaller handset. Both the S8 and the S8+ come with the same curved display the ‘Edge’ was known and loved for, giving users a seamless device with improved grip.
In terms of specs, the S8 comes in all guns blazing, offering the industry’s first 10nm chip for a more efficient user experience that Samsung claims is 10% faster. The S8 is also the world’s first mobile device certified by the UHD Alliance as Mobile HDR Premium, making this the handset of choice for those hoping to catch up on their favourite TV shows on the daily commute.
The storage has also been doubled on the S7, up from 32GB to 64GB, although the sleek design of the phone means Samsung haven’t been able to upgrade the battery. This could well be a dealbreaker for many, as battery life is continuously touted as one of the most important factors amongst mobile users.
The primary camera also remains largely unchanged from the S7 to the S8, although there’s a noticeable improvement on the front-facing camera, allowing the selfie generation to get snap happy at 8-megapixels.
The S8 does lift a number of notable features from the Note 7. The micro USB point has switched to a USB Type-C port, while users also benefit from an iris scanner security system in addition to the fingerprint scanner.
The introduction of Bixby, an ‘intelligence interface’ – or, more simply, Samsung’s answer to Siri – is one of the handset’s most exciting features. Samsung has bided its time introducing its own mobile assistant, but the recent success of Amazon Echo suggests demand for digital assistants that make a meaningful contribution to users’ day-to-day lives is on the up.
In what is perhaps a slight dig at Apple, Samsung are offering new and improved earphones as a free in-box accessory with the S8. These feature an anti-tangle cord and are likely to be met with a much warmer reception than Apple’s AirPods, an added expense for die-hard iPhone fans that was widely criticised at the latest launch.
Prices start at £689 for the S8 and £779 for the S8+ – a steep step up from the S7 and certainly not helped by weakened Pound – but with a vastly improved design, a wealth of new features and twice the storage, you can see where this money is going.
With pre-orders set to arrive on 20th April and the handset due to launch in stores on the 28th April, only the sales figures will reveal how badly the Note 7’s demise has hurt the manufacturer’s reputation. But based on this initial fanfare, I think it’s fair to say that Samsung are safely and confidently back in their groove.
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