Samsung’s Galaxy S8 aims to break smartphone conventions
By Chong Jinn Xiung March 30, 2017
- Samsung wants its new flagship to redefine what can be done with a smartphone
- The S8’s ambitions extend to artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and desktop experience
FOR months Samsung has been teasing the market about its latest flagship the Galaxy S8 series. It was the launch that the company needed so badly after the fallout from the Note 7 debacle.
So much has been riding on this launch as Samsung needed to project a strong product after having delayed its introduction until after the recently held Mobile World Congress.
Samsung’s mobile chief DJ Koh (pic, above) did address the elephant in the room when introducing the S8 in New York City on Wed, acknowledging that last year was challenging and it has taken those lessons to heart.
The company went further to emphasise its focus on quality and safety to assure its customers that it is on top of the battery problem that plagued the Note 7, stressing its eight-point battery safety check to strictly assess the quality and safety of its devices.
For the rest of the show, Samsung put its full focus on the S8 itself. It felt appropriate, with just the right amount of time spent on explanations, without dwelling too long on the subject.
Something new and something classic
Most of the online leaks that broke the news of the new S8 series have been spot on but despite being late to the party, the S8 is everything that Samsung fans have been looking forward to.
The S8’s form factor takes on a new design with its eye-catching Infinity Display. Split between two models with a 5.8-inch for the S8 and a larger 6.2-inch for the S8 Plus, these are massive QHD quality screens that dominate the front of the phone.
Even though there is more screen real estate, Samsung says the curved edges increase the size of the phone while making it comfortable to hold and improves on multitasking as well reducing time spent on scrolling to view content.
Of course, to make way for the bigger screen, the fingerprint sensor has been shifted to the rear, next to the camera.
When it comes to display technologies, Samsung is dead serious about their technology as it claims that the S8’s display is the first smartphone display to be HDR Premium-certified by the UHD alliance.
Interestingly, this is a rating that is typically reserved for Ultra High Definition TVs and it is impressive to hear that advances in 4K are coming to the screen in your pocket.
Speaking of security, the S8 introduces two new security measures to unlock the phone without even touching a button. The much rumoured Iris Scanner and Facial Recognition present a much quicker and convenient way to access your device.
Surprisingly, Samsung did not spend a lot of time talking about the S8’s 12-Megapixel rear camera as it is the very same camera found on the previous S7 but with some enhancements for better low light taking.
Despite photography being a primary function of smartphones, it does not seem to be the main focus of the improvements in the S8. The absence of a dual camera array may come as a disappointment to those hoping Samsung would improve the S8’s camera.
Just like the S7 before it, the S8 will be IP68 water and dust resistant making it a phone that can go almost anywhere, even in the water.
On the battery side of things, the S8 will come with a 3,000mAh battery while the S8 Plus will have a 3,500mAh. Both are fast charging enabled with wired and wireless charging options.
Samsung also highlighted its very own digital voice assistant or artificial intelligence (AI) named Bixby that it claims would provide greater convenience to users. Dethroning Google Assistant, the default AI companion is a gutsy move by Samsung as it hopes that Bixby will be a differentiating factor.
For the most part, the features run the usual gamut of voice-enabled commands that are contextually aware of what is on screen and an ability to see things like pointing the S8’s camera at an object to identify it or bring up information on a landmark and suggest things to do and places to dine in around it.
It all sounds really cool, but as usual, many of these features will be out in Western markets first before they filter down to Asia.
Samsung took the opportunity to talk about its Internet of Things (IoT) ambitions with the S8 as it aims to help users take control of all smart devices in their home with its centralised Samsung Connect app.
It made clear that it wants to connect Bixby with smart devices and make it an all-encompassing AI that controls all things in your home.
Frankly, the thought of an all-knowing AI is pretty scary and it doesn’t help that security within IoT devices is still an issue that hasn’t been fully addressed. But it will be interesting to see how Samsung tackles this concern.
Turning things around, one of the more interesting abilities of the S8 is its Samsung DeX feature that enables the handset to act like a desktop PC when connected to an external monitor via a special dock.
Pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse, and you have yourself a fully functioning Android desktop environment where you can open multiple apps and multitask with them.
Samsung claims this is possible thanks to the innovations it has made with its 10-nanometer octa-core processor.
Now, this isn’t exactly a brand new technology as Microsoft’s Windows Phones had offered a portable desktop experience, though that concept didn’t quite take off.
That being said, it will be interesting to see how Samsung will handle smartphones that double up as desktop machines this time around.
As one analyst said recently in an email interview, the Galaxy S8 feels like an evolutionary step forward instead of revolutionary.
Apart from the refreshed form factor that is designed to ‘wow’ consumers, the features on the inside are incremental upgrades to existing features regardless of how you look at it.
You may argue that Bixby could be a game-changing feature but much like the Samsung DeX and Samsung Connect features, that address productivity and IoT concerns respectively, we will just have to wait and see when the phone makes its global debut on April 21.