We’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S8 over the past few months in order to gauge whether it does truly herald the start of a new era for the smartphone or it’s simply just a better S7 with a tall screen?
Samsung Galaxy S8 long-term review: Design
There’s no denying that this phone still stands out from the crowd. That smooth, rounded frame looks and feels luxurious in-hand and the overall form and dimensions mean it’s still a rarity against the scores of wider, squatter handsets out there.
It should come as no surprise that the phone’s glossy body attracts fingerprints as readily as ever and unprotected the Gorilla Glass won’t put up much of a fight when trying to repel scratches and scrapes but at least the metal frame of our handset looks practically unscathed.
The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, a departure from Samsung’s previous efforts, is pleasantly responsive and convenient for right-handed users but less so for lefties, whilst the phone’s IP68 dust a water-resistance is an ongoing blessing that the company could have shouted about more when the phone first launched.
Samsung Galaxy S8 long-term review: Screen and media
Whilst this year phones like the LG G6 have arrived on the scene with similarly elongated screens, the 5.8-inch 18.5:9 Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display on the S8 is still the best in the business.
The aspect ratio makes it great for watching movies, although admittedly it displays a smaller overall image when displaying 16:9 formatted content compared to more conventional 5.5-inch panels. As for viewing angles, there’s little else out there to rival its stability and fidelity with consistently strong overall brightness making outdoor use a breeze.
Aesthetically, the minimal bezels, how it curves away at the edges and rounds out at the corners all help support the overall cutting-edge look of the phone and under-finger it adds to the sense of satisfaction you get as you swipe around the responsive interface too. It feels cool as hell in everyday use and no other phone comes close to replicating that sensation right now.
The audio experience, however, is less impressive. Whilst the phone’s single downward-facing loudspeaker is perfectly capable of pushing out clear, clean audio its position means you have to cup your hand to direct sound at your face. The likes of the iPhone 7 and HTC U11 offer great dual speaker setups and it seems like Samsung could have done something similar with the S8 but either forgot or didn’t deem it important enough, which is a shame.
Samsung Galaxy S8 long-term review: OS
The S8 and S8+ launched on Android 7.0 and whilst some handsets like Google’s own Pixel phones are now running on the newer 7.1.2 build of Nougat, an update for Samsung’s flagships is expected to hit around the time the Note 8 launches.
Despite lacking a few new goodies like additional emoji support, after repeat use, Samsung’s heavily skinned Android interface isn’t all that bad. We weren’t initially sure whether the stylised iconography was a little too contrived and depending on who you ask it may still be but overall TouchWiz makes for a simple and snappy way to navigate the phone’s expansive screen.
Read next: Best S8 Hidden Features
One-handed mode is a welcome essential as is the hidden haptic home button, which serves as the perfect hybrid, boasting the adaptability of more conventional on-screen navigation keys, which can be hidden, whilst also always being accessible like the physical home buttons of its predecessors.
Samsung’s also added little accoutrements to the software that nobody asked for but seem genuinely powerful and useful; like its scroll capture screenshots, game launcher, edge screens and offset split-screen to name a few. We’re still not sold on Bixby though, especially being bound to a physical button that you can’t change and more often than not gets triggered by accident.
Samsung Galaxy S8 long-term review: Performance
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Exynos 8895 processor and 4GB of RAM inside this thing mean that it still feels as tight as ever. We hold our breath every time a new software update hits, as there’s a chance, that like older Samsung flagships, its fluidity will start to show signs of wavering, and sure, it’s not necessarily the beefiest phone on paper anymore with the likes of the OnePlus 5 now on the scene but in everyday use it’s still rock-solid.
Battery life is really where the question mark hangs as it can take time to break a phone’s power plant in properly. Thankfully the S8 has proved consistent in its longevity with a day’s usage comfortably falling within the 3000mAh cell’s means. It’s not groundbreaking but it’ll be sufficient for most users and the S8 also happens to be one of the few phones that still features integrated wireless charging, as well as fast wired and wireless charging support too; something that you’d undoubtedly miss were it be taken away.
Samsung Galaxy S8 long-term review: Cameras
Somehow Samsung made the Sterling camera setup on the S7 better in the S8 and whilst it doesn’t feature a dual-sensor like a growing number of rivals, it’s still one of the best smartphone snappers around, if not the best.
It can take a great photo in almost any environment, works incredibly well in low light, shoots up to 4K video without breaking a sweat, supports manual control, supports additional downloadable shooting modes and throws in some fun features too. It does it all and it does it all, really, really well. Spending more time with the S8 has just cemented in our minds how good a camera it possesses.
Samsung Galaxy S8 long-term review: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a feature-packed flagship and although some of those features have more of a niche appeal than others, none of the ones that we’ve used has proved any less or more useful than when we first encountered them.
If you’re looking for the best it is still one of the most capable options on the market and whilst it’s still hideously expensive you’ll have to sacrifice one aspect or another if you opt for any one of its competitors or anything more affordable.
Read our original Samsung Galaxy S8 review to find out how it compares to when we first reviewed it.