Date:19 June 2017
I received a lot of heat from the fallout of my mid-year smartphone awards. I’m a big boy, so i take it on the chin, but I also need to clarify my statements. Especially the bits where I proclaim the Samsung Galaxy S8 king among the current crop of flagships and where I call the iPhone SE the best iPhone. Let this smartphone junkie explain.
Smartphones are the focal point of our digital lives. We’re firmly in the age of truly personal computing and the range of options is particularly great in 2017. It’s as if all the major manufacturers have found their mojo at the exact same time. Everyone except Apple, it would seem. But here’s the twist: Apple has pioneered everything that makes the current crop of smartphones great. The company is allowed some time to consider the future and design a solution for it.
This year marks a decade of smartphone dominance, but for me and many, the company truly took the industry by the scruff of the neck with first the iPhone 5 design and then the iOS 7 redesign as well as the Touch ID sensor introduced on the iPhone 5S.
All the hallmarks of Jony Ive’s famous design considerations are present, plus a bonus comment about making the screen taller so that you get more without compromising on one-handed use. Now where have we heard that recently?
Oh, that’s where. But wait, there’s more…
To be fair, LG were the first out of the gate in 2017 with the “taller is better” idea and they nailed it. The G6 is an exceptionally good phone with very well considered software that takes full advantage of that large screen. In my opinion iOS hasn’t evolved to capitalise on the iPhones current screen sizes (outside of the calendar app that works great in landscape on the iPhone 7 Plus) and still runs optimally on the diminutive 4-inch iPhone SE, which still features the last great smartphone design.
At least until Samsung blessed the world with its Galaxy S8. The handset’s so-called Infinity Display has quickly become the new benchmark for a pretty screen. And that the designers went all-in on making it the focal point is a very mature decision. One that left the competition scrambling for answers. Then Samsung threw every current desirable feature at it and exposed LG, even forcing its Korean rivals to quickly reshuffle and produce the recently announced G6+ that brings in 128 GB of storage, the quad DAC and wireless charging. Just as other manufacturers replicated the iPhone’s design, you’ll start to see S8 rip-offs more frequently as the second wave of flagships launch.
And that’s the point. In the weeks since I penned the awards story I tried to settle back into my two phone rhythm with the iPhone SE as my primary personal computing device, supported with a large format smartphone with a great camera and decent battery for content creation. I’ve been regularly (literally daily) cycled my main SIM through the SE, S8, G6 and Huawei P10 Plus, but always find a reason to get back to the S8.
First it was to review the DeX dock – which adds an extra layer of functionality that is quite phenomenal on its own – and now it’s to try out the new software update which should be dropping at any moment in SA. But I’ll stop fighting the obvious truth: the Galaxy S8 is the best overall smartphone on he market right now.
It’s relatively comfortable to operate with one hand and has enough hardware and software features to match and mostly outpace its competitors. Wireless charging and the iris scanner is a particularly good option to have when you actually make use of the water resistance, the camera is good enough to make me not miss the P10 Plus’ superb shooter too much and the display doesn’t make me want to take out my tablet to consume content.
For me, a serial smartphone user, the ideal phone doesn’t exist. I want the battery life and fingerprint scanner from the Huawei Mate 9, the stills cameras from the Huawei P10 Plus, the video recording of the iPhone 7, the hardiness (IP68, MIL-STD 810G, metal frame) of the LG G6, the S8’s AMOLED display and screen-to-body ratio, iris scanner, virtual home key, iconography, chipset, security software and charging solutions as well as DeX functionality, the mic array and audio output from the LG V20… and I want it all crammed into the iPhone SE body. And it needs to run on an Android iOS hybrid that uses iMessage, Google Maps, Google search, Chrome, FaceTime, Apple Music, Gmail, Microsoft office, Google Calendar, Pocket Casts, HomeKit, Airdrop and Google Photos by default. While also supporting Huawei Share, micro SD expansion, full NFC and Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities and is covered in sapphire. I’m hard to please like that.
For now I’ll just carry the Galaxy S8 and be done with it. And keep swapping through the other devices as needed.