1. This is a massive play
Throughout the livestream presentation, which I watched with a small group of journalists at the local Samsung event in Braamfontein, I was haunted by the ghost of Google. The presenters mentioned the Android maker by name once, referring to the support the company is giving to the 2:1 format display. Everything else was about Samsung’s own software and hardware integrations. And you know what, the new UI and IoT things are great and seem well considered. If I were a betting man, I’d say that if Samsung could get majority of the popular apps from the Play Store on its homebred Tizen platform in the next 12 months, S9 will launch without Google. Most consumers won’t know the difference. Hell, I had to ask the Samsung team which version of Android the new phones run.
2. The Galaxy S8 is gorgeous
Remember the pebble aesthetic Samsung was going for with the Galaxy S3? This is the final evolution of that idea. A seamless glass and metal construction that is alarmingly small for the screen size. You’ll notice that I didn’t name the S8 Plus, that’s because there’s no compelling reason to buy it. Save a few thousand Rand and stick to the littler Galaxy, the R15 500 one.
3. There’s more to this device than meets the eye
I don’t know why, but Samsung decided to not trumpet the device’s impressive list of industry firsts. The Galaxy S8 is first to market with a 10 nanometre processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and Samsung’s own Exynos 8895). First to market with Gigabit LTE, thanks to Qualcomm’s X16 modem. First to market with Bluetooth 5.0 (240 m range, 4x the speed of previous generation) and stereo Bluetooth streaming (one device streaming to two outputs). While much of this is attributed to the alleged exclusivity deal with Qualcomm – which expires on Saturday – it’s still an incredible leap forward for the industry. Bixby does it’s best Google Now/Assistant impression, but I’ll need to spend time with the device to give the virtual assistant a proper assessment.
4. The megapixel wars are over
The Galaxy S8 gets a largely unchanged version of the excellent S7 camera, but with some new fangled image processing that’s almost like the Google Pixel’s HDR+ mode. While everyone is obsessing over dual cameras, Samsung is going after the current market leader and that’s impressive. There’s a magazine story brewing about HDR image processing.
5. Phones have tall screens now
This is the world we live in and it supports wide format, HDR video. YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime have all pledged allegiance to the smartphone and it truly feels like a seismic shift in the industry. If the next iPhone iteration doesn’t have a 2:1 or 21:9 screen, then I don’t know.
6. So we’re doing the phone/desktop device thing again?
For R2 500 extra you can pick up the DeX dock, hook it up to a screen, mouse and keyboard and watch in amazement as the UI scales up to the large screen. While I’ve always been fully supportive of the one device, many applications idea (I still own an original Motorola Atrix and used it as my set-top-box on my TV for years), it’s been attempted and failed so many times in the past. Yes there’s the Citrix partnership and you can run multiple windows. Yes there’s an option for Windows virtualisation. Yes you get two full-sized USBs and an HDMI port on the dock, but I’m not going to pin my hopes on this being the solution. I’ll wait for the next version of Continuum on the Surface Phone running full Windows 10 on an ARM chip.
7. The Android device market is on notice
May is going to be a crazy month for consumers. Galaxy S8 drops on the 5th, Huawei P10 comes a week later and LG G6 won’t be far behind. While it’s shaping up to be an outright fight between Samsung and LG for market dominance, Huawei should win over a few hearts with that incredible Leica camera system, but the company must surely embrace the 2:1 screen with the Mate 10 to stand a decent chance. Even Google’s popular Pixel is suddenly in desperate need of a refresh after this launch.
8. You can still hold on to the S7 for this year
With all the improvements that the Galaxy S8 brings, it’s more of a combination of all the exciting things from the Note 7 (RIP) and everything that’s great about the S7. The S7 will still be supported and remains an incredible device that’s only slightly overshadowed by its expensive new sibling. The S8 costs a lot of money, be smart.