Home Mobile devices Samsung’s Galaxy S8 leads the Android pack (first look)

Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and S8+ builds on its Galaxy foundations and adds some new features, that sets it apart from all its Android competition.

At today’s media launch this writer examined both models, explored Bixby, and began to understand DeX. There is nothing like the Galaxy S8/+ (GS8) currently on the Android market.

Richard Fink, vice-president IT & Mobile Division at Samsung Australia, claimed pre-orders had been the strongest ever, outflanking the GS7 by double-digit percentages. He confirmed that Australian pre-orders would begin to ship from 21 April and retail sales via telcos and major retailers would start on 28 April.

“Samsung has taken on the role to lead and progress smartphone development but we also have learned humbleness from the past (referring to the Note 7 battery issues). Our aim with the GS8 is to provide the best hardware bar none, and the best software and ecosystem,” he said.

So much has been written about the 5.7” GS8 and 6.2” GS8+ (Samsung Australia website here ) that it's best to refer to the iTWire article here for features and specifications. This article is about the hands-on experience and what impressed the media present.

How does it look?

The phone takes the next step in innovative Edge design with no side bezels (called an infinity screen) as the screen and Gorilla Glass 5 wraps around to meet the Gorilla Glass back. It is visually aesthetic.

The large-sized screens come courtesy of a very high screen to body ratio of 84% and very thin top and bottom bars. The capacitance back/home/recent apps keys are gone and are present as part of the screen. To put it in perspective, the 5.8” GS8 is about the same size as the GS7 Edge and the 6.2” GS8+ is a few millimetres longer. The screen is an 18.5:9 format – longer but no wider.

It is IP68 certified and the Gorilla Glass 5 (iTWire article here ) is more effective at protecting flat and corner drops onto rough, hard and uneven surfaces up to 1.6 metres – shoulder height.

Samsung is selling the devices in Maple Gold, Orchid Grey, and Midnight Black and there are a range of accessories and flip and other covers from Samsung and third-party case makers.

Bixby

Bixby has completed its US English training and is working on dozens of other languages to understand various dialects. Australian English for voice commands is expected to be another two months away. But the remainder of Bixby – Vision, Reminders, and Home will be available at launch.

Samsung says the main differentiators to Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant is in two areas. First, that it supports every system command that can be controlled by touch, and second, that it is very much context aware – for example, if you are in photo gallery viewing a photo and say, “Send it to mum,” it will know which picture “it” is and who mum is.

Bixby represents leading edge technology and is the beginning of a journey that will raise the bar for intelligent assistants.

Samsung Pay

Samsung has announced that Samsung Pay will be available to Westpac customers. iTWire’s article is here.

Samsung Pay, unlike Apple Pay, is a totally open system using both Near Field Communications (Pay Wave NFC) and Magnetic Stripe Technology (MST) as well as being highly compatible with banks' own merchant systems. A Samsung representative said that so far more than  870 banks worldwide had adopted Samsung Pay, Visa, MasterCard and Amex were on board, and they expected other announcements from Australia’s “big four” banks reasonably soon.

DeX – the desktop experience

The demonstration of DeX was very impressive. While iTWire reported that Citrix is the secret sauce behind DeX, that is only part of the story. DeX leaves the way open for other apps and technologies to do other things – like cast Android apps to the screen and more. At present Microsoft, VMWare, and Amazon Web Services are working on DeX apps.

In its native form, the DeX dock ($199) allows connection of an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor and provides a desktop workspace powered by the phone. It supports any app that has been optimised for DeX and at present, these include many Microsoft (Office 365), Google and Adobe apps and the list is growing quickly as developers only need to make minor changes to offer a desktop 16:9 experience.

The demonstration included the native desktop replete with a Windows-like taskbar, a Citrix Virtual Desktop and apps (complete Windows 10 environment), and a VMWare virtualised environment. Remote Desktop is also supported. In addition, anything that can run in a browser is supported, as are multiple concurrent apps (use Control Alt to switch between them) and resizable Windows.

DeX may turn out to be a game changer, heralding the use of one device for all general computing needs. The Samsung Exynos 10n/m processor, 4GB/64GB, and microSD card had sufficient power and storage to load many concurrent apps and stream 4K video.

Camera

The rear camera shares the same specifications as the class leading GS7 (12MP, f/1.7, dual pixel, autofocus, OIS and more). The front camera has been beefed up to 8MP, f/1.7 with facial recognition. The real difference is in two areas. First, the camera app has been redesigned allowing four-way swiping to access different controls and second the Exynos CPU/GPU has about 10% more raw performance and 21% more graphics performance while using less power.

What this means is that “multi-frame” and HDR images can be taken and the best pixels combined for the perfect shot. In demonstrations, this produced visibly better shots than the GS7.

Security

Despite initial reports of facial recognition being bypassed with a photo or by using a sleeping person (that does not count as it is the person), it appears that the firmware version used was pre-release and this should not happen again. Facial recognition was intended more for use with the selfie feature and as part of a multi-factor-authentication and login system.

Iris recognition is also part of the system and it requires an actual living eye/iris as it uses infrared detection and no photo or an extracted eyeball can fool it.

It also has fingerprint, pin and pattern security. Samsung Knox manages the security and makes it the most secure Android device, perhaps except for a BlackBerry. Knox, however, won’t necessarily stop the latest Android malware that exploits operating system vulnerabilities.

Sound

Samsung’s acquisition of Harman is paying off in its technology for the GS8 speakers, headphones (buds) and is digital signal processing.

During the live streaming demonstration, the phone had sufficient volume to fill a very large, bright room.

The Harman AKG buds supplied have one of the first woofers as well as a tweeter in a bud format.

Samsung ecosystem

Samsung is clear that it sees the Galaxy as the centre its ecosystem and with Samsung Connect it can control any Samsung intelligent device – fridge, TV, appliances, VR headset, 360° camera, and in future many other non-Samsung devices.

Samsung is taking the “open route” using industry standard Wi-Fi connections over proprietary systems.

Gear 360 – 2017

360° cameras are quickly gaining market share and this second iteration (iTWire article here ) ups the ante with 4K recording and live streaming/broadcast all in a svelte mushroom shaped camera.

Price and availability

Pre-orders from Samsung Australia and major retailers and telcos are available until 27 April and include a bonus Gear VR (2017) headset and controller.

Delivery starts from 21 April and retail sale from 28 April.

The 5.7” GS8 is $1199 and the 6.2” GS8+ is $1347.

iTWire will be formally reviewing the GS8+ soon.

S8 review header

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

 

 

 

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