Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8+ flaunt Infinity Displays, enhanced biometrics and a new virtual assistant
Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus at its "Unpacked" event this morning in New York City. As expected, the high-end flagships have nearly bezel-free displays, glassy curved builds, boosted internals and Samsung's new virtual assistant, Bixby.
Anticipation was high: The Galaxy series has long included some of the most high-end Androids, and this is Samsung's first flagship release since the ill-fated Note 7. Yet many of these unveilings came as no surprise to those who have been following leaks and rumors about the new devices. Nevertheless, we did confirm these details and learn a few new things.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+
The centerpiece of this year's flagships? The so-called Infinity Display, which wraps around the edges of the phones and removes the side bezels (but not the top and bottom borders). The display covers nearly the entire front of the phone.
The phones have an "Invisible Home Button" beneath the Infinity Display. This new home button appears to be capacitive and pressure-sensitive in a manner similar to Apple's 3D Touch technology.
The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch display; the S8+ display is 6.2-inches. Both displays are 2,960 x 1,440 (571 PPI and 529 PPI, respectively). The phones are the first to receive the Mobile HDR Premium designation, which guarantees a certain color gamut and contrast ratio, amongst other standards.
Unlike past Galaxy flagships, both the S8 and S8+ have curved edges. In several major markets (including the US) the phones contain Qualcomm's newest mobile processor, the Snapdragon 835. Elsewhere, they are expected to contain Samsung's Exynos 8895 chips.
The phones also contain a number of biometric security options: iris scanning, face recognition and a back-mounted fingerprint sensor. While we were unimpressed with the speed of the iris scanning we saw on the Note 7, Samsung claims its facial recognition technology works instantly to unlock your phone. These biometric measures are also being integrated into a service called Samsung Pass, which offers secure access to third-party apps and websites.
Of course, no premium smartphone is complete without an excellent camera. The S8 series cameras have been updated to include a multi-frame processor, dual pixel sensor, a 12MP rear camera and a sharpened-up 8 MP front camera with autofocus, for sharper selfies. (We'll be sure to put the camera to the test in our full-length reviews.)
In many ways, the S8 series carries over some of the most-appreciated features of its earlier generation, such as microSD for expandable storage, IP68 water resistance, Samsung Pay, wireless charging and an always-on display option. Other key specs include 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of built-in storage and Android Nougat skinned with Samsung's TouchWiz UI.
Apart from display and battery size, the S8 and S8+ seem to have few differences. The S8 has a 3,000mAh battery; the S8+ packs in 3,500mAh.
The release date for the S8 and S8+ is April 21. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, and will likely fluctuate with carrier. One perk? Both phones will be bundled with a pair of Harmon AKG headphones that retail separately for US$99. The phones come in gold, silver, blue, violet and black color variants.
The S8 and S8+ are the first devices to be equipped with Samsung's new virtual assistant, Bixby. Samsung envisions a future ecosystem where its entire fleet of electronics and smart appliances are connected and controlled through Bixby. To this end, Samsung has introduced the Samsung Connect app, which helps turn your phone into a remote control for all of your IoT-connected devices.
According to its creators, Bixby is more contextually and visually aware than its competitors like Siri or Google Assistant, allowing the user to switch back and forth between touch and voice control.
Bixby is also integrated into the phone's camera, so that you can use the camera to look up what's around you, or receive information like restaurant suggestions based on your location. There's also an e-commerce aspect to Bixby: Point your camera at something you'd like to buy, and Bixby will tell you where to get it. Of course, these claims and features are all subject to testing.
Updated Gear VR , Gear 360 and Samsung DeX
Samsung's Gear VR mobile virtual reality headset received some minor updates as well. As was first indicated at the Mobile World Congress last month, the latest Gear VR adds a motion-sensing controller that is both remote and touchpad, similar to the one that comes with its (only) competitor, the Google Daydream View.
The newest version has received a small price hike, to $129 from $99. If you already have a Gear VR, you can buy a controller for $39. Both hit shelves April 21.
Samsung has also updated its 360-degree camera, which can be used to create Gear VR content, live streaming and more. The all-new Gear 360 shoots in 4K and is smaller and more portable than its predecessor. Pricing and release date have yet to be confirmed, but since Samsung passed them out to attendees, it shouldn't be long before they hit the market.
Samsung also introduced DeX, a dock through which your Galaxy S8 can power a PC-like user interface on a connected monitor, keyboard and mouse. Pricing and release date have yet to be confirmed.
Stay tuned – we're on the ground in New York City and we'll post our hands-on impressions of Samsung's latest flagships shortly.