After months of speculation and leaks, Samsung has finally made the Galaxy S8 official. It's everything we were expecting based on weeks of leaks: a major redesign of Samsung's flagship smartphone and a departure from the design language of the Galaxy S6 and S7. Samsung hasn't mentioned a price, but in the US the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will go up for pre-order on March 30 and will start shipping on April 21.
Customers who pre-order the phone will get a free Gear VR headset and controller for their trouble; normally the headset would cost $129.99 and the controller would cost $39.99.
First off, well, just look at it. Samsung's typical smartphone design has been scrapped in favor of slim bezels and an extra-tall 18.5:9 AMOLED display. The bezels are so slim there almost isn't room for anything other than screen on the front of the phone. The front hardware navigation buttons are gone, replaced with on-screen software buttons. The fingerprint reader has been moved to the back next to the camera lens. There isn't even the traditional all-caps "SAMSUNG" logo on the front. The only thing on the front of the phone, other than the screen, is the bevy of sensors at the top. Those include the usual front camera, earpiece, proximity sensor, and the iris scanner from the failed Galaxy Note 7.
The 18.5:9 screen is taller than the typical 16:9 screen, which means we're going to diagonal measurements that seem a lot larger than they actually feel. There are two sizes, the Galaxy S8, which has a 5.8-inch 2960×1440 display, and the Galaxy S8+, which has a 6.2-inch, 2960×1440 display; both displays are HDR-certified by the UHD alliance. Again, those "inch" numbers don't communicate what really matters—width. The 5.8-inch, 18.5:9 display on the Galaxy S8 should be about the same width as the 5.1-inch, 16:9 display on the Galaxy S7, and the 6.2-inch Galaxy S8+ should be about the same width as the 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge. And speaking of the "Edge" models, the edge display isn't optional this year. Both the S8 and S8+ have screens that curve along the long edge.
The phone also includes a 12P rear camera with OIS, an 8MP front camera, a Category 16 "gigabit-class" LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 (this is the first Bluetooth 5.0 device we've seen). It comes in five colors: black, gray, silver, gold, and "coral blue."
Samsung's press site doesn't name the processor that the phones will use—the S8 will use an octa-core SoC with four 2.3GHz cores and four 1.7GHz cores, and the S8+ has four 2.35GHz cores and four 1.9GHz cores. In the US, the Galaxy S8 is expected to be the first device to launch with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 835 SoC. Internationally, on the other hand, the device will use Samsung's Exynos 8895 SoC. The devices have 4GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage (plus a MicroSD slot), IP68 water and dust resistance, and a USB-C port. The S8 has a 3000mAh battery, while the one on the bigger Galaxy S8+, Samsung has been a little conservative with a 3500mAh battery—a 100mAh downgrade from the Galaxy S7 Edge.
GOn the software side of things, Samsung is shipping Android 7.0 (not 7.1, unfortunately) with the usual TouchWiz skin and Samsung Pay compatibility. This year Samsung is pushing its new "Bixby" voice assistant, which has a dedicated hardware button on the side of the device. Bixby is a result of Samsung's acquisition of Viv Labs, a voice assistant startup created by people who were part of the original team behind Siri. Samsung says it will eventually release an SDK for Bixby, allowing third parties to plug into the voice assistant service.
When demoing Bixby, Samsung focused on its contextual features. Samsung says Bixby can search for images, tell you about landmarks, and translate languages. And if you point the phone's camera at a product, Bixby will try to help you buy it online (Amazon originally did something like this with the doomed Fire Phone). We'll need some hands-on time with the phone to get more specifics about what it does and how it works.
This launch is an especially important one for Samsung. Its normal mid-year flagship, the Galaxy Note 7, went down in flames late last year. The company attempted to compensate with a new color option and a renewed advertising push for the Galaxy S7, but it still left a gap in Samsung's lineup. Even now, we still don't know how much damage the recall, re-release, and re-recall of a major phone is going to affect the Galaxy brand.