Back in May, I reviewed the larger version of the Samsung Galaxy S8 for Gizmodo UK in an article called “We’ve Probably Already Seen the Best Phone of 2017.”
Well, it’s been a whole season since I wrote those words – and the S8 Plus is still my main phone. It’s still the best Android on the market. And it’s still the first phone I’d recommend to anyone if it’s in their budget (although at £779, it’s a big if).
Of course, 2017 isn’t over. We’ve got a new iPhone on the way, the eventual appearance of the mythical Essential phone, and possibly the S8 Plus’s biggest competition: the upcoming Galaxy Note 8. But however good those phones end up being, the Galaxy S8 Plus is a stellar (pun totally intended) smartphone, and right now I wouldn’t choose anything else.
1. It’s dunkable
Waterproofing is still a shockingly underused feature in the Android market. It’s been possible to waterproof phones for a heck of a long time now (remember the early Sony Xperia Z series?), yet many manufacturers seem to have concluded we’re not interested in a phone that keeps working after a swim in the tub. Why?
Yes, lots of phones are splashproof, but the Galaxy line has been fully submersible phone after phone for years. And while some competing handsets don’t mention that they’re technically water-resistant, Samsung has all but given up on touting its impressive 30-minute dunkproof tech. Granted, it’s not new to their phones, but it’s still new to a lot of consumers.
If the S8 were an iPhone, the TV ad would show it floating gracefully past a bug-eyed fish in a tank, or resting benevolently at the bottom of a fountain while the kiddies splash, or playing that infuriating plinky-plonky music they love so much while a generic-looking human jogs in a downpour.
I’m glad the S8 isn’t an iPhone. But still, Samsung, own your tech.
I love that I can read in the bath and not worry about my phone. Or pull it out in the (frequent, British) rain. Or spill my water bottle all over it. IP rating is under-rated, IMO.
2. You can charge it with your eyes shut
Yes, Samsung phones have had wireless charging for ages, yawn yawn. But you know who hasn’t? Apple. Or a dozen other handset manufacturers. Apple’s rumoured to be (finally) unveiling their version with the iPhone 8, and I’m sure Magic Charge®©™ or whatever lame name they give it will somehow be hailed as REVOLUTIONARY and GAME-CHANGING, but Android has had it for years. And Samsung led the charge (so to speak).
In fact, they’ve got so good at it that they now offer a fast wireless charger – and I suspect it’s similar tech to this that’s caused Apple to finally get with the program. But since most of us charge our phones overnight while we dream of chocolate houses, the speed doesn’t matter nearly as much as the tech giants think. It’s just cool to be able to mash your phone down on a pad while you’re half-asleep instead of trying to wangle the connector into its slippery port.
Wireless charging is wizardry, and Samsung nailed it long ago.
3. Its screenshots don’t suck
Google really needs to take a tip from Samsung here and bring this into vanilla Android. On Samsungs, you can sweep the side of your hand across the screen to take a screenshot (kind of like you’re slapping the phone in the face), which is a billion times easier than any of the awkward button-combo things other phones make you do. You can still do it that way if you’re a masochist, though.
I use this constantly and really miss it on other phones.
4. It has a bat-compatible camera
There’s a lovely sense of calm that comes of knowing you have an amazing, super-fast smartphone camera in your pocket. Whenever something interesting happens, I know I’m going to get the shot.
Two examples from this week:
Earlier today, I was 20 floors up in the Shard. Suddenly, a child’s balloon went floating past the window and scared the bejeezus out of everyone. It took me a while to get my phone and get to the big window, by which time a strong breeze had carried it far away.
Can you see it?
How about now?
Zoom in, though, and we can clearly see the balloon is shaped like a dog. That’s pretty amazing given what the phone had to work with.
Then last week, I went to London Zoo. I took loads of lovely photos of animals, yes, but that’s hardly a difficult task with most smartphones on a sunny day (tip: burst mode).
What impressed me was that in the dark, red depths of the bat basement where you could barely see the fruit bats with your own eyes, the phone still did its job. I couldn’t even use burst mode because there wasn’t enough light, yet despite bats zipping past at anxiety-inducing speeds, I got several shots where the detail of the bats’ wings is visible. If that sounds underwhelming, everyone else I saw taking photos at that exhibit got a black screen with a bit of red. That includes you, dude who pushed in front of me to take a terrible shot with an iPhone.
The photos actually make this environment look a lot better-lit than it was. It was DARK in there. Like, bumping into people dark.
Of course, you also get shots like these. But you knew that already.
5. Its screen is freakin’ glorious
Again, lots of brands are jumping on Samsung’s bandwagon with curvy, all-screen devices, but Samsung did it first and so far, they’ve done it best. That’s first mover advantage, something we rarely see from Apple.
For people who were worried about smashability, I have a case and a screen protector of course (and insurance, because I’m not a plank) but so far, not a scratch. And yes, I’ve had some heart-stopping drops. So far, so good (note: not a guarantee).
Not everyone likes their phones as big as the S8 Plus, but even with my objectively small hands, I have no trouble holding or using this big-screened beauty. And because of the aforementioned curved all-screen thing, it feels smaller than phones with technically the same sized display.
But mostly, it just looks stunning. People always comment when I show them something on my phone.
6. It stays up longer than me
In spite of that massive screen, somehow the battery life on this phone is still really good. Not amazing, but surprisingly strong, especially compared with the Edge phones before it. Stamina was usually the low point of reviews on the previous handsets, and Samsung’s more than fixed it to my satisfaction. Yes, battery life can always be better, but I don’t have to carry spare chargers about with this phone, and I’m a heavy user. All manufacturers claim more than a day’s battery life these days – very few live up to it. The S8 Plus does.
7. You can actually get accessories for it
This is kind of a daft one, but all geeks know how frustrating it is to have a really niche phone and not be able to get any good accessories for it. Phone case preferences alone require a huge selection of options, from kickstands and card slots to materials, colours and designs.
With a Galaxy, you’re going to have a lot of options for compatible third-party trinkets, second only to iPhones (though the difference is still tremendous). Plus all the stuff Samsung make themselves, including the aforementioned fast wireless charging stand, the excellent Gear VR and the little Gear 360 camera. And that’s not all…
8. You can turn it into a goddamn computer
Admittedly, I still haven’t got a Samsung Dex docking station, but I saw a demo at the launch event and it’s super cool. You plonk the phone into it, attach a monitor and you can use your S8 as a computer. Given that its specs are better than most people’s laptops, that’s big.
It’s plug-and-play, so you don’t have to mess about setting it up, and even has a little cooling fan built in. I think this is a brilliant idea – it has of course been done before, but never as promisingly. I want one.
As you can probably tell, I adore my S8 Plus and I kind of hope nothing tops it this year. That remains to be seen, but for now, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is far and away my favourite phone of 2017.