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Between the great camera and fantastic display, there was plenty to like about Samsung’s Galaxy S8 (review).
But a two-week period isn’t ideal when it comes to a comprehensive review. After all, slowdown can occur, battery life could suffer and other issues could pop up months down the line.
Fortunately, we’ve still got our seeded unit as a daily driver. So how has Samsung’s flagship fared after roughly six months of use?
I haven’t used the S8 without a cover for a while now, but the rare times I do pop the cover off, I do still appreciate the phone’s design.
There is one downside to using this particular cover though. I got this Houdt cover for free at a DJI event, but the protection doesn’t extend to the top and bottom of the phone, resulting in the paint chipping off the top of the phone (check the image above).
The chipping isn’t due to dropping the phone or anything like that, merely being the result of normal wear and tear. Then again, Memeburn’s Andy Walker reports no chipping on his seeded unit, so perhaps a case of me being a little tougher on the phone?
I’ve dropped the phone from smaller heights (onto carpets and the like, with the cover on) maybe once or twice and there isn’t any damage. But I’d still take the G6 over the S8 in the durability stakes — I feel like my luck is going to run out soon.
Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 might rule the roost for display quality (both are Samsung screens), but the Galaxy S8 isn’t far behind by any measure. In fact, I’d say it’s the third best smartphone screen of 2017 at the very least.
Those deep blacks are still as deep as ever, while colours are rather lovely. The phone has also received HDR support on YouTube and Amazon Prime, but Netflix HDR support is a no-go.
I still find myself being annoyed by the curved screen six months later, but the palm rejection isn’t as annoying as I remember it being.
No, the biggest issue I have is that the area of the screen where it begins to curve develops lines over time (you can just make it out in the above image, but it’s more prominent than the camera shows). Buffing the area with a lint-free cloth tends to help for the most part, but I can never fully remove the lines.
In any event, I’d recommend getting a flip case or screen protector, as I suspect that it might be due to the phone’s screen rubbing against the inside of my pocket.
The Galaxy S8 boasts a fingerprint scanner and an iris scanner, but neither option is truly fantastic.
I haven’t become 100% accustomed to the scanner’s location, but I’m certainly more comfortable with it. It doesn’t hurt that my phone cover “guides” my finger to the correct location. But I’d still take LG and Xiaomi‘s scanner locations over the S8 scanner.
In terms of functionality, the scanner works well 90% of the time, but at least once a day, the phone seems to go into “your biometrics won’t work at all, so enter your PIN” mode. It’s easily the most annoying thing about the Galaxy S8 at this point and I hope it gets fixed via an update.
As for iris scanning, I don’t bother to use it these days. It’s fast most of the time, but it still has the legacy iris scanning issue of being extremely light-dependent. It’ll work fine indoors and in low light, but heaven forbid you’re in direct sunlight. The fingerprint scanner is also just more convenient to use, no need to bring it up to your face.
The Galaxy S8 camera is probably my favourite smartphone camera of 2017. Yes, it’s a single camera experience, but between the high dynamic range and rich colours, it’s a reliable workhorse.
Samsung’s camera app is still one of the better Android camera apps around, although the Pro mode could do with an LG or Nokia-style slider menu. Otherwise, I’d like a little more reliability in terms of macro shot focusing, but it’s a small quibble in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, I’ve used the Galaxy S8 for shots on Gearburn (e.g. the iPhone 8 Plus review) and Memeburn (such as the Google Africa piece). Not bad at all. The above photo was taken with the aid of a mobile tripod, featuring a 10 second shutter speed.
To be frank, I’ve pretty much switched to Nova Launcher after the review period, not bothering to use the Samsung TouchWiz launcher.
I haven’t found myself too invested in Samsung’s apps either (no Bixby for me, thanks), although there are two exceptions.
The first exception is Samsung’s internet browser, which retains the ability to log in to any website via fingerprint scanner — sure it’s not a new feature (since the Galaxy S6) but it’s lovely anyway. It doesn’t hurt that the Samsung browser also offers a few other features, like ad-blocking.
The second exception is the Samsung Health app. After suffering a minor injury, I was only able to exercise by walking, so I decided to use the preinstalled Health app to keep track of steps. The weekly breakdown is a welcome feature, while the ability for the app to auto-log x minutes of exercise is cool as well.
The Galaxy S8 has held up rather well against more recent high-end smartphones
In other words, Samsung’s software ecosystem hasn’t got me hooked, but there are a couple of apps I found myself returning to. Also, I find myself using the extended screen capture more often than I first thought, allowing users to capture a long page or something similar.
In terms of general performance, I’m not sure if the phone has slowed down in a significant way. But I can say that it’s certainly fared better than the Huawei P9 before it got EMUI 5. Huawei’s phone was ridiculously slow in the months after its review, but the EMUI 5 update definitely put the spring back in its step.
As for endurance? I can confidently say that after six months, the S8 has been the biggest surprise of 2017. I seldom hit the 30% mark during a working day (WhatsApp, email, reddit, a few calls here and there), the phone’s software doing a great job of keeping things ticking along.
In fact, I took the S8 on holiday and was really surprised by the battery life. Between offline navigation, loads of camera shots, reading Google Trips and web browsing, I would often find myself getting back to base in the evening with 20 to 30% battery life left over. I largely used the medium power saving mode here, but this mode never felt like a massive compromise.
Verdict: The Galaxy S8 screen, performance and camera still excel and the battery life has been a pleasant surprise. But in that same breath, the S8’s biometrics are clearly its biggest weakness — especially as time goes by. Don’t forget a case, by the way.
Score: 8.8 out of 10
Disclosure: Samsung allowed us to keep our review units.