With its new flagships, Samsung is focusing on improving the user experience. The ‘infinity display’ is meant to offer users more space to multi-task and the new virtual assistant, Bixby, is capable of contextual understanding. It can learn from usage patterns and adapt to the users’ behaviour. Here are the key specs and features of Samsung’s latest flagships.
First introduced on the Galaxy S6, the curved display proved to be quite popular. The ‘edge’ versions of the S6 and S7 flagships were preferred over the classical versions with flat displays. Taking into account the success of the curved displays, Samsung completely gave up the flat displays for the S8 series. Both Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have curved, edge-to-edge displays, or ‘Infinity Displays’ as Samsung calls them. The devices have very high screen to body ratios and offer a larger viewing area. Similarly to LG G6, Samsung’s new flagships use a 18,5:9 aspect ratio instead of the traditional 16:9. This aspect ratio is supposed to offer more space for multi-tasking, enabling users to have multiple apps opened on the same screen. Both have Super AMOLED displays with a resolution of 2960 x 1440 pixels, the only difference being the size: Galaxy S8 has a 5.8” display and Galaxy S8 Plus has a 6.2” display.
Bixby & visual searches
Samsung’s new virtual assistant, Bixby, enters in direct competition with Siri and the Google Assistant. Bixby is capable of understanding voice, text, images and, most importantly, it can learn from the user’s behaviour. For example, if you order an Uber ride every morning, Bixby will automatically open the Uber app at the time when you usually make your order. Bixby can also help you shop using Samsung’s image recognition technology. If you see an item you want to buy, you just have to snap a photo and the item will be searched in the shops that partnered with Samsung. Called ‘Bixby Vision’, this function is basically used to identify whatever the camera is pointed at and give suggestions or provide additional information, whether it’s a product, a landmark, a restaurant or a shop.
The camera app has a Bixby button for quick access, enabling users to perform visual searches quickly and easily. The camera module hasn’t changed much compared to the one on the Galaxy S7. Just like Samsung’s previous flagship series, the Galaxy S8 series uses a 12-megapixel dual-pixel sensor for the main camera and has optical image stabilization. However, the image processing software is new. Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus use multi-frame image processing to juxtapose images and create the perfect shot. Basically, the camera takes three photos instead of one and selects the clearest one, using the other two to reduce the blur.
Processor and battery
Both Galaxy S8 and S8+ are powered by Qualcomm’s latest processor, the Snapdragon 835. The chipset has an octa-core Kryo big.LITTLE architecture, with 4 cores clocked at 2.35 GHz and 4 cores clocked at 1.9 GHz, and uses a 10-nanometer process size. It is Qualcomm’s most power efficient chipset so far, supporting Qualcomm Quick Charge 4, which can guarantee 5 hours of battery life in only 5 minutes. Concerns regarding overheating caused by faulty batteries have been looming over Samsung since the Note 7 incident. The Galaxy S8 has a 3000mAh battery which should give around 20 hours of talk-time and up to 12 hours of battery life using 4G. The Galaxy S8 Plus has a slightly larger battery (3500mAh) which lasts for an entire day for calls and up to 15 hours using 4G. During the keynote, Samsung representatives insisted that detailed tests were made to make sure that these devices are safe. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus passed Samsung’s 8-Point Battery Safety Check, a test developed after the Note 7 recall.
Due to defect batteries, many Note 7 units tended to overheat, causing the explosion of some devices. Samsung was forced to discontinue the Galaxy Note 7 in October 2016, just two months after launch. The company lost approximately $4 billion in the third quarter of 2016. After this blow, the Korean tech giant introduced much stricter rules for testing its upcoming flagships. The next Galaxy Note device is expected to use the same processors as Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Samsung's own Exynos 8895. Both chipsets have a 10-nanometer architecture and are optimized to use less power than chipsets using a 28-nanometer design. However, according to latest leaks, the Galaxy Note 8 will have a much higher price tag than the S8 flagships: approximately $1,100 (source: ValueWalk).
Samsung’s latest flagships will be available starting April 21st and will be bundled with Harman AKG headphones. Pricing starts at $720 for the Galaxy S8 and $840 for the Galaxy S8 Plus.