Samsung has lifted the lid on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, with so-called ‘infinity screens’ that take up the entire front of the handsets, improved cameras and the phone-maker’s own Siri-style voice assistant.
The standard edition S8 features a 5.8-inch Quad HD+ screen, while the S8 Plus’s Quad HD+ display comes in at 6.2-inches.
That’s a significant increase from last year’s S7 and S7 Edge, which were equipped with 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screens respectively.
Unlike rival smartphones and earlier models in the Galaxy S range, the S8 and S8 Plus’s displays span the whole front of the handsets.
That means that there’s no physical home button. Instead the S8 features a ‘virtual’ home button that’s embedded beneath the touchscreen.
The design change means that Samsung has been able to supersize the S8 handsets’ screens without making the phones themselves bigger.
So while the S8’s screen is 0.4 inches larger than the S7’s, the S8’s dimensions are 148.9x 68.1 x 8.0 mm.
By way of comparison, the S7’s dimensions were 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm. So there’s no discernable difference in size and the new phones feel no less pocket-friendly than before.
Both S8 phones also feature the curved screens that were previously reserved for Samsung’s Edge-branded handsets.
That means the screen extends around the side of the phone, with this section doubling as a secondary ‘always-on’ display for notifications, news and social media updates.
The main camera, which is the same on both S8 handsets, is 12 megapixels. That’s the same as last year.
However, it’s been enhanced with the addition of a dual pixel lens and a larger F1.7 aperture that lets in more light for better performance in low light conditions.
It’s also got optical image stabilisation technology on board, which puts an end to ‘shaky-cam’ video recordings, as well as a nifty swipe to zoom feature and multi-frame image processing.
The upshot is that every time you take a shot, the camera takes three shots. It then uses a blurring technique to combine these and give you a better quality image.
The front-facing ‘selfie’ camera comes in at eight megapixels and has the same, large aperture for shooting self-portraits in dingy locales, such as nightclubs and bars.
Unlike Apple’s iPhone 7 and the HTC U Ultra, the S8 retains a 3.5mm headphone jack. So you won’t need to use an adaptor to use your existing cans or invest in costly wireless headphones.
Making its debut on the S8 is Samsung’s Siri-style Bixby voice assistant.
Samsung aims to differentiate Bixby from other similar services by offering greater comprehension of human speech, in so doing freeing users from the need to make very specifically worded commands.
Bixby is touted as being more ‘context-aware’ than the likes of Siri and Google Assistant. That means it’s aware of your location and uses it to help work out what you’re asking it to do. It’s also conscious of what’s on your screen.
So let’s suppose you’re examining a photo on your phone and decide you want it as a screensaver.
You could say ‘make this my screensaver’ and Bixby would understand that ‘this’ referred to the photo and comply with your command.
Samsung is also boldly aiming to make Bixby capable enough that you’ll be able to use your voice to do everything you can do with your touchscreen.
Initially compatible with ten of Samsung’s own apps and set to be extended to more Samsung apps later in the year, Bixby will eventually be supported by third-party apps too.
It’s worth noting that at launch Bixby will only understand Korean and American English. It’ll be updated to understand English as it’s spoken on these fair isles some time later in the year.
Elsewhere, the S8 is home to the iris-scanning security technology that Samsung debuted on the Galaxy Note 7.
This allows you to unlock your phone just by looking at it and approve payments via Samsung Pay. There’s still a fingerprint scanner around the rear, though, if you find face-scanning technology a little obtrusive when you’re in public.
The S8 is powered by an octa-core processor and comes in one storage option: 64GB.
However, there’s microSD card support up to 256GB, so there’s ample room for all your apps, UltraHD videos and anything else you’re in the habit of storing.
The standard edition of the phone features a 3,000mAh battery, while the S8 Plus is powered by a larger 3,500mAh battery.
Both phones offer a fast-charging mode and can be charged wirelessly, with an add-on that’s sold separately.
Launching alongside the S8 are a range of accessories and peripherals. Samsung Bex is probably best described as a dock in which your S8 sits that connects to a desktop monitor so you can use it as a home computer.
We can also look forward to new versions of the Gear VR headset and Gear 360 camera, as well as a range of homewares that make the S8 the control hub for smarthomes.