The Galaxy S7 edge and Galaxy Note 7 had something in common: They were the most perfect smartphones Samsung had created for their time (not counting the Note 7’s battery drama), after years of letting us down with something or the other. They were particularly impressive after the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge. Samsung, in a bid to change its smartphone designs around, made a few compromises on the S6 and S6 edge, like removing the microSD slot and equipping the handsets with extremely small batteries.
But when you innovate, you have to be willing to make sacrifices, so many were forgiving of the shortcomings of the S6 and S6 edge. But now, two years later, and after two flagship phones that were top notch in nearly every aspect, the Galaxy S8 makes it look like Samsung is once again focusing on innovation at the expense of basic functionality. Those Infinity displays on the S8 and S8+ make them the most beautiful smartphones on the market, but there are quite a few aspects that make them a lesser package than the phones they will be succeeding.
Let’s start with the small batteries, something we have repeatedly been complaining about since the S8 and S8+ were announced. It’s almost like we’re back in the days of the S6 and S6 edge, with the S8 particularly having a very disappointing battery capacity. The S6 edge+ and Note 5 had 3,000 mAh batteries back in 2015, and while neither handset had issues with getting through to the end of the day, they weren’t featuring as powerful processors like the S8 and S8+, nor having to content with something like Bixby running in the background or Always On Display causing additional battery drain when the phones were sitting idle.
Yes, the Snapdragon 835 and Exynos 8895 are more efficient than any mobile chipset that has come before, the Galaxy S8’s official battery stats are not much worse than the S7’s, and Samsung’s new batteries will work as great a year later as on day one. But for consumers opting for the S8, the tiny battery will be a cause for concern. At best, they’d have to charge it every evening. At worst, they’d have to turn off features like Always On Display and try being off mobile data as much as possible. Either way, it will be a problem, and no matter how fast your phones might charge, there’s no replacement for a battery that can keep going for long on a single charge.
Now, about that fingerprint sensor. Everyone knows reaching it will be a difficult task on these tall phones, and Samsung has messed up big time here. The S8 and S8+ offer iris and facial recognition, but neither can be as fast or accurate as a fingerprint in every situation. Worse, you still need to wake the phone up before the phone starts scanning your eyes or your face. To add insult to injury, Samsung has made the fingerprint sensor a passive button, meaning it is always ready to detect your fingerprint and does not require a hard press anymore. It’s finally nice to see on Samsung’s flagship, but the company managed to enable this functionality right when it decided to put the fingerprint sensor out of reach.
Now, we come to the most offensive part: Bixby. Bixby is Samsung’s official entry into the virtual assistant race, and the company is promising a high level of functionality. But at this point, Bixby is far from reaching the potential Samsung thinks it will reach. First, there’s limited language support. Second, Bixby doesn’t even have support for voice control in an important market like the US at launch. I know “intelligent personal assistants” are a tough thing to crack, but maybe Samsung should have kept Bixby in the labs a little longer instead of launching it with limited functionality, especially since Bixby even has a dedicated button.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, taking giant steps forward sometimes requires leaving a few things behind. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ certainly have a lot going for them. Big, beautiful displays, noticeably improved cameras, the latest silicon, and even the ability to turn into a desktop computer. But the missteps are hard to ignore after something like the Galaxy S7 edge, and it will be interesting to see where Samsung goes with the upcoming Galaxy Note 8.
For now, the perfection we saw in Samsung’s smartphone lineup seems to have fallen by the wayside, and the company would do well to hope the S8 and S8+ will offer an overall experience that makes it easy to overlook its shortcomings. You know, just like it did when it dazzled us with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge back in 2015.
What do you think of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+? Think Samsung should have worked harder on ironing out the kinks, or do you think the good things about the Galaxy S8 and S8+ outweigh the bad?