If there was a museum dedicated to great smartphone design then the Samsung Galaxy S8 would be on a pedestal in the entrance hall with a giant spotlight on it. It’s that beautiful.
You may not think that’s particularly important, but the days when smartphones spent most of their time buried in a pocket are long gone. A phone is on near-constant display: held aloft at gigs, furiously tapped on the tube, Instagramming your Friday night burger, or just sitting on the desk charging. So it really ought to look good.
And boy, does the Samsung Galaxy S8 look good. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s all there is to it, because the S8 also introduces live-in phone butler Bixby, gives us Samsung’s best take on Android to date, and packs in more power than you could possibly need. Oh, and there’s a bigger S8+, in case 5.8in just wasn’t big enough for you.
In short, it’s as close as we’ll probably ever see to the full smartphone package.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S8 DESIGN & BUILD
Curved edges were what made the Galaxy S7 Edge distinctive – so much so that there’s no flat screen option here: there’s only one Galaxy S8, and it’s curvy. The corners have been rounded off, which help the phone sit snugly in your grip – it’s perfect for one-handed use.
The bezels at the top and bottom of the display are astonishingly slim, which has only been made possible by losing the physical home button from the front of the phone.
Instead, there’s now a digital home button, built into the glass and complete with haptic feedback whenever you prod it. It has a lot in common with the Touch ID home button on Apple’s iPhone 7, with vibrations letting you know when you’ve pressed hard enough to trigger a press.
The always-on display makes a return, and now shows you the home button whenever the phone is locked – so you know where to press to wake it up again.
Moving the fingerprint reader to the back of the phone isn’t the disaster many people thought it would be, either. Yes, it’s a little closer to the camera lens than I’d like, but if iris scanning is as improved as Samsung says it is, you won’t be using it all that often. I didn’t get to try it out properly, but the demos I saw were very quick indeed.
The whole thing is IP68 water-resistant, so will be able to survive an accidental dunking, and there’s room on the bottom edge for a speaker, reversible USB-C charging port, and a headphone jack. Sorry Apple, Samsung isn’t interested in your cable-free future just yet.
The UK is getting two colours at launch: Orchid Grey and Midnight Black, with more expected to follow. Both look gorgeous in the flesh, with Gorilla Glass protecting the metal hues underneath. Each one glistens in the light, with the black model creating the least amount of shine, but the Grey helping to hide fingerprints and smudges that little bit better.
Whichever model you pick, the front of the phone stays black – hiding the sensors and adding to the illusion that the 18.5:9 aspect ratio screen really is filling the whole of the front face.
UPDATE: 09 June 2017