Today I attended the Samsung launch of the Galaxy 8 and 8+ smartphones in New York City and wanted to provide my quick take.
Overall, the value proposition is very strong for both of the phones, and it appears Samsung has a winner on its hands. Any price surprises could change that assessment, of course. I also want to caveat that while I used the phone for about for an hour, I didn’t use it with my apps, data or for an extended period of time.
I’d like to focus in on what I think are the phone’s biggest differentiators:
- Infinity Display and design: Ten years ago, designers did mockups of what phones would look in the distant future and they looked like one slab of glass. The Galaxy S8 is the closest phone yet that represents that vision. The 5.8″ and 6.2″ are not only large displays, but have incredibly-high resolutions of 2960 x 1440 (Quad HD) with 570 and 529 PPI (pixels per inch). The Infinity Display is stunning and I’m looking forward to seeing how this performs with the new GearVR where display PPI is paramount to the experience. To make way for the Infinity Display, Samsung had to remove the physical home button and placed it on the back of the S8 near the camera in a vertical orientation. The new “virtual” home button has haptic touch and you can program the lower three buttons because they are virtual.
- DeX docking: There have been many attempts at smartphone-to-PC modularity and each one gets better and I’ve used all of them. Motorola did 5 years ago with the Atrix, Blackberry did it and HP is doing it today with the X3 and Windows Continuum. The modularity concept is a really good one, particularly for the enterprise, and its degree of success will be determined by the right apps being enabled for the right experiences.
DeX enables users to connect their S8 to a desk dock which connects to a large PC display via HDMI and mouse and keyboard via Bluetooth. Users can work with apps like Samsung email, browser, file manager, photo gallery, VDI enterprise apps, and Android versions of Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Photoshop. If applications support Android 7’s “free-form” feature, they should work with DeX, too. A police officer has many different and more limited needs compared to a mobile office worker or even a student. If an Android smartphone app hasn’t been optimized for a desktop experience, it won’t deliver a good experience, it’s as simple as that. I do expect most native tablet Android apps to deliver a pretty good DeX experience. Modularity isn’t a “one-size fits all” proposition and will be the case for a DeX experience which I expect to get better over time.
- Processor: The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is the highest performance Android smartphone processor out there and I expect it to deliver best graphics and VR performance of any smartphone on the market. I expect the iPhone 7 Plus to still perform better on single CPU core performance. Samsung wouldn’t disclose the processor but based on the specifications listed, I believe it’s a Snapdragon 835. As in previous phones they will probably put their own Exynos processor is some countries.
- Gigabit-class LTE: The S8’s CAT 16 modem is capable of operating on gigabit-class networks, around 3X faster than what we experience today. This not only improves today’s experiences like downloading and streaming videos but also enables streaming VR and Google’s Instant Apps which are being delivered by Google. These speeds also enable a much improved VDI experience for DeX. Samsung wouldn’t disclose which chipset it was, but I’m Assuming it’s the Qualcomm X16 modem integrated into the Snapdragon 835.
- Security: The S8 has more biometric authentication options than I’m aware of on any device and supports iris, face and fingerprint readers With the right enterprise provisioning, this could enable enterprises to have no passwords. Also, the S8 comes with Knox, considered today the gold standard for Android device security for governments and enterprises. With the fingerprint reader in an odd place on the back of the phone, I consider fingerprint a secondary credential input method.
- Bixby: Bixby is a device-focused smart agent. Bixby shouldn’t yet be compared to Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Microsoft Cortana because it’s not designed yet to be a free-form intelligent agent. Bixby should be measured today on how well users can “command and control” Samsung devices and features. Viv is not integrated into Bixby today, but I expect that down the road. As soon as I use Bixby, I will come and share my experiences to give a better evaluation. I do believe their is room for a device-based agent as they are linked to the specific device itself.
- IP68: This standard protects the S8 from splashes, water, and dust, and is surprisingly not available on most Android smartphones.
For what it’s worth, I am still assessing and will return to you on:
- S8 Camera: What I’ll be looking for is how the S8’s “dual-pixel” compares to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus “dual camera” setup.
- Samsung Connect and Samsung Connect Home: What I’m looking for is the primary difference between this and the SmartThings hub, hub app and the security built in. The router does have mesh networking so that is one difference.
- Gear VR with new controller and VR 360 camera: Samsung gave every attendee at the show a VR 360 camera and I do like the new way to grip the camera but I’d like to see some improvements in the stitching. Only a hands-on will determine this.
I will be updating this article throughout the day.