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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+: everything you need to know about the new phones

While no-one can say this is a radical departure from the industrial design of the S7, this is not a bad thing. The rounded edges of the handset are supposed to make the phone feel smaller in the hand but the obvious difference is in the screen.

Some users of the S7 suffered with cracking displays, so it’s good to see glass has been upgraded to Corning Gorilla Glass 5.

Doing away with as much bezel as possible, Samsung has squeezed a 5.8-in screen onto the 148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm 155g Galaxy S8 and a 6.2in screen onto the larger 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm, 173g Galaxy S8+. The aim of the bezel being pushed outwards is again to make the Galaxy S8 feel smaller yet offer a big-screen viewing experience.

Speaking of the screens, this is the first phone to be certified by the UHD Alliance as Mobile HDR Premium.

One feature many have been waiting to see rolled out as standard on mobiles is included here, as Samsung has hidden the Home button underneath the screen itself on the Galaxy S8, again freeing up valuable viewing real estate and making a generally much slicker appearance. It feels right, too, pressing of the glass itself to bring the up the home screen.

All of a sudden having a dedicated home button looks out-of-date.

Both phones running Android 7.0 have a top-of-the-range 10nm, octa-core, 64-bit processor – the exact flavour will depend on the market and mobile operators. You get 4GB of RAM, 64GB memory, which is also expandable via MicroSD up to 256GB. Battery power is 3,000mAh in the Galaxy S8 and 3,500mAh in the “Plus”.

Camera performance is always key, of course. Here on both versions the rear camera is a dual pixel 12MP (F1.7) that takes three images at a time to take data from each and produce the best possible image. The front camera is an 8MP (F1.7) with smart autofocus and facial recognition.

Other on-board sensor tech includes an iris sensor, pressure sensor, heart rate, proximity and fingerprint for biometric authentication. There is IP68 water and dust resistance, as you would expect, as well as fast charging on both wired and wireless, with wireless charging compatible with WPC and PMA.

Audiophiles will be pleased to see Samsung hasn’t chosen to jettison the headphone socket, which sits next to the USB-C connection port on the bottom – and naturally the phone can handle hi-res audio formats.

One of the main battlegrounds Samsung has chosen for the Galaxy S8, though, is clearly the Quad HD+ screens. Thanks to the bezel and hidden home button trickery, the S8 hits 2960×1440, 570ppi on its 5.8-in, while the S8+ manages 2960 x 1440, 529ppi on its 6.2-in display. Because of this extra space, the screens of the Galaxy S8s can morph from a 16:9 ratio to an 18:5:9 “Infinity” view, much like the LG G6 with its “FullVision” 18:9 screen ratio. This of course means Sony currently retains the resolution crown with its 4K HDR Xperia XZ Premium.

Along with the Galaxy S8 comes Samsung’s new intelligent interface (or smart digital assistant) for the phone – Bixby. This assistant’s USP is that is can recognise the context of your requests. For example, if you have just taken pictures, you can tell Bixby to make a folder without having to tell it what pictures as it guesses you are referring to the ones you have just taken, or the ones taken in a particular place, etc.

Samsung says the secret to this tech lies in “cognitive tolerance”, so that it understands the whole sentence you are saying, rather than just words – and if it does not understand it will ask you to clarify. You also no longer have to “call up” or “wake” the assistant as there is a dedicated Bixby button on the side of the handsets. Additionally, Bixby can use the camera to search visually, so you can show the Galaxy S8 a bottle of wine and tell Bixby to find the same or similar items to buy.

At launch, Bixby will integrate with several Samsung native apps including Camera, Contacts, Gallery, Messages and Settings, before expanding in the future to include more Samsung and third-party apps.

Now, those hoping to get some version of Viv after Samsung bought the innovative AI assistant company last year will be disappointed. Bixby is nowhere near as sophisticated at the moment as Viv was when it was publicly demoed. Part of this reason is that Bixby has to be able to understand so many more languages than Viv did, although initially it will only respond to US English and Korean from May, after the April launch.

Samsung is also making a “thing” of having its Internet of Things hub on the handsets called Samsung Connect, where you can manipulate your SmartThings-certified smart home kit. From this menu, you can look at what’s in your camera-equipped connect fridge or change Hue lighting settings. One can even set up “modes” where you can, for example, establish a “Leaving Home” mode that turns off lights, adjusts heating and starts up the robot hoover.

Galaxy S8 release date
UK pre-orders for the Glaxy S8 open from today (March 29) until April 19 on Samsung.com/uk, as well as from select operators and retailers including EE, Sky Mobile, and Tesco Mobile. Anyone who pre-orders the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ will receive the handsets from April 20, subject to the usual stock availability.

Samsung DeX

This hamburger-sized hub effectively turns your mobile into a home PC that can run proper Windows Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc. It couples the smartphone to an HDMI compatible monitor, and connects to any Bluetooth-enabled, USB or RF-type keyboard and mouse.

Samsung has completely redesigned the Android UI so it is optimised for use with keyboard and mouse and can handle those familiar multiple resizable windows, contextual menus and a desktop web browser.

DeX is one of those obviously useful ideas that immediately makes you wonder why it wasn’t done before, which is always the marker of a quality application. Unlike some existing laptop systems that dock into home accelerators that pimp the performance, DeX runs purely off the powerful 10nm processor on the S8. It is the advance in processor power that makes this sort of functionality now possible, and indeed we are seeing some phone-powered laptops coming to market. DeX, however, immediately makes your old home PC look anachronistic and obsolete, especially if all you use it for is web surfing, email and Office apps – the vast majority of us in other words.

Gear VR with Controller
The Galaxy S8 also ushers in the new Gear VR with Controller as well as a new, redesigned version of the Gear 360 to capture 4K 360-degree videos and 15MP photos.