11 things you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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It’s here! Or rather, they’re here, because (as expected) the Samsung Galaxy S8 comes in two forms.

They’re both rather lovely, and packed with new tech guaranteed to leave fans salivating.

We’ve got all the details you need to know about them here.

1) THERE ARE TWO VERSIONS

The whole every-flagship-comes-in-two-versions thing reaches ridiculous heights with the S8 — literally.

The standard version of the S8 has a 5.8in screen, while the S8+ has a surely-that’s-too-big 6.2in display. That means that (in terms of screen size, at least) the S8+ is actually a fair bit bigger than last year’s ill-fated Galaxy Note 7; indeed, so is the regular S8.

That might sound like Samsung’s gone too far down the bigger-is-better route, but in dimension terms they’re actually not that vast. Both phones have an 18.5:9 display ratio, which makes them taller than the competition but keeps the width down. Plus, they’re impressively thin.

For comparison, the 6.2in S8+ is around the same height as the iPhone 7 Plus (which has a smaller 5/5in display, but larger bezels) and considerably slimmer.

Other than screen size, the only difference between the phones is that the S8+ gets a bigger battery. Oh, and the price.

2) THEY’RE BOTH BEAUTIFULLY CURVED

No, that’s not an S8 Edge you’re looking at above – it’s the regular S8, because this year there’s no Edge version, and those curved sides are instead present on both models of the phone.

It’s a sensible move, because price aside we always preferred the Edge version of the S6 and S7. The Infinity Display, as Samsung terms it, wraps round the sides of the phone so it appears to trail off into nothingness and the whole thing looks impossibly futuristic. From the front, the S8 and S8+ are almost entirely glass.

The fingerprint sensor has been moved (more on that below) and there’s no discernable border between bezel and screen. They look fantastic.

3) THEY HAVE SUPERB SCREENS

The S8 and S8+ both get 2K screens with 2960×1440 resolution — Samsung’s leaving the 4K thing to Sony and its Xperia XZ Premium. There are still more than enough pixels for a great viewing experience though, and it’s further helped by Samsung’s usual AMOLED screen tech, which gives you great colours and brightness.

What’s more, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are also packing HDR. In fact, they’re the first phones of any kind to be certified for HDR Mobile Premium, meaning they’ll be expertly placed to showcase Netflix and Amazon Prime when they launch their respective mobile HDR streams.

It’s also an always-on display, so you get quick-glance access to notifications without needing to constantly tap the screen.

4) THERE’S NO HOME BUTTON (SORT OF)

There’s no home button on the S8 and S8+ – or rather there is, but it’s not a physical one.

This is a big change for Samsung, which has always had that distinctive button down the bottom of its phones, but this year it’s instead gone for a software button built into the glass. It has haptic feedback — as on the iPhone — so that you know when you’ve pressed it.

To make it all possible, Samsung’s moved the fingerprint sensor round to the back of the phone, which is likely to be a Marmite-like polarising decision. Some people hate rear fingerprint sensors, but on the plus side…

5) THEY’LL SCAN YOUR EYES

…maybe it won’t matter that the fingerprint sensor is now on the back, because the eye-scanning tech that first appeared in the Note 7 reappears here.

The idea is that the S8 takes a few photos of your face, stores it in its memory, then recognises you when you glance at the screen and leaps to life, ready to do your bidding. We loved it on the Note and, provided it works as seamlessly here, it should massively reduce the number of times you need to use a fingerprint anyway.

6) THEY COME WITH A NEW FRIEND CALLED BIXBY

Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, Amazon has Alexa, Google has, um, Google. And now Samsung has Bixby.

Yes, the S8 and S8+ come with a built-in digital assistant to answer every question and generally act as a digital lacky. Samsung clearly thinks this is a big deal, because it’s even given it a dedicated hardware button under the volume rocker on the left.

What’s more, it’s designed to be a mobile-first thing, so that rather than just recognising your voice it also knows what you’re looking at on screen or through the camera. No, that’s not in any way spooky and ripe for hacking.

Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay returns here on top of Android 7.0 Nougat, together with a few tweaks to the way that, for instance, multi-window viewing works.

7) THEY’LL TAKE AMAZING SELFIES

In many ways the S8 is a vastly different phone to the S7, but strangely the camera’s not been changed that much at all. Or maybe it’s not that strange — the S7’s camera is easily one of the best out there, and Samsung didn’t need to make huge changes to it.

So, unlike on the LG G6, the Huawei P10 and the iPhone 7 Plus, there’s no dual-camera setup here. Instead, you get a 12MP, f1.7 sensor with optical image stabilisation, just as we had on the S7.

What is new, though, is the three-shot burst image processing. The S8 and S8+ will actually take three photos every time you press the shutter button, then use two of them to reduce blur and noise in your shots. It’s similar to what Huawei, for one, does with its second camera lens, but without some of the other benefits such as increased depth of field or zoom.

The front camera has had a spec bump, however — it’s now an 8MP, f1.7 effort, up from 5MP on the S7, and it comes with built-in stickers and filters straight outta Snapchat, plus what should be impressive autofocusing abilities to make sure (or you and your buddies) are nicely in focus.

8) THEY’LL HAVE PLENTY OF POWER

We’d expected the Galaxy S8 and S8+ to launch with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor it seems that there’s an octa-core Exynos CPU inside them. It’s well-clocked, though, with four cores running at 2.3GHz and four at 1.7GHz, so we see no reason to suppose it won’t handle everything you throw at it. Still, South Africa has a history of getting the Snapdragon version, so… we’ll see.

You also get 4GB of RAM, which isn’t the most out there — the Huawei P10 Plus has 6GB and the Asus Zenfone AR comes with 8GB, for starters — but which should be plenty. There’s only one size in terms of storage: 64GB, with the ability to add up to 256GB more via microSD.

Battery life might be an issue — not in the way that the Note 7’s was, hopefully, but in that the S8 has only a 3000mAh cell. That’s less than plenty of rivals, although it does at least have fast charging. The S8+ gets a bigger 3500mAh battery, but then again it also has a bigger screen to power. It’s also worth noting that the Exynos chip’s 10nm process should aid battery conservation.

9) THEY’LL TURN INTO PCS

Loads of phones have tried to do the whole “I’m a phone! Now I’m a PC!” thing before, but the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ might actually nail it.

It’s all thanks to the Dex Station — a little dock that you plonk your phone into then hook up to a TV. It has two USB ports, Ethernet and HDMI, and once connected to a screen it’ll give you a Windows-style desktop with app launcher, taskbar and so on. Sweet.

There’s also Bluetooth — so you can hook up a mouse and keyboard — and that dock itself acts as a fast-charging port for the phone.

It’s all built around Android, obviously, but partnerships with Microsoft and Adobe should give you access to Office and the like.

10) THEY HAVE HEADPHONE SOCKETS

Have we missed anything? Probably. Oh yeah — the S8 is waterproof (to IP68), charges via USB-C — and has built-in wireless charging — and still has a headphone socket. IN YOUR FACE iPHONE 7!

11) THEY’LL COST A FORTUNE

All sounds great, right — but there’s a catch, because the S8 and S8+ will be pretty expensive.

The Galaxy S8 will set you back R15,500 and the Galaxy S8+ will cost R17,500. Which isn’t all that far off from launch prices for the S7 and the S7 Edge (which were rather high…) but it’s not all that horrifying if you compare it to the iPhone 7’s current run of pricing. Just remember the S8 comes with 64GB as standard. Oh, yes, and the phone launches in South Africa on 5 May.

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