Samsung Galaxy S8 – Design
Nothing comes close to the Galaxy S8 design-wise. It’s the best-looking phone I’ve ever seen, leaving every other handset trailing in its wake.
The curved rear, as seen on the Galaxy S7, nestles perfectly in your palm, while the glass shimmers as the light hits it. The device is available in three colours – a dark black, bright silver and a grey with a blueish tinge – with no ugly white front plate in sight.
My review unit is the black option, and it’s properly black all over, with shiny sides that blend into the display. It feels like one complete piece, with the glass, screen and metal combining all together.
The volume rocker and standby switch are joined by a new button on the side. This is a dedicated Bixby button – which I’ll cover in more detail in the Software section – and while it shows Samsung is taking its new virtual assistant seriously, it feels too much for Bixby to have its own button.
The S8 is thin and incredibly light at 155g, but it feels sturdy and precisely made. The last time Samsung opted for a huge change of direction with its flagship, many of the basic features were lost in the transition. Thankfully, this isn’t the case here. A microSD slot continues to sit tucked away with the nano-SIM, the criminally underrated Qi wireless charging is also present, and the device is IP68 water- and dust-resistant too, so it will survive a dunk in water for 30 minutes to depths of 1.5 metres.
Samsung has also retained the headphone jack; I’d be very surprised to hear that anyone thinks that’s a bad idea. Apple’s decision to remove a physical headphone connection looked like it might signal the demise of the 3.5mm jack, but Samsung has gone in the other direction, by including a pair of very good AKG wired buds in the box.
It’s a much subtler curve than on the Galaxy S7 Edge; far more like the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 in fact, which makes it a lot easier to use. Accidental touches were common on older Edge phones, with your hand hitting the screen when you were just holding the device, but I haven’t experienced this with the S8. There’s still a bit of extra reflection on this portion of the screen, but it’s a small trade-off for such an eye-catching look.
As with any phone, though, not everything is perfect. Having such a big display and tiny bezel means there’s no room for the fingerprint-sensing Home button to sit on the front.
Instead, it’s on the back, next to the camera, and I hate it more every time I use it. First, it’s tiny, meaning those times I actually hit it, it doesn’t recognise my finger. But its real issue is the positioning; it’s so unintuitive. You have to wiggle your finger around the camera – which, incidentally, throws up a message on opening the app to remind you to clean dirty smudges of the lens – and guess where the scanner is?
I don’t understand why it isn’t at the centre, as it is every other phone that has a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. I suspect Samsung wanted to build it into the display, but just ran out of time.
I’m also not convinced about how well this phone will hold up after months and years of use. The addition of Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back should offer a little more protection, but I’ve ended up with both a cracked Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 after drops onto carpet from barely 2ft high. Hopefully, things will be different with the Galaxy S8 – but it feels like a delicate phone.