Samsung Galaxy S8+ India review: King of the hill
The Galaxy S8+ is the best Android phone available today.
The quick take
The Galaxy S8+ offers everything you want — and a few things you didn't know you needed — in a package that looks downright futuristic. Combining top-of-the-line hardware with a gorgeous design and an incredible display, Samsung ticks all the right boxes. The phone isn't without its quirks, but when seen as a complete package, you won't find a phone that offers quite as much as the Galaxy S8+ for the price.
- Infinity Display is amazing
- Incredible design
- Class-leading performance
- Water and dust resistant
- Great camera
- All-day battery life
- Fingerprint sensor location
- Bixby is pointless right now
- Smudge magnet
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Full review
The Galaxy S8+ comes at a crucial time for Samsung. The company is getting back on track from the Note 7 disaster, and although its profits weren't hurt by the global recall of its flagship late last year, consumer trust in the brand took a big hit. Samsung is looking to regain that trust with its most ambitious phone yet.
However, competition in the high-end segment is stronger than ever. Google got off to a great start with the Pixel, and LG has mounted its fiercest challenge yet with the G6. Samsung put itself in a precarious position with the Galaxy S8: it obviously needed to innovate to push past its rivals, but it also had to be wary to not overextend itself in the process. After all, it was the company's overzealousness in wanting to include the largest possible battery in the Note 7 that led to the phone's downfall last year.
With the Galaxy S8, we're starting to see the results of Samsung's cautious approach. The brand outdid itself in a few areas, like the Infinity Display, but elsewhere, there's a sense that it held back, opting not to make too many alterations just for the sake of change. In doing so, it created its best phone to date.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Specs
|Operating System||Android 7.0 Nougat|
2960x1440 (529 ppi)
|Processor||10nm Samsung Exynos 8895|
|Storage||64GB (UFS 2.1)
microSD up to 256GB
|Rear Camera||12MP Dual Pixel, f/1.7
|Front Camera||8MP, f/1.7
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO
NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo BeiDou
|Water resistance||IP68 rating|
|Dimensions||159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm|
|Colors||Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Maple Gold|
About this review
I am writing this review after using the Exynos 8895 variant of the Galaxy S8+ (SM-G955FD) for two weeks in Hyderabad, India. A week into the review, Samsung released an update to fix the red tint issue, bumping the build number to G955FXXU1AQDG. The unit was provided for review by Samsung India.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Hardware
The Galaxy S8+ is the most futuristic phone available today. The dual curved screen merges seamlessly with the edges of the frame to create a design aesthetic that elevates the S8 to a league all its own. Put the Galaxy S8+ next to handsets like the Pixel and the LG G6 — which also has an extra-tall display — and you'll immediately notice the sheer beauty of the thing. This is a phone you'll want to gaze at even while the display is off. The gold color variant in particular looks like it was designed for the robots.
To engineer the Infinity Display, Samsung had to get rid of most of the bezels around the top and bottom of the phone, and while I was initially apprehensive about accidental touches, Samsung did a much better job with palm rejection this time around. With no bezels to factor in, Samsung was able to cram a huge panel in a relatively small chassis.
Even though the Galaxy S8+ is offering a 6.2-inch display, the overall size of the phone isn't much larger than a regular 5.7-inch phone — it is marginally taller than the 5.5-inch Pixel XL. The phone has Gorilla Glass 5 protection both at the front and back, which gives it an added resistance to tumbles.
The USB-C port at the bottom is flanked by the 3.5mm jack on the left and a single speaker to the right. The speaker gets sufficiently loud and doesn't get garbled, even when you crank up the volume. The power button is located on the right, and the volume rocker is to the left of the phone. With the Galaxy S8+, Samsung has added a dedicated button below the volume rocker to invoke Bixby. For now, the Bixby button's main purpose is to come in the way of you taking a screenshot.
The SIM card slot — which also houses the microSD card tray — is located at the top, and is sealed by a rubber gasket. The Galaxy S8+ is IP68 certified, making it dust and water resistant. Samsung removed the physical home button to make way for the Infinity Display, and the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back panel, and is now located next to the camera sensor. This is the most controversial design change with the Galaxy S8+, and one that makes unlocking the phone more difficult than it should be.
The fingerprint sensor itself is quick to authenticate, but its limited surface area and awkward placement make it harder than usual to locate it with your finger — doubly so when you're using the phone one-handed. More often than not, you'll put your finger on the camera sensor, where you'll end up smudging it. The lack of a noticeable indent also makes locating the fingerprint sensor difficult. Samsung was allegedly looking for a way to integrate the sensor directly into the display of the S8+, but the supplier working on the technology, Synaptics, couldn't get it to work in time for the launch of the phone. Maybe in the Note 8 then.
The location of the fingerprint sensor is the most annoying trait in the Galaxy S8+.
There is one positive aspect of the fingerprint sensor being located at the back, and that is the ability to pull down the notification shade or access Samsung Pay quickly with a swipe gesture. It doesn't make up for the fact that unlocking the phone is more difficult than it used to be, but Samsung has gone out of its way to introduce additional options to do just that. With the Galaxy S8+, you can use facial recognition and iris scanning to unlock the software.
The lack of a home button means that the ability to quickly launch the camera is also diminished. Samsung switched the functionality to the power button in international versions of the S8+, but the Indian unit doesn't have the feature enabled. Samsung has instead opted to offer a panic button — a feature mandated by the Indian government on all phones — that's accessible by three quick taps on the power button. What this means is that for Indian customers, there's no easy way to access the camera. Which is a shame, because the camera is one of the best available today. But more on that later.
Talking about change, the S8+ offers a haptic engine at the bottom of the display that acts as a replacement for the physical home button. You'll be able to press down on the area where the home button used to be to wake up the screen when the phone is locked, and you can also use it to go back to the home screen while watching a video on YouTube or playing a game. There's also the option of customizing the sensitivity of the home button. It certainly doesn't come close to the feedback of a physical home button, but Samsung clearly wanted to offer an alternative in its stead.
Moving a little further up, the 6.2-inch QHD AMOLED display on the Galaxy S8+ is amazing. The 2960x1440 resolution heralds a new age of 18.5:9 displays, and while it takes a while to get adjusted to the tall screen, the narrow width makes it that much easier to use the phone. You will not be able to reach all corners of the display, but it's definitely not as unwieldy as I initially imagined it would be from initial renders of the S8.
Samsung has raised the bar for smartphone displays for a few years now, and the S8+ continues to build on that. Colors are vivid, black levels are excellent, and the screen goes up to 1000nits, allowing you to read the panel outdoors without any issues. However, the 18.5:9 ratio comes with a downside — letterboxing in games and videos. Samsung offers a workaround by allowing you to scale YouTube videos to the full width of the screen, but it will be a while before developers start taking full advantage of the tall panel.
The Always On Display feature has also picked up new functionality, and now offers six clock faces, music controls, more customization options, and colorful backgrounds. The Galaxy S8+ is also one of the first phones to offer HDR10 and Mobile Premium HDR certifications, allowing you to view HDR content from the likes of Prime Video and Netflix.
From an engineering standpoint, there's nothing else quite like the Galaxy S8+.
While the front of the Galaxy S8+ is unlike any other phone on the market today, the same cannot be said of the design at the back. However, Samsung is doing a much better job of making various color options available globally. In India, you can choose from three colors — Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Maple Gold. The black version looks great, but it also highlights smudges the most. The blue and gold options stand out more, and the blue, in particular, looks stunning. Thankfully, with all three options the front panel is black, which masks the litany of sensors located above the display.
The only uncertainty about the Galaxy S8+ is its fragility. With an abundance of glass at the front and back, it certainly isn't the most rugged phone out there. In the two weeks that I've used the phone, it took a single tumble — onto a tiled surface from a height of five feet — and came away unscathed. However, that won't always be the case. You should consider investing in a case, but definitely stay away from so-called premium screen protectors.
Coming to the internal hardware, the 10nm Exynos 8895 SoC on the Galaxy S8+ is a beast. The 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM is more than adequate to juggle several apps at once, and combined with the 64GB UFS 2.1 storage module, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, and Category 16 LTE modem with Gigabit LTE, it's easy to see that the S8+ packs plenty of punch.
That said, I did notice the occasional stutter, but that's more to do with Samsung's optimization (or lack thereof) than an issue with the hardware itself.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Software
Much like its hardware design, Samsung overhauled the software experience over the last few years. The UI is now called Samsung Experience (version 8.1), and if you're coming from the Galaxy S7 or S7 edge, there's plenty to like.
For one thing, there isn't a button for the app drawer anymore; you instead swipe up or down anywhere on the home screen to launch the app drawer. You can also swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification shade, à la Google Pixel.
Samsung has been offering a Multi Window mode for several generations now, and in the Galaxy S8+, you have the option to snap a particular portion of an app to the top of the display, and run another app at the bottom.
It'll take you a while to go through all the features on offer with the Galaxy S8+.
One-handed mode is also back, but without physical navigation keys to invoke the feature, Samsung has changed things up a little. To enter one-handed mode, you'll have to swipe up diagonally across the screen from either bottom corner. More often than not, you'll end up pulling down the app drawer, so there's an easier way to launch one-handed mode, and that's by tapping the home button three times.
The elimination of the home button has led to one welcome move: customizable on-screen navigation keys. For years now, Samsung strayed from Google's implementation of navigation keys — back button on the left, home button at the center, and the recents pane on the right — but with the Galaxy S8+, you can change the orientation of the buttons to suit your liking. You don't have as many customization options as that on the LG G6, which lets you add up to four buttons, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
With both variants of the Galaxy S8 offering dual curved screens, Samsung made changes to the way Edge panels work. The Edge feed has been removed, and you now have the ability to choose Apps, People, and Tasks edge panels. Each corresponding panel comes with a list of customizable shortcuts, and the optimization and quick tools panels are also present. There's also Edge lighting, which creates a halo around the edges of the screen for incoming notifications. If you don't like Edge panels, you can always disable them.
Samsung has had a shoddy track record when it comes to software updates in other regions, but when it comes to India, the company has done a magnificent job — at least in the high-end segment.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have consistently picked up platform and security updates, and Samsung is continuing that tradition with the S8 and S8+. The phones picked up the May security patch this week, and the fact that there isn't any interference from carriers — all phones sold in India are unlocked — makes things that much easier for the manufacturer. The phone is still running Android 7.0 Nougat, and while there's no mention of when the Android 7.1.1 (or 7.1.2) update will be delivered, for now, Samsung is doing a great job when it comes to updates.
If there's one sore point on the Galaxy S8+, it is the state of Bixby. Samsung's virtual assistant feels half-baked right now, and Bixby Voice — a key component for the service — won't be available until later this year in the U.S., with an Indian launch coming a few months after that.
Bixby isn't meant to take on Google Assistant. Instead, it is designed to make it easier for you to interact with your phone. For instance, you'll be able to ask Bixby to find images from a particular location or a particular date, and it will surface that information with ease.
With Bixby Vision, you'll be able to point your camera at an object, and the service will offer relevant information about that item. It worked well with QR codes, but when I pointed it at the retail box for the Galaxy S8+, it failed to identify it.
Bixby also lets you set reminders, see contextual information from third-party apps like Twitter, Uber, Foursquare, and more. Bixby on the Galaxy S8+ is a first look at what's possible, and the assistant will get much better over time. For now, though, it doesn't add a whole lot of value.
With Samsung Pay now officially available in India, the Galaxy S8+ is the first flagship with the feature enabled out of the box. The service is also available on the Galaxy A7 2017, but the phone itself isn't all that great to use.
You don't really realize how useful Samsung Pay is until you get started with the service. It has fundamentally transformed the way I pay for goods at offline stores. The service's ease of use combined with its near-ubiquity makes it invaluable when making in-store purchases.
Samsung Pay transforms the way in-store purchases are carried out.
Samsung also nailed the rollout of Samsung Pay in India. Because of its integration with MST, the service works even on older card readers, and the South Korean company is leveraging its marketing budget to ensure retailers and customers are aware of the way it works. Out of the 20 locations where I've used Samsung Pay, only one cashier didn't have an idea about the service.
The service is also incredibly convenient to use: to access Samsung Pay, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, or use the fingerprint sensor gesture. The gesture isn't enabled by default, but you can set it up from the settings (Settings > Advanced Features > Finger sensor gestures > Open Samsung Pay).
Once Samsung Pay loads up, you can select the card you want to pay with, and authenticate using a PIN or your fingerprint. For transactions carried out in India, you'll still have to enter your credit or debit card PIN.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Camera
Samsung didn't make a big deal of the rear camera in the Galaxy S8+, and although the resolution is the same at 12MP, the phone has an all-new imaging sensor.
In addition to the new sensor, Samsung's latest Exynos 8895 chipset has an improved ISP that takes multiple images every time you click the shutter button. It then automatically stitches the images into a single photo, one that offers a better dynamic range. The new ISP also allows for digital stabilization of 4K videos.
The Galaxy S8+ excels at taking great photos with a minimum amount of fuss. It is on par with the Pixel or beats it in a few scenarios, particularly when it comes to low-light imagery. Previous Galaxy S flagships had a tendency to oversaturate colors, but Samsung has toned down the image processing algorithms in the Galaxy S8+, leading to more natural colors.
The main drawback with the camera is the fact that there isn't a way to quickly launch it on the Indian model. When it comes to the image quality, ease of use, and the sheer number of options available, it is one of the best out there.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Battery life
The standard Galaxy S8 has a 3000mAh battery while the S8+ offers a 3500mAh battery. The added battery size makes a lot of difference in everyday usage. Over the course of the two weeks, I routinely saw around 18 hours of usage with four hours screen-on-time and 30% battery left to spare.
Even on days where I was using cellular data all the time and had the Bluetooth enabled, the battery managed to last until late at night. Samsung's battery-saving measures contribute in this area, and you get regular reminders notifying you of apps running in the background that are consuming system resources.
With the Galaxy S8+, you'll easily get a day's worth of usage from the battery.
You can monitor apps' usage per hour, and set limits on a per-app basis to cut down on undue battery consumption. The feature certainly comes in handy in finding errant apps that suck your phone's battery in the background.
When you do need to extend battery life, there are two power-saving modes to choose from. The first mode — called "min" — decreases brightness by 10%, switches the screen to Full HD (if you've toggled QHD in the settings), throttles the CPU, and switches off Always On Display. The nuclear "max" option downgrades the display to 720p and further restricts background tasks.
The phone also features wireless charging, but the main drawback when it comes to the battery is the lack of fast charging. Samsung offers Adaptive Fast Charging, which made its debut in 2014. The technology is based on Quick Charge 2.0, and is limited to 9V/2A.
Samsung Galaxy S8+ Bottom line
Samsung ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the hardware, but that's just one part of the story. The Galaxy S8+ is so much more than its spec sheet — it is a culmination of a grander design that cements Samsung's position as the frontrunner in this space. With the Galaxy S8+, you're getting a phone with a stunning design, a gorgeous AMOLED display that may just be one of the best ever put on a phone, class-leading camera, and top-notch internals. From the gorgeous design to the build quality and execution, Samsung got everything right with the Galaxy S8+.
A Samsung flagship isn't complete without its fringe features, and although there have been many gimmicks in the past, that isn't the case anymore. Wireless charging, Samsung Pay, and IP68 water resistance — just to name a few — all come in handy, and give the phone an added advantage.
The phone has its drawbacks: the location of the fingerprint sensor isn't ideal, and the copious amounts of glass will lead to a constant worry regarding its durability.
Should you buy it? Absolutely
You should buy the S8 just on the merits of the screen and the camera, but there's so much more on offer with the phone.
The ₹64,900 asking price of the Galaxy S8+ is by no means affordable, but you do get your money's worth with the phone. Right now, the main competitor to the S8+ in India is the LG G6, which retails for ₹51,999. You'll be able to get it for as low as ₹46,999 after cashback offers, making it a full ₹17,901 less than the S8+. For that amount, you can pick up a Moto G5 Plus.
LG has significantly raised its game with the G6, offering a phone that's almost as good as the S8+. You get the same 18:9 ratio for the display, better resistance to the elements thanks to a MIL-STD 810G rating, 32-bit Quad DAC, and a dual-camera setup that has a slender lead over the S8+.
That said, the phone doesn't quite have the same allure when it comes to the design when seen next to the S8+, and Samsung's display technology is a step ahead. Samsung also scores a win in the hardware segment with the 10nm Exynos 8895.
There's a reason the G6 is priced so low — LG needs the market share in the premium segment, and as such the manufacturer is willing to forego profits to build its brand in the country. Samsung, meanwhile, is the number one phone vendor in India, and it is using that position to its advantage.
If you're in the market for the best Android phone, just get the Galaxy S8+.