With the recent launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8, we’ve been asking ourselves if we should upgrade. I’m normally not one to upgrade every year but that’s another topic for later. I currently have the Samsung Galaxy S7 and before that, the Galaxy S4. I won’t go into details on the hardware specs and frankly, how many people out there actually care. In most cases, even for techies, it’s all about letting your friends know that you have the latest and greatest. It’s more like, “hey look what I got!” So, with that being said, I’ll talk more about the usability side of the phone as opposed to the actual specs.
Samsung is branding their edge to edge screen the Infinity Display. While it definitely looks great, there are some usability issues. For those of you who have the Edge versions of the S7, you know what I mean. Basically, with these types of displays, if you grip your phone on the sides, you will more often than not click on the edge of the screen.
For those of you who read books on your phone, you definitely know this can get extremely annoying. When reading, you would click on the right or left sides of the screen to turn pages. If you’re holding your phone on the edges, you’ll be turning pages when you don’t want to because the screen is basically right on the edge where you’re gripping your phone.
When it came time for me to upgrade from the S4 to the S7, I went with the regular version of the S7, not the Edge version. One of the main benefits of the edge version was extremely gimmicky. Why would I want to read scrolling text messages on the edge of the screen? If I’m in a situation where I have to appear that I’m not on the phone while I’m actually reading text messages on the edge, I shouldn’t even have the phone on the table! I can’t even respond to text in those situations so why bother??? The other reason I did not get the Edge version was basically the edge to edge screen where it’ll make it difficult to not click something by just holding the phone.
Going back to the S8, there’s no choice in the versions as they have now made the Infinity Display standard on both versions. I normally use a portfolio style case so gripping the phone on the edges isn’t an issue here. While I do use a portfolio style case on every phone I get, the rubber edges do wrap around slightly to the front of the phone that defeats the purpose of the S7 edge screen so why bother spending an extra $100. For the S8, there’s no difference in style from the S8 to the S8+ except that the screen is larger on the S8+.
Security and Iris Scanning
Phone security is a big topic. These days, our lives revolve around our phone. We have so much in our phones that if we lose it or someone hacks it, it can be fairly damaging to our lives. Samsung is touting Iris Scanning as a new security feature. This feature has been around for decades and I’m sure you’ve seen this in the movies. It is a proven security feature but it’s been difficult to implement because it requires a good camera and the addition of infrared lighting to highlight the features in the Iris. The new Samsung Galaxy S8 features an 8MP front facing camera while the S7 had a 5MP camera.
The Iris Scanner won’t prevent someone hacking your phone remotely, but it will protect your phone if someone gets a hold of it. Will I use it, probably not. The fingerprint scanner is just as secure and easier to use in my opinion. When I click my home button, it unlocks right away since I’ve scanned in my fingers that I usually use to click the home button. If I was to use the iris scanner, I would have to click the home button, then line up the phone and camera to view my iris to unlock the phone. It’s an extra step that’s not necessary for me.
In the Samsung Galaxy S8, they also added facial recognition. This is not as secure. Facial recognition has been fooled in the past by a good quality picture. I’ve tested facial recognition software with a desktop webcam on a PC and they can be easily fooled. Just put up a big picture of the person’s face and it logs you right in. The better the security application and camera, the less it can be fooled. However, Samsung did put this disclaimer on their website: *Face recognition is less secure than pattern, PIN, or password. So why add it? Just so they can add another feature to the list of new additions.
Water Resistance – IP68 Rating
Almost all new smartphone these days are water resistant to some degree. Some are IP67 rated and others are IP68. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is IP68 rated. With both of these ratings, just know that it does not mean they are completely waterproof that you can use your phone underwater for long periods of time.
With IP67, if water splashes on it or you drop it into the tub and pull it out real quick, you should be OK. With IP68, it can be submerged underwater up to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. But, this was tested in a lab environment with the phone on standby. It’s still recommended that you do not use your phone underwater for any amount of time.
This is a big feature for me. One of the reasons I did not upgrade to the S5 or S6 from the S4 is that Samsung removed the ability to add a MicroSD card. When Samsung released the S7 and added this feature back, I figured it was time to retire the S4.
With the Apple iPhone, you never had the option to add a memory card. You always had to buy the iPhone with the amount of memory you think you’ll need and you pay an arm and a leg for it as well. For example, going from 32GB to 128GB on the iphone 7, it’s an extra $100 and you’re not gaining the full 128GB, you’re only gaining 96GB. Going from 32GB to 256GB is an extra $200 and again, you’re not gaining an extra 256GB but only 224GB.
With the Samsung Galaxy phones, if you have the 32GB version, for example, you can add a 128GB MicroSD card for around $40-$50 and you’ll have a total of 160GB. Or, you can add a 256GB MicroSD for roughly $150 and you’ll have a total of 288GB vs the iPhone by paying $200 and only have a total of 256GB.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 and even the previous phone I had, the S4, all used the micro-USB connector. We have so many of these cables and chargers around the house and in our cars that if I was to switch to the new Samsung Galaxy S8, I’ll have to buy a bunch of new cables to retain the same convenience of being able to charge anywhere in my house and cars. At least I won’t need to buy new chargers, only the cables.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 phones use the new USB Type-C connector. The major benefit to this is that the cable is reversible so you can plug it in either way since there is no right side up. This is a big plus for me as I find myself turning on the screen of my phone to look at the connector when plugging it in when I have the bedroom lights already out. With the USB Type-C connector, I don’t have to care if it’s upside down or whatnot since it doesn’t matter. Woohoo!
Ok, I’m not going into the specs. Just know that it has a better processor and is faster and better than the previous version. Ok? Good. Most people don’t care what the processor is anyway. Most people don’t even know how many megapixels their camera is and that’s one of the more important features for most people. As long as they’re happy with the pictures the camera takes, that’s good enough.
So, with everything that I’ve mentioned above, would I upgrade to the Galaxy S8? I’m still on the fence, but leaning towards no. One of the reasons I don’t upgrade every year is that each year, it’s only marginal upgrades in performance, screen quality and so forth. Before when phones were subsidized and you can get free upgrades each year, I would upgrade. Now that the phones are no longer subsidized and you basically have to pay roughly $700-$900 for these top of the line smartphones, it’s not worth it to pay that each year for marginal differences.
If you think about it, most people don’t get new computers every year and most people only bought the cheapest desktop PCs that cost less than these smartphones. There was a study that showed the earliest most people would replace their PC was 3 years, 5 years for laptops since they cost more. Why is it that more people buy new phones each year that costs more than a Dell or HP desktop PC? Admit it, it’s so that when friends ask you about your phone you can say you have the latest and greatest and be hip like them.
I’m very practical and in my opinion, it’s not worth it to pay $800 for a new phone each year. I’m happy with the Samsung Galaxy S7 that I just bought. For those of you that still have an S4, S5 or even the S6, then you’ll want to considering upgrading to the new Samsung Galaxy S8.
Update 5/18/2017: New post on the fingerprint sensor for the S8