Opinion: The Note 7 casts a shadow over the S8 – and the S8 doesn’t deserve it
Bad though the Note 7 disaster was, Samsung shouldn't be taking it out on its new phones, says Marc McLaren
One thing that’s immediately obvious from the launch of the Galaxy S8 is that it’ll take the world – and Samsung – time to get over the Note 7 debacle.
The S8 and S8+ are fantastic, ultra-desirable phones in many ways. But in others they’re a curious mix of underpowered specs and overkill features.
And that’s all the fault of the Note 7 and Samsung’s own reaction to it.
A series of unfortunate events
In the run-up to today’s event, the mainstream press was awash with articles stating that this was the most important Samsung launch for years – a launch it had to get right due to the unplanned pyrotechnical abilities of the last Note.
On social media, wags responded to stories about the impending launch with jokes about it exploding. Consumers stated that they wouldn’t trust another Samsung device. TV funnyman John Oliver dedicated a whole section of his show to it.
During the event the comments kept coming – on Stuff‘s Facebook Live page, on Twitter, everywhere; I wouldn’t be surprised if right now someone on top of a mountain in Nepal was cracking a joke about the S8 launch being explosive.
That’s all fair enough. Samsung screwed up massively with the Note, both in terms of not building the thing properly and in how it handled the recall. People are entitled to mock it as a result, and to be wary of future products.
But what I’m more bothered about is how Samsung itself seems to have hamstrung its new flagships as a reaction.
Where’s the power?
First up, there’s the battery: the S8 has only a 3000mAh cell inside it. That’s the same as the Galaxy S7, sure – but the S7 only had a 5.1in screen whereas the S8’s is 5.8in. That’s a lot of extra glass to power. The Exynos 8895 processor inside it may well cope admirably with the challenge, but I suspect it’ll struggle to be better than average on this front.
The bigger S8+ handset gets a bigger 3500mAh battery – but again, that’s got to power a massive 6.2in display. In comparison the S7 Edge had a 3600mAh cell and a 5.5in screen.
Why so stingy this time? Well maybe Samsung has worked out how to eke out juice from a smaller cell. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s playing it safe rather than pushing things as far as it could.
Why so big?
Screen size may also have partly been dictated by the Note mishap.
If, as seems likely, the Note range died with the 7, then it’d help explain why Samsung’s given the smaller of its two phones a massive 5.8in display, and the bigger one a frankly ridiculous 6.2in screen.
Yeah, the 18.5:9 aspect ratio, curved edges and thin bezels help keep the handset’s overall size down, but even the smaller of the two devices still towers over last year’s S7, while the bigger one leaves the Note 7 looking like a pixie. That image above? It doesn’t show the Samsung Galaxy S8+ next to the Galaxy S8; no, it’s the S8+ next to the Note 7. Below you’ll see the standard S8 next to the S7 – again, it’s noticeably bigger than last year’s model.
Did Samsung need to put such huge displays on its phones? Would, say, 5.5in and 5.8in not have made more sense than 5.8in and 6.2in? Possibly – unless there’s no Note coming later this year and Samsung still wanted to give fans of really big phones an option.
And then there’s the price. The S8 will retail at £689 and the S8+ at £779. Those prices are notably higher than last year’s, when the S7 cost £570 and the S7 Edge £640. They’re also higher than many other Android flagships, although not much more than the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
That price hike will have partly been dictated by all that glass, and no doubt partly, in the UK, by Brexit – but did the demise of the Note have an impact here too? It’s quite possible: Samsung lost billions on the Note 7 fiasco and needs to recoup some of it this year. Higher prices on the S8 and S8+ will be a good start.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
So what we’re left with is a phone with a battery that’s probably a bit too small, a screen that’s probably a bit too big and a price that’s too high – factors which may well all have been the result of the Note 7 thing.
And that’s a real shame, because there’s so much to like about the S8. That curved screen is simply gorgeous. The camera is likely to be one of the best. Bixby may well be genius, the DeX Station could find a real niche and it has plenty of power. Hell there’s even a headphone socket on the bottom.
In short, the S8 is great – but if Samsung could have just got over the Note 7 a bit more quickly, it would have been even better.