SAMSUNG GALAXY S8+ CAMERA: CUTTING EDGE CAM
If you were hoping that the S8+ would join the crop of current smartphones rocking a dual camera set-up, then sorry: you’re out of luck. Samsung seems to be sticking with the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it philosophy, meaning a single shooter on the back.
Not much has changed from last year, either - at least on paper. The 12MP sensor has the same pixel count, same f/1.7 aperture, same optical image stabilisation and same dual-pixel autofocus as the Galaxy S7.
This time around, though, Samsung’s software engineers have added multi-frame image processing. This stitches three snaps together for every press of the shutter button, stripping out blur, tidying up any noise, and sharpening your shot. It’s a similar system to Google’s Pixel, which is still one of the best smartphone cameras around.
Good in theory, but does it work in practice? You’d better believe it does.
The S8+ consistently delivers photos that are packed with detail and with colours that stay true-to-life, without the overly aggressive sharpening seen in rival phones. Image processing is quicker here than on the Pixel, with no noticeable shutter lag or delay, even with auto-HDR enabled.
Contrast and exposure are almost always on-point, and while complex scenes can sometimes defeat the auto-HDR mode, leading to blown out highlights, it’s still up there with the best smartphone cameras we’ve tried.
Up front, the selfie cam has been upgraded to an 8MP sensor, complete with f/1.7 aperture and rapid autofocus that automatically hunts for faces and pulls them into focus. Who could say no to narcissism in greater detail? Quality is noticeably lower than the rear cam, but it still takes decent snaps that are perfect for social sharing.
Firing up the camera app was super speedy, and all that screen estate means a bigger viewfinder for your photography and better appreciation of your photos. It has been given an overhaul to help fuel your selfie addiction, so you can (digitally) zoom quickly with a swipe, take your pick of filters, and add stickers to your shots once you’ve pressed the shutter button. Think a hybrid of Snapchat and Instagram, only built into the default app.
However you use it, the S8+ has one of the best smartphone cameras around. It’s really a three-way tie with the Google Pixel and Apple iPhone 7 Plus - each one has its strengths, and you’ll be pleased with your shots no matter which one sits in your pocket.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S8+ SOFTWARE: A TOUCH OF CLASS
It used to be about as flexible as a brick wall, but this year’s version of Touchwiz is all about choice. Don’t like the Samsung way of doing things? Then there’s probably an alternative hiding somewhere in the Settings screen.
You can choose between a regular app drawer, or iPhone-esque multiple home screens filled with apps. You can turn off the app drawer icon in favour of an upwards swipe anywhere on-screen, and you can finally swap the Back and Recents buttons to match the rest of the Android world. It’s a Christmas miracle. In April.
The Settings screen is sensibly laid out, the notification drawer has room for loads of shortcuts, and you get Android Nougat’s Google Assistant with a long-press of that on-screen Home button.
It’s much less intrusive than previous years, but still has useful additions to Android Nougat - like an improved version of split screen mode that lets you pin part of an app, instead of the whole thing. Handy for ‘working’ on one app, while actually watching the video playing above.
The biggest new addition has to be Bixby, an AI assistant that Samsung says was designed from the ground up to work with mobiles - meaning it ‘sees’ what’s onscreen and what the camera is pointed at. It even has its own dedicated hardware button.
Out of the box, it can recognise text, QR codes and barcodes to simplify your shopping, and detect places and landmarks using the camera to ping you transport and dining tips, but voice control is still in the pipeline.
When it does arrive, voice control will work with most of Samsung’s own apps, as well as a few third party ones, so you’ll be able to order an Uber by voice, send SMS messages or find specific photos in the Gallery app.
Right now, we don’t know whether Bixby will be a killer feature, or if it’ll stand out from Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Being able to remap the Bixby button to another feature would have been nice, too.