Samsung unboxes Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets and accessories


— 12:38 PM on March 29, 2017

Samsung's Unpacked presentation just came to a close in New York City, and as expected, the company announced its upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones at the event. Along with the new phones, the company also showed off its Dex desktop dock and the second-generation Gear 360 camera.

This is Samsung's first big phone launch after the disastrous Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, and DJ Koh—Samsung's President of Mobile Communications Business—immediately acknowledged the company's troubles in his opening address. The theme for the event was "unbox your phone," seemingly in reference to the S8 phones' "Infinity Display."

The new curved, near-bezel-less display is the highlight of the new design. The Galaxy S8's display is 5.8" diagonal, while the S8+ display is 6.2" across. Both displays are Super AMOLED screens in 2960x1440 resolution. That peculiar proportion works out to a 2.05:1 aspect ratio that gives Samsung room for on-screen buttons without covering up any of the 16:9 display area used by most video content. Curiously, Samsung's specifications indicate that the default resolution used by the phone will be "Full HD+" rather than the native "Quad HD+". Samsung also noted that the Galaxy S8 phones are the first ever to receive the UHD Alliance's Mobile HDR Premium certification. The certification implies that the handsets support 10-bit color and are able to reproduce at least 90% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.

The company is shy about explaining exactly what SoC is in the device. During the presentation, it stated that the S8 phones use "a 10nm processor." As it's done in the past, Samsung will offer different SoCs in different world regions. The US, China, and Japan will reportedly get the Snapdragon 835, while the rest of the world will see the Exynos 8895. Whatever the onboard SoC, it'll be connected to 4GB of LPDDR4 memory and either 64GB or 128GB of flash storage depending on the country. That storage is expandable via a hybrid UFS/microSD card slot, too.


The new fancy wireless charger

Thanks to the new big screen, the handsets' single speaker has been shunted to the bottom of the device, next to the USB Type-C connector and the 3.5-mm headphone jack. Samsung purchased Harman last year and said that it used the company's expertise to develop a high-quality pair of earbuds (with AKG branding) that will be included with the S8 handsets. Samsung will sell the earbuds separately, too. There's no need to worry about dropping your phone in the pool, either—both models have IP68 certification, meaning they can be in 1.5m of water for 30 minutes before gurgling.

The phone's front-facing camera is an 8MP shooter with an extra-broad 80° field of view intended for "wide selfies." Meanwhile, the rear camera appears to be essentially the same 12MP, f/1.7, dual-pixel autofocus unit used on the S7 and the Galaxy Note 7 phones. In its presentation, Samsung talked about the camera's ability to do multi-frame image stabilization, as well as its ability to take 240-FPS slow-motion videos. The Galaxy S8 has a 3000 mAh battery, while its bigger cousin packs a little more juice at 3500 mAh. The optional wireless charger can now prop up the phone at an angle, too.

Samsung talked a lot about device security. The new phones include an iris scanner, an inheritance from the Note 7. Shoved out of the way by the display, the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back of the phone adjacent to the rear camera. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will also support face recognition to unlock the device, akin to Windows Hello. Samsung says that Pass (the company's password manager) will also support biometric authentication, including iris and face recognition. Some third-party apps are expected to take advantage of these features, too.

An interesting device coming for the S8 and S8+ is the Samsung Dex, a dock that lets users work with the phone as it if were an Android-powered desktop PC. The demo showed person placing the phone on the dock, unlocking it with face recognition, and then editing a Powerpoint presentation and e-mailing it using a wireless keyboard and mouse. Using a smartphone in this way isn't completely novel, but Dex looks like a convenient means to do so.

Unfortunately, Samsung left out an important bit of news about the new handsets: the price. We have a release date, however. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available stateside on April 21, in a choice of five colors. A dual-SIM option will be available in some markets.

Besides the phones, Samsung also officially introduced Bixby, its answer to Cortana and Siri. Bixby aims to do be more than just a way to control your phone via voice, like a glorified Google Assistant. Instead, Bixby is a context-sensitive, meaning that it's aware of what you're doing and takes simple, natural language commands. The on-stage demonstration used a command as vague as "capture this and send it to Cindy", although the demonstrator had to clarify which "Cindy" he meant using the touchscreen. Samsung also emphasized that users can use Bixby to set context-sensitive reminders like "remind me when I get home." Similar features are already available with Cortana and Siri, but it's nice to see them become more ubiquitous.

The company says that its ultimate vision for Bixby is to have it as the user's primary interface for not only the phone, but for an entire family of IoT devices. To that end, it unveiled a device called the Samsung Connect Home, a combination of a mesh Wi-Fi router and IoT hub. Used in combination with Samsung SmartThings devices, the company says an S8 owner could do things like check the contents of their refrigerator when they're at the grocery store. The announced stopped short of saying that said user could use Bixby for this, but it appears to be the next logical step.

Finally, the company showed off its second-generation Gear 360 camera. Samsung didn't give a tremendous amount of details about the device, but it's a 360-degree camera meant for easily "capturing experiences" in up to 4K resolution. Samsung gave away a Gear 360 camera to everyone in attendance at the event, so expect to hear more about it around the web before long.

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