Samsung Galaxy S8: Australian Hands On

The Samsung Galaxy S8 has finally been officially introduced to the world, after a long series of leaks. Now that we know what it looks like and what its vital statistics are, here's what it's like to actually use.

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When you first hold the Galaxy S8 or the slightly elongated Galaxy S8+ in your hand, it's familiar — especially to anyone that's used a Galaxy S6 edge or S6 edge plus from 2015 or last year's S7 edge — but at the same time you quickly realise that something is different. So much of the front of the Galaxy S8 is screen.

Comparing the S8 alongside its chief competition — the LG G6 and the Google Pixel — it looks so much more high-tech, even if its screen ratio is nearly identical to the LG's. The lack of bezel is a huge boon for Samsung and I think it'll go a long way to sell the Galaxy S8 as a futuristic handset. The same is even truer of the even larger Galaxy S8+, which fits a stupidly large 6.2-inch display into the space a 5.5-inch used to occupy.

Adapting to the longer screen's more extended 18.5:9 ratio is much, much easier than I thought it might be. I'm a 16:9 widescreen groupie from way back, but I can't deny the extra screen real estate that you get at the same physical phone size. If you can do away with those pesky side bezels, as Samsung has done, and minimise the top and bottom bezels, then all you're left with is that sweet high-res Super AMOLED display.

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Charging comes from USB Type-C down the bottom, there's still a headphone jack, and up top you'll see a unified SIM tray that holds a nanoSIM plus a slot for microSD expandable storage of up to 2TB — although, at the moment, only 256GB cards are available. The phone itself has 64GB of onboard storage, which should be plenty for most users, but having the option for removable storage is definitely preferable to not.

The first phones to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 10-nanometre processor internationally and Samsung's own Exynos 8895 10nm octa-core in Australia, the S8 is fast. Supremely fast. More CPU and GPU power than ever before makes for a phone that doesn't slow down during the complex tasks I tried out on it. Moreover, it'll support 1Gbps download speeds on Telstra's 4G network in Australia — in select CBD areas, at least.

As is standard Samsung these days, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are supremely well built. Curved screen edges on both sides bleed into a thin metal strip that runs the perimeter of the phone and houses four buttons in total — power, volume up and down, and a dedicated Bixby button that can be tapped to launch the Bixby home screen or held to launch the Siri-esque voice assistant AI.

As for Bixby? At the moment, it's a bit of a non-starter for Australia in terms of its voice assistant smarts. It needs to be localised for Australian accents and services, and its contextual tap-replacing value is limited in the first place to 10 Samsung first-party apps anyway. It's a great concept, and even Siri got off to a slow start, but at the moment I wouldn't be buying the Galaxy S8 on the appeal of Bixby alone.

It's got some serious conceptual value — point your phone at a plant and learn its Latin name, point your phone at the Flatiron Building in New York and learn its history and find out what restaurants are nearby — but in reality, most users will use it for mundane tasks like setting timers. Bixby's real value will come when third-party apps like Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook and Twitter embrace it and enable their apps for it.

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In terms of software, the Galaxy S8 doesn't depart far at all from the Grace UX interface design of the Galaxy Note7 that came before it. It's clean and refined — one of the better skins on top of stock Android that I've seen, although Google's Pixel Launcher and its pared-back layout still reigns supreme. Buying into Samsung's phones, though, gets you better integration with Samsung's ecosystem of add-on gadgets, three of which were also introduced today.

Image: EFTM

The new Gear VR using the Galaxy S8 is predictably good. The same 110-degree field of view means there's no advantage beyond heat output when you're using an S8 versus an S7, but having that motion-sensitive controller is a huge bonus when it comes to actually playing games. It turns the Gear VR's mobile virtual reality from a gimmick to a legit source of fun.

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The most important thing, though, is the price — and it's perfectly reasonable considering the quality of phone you're getting. The Galaxy S8 will set you back $1199, while the larger S8+ will be $1349; that's iPhone or Google Pixel money, although the LG G6 is somewhat cheaper. You can also get the phone on a bunch of different plans, which might make it more appealing to those that don't have the cash to splash on an outright purchase.

Every Aussie Telco's Plan Pricing For The Samsung Galaxy S8

'.Looking for a complete list of Australian mobile carriers' pricing for the Galaxy S8? Well, you've come to the right place..'

Read more

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