Samsung Galaxy Note8: Australian Hands On

What's it like to use Samsung's best phone ever? Read on to find out.

From a scant hour of playing with the new Note8 at a preview session ahead of the new phone's launch in New York, here are my collected musings on everything that's new about Samsung's newest and most powerful and most expensive (...ever) phone.

The Dual Camera Is Full Of Potential

The Galaxy Note8's natural competitor is the iPhone 7 Plus, which also has the same combo of two 12-megapixel sensors and one '1x' wide-angle and one '2x' telephoto lens -- although focal lengths are likely very slightly different between the two. There are other dual lens cameras out there, but Note buyers will likely only be considering a top iPhone and little else.

Both phones take very very good photos both in wide-angle and in telephoto, both are exceptionally good in low light, both are quality from top to bottom. If you're zooming in further than '2x' using digital zoom, though, the Galaxy Note8 should have an edge -- so to speak -- because of that telephoto optical image stabilisation and faster lens, both of which translate into a more usable range of shutter speeds.

On paper, the Note8 is better -- it has optical image stabilisation on both lenses, and its telephoto lens is faster. In reality, the iPhone and Note8 trade blows in the software side of things when it comes to that background blur: the 7 Plus is more refined at applying it, but the Note8 is faster and gives you that very useful dual capture option as well as more post-processing adjustment. It's close, but I'd say its photos are a little better too.

The S-Pen Is Genuinely Better Than Ever

If you've used one decent stylus on a smartphone or tablet, you've used them all -- that's my opinion, at least. For writing and quick sketching, more pressure sensitivity and a finer tip is better, sure, but one size fits all for the most part. Samsung is the benchmark for its stylus, and after years of refinement there's nothing that doesn't feel good about the Note8's.

And that's why it's the software of the S-Pen that sets it apart from the crowd, too. Live Message, for example, is the smallest and most unimportant thing on paper -- write your own GIFs! -- but in practice it's so fun to do, whether you're writing something short and silly and sappy like a birthday message, or just making fun of your idiot friends, that I really think I would use it.

Translating text by hovering over it is useful, converting money by hovering is even moreso. And PenUp, the time-wasting social community of Note user ephemera, now has adult colouring books! If you ever had a moment when you weren't doing anything else on your phone, it might be a fun way to pass the time? As with any high-powered hardware feature, I'm sure it'll take another good third-party app to get the best of it.

The New Software Should Come In Handy

The biggest addition that Samsung brings to the Note8 might be one that doesn't stay exclusive to the phone for long. App Pair, the feature that lets you load two apps in split-screen simultaneously from a single shortcut on the Edge menu, is so straightforward it'd be silly not to bring it to other devices in the future. Which certainly isn't a bad thing, but lessens the appeal of the Note8 in the long run.

Either way, App Pair is fantastic. I can see it being really useful for quick-launching a pair of apps that belong together in specific circumstances -- the big one for me will likely be Google Maps and Spotify or Apple Music or another music streaming service, quick-loading when I jump into my car and put the Note8 into a phone cradle on my dashboard. It has limited utility outside of those specfics, but for convenience, it seems like it'll be a huge boon.

Android 7.1.1 out of the box is about as good as you can expect from a phone at this point in 2017, but it'd be great to get some transparency on what Samsung's plans are to bring Android 8.0 Oreo to its newest and most powerful phone on the cusp of Oreo's launch barely a month from now. We do know that monthly software updates are a definite thing, although not for how long into the future, as is Samsung's usual suite of Knox and first-party productivity tools.

There Are Still A Few Unanswered Questions

What's the battery life like? Good, probably, but maybe slightly inferior to early-2017's Galaxy S8 Plus, which has a smaller screen and larger cell. Almost certainly better than the already good Galaxy Note7 -- when it was around, at least -- due to the more efficient 10-nanometre Exynos 8895 processor versus the 14-nanometre 7000-series chip of the Note7. "All-day" battery life is almost a certainty, two-day battery life is less likely, but it's up to smart Samsung software to get the best out of the hardware.

Will it blow up? Look, almost certainly not. If it does, well... we'll tell you about it.

Gizmodo travelled to New York as a guest of Samsung.


    Are you fucking insane. You think a fucking crappy shit box iPhone plus is the natural contender of the galaxy note. Any other large screen ANDROID phone is the natural contender to the note. Any self respecting Note owner wouldn't touch a lousy iPhone if it was given to them. That rant over i just want to say, congratulations Samsung (and no doubt Apple when they release their latest piece of shit) you have now well and truly outpriced yourself from the disposable mobile phone market. Yes there will still be people who will stupidly pay that price but i think the majority will balk at that price. You do realise that phones generally have a life span of 2 years and 1500 dollars for something that I'll throw away in 2 years is not something I'm going to cop. My tv cost 1500 dollars, my computer cost 1500 dollars, all my whitegoods in my house cost less than 1500 dollars each and i don't expect that I'll throw these things away after two years. Some might say "I'll keep it longer than two years" which is fine but for Samsung that is bad. They want you to buy a new phone at least once every two years so this will hurt their bottom line in the long run. It would make more financial sense to make phones cheaper and strive to get people to upgrade their phones yearly, after all, you release a new phone yearly anyway. Okay, final rant over. Love it, won't buy it, I'm going Chinese this time. Redi note 4 (or whatever the frigging name is ) here i come. Only 250 dollars, 85 percent as good as the note and won't care if i have to throw the phone out for a new one yearly. 1500, go fuck yourself.

      You need anger management classes.

        It was a rant and i even labelled it as such. At 6am in the morning what did you expect plus the stupid comment about iPhones are the natural contender for the note just made me see red. As a general rule, iPhone people stick to iPhones and Android people stick to Android and they rarely change platforms so why even make believe that it's a common thing.

          ooohh someone got triggered. LOLOL

            Speaking of flame wars, I expect Samsung have to claw back some money after they got burnt when their self combustible phones were a fizzle.

          I've gone from apple to android back to apple over the last few years.
          A few of my friends have jumped around as well.

            But it's not a common thing. Once most people like the platform they're on they usually stay mostly because of the investment they've put into it. Music, films, apps, that kind of thing.

              Your probably right.
              Although I would love to see some stats on people changing platform.
              The investment isn't as big as it once was I think either.
              With a lot of things moving to cloud based / subscription what device you are on becomes largely irrelevant.
              I didn't cost me that much when I switched.
              But then I use a lot of OS agnostic type things.

                i switch back and forth fairly easily as I've had the luxury of having a work phone (iPhone) and a personal android device (samsung note 1 as my first), for a few years now to the point that being a fan of Samsung and the iPhone has me having both in hand today (LG V20 and iPhone 7 plus). One thing I've noticed though is over the years how both are moving closer together in terms of their platforms and how they allow apps across both to operate very similarly, while also sharing the same features and functions of their own core apps like mail, calendars etc. So there really isn't much to choose from that is different that makes one clearly better than the other. I have both because my weakness is in falling for the superficial differences of the OS's, and the hardware, and yes it is the studpidest reason for dropping cash every couple of years, but I indulge my guilty pleasure for being in the position to do so for now.

                Again, nothing wrong with both nor for switching back and forth, both being that close to each other these days, it's really the superficial almost that divides people across the divide, so i find.

              I've definitely done this exact thing. I've back and forwards between the two a number of times, including windows phone with the lumia 920. Now all I'm interested in is actually the Samsung s series or Notes, and iPhone. I've invested in both sides, so if I really felt like I wanted to jump over, I could do so.

              Not sure when the next time I jump will be though, loving how iOS is at the moment.

                Same here, LG V20 and iPhone 7 plus currently. Both currently satisfy and i'm skipping this year, and hopefully 2018. The Note 8 comeback is looking good, but hopefully a future LG V40 might include a stylus to give the Note some competition.

          Sorry, that's not true. maybe from your point of view. We go to where the best tech is heading.
          People move around from iPhone to Android and Android to iPhone. I know a lot of people moved to Android from iPhone, and I also few move from Android to iPhone and they love the simplicity of it.

          PS. take a chill pill and anger management.

            I'm not saying some people don't swap OS's, I'm saying that most people that are considering the note 8 aren't even thinking about iPhones. Usually it's a lg g6 or some other Android phone. Remember, when you swap over to another OS you will generally lose all the apps and music you've paid for and that hurts if you've spent hundreds of dollars on them.

            Last edited 29/08/17 9:57 am

              That's your view/opinion. If you can't prove it as a fact stop getting your knickers in a twist. What you said you could have said politely as well. Just because this is online and not face to face you don't have to go all ape-schit on it.

        I think he has taken the Roid's out of Android and had the whole lot!

      Did you expect it to be $250? $500? $750? How much were you willing to pay? They have to make back the money from the Note 7 somehow!

      Will wait and see carrier pricing but I'm probably in!

        While Mr BackFromTheDead may well need some anger management I do agree that these devices should not be built to be disposable and should not be treated as disposable. The premium models from these brands aren't marketed that way but there's absolutely a culture of disposing of phones every two years and often less. Bloody Telstra with their New Phone Feeling annual replacement....

      "but Note buyers will likely only be considering a top iPhone and little else"

      Very funny.

      Fred, is that you...? :P

      haha this guy. what a butthead.

        Why, because i think that 1500 dollars is too much for a phone. Just wait until Apple releases theirs. It'll be over 1500.

          Yeah, the top tier 256/512gb (whichever they choose) will definitely be more than $1500, but just to undercut Samsung, they’ll release a non-expandable 64/128gb model for about $150 less.

          haha yeah mate, thats why. Clearly.

          funny, i bet you had a $1100 phone 5 years ago and were happy, now you blame the poor aussie dollar against the US on Samsung haha. the dreamtime of parity with the US has come and gone my friend..
          Basically i'm saying these phones aren't too much dearer than they were 5 years ago if you look at the US dollar. Yes a bit more, sure, but look what you're getting in a phone these days. If you want cheap shit go buy cheap shit. R&D doesn't grow on trees, someones gotta pay for it.

            Um my note 5 cost a thousand 2 years ago. Before that every phone was around the 800 - 900 mark. My next phone will be a Xiaomi mi mix 2. Beats the note on the benchmark, larger battery, same processor, better looking. It's 95 percent of the note at less than half the price. Check it out.

              I like the china phones dont you worry. I just live on a plan so it doesn't bother me. Monthly installments is how i live my life haha. Im a samsung fanboy though i do admit. Im a sucker for a nice phone. I wanna get a china phone the s8 clone one just to see how it goes for 200 bucks amd have it as a backup

          I still buy them... lol but Apple definitely go over $1500 for 512GB version

      I'm sorry. Disposable? If I'm spending more than $50 on something there's no way in hell it's going to be "disposable". I still have a Galaxy S3 that works just fine. my kids have an S5 each, one was an old work phone the other was private. Both still work. My wife had a Note 4 up until 6 months ago when it was dropped on the ground then run over. (in an otterbox, as are all my phones, but no case is going to protect from that) Insurance paid for an S7. And I'm using a Pixel XL, and honestly can't see me going back to Samsung. I'd never even consider an iPhail, but the principal still stands.

      The only person calling these things disposable is you. If you're treating any of these as disposable, you're the one at fault here. Not the manufacturers.

        The manufacturers treat the phones as disposable. OS updates end after 2 or 3 years. Apple's OS updates are specifically made to make older iPhones to run slower to encourage customers to upgrade. Batteries in phones start to degrade after 3 years. Everything about phones get obselete after 3 years. Yes they're a disposable item. Most people throw their phones away even if they're still working. Yes they're disposable, everything in this world is disposable. Where's the first car you've ever driven.? I'm sure it could of been fixed and still used but no, it's now obsolete and gone to car heaven. That's just the way it works so we can all have better and newer things.

    I upgrade every year. Telstra charge about $500 if you do (or free if you hand your phone back in). I simply sell my phone for around $950, pocket $450 and pay Telstra out. So I just keep paying the monthly fee for my calls which I’m happy with, and make some money on the side.

      Not sure on your calculations, but considering the price of Telstra's contracts I strongly doubt you're genuinely in profit.

      What 12-month old phone are you selling for $950?

        I regularly sell my top tier iPhone every year for around $900-$1100 on eBay. Original box and all accessories unused seems to rope in more interested parties. This is, of course, assuming one of my children hasn’t biffed it across the room, recently. I which case I’d gift it to a cousin!

    0.1 inch larger screen yet 200mAh smaller battery than S8+.... okay, 50% more ram, twin cameras and a pen... And that is worth USD250 more than the S8+?!?! Seems like poor value to me.

      The difference is AU$150 not US$250

        Noted. Good to see AUD difference is now reasonable, still, the specs hardly justify the price increase (and the whole product even existing)....

    nearly 22grams heavier than the S8+ even with a smaller battery , and around 200grams heavier than the note 3, note 5 and note 7 ... extremely disappointed :(

      There's no way it's 200 grams heavier than the phones in the Note range. Was that a typo? Maybe 20 grams...

      it's a bigger phone. of course it's going to be heavier.

        at 0.1 inches larger screen than a S8+, and 200mAh battery decrease than the S8+, how can it be justified at all?

          Um... Perhaps it's stronger? Are you seriously complaining about a 22g increase? Is that extra 22g going to cause you an injury lifting and holding it?

    Whilst they're amazing phones, by god they're ugly.

    As an S8+ owner, why didn't they move the finger print reader into the middle?

    Last edited 24/08/17 9:37 am

      I assume because it would cost too much to reengineer it, for what is essentially a big galaxy s8 with a pen. Maybe in the s9 they will re-examine the fingerprint reader.

      They like finger prints on the lens... it's part of the "Samsung lens filter™".. makes for dreamy photos...

    As a happy S8+ user, I have taken note of the new features but find them insufficiently notable to change at this time! 🙄

    Was looking forward to seeing this...not a real looker though is it.

      People keep saying this but the first thing I do when I gt a new phone is put a case on it.
      So what it looks like becomes largely irrelevant.
      I never really got why people are always so concerned about how their phone "looks".

        exactly. unless you're like @backfromthedead and treat them as disposable, why wouldn't you?

          Telstra has a deal where you can update your phone yearly. They only brought that in because a lot of people see their phone as disposable. You very naive to think it's only me that thinks that way. The commenter below one of my comments changes his phone yearly, is he wrong too.

          Last edited 26/08/17 9:20 am

            maybe rich is the better description.

              After googling it, it seems more and more people are starting to keep their phones longer than the usual two year upgrade cycle (now over 50 percent in the US ) and i could assume that is because phones have now reached the price where people balk at throwing them out after two years. If i decided to buy the new note i would definitely keep it longer than two years but I'm going to try xiaomi for a change. Their phones are right up their spec wise but cost only 600 or less. That suits me because my phone's are generally trashed in two years. I just hope the xiaomi mi mix 2 gets released here. Great looking phone, benchmarks higher than the note and will be 90% or more screen to body ratio. It has a 6.4 inch screen in a body slightly larger than my note 5. Full ceramic body. Close to vanilla Android.

    Heavy, looks like shovel :), lots of amazing technology inside, and battery would most likely spoil it .. Would i use stylus? Hmmm..

    Backfromthedead certainly makes a good point. It is just getting insane, a real first world problem.

    Would I plonk down 1500 for a phone though? In a moment of thoughtlessness I am thinking why not? An S8+ is only a 1349 locally or 999 as a grey market import? Then there is the move to a wireless headphones - 499 for the Bose QC 35 or Look at 600-700 or maybe more for Sony MDR 1000x / B&O Beoplay

    Why I wouldn't - well it won't be the iPhone - I moved from the iPhone to Samsung Galaxy 2 and though tempted sometimesI won't move back.

    Pixel XL 2 maybe, Nokia 8 (maybe not - not enough wow factor plus I can't have a bath with it). Both don't have crappy extra software that you can't delete - who wants 2 browsers! And 2 digital voice assistants. Bixby who cares. What happened to ask Jeeves?

    It's expensive disposable tech and there are good strategies like selling it but I can't be bothered - it will eventually get relegated to the draw and then to the garbage (When I am told my museum of technology is no longer allowed).

    Maybe I will wait until years end then pick up something then?

    Long live consumerism. Just buy it .. or not ?! Supply and demand will sort it out.

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