Samsung Galaxy S8 review: Essence distilled

GSMArena team, 21 April 2017.

Telephony and loudspeaker

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is available as a single-SIM phone (like the unit we have), but there is a model with dual-SIM support with a hybrid slot.

The call log and phonebook are still in the same combined interface, now joined by a third tab called Places. This should be a yellow pages-like type of thing with phone numbers of local services, listed by category, which you should be able to access without a browser or Google Maps. It does, however require your location, after all we did say 'local services'. Well, it didn't really work for us - it didn't find anything. The dialer itself can be summoned from any tab by tapping on the green button in the bottom right corner.

Dialer - Samsung Galaxy S8 review In a call - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Contacts - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Places - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Places - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Dialer In a call Contacts Places

The Do Not Disturb mode can be put on an automated schedule. When it's on, only priority notifications can get through and you decide what counts as "priority" - it can be anything from calls by select contacts to reminders from key apps.

Do not disturb - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Do not disturb - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Do not disturb - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Do not disturb

The Samsung Galaxy Galaxy S8 has a single, bottom-firing speaker - that setup hasn't changed for a while on Samsung flagships. It scored an Average mark on our loudspeaker test matching the S8+, so at least the smaller overall size hasn't negatively affected volume.

Speakerphone testVoice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
HTC 10 (Theater mode) 61.9 66.0 62.1 Below Average
Sony Xperia XZ 61.6 65.5 67.6 Below Average
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) 66.2 64.8 66.8 Below Average
Sony Xperia XZs 62.4 65.5 73.3 Average
Samsung Galaxy Note5 66.9 67.1 71.8 Average
OnePlus 3T 61.0 69.3 78.3 Good
Samsung Galaxy S8 66.2 70.5 72.5 Good
Samsung Galaxy S8+ 68.5 69.4 71.6 Good
Samsung Galaxy S7 69.5 69.3 71.1 Good
LG G6 66.8 68.8 74.5 Good
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 70.0 69.1 71.8 Good
Samsung Galaxy Note7 69.7 69.9 72.3 Good
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 68.3 72.2 72.9 Good
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) 66.6 66.1 81.5 Good
Huawei P10 Plus 64.8 69.8 82.5 Good
LG V20 68.2 68.6 80.9 Good
Google Pixel 74.0 68.3 78.0 Very Good
HTC U Ultra (Theater) 67.3 73.1 80.6 Very Good
HTC U Ultra (Music) 61.7 73.1 86.7 Very Good
Google Pixel XL 73.4 72.1 84.1 Excellent
Huawei Mate 9 Pro (stereo) 67.6 74.2 91.7 Excellent
Huawei Mate 9 83.1 74.5 85.0 Excellent

Text input

The Galaxy S8 uses the Samsung Keyboard, which long-time Samsung users swear by. It's quite feature-packed, with a dedicated numbers row, a row above that for word suggestions and additional characters on each key (accessible via long-press).

Keyboard - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Keyboard - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Keyboard - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Keyboard

If that seems too tall, you can scale the keyboard down (or up, if you want bigger keys). We don't like that the Space key is quite short, though.

Keyboard size: Default - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Keyboard size: Smallest - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Keyboard size: Largest in landscape | High-contrast mode - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Keyboard size: Largest in landscape | High-contrast mode - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Keyboard size: Default Smallest Largest in landscape | High-contrast mode

Additional typing tools include swipe input, My Hot Keys (predefined phrases that can be typed by long-pressing a number key) and voice dictation.

Other apps

Samsung continues to bundle the Microsoft app package that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and Skype.

Microsoft app package - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Microsoft app package - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Microsoft app package - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Microsoft app package - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Microsoft app package

The Samsung-customized web browser makes use of the Samsung Pass service and features Web sign in - a password manager secured by your iris or fingerprint. This makes logins as simple as unlocking the phone and people can't peek over your shoulder to see your password.

That's sort-of good to have, as using a third-party password manager may not work with anything other than fingerprint (Last Pass doesn't), and the fingerprint reader isn't super conveniently placed. That said, you'd be losing the syncing across devices if you opt for Samsung's solution.

With the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy S8 review With the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy S8 review With the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
With the Samsung browser, your fingerprint is your password

S Health has been renamed to Samsung Health but it's the same thing - it can fully utilize the heart rate and blood oxygen sensors. It also tracks walking/running/cycling and you can manually input water and coffee intake and so on.

S Health is now Samsung Health - Samsung Galaxy S8 review S Health is now Samsung Health - Samsung Galaxy S8 review S Health is now Samsung Health - Samsung Galaxy S8 review S Health is now Samsung Health - Samsung Galaxy S8 review S Health is now Samsung Health - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
S Health is now Samsung Health

Device maintenance can be accessed from Settings, not just from the Edge panel. It still offers the same features and takes care of battery, RAM, Storage and Device security. This gives you tools to clean-up unnecessary files or track down apps which drain the battery or use too much RAM. There are buttons to do this one by one but also one big Optimize now button to do it all.

Device maintenance - Samsung Galaxy S8 review One-tap optimization - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Performance modes - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Storage - Samsung Galaxy S8 review RAM - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Device maintenance One-tap optimization Performance modes Storage RAM

Battery management has two power saving modes - Medium and Maximum. Medium limits display resolution and CPU speed, decreases brightness and turns off the AOD and the background network usage. Maximum is even more severe, setting a black background and disabling most of the smartphone's functionality, to help you squeeze a few hours of usage on even very low charge.

Battery management - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Medium power saving - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Maximum power saving - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Maximum power saving - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Maximum power saving - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Battery management Medium power saving Maximum power saving

The My Files app is the default file browser. It features Google Drive and Samsung Cloud integration. You can ZIP folders to make them easier to share as a single file, and you can do batch actions.

My Files - Samsung Galaxy S8 review My Files - Samsung Galaxy S8 review My Files - Samsung Galaxy S8 review My Files - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
My Files

Finally, there's Galaxy Apps, Samsung's own app store. Galaxy Essentials is a good place to find great tools (like Kids Mode), but for general app shopping, you would probably be better off with Google Play.

Galaxy Apps - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Galaxy Apps - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Galaxy Apps - Samsung Galaxy S8 review Galaxy Apps - Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Galaxy Apps