Get to Know the Galaxy S8
Every new Samsung flagship phone comes packed to the gills with a number of new innovations, but the Galaxy S8 is one of the most focused handsets the company has ever released. There's a real emphasis on design, intelligence and being more connected. Here's a guide to all the new features included on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that have made Samsung's latest flagships one of our picks for the best smartphones available right now – though we're still keeping an eye out for the Galaxy S9 and rumored Galaxy X foldable phone.
MORE: Galaxy S8 Review
Extra Wide-Screen Infinity Display
People are constantly demanding bigger and bigger displays, but at some point, that size becomes a serious detriment to easy one-handed operation. That's why the Galaxy S8 features a screen with an extra wide 18.5:9 aspect ratio, which offers considerably more real estate compared to similarly sized devices, but without requiring two hands all the time to control the phone. Samsung dubbed it the Infinity Display, and it was a breakthrough in smartphone design that earned the Galaxy S8 one of our Innovation Awards for 2017. But size isn't the only thing that sets the S8's Super AMOLED display apart. With a resolution of 2960 x 1440, pictures and videos have never looked sharper on the small screen.
Samsung's new Bixby assistant can tell you the weather or who won the latest baseball game, but its real purpose is to serve as an extension of your phone's interface. Pretty much anything that you can touch or tap on your phone, you'll be able to control through Bixby with your voice. You can say "send this picture to my mom" and Bixby will know exactly which photo you're talking about, and even ask which messaging service you'd like to use. Voice-control features were missing when the S8 arrived in April as Samsung tried to iron out some kinks with Bixby's voice-recognition features, but the feature is fully available now, if a little hit-or-miss. Other capabilities include Bixby Vision, in which you point the S8's camera at something and Bixby uses image recognition to look up all sorts of contextual information about that item, including where you can buy it.
With Samsung's elegant and simple DeX dock, you can turn the S8 into a mini desktop PC for much less than what you'd pay for the real thing. All you have to is hook the $150 DeX up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and then set the S8 onto the built-in USB-C connector — you're ready to go. In use, the DeX offers a surprisingly clean and simple interface, while also giving you the flexibility to multi-task as you use multiple windows or full-screen apps, though our DeX review found the device to be a work in progress. Although Samsung doesn't advertise it, the DeX dock even supports Windows 10 Mobile Continuum through phones like the Lumia 950.
With the new Samsung Connect app built into the S8, your phone can be the control center for many of your smart home devices. All you have to do is pull down from the top of the screen to see a list of all your connected devices. Since Samsung Connect includes support for third-party gadgets, it's not limited only to Samsung products. However, you will need the Samsung Connect Home, a combination Wi-Fi routher and SmartThings hub, to control third-party devices. The $169 Samsung Connect Home hub is now available from Best Buy.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Qualcomm's latest flagship mobile system-on-chip is used to brilliant affect in the Galaxy S8. When the phone launched, our testing demonstrated it was fasted than every other Android phone on the market. While that's no longer the case – the OnePlus 5T and Google Pixel 2 barely outshine it in performance benchmarks, and next year's Snapdragon 845 figures to further boost speed – the Galaxy S8 is still plenty fast. The Snapdragon 835 makes Samsung's latest much more power efficient too, which helps explain the Galaxy S8's strong showing in our battery test.
8-Megapixel Selfie Cam
Although the back 12-megapixel camera on the Galaxy S8 hasn't changed much from the S7 (though software improvements are apparently leading to some sharper-looking images), Samsung boosted the phone's front camera from 5-megapixels to 8-MP on the S8. Smart autofocus features will help your selfies look even sharper than before.
Android 7.0 with Slicker Interface
While it almost goes without saying that launching a new flagship phone without the latest version of Android would be a big mistake, we were glad to see Nougat running smoothly on the Galaxy S8 back in the spring. The biggest feature in 7.0 is of course the Google Assistant, which works seamlessly alongside Bixby to let you search for almost anything just by using your voice. It's also worth noting that you don't have to press a separate button to see all of your apps; just swipe down on the home screen. Fortunately, S8 users won't have to wait very long for the next version of Android; at the time of writing, the S8's update to 8.0 Oreo is currently undergoing its fifth beta.
Virtual Home Button
With the Galaxy S8 moving to an almost completely bezel-free design, there's no room in front for a physical home button. Thankfully, Samsung has implemented a virtual touch button that serves the same purpose, complete with haptic feedback. Too bad the fingerprint sensor is now on the back next to the camera.
New Gear VR (and Gear VR Controller)
A new design for the S8 means Samsung also had to update its popular VR headset. So for the new Gear VR, Samsung has not only changed the shape of the headset to accommodate both the Galaxy S8 and S8+, it's also packing in the new Gear VR controller (free of charge with pre-orders), which features a handy trigger button, a large circular touchpad and 3-axis controls.
New Gear 360 Camera
With the Galaxy S8, Samsung is trying to push the idea that the phone can be enhanced by other devices in the Galaxy ecosystem. That includes an all-new Gear 360 that lets you capture full 360-video in 4K. You'll also be able to tether the Gear 360 to your phone and livestream in 2K. The camera costs $229.