Samsung flops with the S8... but I still might get one

Discussion in 'Mobile Phones / Entertainment' started by Hanson, Apr 12, 2017.

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  1. 1 Apr 12, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
    Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    For the want of a fingerprint reader, all was lost.

    The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the most beautiful phones I've ever seen. From all accounts, they are as sleek and gorgeous in person, and a joy to hold. Look out at the rest of the smartphone world -- the Galaxy S8 looks like it came from a sci-fi movie. Or the future. They have outshone Apple in the "art posing as technology" field. But the phone is flawed, and Synaptics ruined it.

    Samsung had contracted Synaptics to provide a fingerprint reader that would sit under the screen and allow you to do away with a separate sensor for that purpose. Here's what they made:

    http://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2016/12/13/13939258/synaptics-fs9100-fingerprint-sensor-glass-galaxy-s8-samsung

    One problem -- it didn't work. Or, at least, Samsung couldn't get it to work well enough. Maybe with more time it might have come together, but they were running out of time and had to come up with a place for a separate sensor. That ended up being in the back, next to the camera module. Why there? Because the entire phone had been engineered to the micron. There was nowhere else to go without redesigning the entire phone. So why was that real estate even available? I believe that the fingerprint sensor occupies the space that Samsung had created for a secondary camera, either a wide angle, like the LG G6, or a telephoto lens, like the iPhone 7+. That would explain why there is no rumored secondary camera. It also explains why the existing camera is quite literally the same module as the S7 -- the real camera improvement was going to be a second camera, a camera that got bumped for the fingerprint sensor out of necessity.

    As a result, the fingerprint reader is awkwardly placed (even more so for the taller S8+) and no real camera improvements are offered, other than some better post processing and a higher MP selfie camera. These are not exciting features.

    I'm still enjoying the shit out of my S7 Edge -- it's got a bunch of things I'd always wanted in a single package: A great camera, fantastic battery life, one handed use, and the best screen on the market. What would I gain with the S8? Nothing. I'd lose battery. What would I gain with the S8+? Nothing. I'd lose one handed use. Oh, and here's the thing -- I love the hardware button. It comes in handy in all sorts of ways. I'd lose that too. In the S8, Samsung has delivered a beautiful phone with a step back in functionality. That's not my kind of trade off.

    So it looks like I'm going to keep the S7 Edge for another year. The last time I had the same phone for 2 years was... I don't even remember. Maybe never. I did hold on to my S2 for 18 months because I waited for the Note 2. I ditched that within 6 months because I couldn't deal with a phone that wasn't comfortably one handed.

    So there are two scenarios where I do get the S8:

    1) The S8 battery actually lasts as long as the S7 Edge. Doubtful, as it is 20% smaller.
    2) The S8+ is still usable with one hand. Again, doubtful, because... holy shit, have you seen the size of that thing? It's not mush wider, but the tallness of the screen makes pulling down the notification shade an exercise in manual gymnastics, and the position of the fingerprint sensor is just balls out crazy.

    There is a third scenario where I hold one and my lust for the new outstrips my desire for the practical. Let's be real -- I can TOTALLY see that happening. I am weak like that.

    Goddammit Synaptics, you really screwed me over.
     
  2. Alf S

    Alf S Banned
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    Having a fingerprint reader on the back of the phone isn't always a bad deal. I love having it on the back on my Axon 7. It's very natural feeling to use when opening the phone or an app.

    [​IMG]


    Now the PLACEMENT of the reader is key, and if it's sitting to the right of the camera lens and not centered, then yes, I can see that being awkward to operate.
     
  3. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    The location of the sensor is exactly the problem with the S8. It's both too high up on the phone for convenient use and close enough to the camera lens that the S8 will carry nag reminders to clean it periodically. That is to say, they are expecting users to accidentally touch the lens.
     
  4. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Hm, I was tempted to pre-order for the Gear freebies, but maybe I'll just wait for a price drop on the S7.
     
  5. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    I believe the LG G6 is very competitively priced right now. On some carriers, it is half the cost of the S8 and comes with a free Google Home. But the G6 feels like a step back from the S7 Edge, even with the secondary camera (which is merely wider angle and not telephoto like I want). And I gotta have Samsung Pay. Android Pay and Apple Pay are severely limited in the US because they are NFC only. Neither has MST to support magnetic card readers like Samsung Pay has. It's the closest thing to a universal mobile pay system.
     
  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Thanks for the explanation. I'd heard that the fingerprint reader was on the back because of the bezel-less screen and thus was a bad thing. That seemed odd since there have been phones to do that with positive reviews. I didn't understand the actual location was a lousy kludge.

    Samsung is really taking it on the chin from unforced errors.
     
  7. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    I got to play around with both models and there's no chance I'm "upgrading" to the S8 line.

    As suspected, the S8+ is too large and unwieldy for one handed use. There is simply no way I would ever get this phone

    The S8 is usable one handed, so that's a plus. But not having a physical home button is a pain, the battery is slightly worse than the S7 Edge, and being narrower, all the screen elements scale down to fit, making text look visibly smaller. Worse yet, the fingerprint scanner is in the worst place possible if you hold the phone in your left hand like I do. I have to contort my hand as if I'm doing some weird gang sign to reach it one handed. It's really a deal breaker.

    Camera shows zero improvement from the S7 series as expected. There is literally no upside to getting this phone over the S7 Edge except maybe it looks nicer.
     
  8. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I've definitely missed my meds this week
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    If people forgive Samsung for their Fire Phone, the S8 will sell like gangbusters. It's gorgeous. The full-face screen is almost mesmerizing. The body seems narrow compared to the screen size and is more easily held for such a large screen.
     
  10. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    Which one? The branded Fire Phone or the one which actually caught fire?
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    The one that actually burst in flames. :)
     
  12. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    I guess it was inevitable in some way, but circumstance dictated that I ended up with the Galaxy S8 after all. The precipitating incident was a dropped Galaxy S7 Edge with a cracked screen that could only be replaced with a Silver S7 Edge (the S7 Edge was an end if life device at Verizon and black was out of stock). Although I didn't particularly want to upgrade, my aversion to silver phones trumped my aversion to the S8.

    In the end, there are a host of drawbacks and advantages to the S8, with the net result being a wash. I'm not super excited by this phone, but I am not upset about it. Give me a few weeks and I might be singing its praises.

    Advantages

    The S8 form factor is an improvement. It's narrower than the S7E, which makes it easier to hold and operate with one hand. It's also lighter, and has less of a tendency to slip from my hand. This ergonomic improvement is the biggest upgrade.

    The onscreen nav buttons allow me to remap the back button to the left of the home button. As a primarily left handed user, not having to reach over the home key to go back is a welcome change. I also like that the key changes to a minimize keyboard button once the keyboard is activated - I lost count of the times I hit back to minimize the keyboard only to move back a screen instead. To be honest, that's the way it should have been in the first place, but nevertheless, this is a great feature. The nav bar also pops up with a menu button for legacy apps. Huge thumbs up for me.

    Google Assistant is everywhere now. "OK Google" will activate it from any screen.

    Downsides

    I'm going to have to buy new USB C cables. I know it was inevitable, but... Ugh.

    Due to the narrower screen, all the elements on screen are smaller. This is not the best time for this to happen, as I am getting older and my eyes aren't what they used to be.

    The onscreen nav bar gets into a way when I'm typing sometimes. It's not as bad as I expected, but sometimes when I reach for the space bar or punctuation, I will hit the nav button below it. I will say, I expected it to happen way more than it does.

    FINGERPRINT SCANNER SUUUUUCKS. For a whole host of reasons, having it in the back sucks. But this is compounded by the placement - it's awkward unlocking the phone now. It's takes me two or three tries, not because of the quality of the scanner, but because I can't get my finger in the right area. I almost have to turn the phone around just to look it in. It's a total fail.

    And as it's turns out, battery life on the S8 is comparable to the S7E after all. If it's less, it's a skosh less.
     
  13. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    One more negative - the wifi on the S8 is noticeably weaker than the S7E. I had no problems with wifi in my bedroom, but it's very choppy now.

    However, the fingerprint scanner issue may be moot now, because holy shit, the Iris scanner is da bomb! It's fast as hell in normal lighting, but the screen lights up full blast to allow it to work in pitch black darkness as well. Since I don't wear glasses or contacts, this obviates the need for the fingerprint scanner.

    Also, I dropped it on the bathroom floor not 48 hours after activating it, and there wasn't a scratch on it. I don't want to drop it on the pavement any time soon, but this is a good sign.
     
  14. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    Three weeks in, and the biggest negative is the recycled camera. I really don't feel like it's a upgrade when it's the same exact camera as the year before. Taking a close second is the fingerprint reader placement. I only use it when I have to, ie apps that will take biometric verification usually only take fingerprints.

    The biggest positive is the form factor. It's very comfortable in the hand and small enough to be one handed. Unlike the 7 Edge, I can actually type a response one handed without having to hold it in a precarious position to reach certain letters.

    All in all, I don't think this is much of an upgrade over the 7 Edge because of the camera.
     
  15. 15 Sep 9, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
    RobertR

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    Hey Hanson,

    I don't upgrade phones as often as you do. It was only last year that I upgraded from an S4 to an LG G5. After 10 months, I decided I wanted an S8. I've been using the S8 for a week now, and I'll put in my two cents.

    Overall aesthetics: The phone is beautiful. The curved glass and metal design, small bezel, and proportions make it a real pleasure to look at and hold. The screen is big (5.8 inches), but the phone still feels small. It's been an attention grabber at work, even with a case (I never go naked with my phones, but I did choose a clear Spigen case, so the beautiful Coral Blue shows), and that hasn't happened before.

    Screen: I never want to use a non AMOLED screen again. The screen is gorgeous, the best I've ever seen. Extremely fine resolution, vivid colors, and of course, the blacks are the best you can get. This is the first phone I've used that doesn't feel at all wanting for brightness in broad daylight. I have mixed feelings about the 18.5:9 AR, since it produces more of a letterbox effect on 4:3 and 16:9 videos and pictures, but non picture apps look great. Other phones seem kind of fat now.

    Speed is great. I don't play games on my phone, but I don't notice a problem with lagging. I use Nova launcher.

    Biggest and most pleasant surprise: Battery life! I unplugged it Saturday morning, and when I plugged it in again Monday night, it was at 48%. By FAR the best I've seen. It stays cold. Simply superb. I haven't used the camera,but reviews praise it highly. The location of the fingerprint sensor doesn't bother me. I've quickly gotten used to it.

    Very much enjoying it.
     

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