After waiting for what seems like an eternity for Microsoft to pull their fingers out and give me a reason to commit the next 2 years to their mobile platform, I gave up and decided to join team Android, for now at least. So I had to decide whether to go for a mid-range interim device, still clinging onto hope that a Surface Phone will arrive, or dive right in with a flagship device, here’s why I made my choice and what I think of it so far.
Why Android and not Apple?
Before I go into more detail on the Galaxy S8, I’ll first defend my decision for going Android in the first place, not that I need to defend myself of course. I’ve actually had an iPhone and an iPad a few years back, that being the 4s and the iPad with Retina Screen. I loved both devices, even though the iPad was quickly canibalised by the iPad 3rd Generation, which pissed me off quite a bit. Being a developer I was quite frustrated with the platform and not being able to dive straight into development, you have to use a Mac to compile your code, I don’t have a Mac and want to keep it that way.
The only other choice was Android, of course, which you can develop for using any laptop / desktop, and even use C# with thanks to Xamarin which is now part of Visual Studio. I also considered Microsofts future plans and thought that considering they are currently developing Windows 10 on ARM, and have stated that they are going to be selling a ‘Microsoft Edition’ Galaxy S8 on their own store, if any Android device is likely to become a candidate for a ROM, it would be the Galaxy S8.
Samsung Galaxy S8 From GiffGaff, Fuck O2
So I’ve been with O2 for quite a few years now, after leaving Orange because they stopped selling Microsoft devices at the time and their own staff thought that Android was “the new Windows”, something I was actually told on the phone. Things have been very bumpy with O2, not only because their shoddy and unreliable service, with masts regularly going down without any word or warning, but also their frankly outrageous pricing structure and fraudlent selling techniques.
My last contract was on O2 Refresh, you know the one, pay off your phone separately so you can upgrade to a new phone quicker, essentially decoupling tarrif from device contracts, sounds great but total horseshit. O2 wanted me to take out a whole new contract, not just start paying for a new device, take out a whole new contract, that would have meant being contracted for over £1300 to purchase the Galaxy S8, which is diabolical. I even contacted them on Twitter, hoping that I was mistaken, but no, that’s the cheapest you can get the phone from O2 for.
Galaxy S8, on @O2, £55 pm, 24 months £1350 total. Direct from @SamsungMobile £30~ pm, 24 months, deposit £69~, £783~ total wtf?— Nick Pateman (@npSoftwareUK) 27 April 2017
So instead I went to GiffGaff and am now paying monthly, for just the device (unlocked) from them, no 2 year phone contract. Obviously when paying monthly for a device it’s still classed as a loan, but so is a 2 year contract for over £1300 with O2. The total cost for the device comes to about £690, which is still pricey, don’t get me wrong, but at least it’s not £1300 pricey.
As usual, I’m not going to embed my own unboxing experience, instead I’ll provide one done by someone else via the magic of YouTube…
The phone comes in a very unassuming, plain black box with some grey text and a metalic blue S8. It’s a nicer box than the Lumia 950 I last unboxed, they got very boring with those and from what I’ve seen of the lastest Nokia unboxings, they are using just as boring packaging still, and equally boring devices come to think of it. There are a few small surprises in the box, such as the inclusion of some decent AKG tuned headphones, and 2 USB Type C adapters. Things that Microsoft didn’t include for the Lumia 950 which would have been nice. Everything else is the quality you would expect for a phone of this price range, just watch the video above and decide for yourself.
Phone Build Quality
After the fiasco of the Galaxy Expolodo-phone S I was a little reluctant to get the S8. But I decided that it would probably be safer than any other phone, knowing that if Samsung fucked up twice in a row they would end up really soiling their reputation. And thus they have released a device that’s sold almost 250,000 devices per week! That’s pretty impressive, so what is the build quality actually like?
To be honest, it’s superb, the device has a very premium, solid feel to it, with a surprisingly thin body. I’m pretty sure if you don’t get a decent grippy case for it you will be at quite a high risk of throwing it across the room and smashing it to pieces. So get a bumper case for it at least!
A Quality Set Of Headphones? Or Bog Standard?
The first day I used the headphones I was far from impressed, not only were they uncomformtable but there was little to no bass, and that’s comparing them to my cheapy Senheiser ear buds. Apparently the AKG ear buds supplied with the S8 are worth $100, which is highly debateable but anyway, they certainly didn’t seem to be worth anything near that. That’s until I changed the rubber bits to the next size up, this in-fact has been the first time that I’ve ever had to do this with any ear buds, but it transformed them into a far better set of headphones. I still wouldn’t rate them, but the bass has improved a hundred fold.
So if you end up picking up an S8, I’d highly recommend you mess about with the different sized plugs until you find one that gives you the best bass and comfort out of the lot, rather than just giving up on them and chucking them up on e-bay.
Samsing’s Touchwiz UI
Be warned, this is by no stretch of the imagination, a stock Android device. This is infact my main gripe with the device, Samsung have seen it fit to fill the device with their wheel reinventing crap, and it is that, buggy crap. The menu system as a whole is fine, and includes controls for all of the various device specific functionality to be found, such as screen colour control, resolution, sound setup etc. Unfortunately they could have just done this with a single app and kept everything else stock Android.
When you get past the menu system and start configuring your various email accounts, that’s where you’ll notice some major flaws. If you want to sync all of your contacts with the Samsung Contacts app, you will need to add your accounts to the Samsung Email app, once you do this, they appear in the Samsung Contacts app. My problem with this is that I already have a cloud synced contact system, Office 365, it’s perfect for what I need, and so is Outlook, I didn’t want all my contacts sent to Samsung to archive and sell on to the highest bidder. I tried just syncing my contacts using the Microsoft Outlook app but had no joy. My final configuration has my email accounts configured in both the Samsung Email app and Microsoft Outlook, which is annoying as fuck, so if anyone has another way of getting around this, please let me know in the comments below.
I also haven’t managed to get it to pull all of the correct contact pictures in like I had for my Lumia 950, that’s something you can’t beat Microsoft at, enterprise level productivity. And I keep finding duplicate contacts even after having already merged them, they seem to be multiplying which worries me some what. Just as long as my Office 365 account doesn’t get solied, I should be able to stomach that.
Another weird thing is the phone resolution, for some reason it comes at a default of 1080p, you have to modify the resolution in the settings to get it to 4k, I found this odd considering it’s one of their selling points. I have no idea if this is due to the strange elongated aspect ratio of the device, or something else, but one thing you will notice is full screen games aren’t full screen, until you enable it, which is even weirder.
Android In General As A Windows User
One thing I’ve noticed is that Android has come on leaps and bounds as of late. It’s miles ahead of where it was only a few years ago. It still has its issues and the app store is littered with crap (as well as quality), but it’s certainly in a much better place now. I know there has been talk about Google moving to their own OS “Fushia” in the future but that’s years off, and personally I think it’s a stupid move anyway but there we go.
In this latest iteration of Android (Nougat), you can even split screen apps! Suck on that Microsoft, you can even drag and resize Windows about, wtf? To be fair, I haven’t had any need to do that yet but it shows effort on Google’s part.
I’m even using an app on my phone to write, preview and publish this blog post. Using MrHyde, check it out if you have a Jekyll site stored on GitHub.
One thing I kept hearing is that the fingerprint scanner is poorly positioned, and most users end up putting their finger on the camera lense, well I didn’t have this issue as I’m using a cover that has a hole cut out for both fingerprint scanner and lense, it makes it very easy to feel your way to the scanner and so far I haven’t put my finger on the lense once.
Fingerprint unlocking is very fast, but iris detection isn’t so I stayed away from that, I rarely used it on my Lumia 950 either as it was pretty hit and miss. Some people opt for a combination of security options so you will have to mess about to find what works for you.
So my final verdict on the device so far is that it’s awesome, I do think it could be doing with being £100 cheaper but that’s just me. At the price of a mid-range laptop you do get a surprisingly lot of features.
The other alternative to this phone would be the Google Pixel, which some people really rate, I haven’t tried it myself but my sister has one and loves it.
One last note is that I personally feel if you are a Windows phone fan and are still clinging on, maybe it’s time to let go and give Microsoft some time to sort their shit out.