The Samsung Galaxy S8 has landed and it’s quickly winning over the tech press. But as the dust settles and the reviewers start, well, reviewing. One central question remains, is it worth your money?
If you’re not familiar with my buying guides, check out my breakdowns for the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL.
Genuinely useful AI
I know, I know – S-voice was a total disaster. And yes, Samsung’s history with smartphone software is a gimmicky one. But Bixby does show some early signs of the Korean manufacturer making up for past mistakes.
The virtual assistant is conceptually different to its rivals – Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. It doesn’t necessarily act as a knowledge base for all of your questions (although this is something it tries to do, but not very well), but rather offers a helping hand for in-phone actions. For example, you could ask Bixby to send a picture you’re looking at to a friend without leaving the Gallery app.
The assistant contextually understands what you’re doing on the phone and the app you have open – offering assistance within that app to both help you navigate but also speed up tasks by spotting trends in your behaviour.
This is the sort of AI I’ve been calling for in recent articles. Other AI providers have been consumed by the idea that they need to create Iron Man’s Jarvis. But, in reality, we need assistance. Something that makes sense of the thousands of features a modern smartphone has, and makes the experience easier to use and simplifies multitasking.
With that said, early reviews of Bixby’s capabilities aren’t glowing. We’ll know more once I fully review the device, but if Samsung sticks with this niche form of virtual assistance, rather than trying to compete with Apple and Google, then it should be a genuinely useful addition to the S8.
New camera tricks
The S8’s camera uses Google’s tech.
The camera war rumbles on and the S8’s early reviews are positive.
Samsung essentially uses the same technology as Google to produce more detailed pictures: taking three photos at once, selecting the best and using software to reduce noise. On top of this the S8’s wide-aperture lens means brighter pictures, as Forbes’ Ian Morris explains.
“This system allows Google to “see” noise in an image because sensor noise is random in nature and changes with each capture. Taking three shots in a row means that the noise can be subtracted from the final image to give a clean output.
“So there you have it, Samsung will offer slightly better hardware on the S8 and S8+ than the Google Pixel does, plus it will be using the key Google software trick.”
Elsewhere, the new AI service, Bixby, adds a clever extra camera feature. Taking photos of landmarks or – as Samsung explained – a bottle wine, will bring up additional information about it. So if you want to know where to buy the wine you’ve just ordered, or even what it’s called, a snap will tell you that.