I’ve been waiting AGES to get a new mobile. I had my heart set on the Samsung Note until it started exploding… I checked out the Pixel but wasn’t impressed by the hardware – it felt cheap and I didn’t like the back of it. I even considered the iPhone, after all I’m a loyal Apple customer, all my other devices are Apple so why not my phone too? But although I love the hardware of the iPhone, I’m just not overly impressed by what’s inside. It feels like they’re not pioneering in the mobile sphere as much as they used to. They’ve got a bit comfortable…
So, when I heard of the Samsung Galaxy S8, I tried not to get my hopes up too much. However, when I saw it in the Samsung Experience store I was suitably impressed.
The hardware is NICEEEE! I’ll admit, I’m a hardware snob. What can I say, I used to work in mobile hardware so I’m now a bit fussy about good looking, high quality feeling devices. And boy, does the S8 feel high quality! Rounded edges, a good weight and classic shiny black finish that blends seamlessly into the infinity screen. Weight is important as a heavy phone is more likely to be dropped, whereas a light phone will psychologically feel cheap. It’s a fine balance.
The hardware keys are easy to locate by finger touch. However, the finger print scanner and the health sensors are very close to the camera lens. The topography of each is difficult to feel by touch alone so there’s a risk of getting finger prints over the lens if you’re not careful (although a case solves this).
I went for the S8 because I’ve been using a Note and I find it too big to use one-handed. It’s nice to mix things up a bit so I thought I’d drop down in size for this phone and maybe go up again after that. Using a bigger screen is a really nice experience, however because the screen in the S8 is tall and narrow as well as being edge-to-edge, the phone manages to be physically smaller but with a larger screen larger than bigger mobiles.
Software, setup and user interface
The setup process was relatively easy. It took longer than I expected (and longer than it takes on iPhones), which was surprising because I’d already backed up my old phone ready for the transfer. There are a lot of steps and a lot of small print to accept.
There’s also a lot to remember.
Much of the setup process involves teaching you how to use the phone, including it’s many hidden gestures. This is both a positive and a negative. On the positive, it simplifies and cleans up the user interface as there are less onscreen buttons and commands required. On the negative, I’ve probably forgotten most of them already as there was a lot to take in (did you know our short term memories can only hold around 5-9 items for 15-30 seconds unless they’re repeated?).
The setup process teased me with the face recognition, iris scanner and fingerprint scanner as security measures, but it skipped the actual setup process of these which was odd. I had to go back into them afterwards and they are impressive! I’ve now setup all three but am currently using the face recognition. You do have to press the hardware key first to wake up the phone but then the process of scanning your face is almost instant. In the past, Samsung have been let down by gimmicky features that didn’t actually work very well in reality, but this is reliable, quick and cool. I love it!
The edge panel is a little disappointing. It’s one swipe access to your favourite apps, contacts or editing tools, however I don’t see the benefits, when you could just put your favourite apps on your Home screen, or you could just swipe up to see all your apps. It also covers the whole screen as opposed to just popping out from the edge. It feels like a step backwards from their previous designs of the edge. On the Note, the edge was something I used all the time to access my favourite apps because it’s always onscreen. On the S8 it doesn’t have that benefit. Instead, I’ve placed my fave apps on my Home screen as it feels easier to access than dragging in the apps from the edge (which often switches panels instead of bringing out the edge, so you need to be accurate).
Bixby is amazing! I love that I can take a photo or add an image and it will find me that item online. It will even translate languages. I’m looking forward to trying this when I visit Lisbon later this month – it should make translating menus really easy!
The camera is incredible in daylight and I’m really impressed with the background blur effect that you can get (who needs an SLR when you have an S8?!). However I tried both photos and video last night and they were both a little pixelated. In fact, I’d say my Note Edge was better for night time shots. I did just have it on the default mode so this may be improved if there is a night mode – I haven’t played around too much with the settings yet.
There’s a nice hardware shortcut that I discovered to get to the camera. Let’s face it, no one really carries a camera with them anymore because your phone is your camera these days, so why is the camera app always so cumbersome to access? Samsung have solved this by a simple double press of the Power key. It means there’s no need to look at the UI (which is a struggle on a sunny day), you can keep your eyes on the subject you want to photograph whilst you’re taking your mobile out and turning on the camera. THIS IS GREAT USER EXPERIENCE!
There’s so much more I could say but I’ll save that for another post once I’ve settled in with the S8 and used it a bit more.
So far, I’m really impressed. Sleek, high quality hardware and impressive features. It feels futuristic and I can’t wait to see what else it can do!
Is there anything you want to know or see of the S8?
Attending the Manchester Science Festival was incredible. Not only were there computers, mobiles and televisions from decades gone by, but they were all in full working condition, which meant I could re-live some of the highs (space invaders) and lows (error messages and recovery) of my first experiences with computers.
Did you have any of these computers? Did you play any of these games? Which was your favourite? Tweet me
BBC Micro: Chuckie Egg (1983)
I don’t remember this computer or Chuckie at all, but looking at the launch date of chuckie (1983) I was only a toddler so I’m pleased to say I’m too young to remember this one! Following Ricardo’s enthusiasm, I had a go at Chuckie and it was really difficult at first! Having to remember which letter or symbol did what took a bit of time to get the knack of, which is of course why UX is so important. But this game was great fun once I’d remembered the keys. I’d definitely play this. On another note, the tactile feedback from the keyboard felt hugely satisfying. You just don’t get deep key presses from modern day keyboards, and although it makes them slimmer and faster, you don’t get the cushiony, bouncy, weighty feel, which is really satisfying.
Amiga – Lemmings (1985)
This is what I remember as our family computer. This and the ZX Spectrum. And I remember playing Lemmings all the time – I still think it’s one of the best games ever! But the game I used to play all the time was called Dungeon Master. Did anyone else play this? (please tweet me if you did!) The game started out in a chamber with portraits on the wall and you chose who you wanted in your team. Then you entered a maze and had to fight monsters, find food, complete tasks, find potions to make your way through the levels. I still remember my favourite character – he had a black cloak, red eyes and his name was Gothmog.
Ah these are the computers that we used at school. They never did what you told them to do and there were no end of hands going up in class for help with lost work, floppy disks that wouldn’t save, etc. And they took up the whole desk so you had to balance your school book on the edge of the table or on your lap. I don’t have particularly fond memories of this one!
Oh no! It’s growing up with UI like this that drove me to get into usability. I remember constantly thinking, I know really clever people design and build technology, so why do they make them so difficult to use? Of course I know why now – if you’re too much an expert in something it’s difficult to look at things from a new users perspective. This error dialogue is a classic. Just look at the choice of colours used too – really poor readability on the command text at the bottom.
There were lots of kids at the science festival and I wonder if any of them thought these were printed versions of the Save icon. I find it interesting that we’re still using this as a Save metaphor despite the fact that the true meaning is lost on many young people. However, they have learnt that it’s the Save icon, which begs the question should it really be updated or should it stay as a floppy disk, bearing in mind that although youngsters don’t understand what a floppy disk is, they do associate that icon with Save functionality. It’s a tough one.