Every spring, Samsung introduces a new Galaxy phone; every fall, Apple counterpunches with a new iPhone. At the moment, we find ourselves in mid-cycle: Samsung has just released its Galaxy S8, and the iPhone 8 is still a summer away.The S8 is a gorgeous phone. It’s a hardware masterpiece, it’s getting rave reviews, and—hey!—so far, nobody’s battery has exploded.
So here, as a public service, is a peculiar kind of review: A master list of features that the new Samsung has and the iPhone doesn’t—along with an assessment of which ones are actually useful.
1. The wraparound screen
Samsung’s S8 design goal was, “the most screen in the smallest space.” And sure enough: the side margins of the screen are gone completely—the screen image actually begins to curve around the side edges—and the top and bottom margins have been halved.
The result: Samsung’s screen shows 40% more than the iPhone 7’s—but the phones are the same width. (The screen is 5.8 inches diagonal on the S8, vs. 4.7 on the iPhone.)
2. Video enhancer
The S8’s Video Enhancer mode gooses the contrast and brightness in video apps like Netflix and YouTube . Honestly? Without seeing two S8’s side-by-side, it’s hard to see a difference. (It comes turned off, because it’s a battery drainer.)
3. Gigabit LTE
The S8 and S8+ are the first phones that can tap into Gigabit LTE—a cellular network that’s supposed to give you much faster internet speed.
4. Iris recognition
You can now unlock your S8 by gazing into its camera lens; it recognizes the irises of your eyes, even if you have glasses on.
Most people don’t wind up using this feature, though, because it requires that you bring the phone up to eye level and hold it about 10 inches from your face; it’s just goofy and awkward. It also doesn’t work in bright sunlight.
5. Longer battery lifetime
Samsung says that the new S8 battery will last longer—not in hours per charge, but in overall lifetime of usefulness. After a year, the battery will maintain 95% of its charging capacity—up from 80%, on the Galaxy S7.
There’s no way to test Samsung’s claim without waiting a year or two, so we’ll have to take their word for it.
6. Snapchat-style overlays
The Camera app can now add goofy, Snapchat-style animated costumes to your head. They’re pretty awful.
7. Bluetooth 5
Bluetooth 5 has four times the range and twice the data rates of Bluetooth 4—but you get those benefits only if you’ve upgraded your Bluetooth stuff (speakers, Fitbits, headphones, etc.) to Bluetooth 5 gear.
Even now, though, the S8 lets you pair with two existing Bluetooth headphones, so you and a friend can listen simultaneously.
8. Bixby voice control
Bixby is Samsung’s version of Siri or Google Assistant. It’s so important, it gets its own dedicated button on the left edge of the phone—which you can’t reassign to another function.
Which is too bad, because at the moment, Bixby doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t take spoken questions, like Siri or Assistant does. Samsung says that’s coming soon.
9. Samsung Health
This new, surprisingly complete app automatically tracks your steps, workouts, and (if you have a Samsung smartwatch that you wear at night) sleep; it also offers places to manually record your weight, food, blood glucose, water, caffeine, and so on.
10. Dex Station
For $150, you can buy a special dock that lets you connect your phone to a big monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Your phone becomes the CPU of a PC!