It’s funny how months of leaks and rumors can paint what appears to be a complete picture of an upcoming smartphone. But then, once the device is finally announced, a different picture forms. All of the components and details that leak never quite seem to accurately portray the finished product, and this was exactly the case with Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. Months of leaks and rumors left precious few surprises when Samsung finally unveiled its new flagship phones last month, yet we were all still completely blown away.
If you’ve read my in-depth Galaxy S8 review, then you know just how impressed I am with these new phones. And if you bought one yourself over the weekend, you’ve now experienced firsthand what the future of smartphone design feels like. But as incredible as Samsung’s new design is, and as impressive as its hardware has become, I still can’t call the Galaxy S8 the world’s best smartphone.
As I explained in my review, the Galaxy S8 is vastly superior to Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in terms of hardware design. Vastly. Samsung’s curved edges on the front and back combined with incredibly narrow bezels result in a design that really looks and feels like the future of smartphones. As I also explained in a separate article, going back to my iPhone 7 Plus after using the Galaxy S8 feels like going back to an old tube TV after having used a flat-screen TV.
Samsung’s Galaxy S8 looks better than the iPhone. It feels better than the iPhone. The display is much, much better than the screens on Apple’s iPhones. But overall, it’s still not the better device.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Galaxy S8’s beauty is only skin deep. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are by far the smoothest and most powerful Android phones the world has ever seen. What’s more, Samsung’s latest version of TouchWiz (now called Samsung Experience) is its best yet, and Samsung’s own Android apps have improved as well on Android 7.0 Nougat. But still, Nougat is no iOS and the Galaxy S8 is no iPhone.
Now that I’ve been using the Galaxy S8+ for nearly two weeks, I can safely say Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus is still the best smartphone on the planet. While the Galaxy S8+ beats (nay, destroys) the iPhone 7 Plus where design and display quality are concerned, the phone’s meaningful advantages end there, for the most part.
Here are five key areas where the iPhone 7 Plus still has the edge:
Software is important, and iOS is still better and smoother than Android. Even with Samsung’s new and improved Samsung Experience, the iPhone still has a clear advantage. Samsung Connect is also a nice start, but Apple’s Continuity features are miles ahead of Samsung in terms of carrying the user experience across devices and platforms. Some might argue that software is the most important thing on a smartphone, and Apple has a huge edge here.
Apps are important, and iOS apps are still better and smoother than Android apps. Perhaps it’s Google’s loose third-party developer guidelines, or perhaps the company’s developer tools aren’t on par with Apple’s. Whatever the case, the Android app experience remains terribly inconsistent, and iOS versions of apps are always more refined and simpler, even when the same app is available on both platforms.
Performance is important, and the iPhone 7 Plus still outperforms the Galaxy S8+. Take one look at this real-world performance test and you’ll see that Android still can’t keep up with iOS, even when it’s being propelled by next-generation processors like the Snapdragon 835.
Battery life is important, and there’s still nothing else out there that can touch the iPhone 7 Plus. I wasn’t able to get a good feel for the Galaxy S8+’s battery life for my review since Samsung sent my review unit late, but I’ve now spent more time with the phone. It’ll carry most people through a full day, but Apple’s phablet outlasts the S8+ by a healthy margin.
Customer care is important, and there isn’t a consumer electronics company in the world that can even approach Apple in this key area. The company continues to invest heavily in after-sales service, and that investment will always pay off big time. Samsung has gotten better and its on-device customer service feature is a nice addition, but it’s still nothing like dealing with Apple support.
Many people are tied to Android and Google’s ecosystem, which is perfectly fine. For these people, the Galaxy S8 is as good as it gets. Google’s services are the best in the world, and they’re free. While most Google products are available on iOS these days, they’ll never be as deeply integrated on the iPhone as they are on Android phones. But if you want the best overall user experience from top to bottom, there’s only one place to turn. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is impressive, but the reigning king hasn’t yet been dethroned.