The Samsung Galaxy S8 is easily one of the best phones on the market. Heck, it’s probably one of the best phones ever made, and will be pointed to in future retrospectives as a real turning point in smartphone design.
However, Samsung is making you pay for that privilege, and while that price will drop over the year, it’s a bold move to ask people to spend so much money when the brand's reputation is on the line following the issues with the Note 7 last year.
The price isn’t the only thing that’s something of a risk: by re-jigging the placement of the biometrics, Samsung has gambled dangerously, taking a crucial element of the phone that worked and replacing it with something new in order to allow it to innovate with the Infinity Display.
The gamble hasn’t paid off – the methods of unlocking this phone securely aren’t abhorrent, but users will expect more from a phone at this price point, and to be irritated by it at all just isn’t good enough.
The iris scanner / fingerprint placement / facial recognition combination is one of the key things that stops the Samsung Galaxy S8 being a perfect handset.
Ultimately, people were already happy with the security on their phones: the fingerprint scanner was quick and easy to get into at the base of the phone, and now users will have to wait longer and sometimes jump through more hoops to just open their handset.
However, once you’re into the phone it’s hard to stay mad at Samsung for too long, because nearly everything else on offer here is brilliant.
No, it’s not got the best battery life in the world, but compared to the phones of 2014/15 that you’ll be upgrading from, it’s light years ahead, with the S8's clever battery management and power-saving tips getting you well through a day in normal use.
The camera remains strong, despite not being that much better than before – the key point is that it is improved, despite not gaining any megapixels, so there’s a real reason to choose this phone over the previous Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge.
But there’s one massive reason to buy this phone: the 5.8-inch display in a phone that’s just so much more compact than it should be. The Infinity Display is the first time we’ve seen such innovation on a global flagship device, and Samsung should be applauded for implementing it in a mainstream handset.
Yes, the overall user experience suffers as a result of the consequent shuffling of the biometrics – Samsung messed up there – but it’s almost worth it for the massive display.
Who's it for?
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is designed for those who just want a great phone and aren’t bothered about the cost. It’s a premium handset in every sense of the word – you’re paying more to get something really lovely.
If you’re a mobile movie buff, enjoy gaming on the go or just want something that can do more heavy lifting than nearly any other phone on the planet, then check out the S8 instantly… as long as you can afford it.
This is a pocketable, speedy and impressive phone in so many ways. If you just want a great phone and don’t care about the cost, it’s for you.
Should I buy it?
However, if you’re not desperate to own the Infinity Display on the Galaxy S8, then there’s not a lot of reason for you to buy this phone. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is very similar in a lot of ways, and while it’s chunkier and less powerful, for most tasks it’s more than up to the job.
The camera is great, the screen is still tip-top, and things like high dynamic range are starting to offer real upgrades over previous iterations of Samsung's Galaxy line-up.
Samsung has thrown the best of every component it can into this phone, and it performs brilliantly as a result. Get over the high price and learn to live with the erratic iris scanner and you’re holding one of the best phones ever made.
If you’re thinking that the Samsung Galaxy S8's price is too high, or the biometric issues are too much hassle for you, don’t worry – we’ve picked out a few other phones that you might like instead:
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
It's weird to not be recommending the Galaxy S7 here, but there's no point looking at that flat phone any more. It's too flat, with too much bezel, whereas the S7 Edge is the precursor to the Infinity Display on offer here, and has the same attractive look.
Apart from the design, you're not getting too much less in terms of spec: the Exynos or Qualcomm chipsets are from last year, but most apps will run just fine. The screen is a little smaller at 5.7 inches, but it offers the same resolution, while the quality of the color and contrast is similar, albeit a bit darker.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is also cheaper than the new S8 by quite some distance, and with a camera that's not too different, it's a strong proposition.
There's a reason this was our phone of 2016, and if you're not enamored with the design on the Galaxy S8 then this is a very strong handset to choose.
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
If you're after a bigger screen and slightly better battery life with the same gorgeous Infinity Display, super camera and power under the hood you'll want to opt for the Galaxy S8 Plus.
Assuming you can afford it. The Galaxy S8 is far from cheap, but its bigger brother is even more pricey - so you might want to check with your bank manager before opting for the Plus.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review
iPhone 7 Plus
There aren't a lot of people who hop merrily between the iPhone and Samsung handsets, but if you're more agnostic then this is the phone to be checking out.
The iPhone 7 is a lot smaller, but the 7 Plus has a larger 5.5-inch screen and a more powerful camera, plus a higher-res screen.
What's amazing is how much larger this phone is than the Galaxy S8 despite having a smaller screen – this is where the difference in the screens is most apparent.
But with the iPhone 7 Plus you're still getting a large display with a great camera, and oodles of power – and the great thing about iPhones is that the quality under the finger doesn't diminish over time.
The battery life isn't as good as on the Galaxy S8, but it's not too far off.
- Read our full iPhone 7 Plus review
The G6 is a close competitor to the Galaxy S8 for a number of reasons, but largely due to the ethos of the two companies.
The fact they're both heavyweights in the South Korean market means the resulting handsets can be very similar, and here we've got two mainstream phones both using the wider 18:9 screen format.
That's where the similarities end though, as while both have this larger screen (and both are good quality) the S8 has the edge in nearly every other department.
Camera, design, power and battery life are all handled better on the Galaxy S8, and at launch the price is even fairly similar.
However, in many territories the LG drops in price quickly, so if you're happy to wait then it's worth seeing if the LG G6 comes down in cost some time soon, as you'll be able to get a powerful phone for a lot less cash.
- Read our full LG G6 review
Samsung Galaxy S8: what businesses need to know
If you're thinking about the Samsung Galaxy S8 for business, it offers some useful features as Samsung seeks to extend its influence beyond the consumer market.
The use of DeX, a tiny docking station, would probably be the most compelling feature for Galaxy S8 business users; the ability to convert your smartphone phone into an Android-based computer complete with all the functionalities you'd expect from a rich desktop-like experience is something that system administrators will appreciate.
Said administrators would feel more comfortable about using the Galaxy S8 as BYOD (bring your own device) for business as Samsung's own defense-grade security platform, Knox, makes device management - and keeping work and private life separate - far easier.
For additional security you can also use the biometric fingerprint scanner or iris recognition, and with dual SIM functionality, IP68-rating for ruggedisation and bundled Microsoft Office apps, there's a lot to enjoy on the Galaxy S8 for the business user.
- Techradar Pro is your go-to resource for ruggedised smartphones, business smartphones, business phone deals and more.
First reviewed: April 2017