you’ve read the Galaxy S8 reviews, and suddenly your Galaxy S7 seems antiquated.
However, upon closer inspection and thought, you might realize your Galaxy S7 isn’t that far behind the Galaxy S8. Sure, the Galaxy S8 boasts a bunch of new features and a gorgeous design, but do those additions warrant an upgrade that’ll set you back at least $700?
And if you have an older phone but the Galaxy S8’s price tag seems high, you could be better off — and $150 richer — by upgrading to the Galaxy S7 instead.
Perhaps you need a refresher that compares the Galaxy S7 with the Galaxy S8. We’ve got you covered.
The Galaxy S8’s thinner borders around its screen allow for a bigger screen but a similar overall device footprint as its predecessor. However, the Galaxy S8’s bigger screen doesn’t mean your apps and videos will look bigger.
Don’t expect your apps and videos to look bigger than they do on your Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge.
The Galaxy S7 dons the conventional 16:9 aspect ratio, the same as your computer monitor or TV. The Galaxy S8’s screen, on the other hand, has a taller 18.5:9 aspect ratio. This means that despite the Galaxy S8’s larger screen, apps and content won’t look much bigger. Instead, the Galaxy S8’s taller aspect ratio means you see more of your apps at any time.
The Galaxy S8’s thin borders leave little room for the fingerprint scanner, which is found on the bottom, below the screen, on the Galaxy S7, so Samsung moved it to the back of the Galaxy S8.
This one is totally up to you. Some like the fingerprint scanner on the back, while it frustrates others. I prefer the fingerprint scanner on the front so I could unlock the phone while it’s resting on a table rather than having to pick it up and reach for the scanner.
The Galaxy S8 has two extra ways to unlock the phone, including facial recognition and iris recognition. These alternatives let you unlock the Galaxy S8 without having to pick it up to reach for its fingerprint scanner on the back.
The Galaxy S8’s facial recognition is the least secure of the three methods, but it likely is secure enough for most people. It works as quickly as fingerprint scanning in well-lit situations, and you don’t need to lift the phone up to your face unnaturally. You can look down at your phone as usual, and it’ll recognize your face.
Still, it doesn’t work so well in dark rooms, as there may not be enough light for the front-facing camera to recognize your facial features. And you’d need to hover your face above the Galaxy S8’s front camera if you wanted to unlock it while it’s resting on a table.
The company behind the Galaxy S8’s iris recognition, Princeton Identity, claims it’s more secure than fingerprint scanning. It works quickly and easily, but it could ask you to move the phone closer to your eyes before unlocking it, which can feel unnatural. And as with facial recognition, you’d still need to hover your eyes above the Galaxy S8’s front camera to unlock it if it were resting on a table.
Thinner borders also change the traditional home button in a big way.
Despite the ultra-thin borders, Samsung managed to keep the home button where it is on the bottom of the Galaxy S7’s screen. The difference is that the S7’s traditional, physical home button has evolved into a modern, pressure-sensitive touch button embedded under the S8’s screen. It makes for a sleek, buttonless front panel design.
Overall, it’s a more modern and aesthetically pleasing way to use the home button, but it’s not a feature that should make you rush to buy the Galaxy S8 over sticking with your S7.
No more capacitive Android function buttons.
Samsung was one of the last holdouts for the old-fashioned, off-screen, touch-sensitive Android function buttons, which include the “back” and “recent apps” buttons. On the Galaxy S8, Samsung moved those to the bottom of the screen.
Having the Android function buttons on the screen lets the S8 have those gorgeous ultra-thin borders, and it doesn’t affect the user experience, as the buttons are always on the screen.
Bixby hasn’t made the best impression so far.
Samsung’s take on a smart voice assistant, called Bixby, is off to a rocky start. It currently doesn’t support voice commands, and there’s already a great voice assistant, Google Assistant, built into most recent Android smartphones running the latest version of Android. Bixby is certainly not a reason to upgrade to the Galaxy S8 from the S7.
The Galaxy S8 is undoubtedly quicker than the Galaxy S7, but the S7 is no slouch either. I could still whiz around the Android OS with barely a hiccup, and apps open quickly and run smoothly.
That said, it’s unclear how long the S7’s performance will hold up. The usual lifespan for a smartphone’s performance is about two years before it starts to show its age, and the Galaxy S7 celebrated its first birthday in March.
Minor improvements to the camera.
Samsung made very few changes to the already excellent Galaxy S7 camera in the Galaxy S8. It’s still the same 12-megapixel camera with an ultrafast autofocus for quick, sharp photos, but Samsung says it has improved its low-light performance to be sharper.
The Galaxy S7’s camera is already the best in class when it comes low-light shots, so unless you take a lot of photos at night, the S8’s camera isn’t a huge deal.
The S8 has a slightly improved front-facing camera.
Samsung gave the S8 front-facing camera an 8-megapixel sensor over the S7’s 5-megapixel shooter. It also added better autofocus to the Galaxy S8’s front-facing camera, which could make for faster selfies that are sharper and in focus. The S7 works just fine as a selfie-taking smartphone, but if you take a lot of selfies, you might find value in the S8.
USB-C on the S8 has its benefits, but it hasn’t reached its full potential yet.
Both the Galaxy S7’s micro-USB port and S8’s USB-C port support fast charging. The main benefit of the Galaxy S8 using the new USB-C standard is that it can transfer data faster than the older micro-USB. Sure, it means you could transfer photos from the S8 to your computer a lot faster than from the S7, but that’s not USB-C’s best feature.
USB-C is fast enough to be used for powerful applications, such as turning the S8 into a sort of lightweight computer.
With Samsung’s new DeX dock, you can connect a computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the Galaxy S8 through its single USB-C port. Once they’re connected, you’ll see a lightweight desktop Samsung operating system that works with Samsung apps and some Microsoft apps like Word and Excel.
It might not be useful for everyone, but it’s at least proof of USB-C’s power. I’m excited to see what else USB-C can be used for with a smartphone.
As usual, the new features and design of a new smartphone may not necessarily warrant an upgrade from its predecessor, and it all comes down to raw performance.
I wouldn’t recommend buying the Galaxy S8 as an upgrade from the S7, as the S7 still has at least another year of life left before it starts to show its age in the performance department. Plus, battery life hasn’t been dramatically improved, nor has the camera.
If you have a phone bought in 2015 or before, like the Galaxy S6 or S5, the Galaxy S8 is mighty tempting. Just keep in mind the Galaxy S8’s $720 base price tag is pretty high, even for a new flagship smartphone.
You could consider upgrading to the Galaxy S7, which you can buy for about $575, depending on your carrier. (AT&T is the most expensive, at $595.) However, you should also keep in mind that it may start to slow down a year or so earlier than the Galaxy S8.
That said, even if the S7 starts to slow down by next March, you’ll still have a beautiful phone with an excellent camera for about $575. It might just take a couple of seconds longer to open and run apps.