It’s no secret that the Galaxy S8 is one of the most popular and capable phones ever released to the masses. The amount of work Samsung put into making this phone one of the highest quality devices to hit the market is clearly evident. But there’s really just one obstacle keeping me from buying the new Samsung Galaxy S8, and that obstacle is… Samsung.
S8 Wins Hardware Battles
First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due. We all know the back and forth battle between Samsung and Apple, suing each other for “copying” styles or features. So while I think it’s fair to say the iPhone 6 copied the Galaxy S6 in blatant unrepentance, rumors indicate Apple is still playing catch-up by finally going the LED route, embracing soft-buttons, and expanding screen size. After all, last year Apple did copy water-resistance, and dual-camera hardware to name a few.
On the flipside, though it suffered a few technical “burns” along the way, Samsung managed to maintain its most loyal customers by wholly investing in the Galaxy S8. And it definitely paid off. The Galaxy S8 boasts the arrival of iris scanning, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, desktop support, a nearly bezel-less screen, and a new aspect ratio. No real sacrifices were made, as Samsung miraculously kept the much desired water-proofness, wireless charging, fast-charging, headphone jack, curved edges, MST and NFC, and somehow even managed to upgrade many of the internal components. Like I said, they’ve put in a lot of work, and it shows.
It’s bigger, it’s better, it’s faster, and it’s sexier. It’s still fairly rugged, and its hardware is for sure top-of-the-line.
S8 Loses Software Battles
While all these features make snagging a Galaxy S8 very tempting, I won’t be getting one and for one reason: Samsung just simply won’t play nicely with Google. The South Korean tech company has successfully entered virtually every market of electronics, from refrigerators to televisions to computers and even military tanks! But its own software operating systems have been lackluster enough to warrant the company reluctantly using Google’s Android operating system on each of its Galaxy smartphones and tablets. This unenthusiastic partnership is evident by Samsung’s continual and ever-growing replacement or rejection of Google’s service offerings.
Unfortunately, much of the new Galaxy S8 overlay is a blatant play-by-play clone of Google’s recent accomplishments. And to be clear, I am okay with that. Competition is a great thing. However, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And that’s the problem we come across with the Galaxy S8 TouchWiz (or now “Grace UX”) user interface. Sure, it’s a lot better than the Galaxy S7 in terms of simplicity, and it’s aesthetically superior to the Galaxy S6 (and for that matter, anything before that isn’t even worth comparing to).
But it’s still… ugly. “Ugly” may be too harsh, but it doesn’t seem to take a good thing and make it prettier. Rather, it takes a great thing and muddies the waters, forcing users to decide between Google Photos or “Gallery,” Chrome or “Internet,” Google Assistant or Bixby. Frankly, this is annoying. Google excels at software, perhaps too much so. Sammy doesn’t have the same track record, and really, it shouldn’t test such tinkerings on one of its primary sources of annual revenue.
If Samsung decided to host an email server, how many would ditch Gmail for a new, unproven, untested email client this late in the game? Neither will anyone leave Android to try out an all-new Samsung mobile operating system. Sammy is trying to make money where there’s no money to be had. Anyone who owns a Galaxy does so in spite of TouchWiz.
You might be wondering why I don’t use the Pixel Launcher on the S8, and take advantage of the plethora of options available on Android. I tried to convince myself to do just that, but I really don’t want to give Samsung that encouragement. It already refused to let the Gear S3 use Samsung Pay with the Google Pixel. There’s a lost sale on a $300 smartwatch; and with the same arrogance, there’s an additional loss of $800 on a smartphone. Google is the food I eat, and I would like Samsung to be the box that that appetizer arrives in. Alas, maybe next year. But in 2017, I won’t be spending $800 on a Galaxy body for a Pixel bloodstream.
S8 Needs to Stay the Course
Sammy needs to know that its role in the smartphone world is very much like its place in the computer world: Make hardware and encase software. Simple!
Creating laptops and monitors to use and supplement the already-awesome software that are Chrome OS and Windows 10 is the way to sell devices. There’s no reason to put flair on already good software (you too, wireless carriers!). After all, isn’t that what apps are for? To be honest, I don’t believe Samsung even has the chance or endurance to create a brand-new operating system in this competitive day and age. It merely hasn’t had enough time to work out bugs and fight viruses and still offer something user-friendly for the masses of the world.
Despite these issues, the Galaxy S8 is the verification that Samsung leads the industry forward in both design and quality, and proof that a few notable “fires” can be easily extinguished. But it’s also evidence that the company tends to bite off more than it can. I’m not willing to sacrifice Google Assistant for Bixby, nor deal with duplicate apps for the same purpose. Hopefully the Galaxy S9 will surge forward and leave Samsung’s unnecessary and undesirable enhancements behind.