A few months ago, I wrote a piece on why I would not be buying the Samsung Galaxy S8 this year. My reasons were entirely related to software. It was the pesky TouchWiz (now Grace UX) makeover and bloatware apps that prevented me from shelling out the greenbacks for the 2017 model Korean flagship. And yet, my daily driver is now a Galaxy S8. How did this happen?
Well, to those who know me, it is no secret that I burn through smartphones like many people do their oil filters (you do change those, right? Riiiight?). Often, as soon as a flagship smartphone hits the U.S. market, I’m one of the first to sell my old device and grab the newer one. Here are some reasons I left my Google Pixel for a younger, prettier device.
Weirdly enough, no real regrets. At first, when I got my S8, I bemoaned the icons as uniquely ugly (they always are). But with the help of Nova Launcher, Samsung Pixel themes and varying other APKs, I fully customized my Galaxy to mimic Stock Android. The icons never looked quite right, and the notification shade still had a TouchWiz-y feeling about it, but the essence was the same, the Google Now function worked, and I even boasted Android O notification badges. So yes, there were quite a number of modifications that needed to be made out of the box, but I ultimately suppressed the nasty Galaxy overlay to be smothered in Google goodness.
It’s worth noting that despite my uneasiness towards the Grace UX at first, I have since factory reset my Galaxy and am running the native launcher. And am not hating it (too much).
I replaced Nova Launcher with the standard S8 option. Why not try some other Samsung apps, while I’ve got the phone? So now I’m currently using Contacts, Phone, Camera, Clock, My Files, and Samsung Pay, instead of their respective Google versions. The camera has more features that I don’t need but definitely like. The same thing for the clock. Contacts is an ugly app, but oh, so feature-filled. Calling with the Galaxy’s Phone app lets me gloat with my other Galaxy folks on the same network via video chat and T-Mobile’s RCS. And man, Samsung Pay. I forgot how much I love that MST technology. Mmm mmm, good.
Side note: GBoard is the best keyboard ever with the lowest success rate ever. No matter what phone, version of iOS or Android, or year it is, while GBoard has exactly the features I need (except shortcuts), it seems to always crash. It’s easily the most glitchy mainstream keyboard I have ever used. And Google doesn’t seem to want to fix that. Solution? Samsung keyboard. Easy.
Ever since the first Galaxy S, Samsung evidently wants to make its phones special, unique, and maybe even helpful. On both its flagship lines and also its budget phones, Sammy continues to take Google’s Android OS and modify it to be useful, or otherwise entertaining. Some such examples are the automatic page scrolling options and the S Voice “assistant.” Some are unnecessary, some are quirky.
But the Galaxy S8… let me tell you: This time, Samsung got it right. I’m a phone guy. All I read are phone articles, leaks, reviews, and tests. I remember people by their device of choice and if they use a case or not (and I sometimes try to remember their names, too). But I’ve had the S8 for a little under a month, and I’m *daily* discovering new features. I read every article and watch every video on “secrets of the Galaxy S8,” and yet I still find more of these hidden nuggets every day.
And these features are quite amazing. Sure, there are a few that may or may not be gimmicky. But check this out: You can take screenshots, or screenshot snippets, or GIFs from any screen with the edge settings. You can customize your Always On Display to be colorful, flaunt your favorite sports team logo, and display any or no notifications. You can share your Samsung profile with other S8 users either nearby or in your contacts list. I could go on and on.
I’m comparing these options with the basic functionality of my Google Pixel: I love Stock Android. I do not need notification badges, I don’t need selfie filters, and I sure as heck don’t need Bixby.
The biggest reason I decided to try out the Galaxy S8 is this: Samsung recently offered a Buy 1 Get 1 deal that was impossibly difficult to turn down. Not only did you get two Samsung Galaxy S8 (or S8+) smartphones for the price of one, but you got free shipping, two 64GB micro SD card, two sets of six months of Netflix for free, and two $59 Samsung phone cases. Better yet, while the phones were locked to T-Mobile and had to be activated on the Uncarrier, you did not have to activate a new line in order to use them — existing customers were eligible. Win, win, win, win. And win. (Plus, I’ll shamelessly predict T-Mobile will oust Verizon and become the fastest, largest, wireless network by end of Q4, 2017.) So, yes, yet another win. The deal was so good, the website sold out in about 24 hours, and Samsung hasn’t renewed the offer.
I’m a sucker for a good deal, and Samsung knew that in order to get me on board its mainstream bandwagon, it would have to sickly sweeten the deal. I couldn’t resist. I’m pretty happy (until Pixel 2). 😉