Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus – Bigger and Better

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What is It? – The Galaxy S8 is the phone that Samsung hoped would make its fans forget about the exploding Note 7.  It worked.  The S8 comes in two models, regular and Plus. We were able to try out the S8 Plus, believing that when it comes to screen size for our generation, size does matter.  This is one pricey phone, but you may decide that with all its bells and whistles it’s worth it.

The S8 Plus has a whopping 6.2″ inch screen, but because it almost eliminates the bezel, the whole package doesn’t feel that large.  It is slightly longer and narrower than what you might expect.  The key feature that makes this a standout is Samsung’s Infinity Screen.  It is simply beautiful, displaying photos and videos in more vibrant colors than we’ve seen elsewhere.  It is certified to handle HDR (high dynamic range), which enhances and sharpens colors.  It also has improved cameras, 12MP rear facing, and 8 MP front facing for sharper selfies.  It ran our Netflix streaming test with no signs of hiccups.  And the screen size is large enough, and the quality good enough, that you may even look forward to consuming entertainment on this platform. Sound quality from the single speaker is good but with all that chassis, maybe they could have added stereo speakers?

Just as with its predecessor, the S7 Edge, you can customize the curved edges to provide additional information with the slide of a finger.  That can be a real time saver since it means you don’t have to initialize that app in order to get the information you want.

Battery life on the S8 Plus is 34 hours of talk time, four hours more than the S8.  There is a micro-SD card for additional storage, though with 64GB already on board, most people won’t need it.

Is It 50+ Friendly?  –  With its big display, the S8 Plus is a pleasure to view and navigate.  Each iteration of Android seems to make it easier to set up your phone and transfer the settings and data from your last phone.  Android does offer a good suite of accessibility functions such as voice assistant, zoom, etc. though it’s still not as user-friendly as Apple’s.

Frustration Factor? – When Samsung launched the S8 it widely publicized it’s new Bixby voice assistant.  They even created a special Bixby Button on the phone along the left edge below the volume controls. It was supposed to go one better than Google’s Voice Assistant and Apple’s Siri.  But so far it’s been pretty much a no-show.  Samsung has begun rolling out a very, very limited beta program.  But if you haven’t already signed up for it, forget about it.  Evidently, Samsung has mastered Korean for Bixby but not yet English.  One function that is working is Bixby Vision.  That will use the phone’s camera to take pictures which it can then identify.  So, a picture of a cannister of Crystal Light might bring you to the Amazon page where you can order some.  Or a picture of the Empire State Building will provide additional information about the location.  Bixby will also let you take a picture of text and translate it into another language.  Great for menus when you are traveling.  But again, most S8 users are going to have to wait for this functionality.

Is It Worth the Money?  – Tough call.  We’ve seen online prices for the unlocked version of the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus ranging from $623 to $724.  Verizon will sell you one for $35/month, or outright for $840.  AT&T has it for $28.34 a month or $850 outright.   If you absolutely, positively want the latest and greatest phone out there, the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is it.  At least for today.

Protecting Your Investment – If you’re going to drop anywhere from $600 to more than $800 for a phone, it only makes sense to protect the phone from drops, scratches, dings, and cracks.  A good case and a good screen protector will both protect the phone, and help it retain its value in the event you want to resell it at a later date.  There are dozens of screen protectors on the market and hundreds, if not thousands of cases.  We’ve had really good luck with two products in particular.  For screen protection, we like the InvisibleShield Sapphire Defense Curve ($50).  We’ve had success with Zagg’s InvisibleShield product line over the years and have found it’s easier to put on than most (though not totally idiot-proof).

As for cases, yes, there are a countless number that will protect your phone.  But if you are as rough on a phone as I am you might seek some extra protection.  We’ve had really good luck with the UAG (Urban Armor Gear) line of mil-spec hardened cases.  They range in price from $39.95 up to $59.95 for the top of the line Monarch (though that may be overkill for most of us).

So whether you use these products or someone else’s, it just makes sense to protect your investment.

 

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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