When you are setting up Samsung’s delightful new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, at some point in the rigmarole you are asked for your date of birth. I don’t know whether this is for their research purposes or so they can drive you mad forever with targeted marketing material, but the interesting thing for me was that the default birth year is set at 1987.
A presumed purchaser age of 30 is probably about right for a phone that, with its glamorous wraparound screen and abundance of complicated software, makes its mortal rival, the iPhone 7, look a bit, well, conservative. But I suspect anyone much older than 30 might pine for the familiarity of an iPhone, which has been unchanged in its essential look and feel for 10 years this month.
But the Galaxy S8 is by a mile the most beautiful and comfortable phone to use I’ve ever seen. The near-borderless screen will have you gaping in admiration. It is ludicrously futuristic and immodestly flashy, but has utility too. The S8 is just a tad taller and fatter than an iPhone 7, but the screen real estate you get is almost the same as on the iPhone 7 Plus. The Galaxy also spares you the iPhone’s annoyingly protruding camera (which shouldn’t be an irritant, but makes me feel like the princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea).
You will notice in all this that I steer around the usability of the S8. Some critics have said it is as good as an iPhone, but I disagree. Androids are, in my view, a little inferior to Apple phones, and the S8 is not as slick and accomplished as the best Android I know – the Google Pixel. I find typing on the S8 hit and miss, and Samsung’s terribly named Bixby voice control is not up to the Google Assistant in the Pixel.
What I would recommend if you can’t resist the Galaxy S8’s beauty as an artefact is to spend a couple of hours customising the device by stripping out almost all the Samsung apps and making it as much like an iPhone as possible. You may even end up with your own personal preview of Apple’s 10th anniversary model, anticipated this year, because for the life of me I can’t think what the Cupertino crew will come up with to challenge the S8’s aesthetics.