If you’re into Android, a Samsung phone is probably on your list. Here’s what to consider.
Since the debut of the Galaxy S2, Samsung has ranked as one of the top selling manufacturers of Android smartphones. Over the years, the South Korean company has managed to positively iterate on its flagship offerings by offering new features and a better interface with every new model.
This year, it’s the Galaxy S8 that takes the spotlight as the defacto Samsung device, but it’s not the only Galaxy offering you can choose from. Here’s a guide on the differences between the varying high-end Samsung devices you should consider adopting as your daily driver.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Released April 2017 The Galaxy S8 is just another prime example of why Samsung remains one of the top performers in smartphones. This year’s marquee device release features one of the best smartphones displays (bested only by its own Note 8 later in the year) with a vibrant color palette and fantastic brightness. It’s equipped with a stellar 12-megapixel rear-facing camera with manual shooting abilities, as well as a 3000mAh battery that will last you through the day. Samsung also continues to bundle in the “extras” you won’t always find on other devices, like a water resistant chassis, wireless charging and a microSD expansion slot.
You might notice the Galaxy S8 has a bit of an edge to its predecessors. This year’s refreshed model features what Samsung dubs as an Infinity Display — it refers to the fact that there is little bezel on either side of the display. The result is a larger, 5.8-inch narrow screen that’s bigger than what you’d typically get for a phone this size. And quite frankly, it gives the Galaxy S8 a bit of an edge in the design department, too.
With the way Samsung has aggressively marketed and cut the price of the Galaxy S8 over time, it’s no surprise this phone is on just about everyone’s list in the top-end smartphone market. It does just about everything you want.
Samsung Galaxy S8+
Released April 2017 Need something bigger? The Galaxy S8+ has all the same innards as its smaller counterpart, but it builds on that foundation with a larger 6.2-inch display and 3500mAh battery to accompany it. It also comes packed with all the same goodies, including water resistance, an expansion slot, USB Type-C fast charging, wireless charging, and the ability to pay with either Samsung Pay or Android Pay.
Samsung would like you to think that the super-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio makes the Galaxy S8+ feel smaller than it really is … but don’t be completely fooled. This is still a really big phone — we certainly recommend holding both it and the standard Galaxy S8 before making a buying decision on which one works for your hands.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Released September 2017 For the absolute biggest and best that Samsung has to offer, you go with a Galaxy Note 8. It is of course the only way you can get an S Pen and the suite of software that makes it so powerful, but it’s also the only Samsung phone available with its new dual camera setup. Those dual cameras let you zoom in on subjects with less resolution loss, and combine for a “Live Focus” effect that selectively blurs the background to mimic a DSLR’s shallow depth of field. The main camera on its own remains unchanged from the Galaxy S8, however, which is disappointing to some who want to see an improvement but is a rock-solid shooter we’re all familiar with at this point.
Aside from those two features, though, the Note 8 is near-identical to the Galaxy S8+. It has all of the same specs, save for a bump to 6GB of RAM and a drop to 3300mAh battery. It also has the same overall design and build, with a screen that’s just 0.1-inches larger and a body that’s only minimally bigger in each direction. For that reason, if you don’t need the S Pen or are drawn in by the cameras, you’d be smart to consider saving some money and getting a Galaxy S8+ instead.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Active
Released August 2017 Samsung just keeps rolling on with its “Active” variants, and the Galaxy S8 Active is the best one yet. It offers an identical core experience to the Galaxy S8, down to every little feature like wireless charging and specific hardware components. That means you get a great day-to-day experience, and you aren’t giving anything up in terms of capabilities if you get this Active model. But at the same time, the entire outside of the phone has changed dramatically — it’s considerably thicker, wider, taller and heavier than the Galaxy S8, with a flat screen and no glass on the back. It’s basically as if you flattened out the GS8 and put a big Otterbox-style case on it permanently.
That extra size let Samsung put an extra 1000mAh of battery capacity in, totaling 4000mAh, so you really don’t have to worry about battery life on the Galaxy S8 Active. It also has a plastic-like coating on the screen to make it shatter-resistant, which is great for those who need it but a slight detriment to the rest of us as it picks up casual scratches much easier.
The Galaxy S8 Active isn’t a better overall phone than the standard Galaxy S8, but it sure is a great “rugged” choice considering the competition.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Released March 2016 The Galaxy S7 may now be considered to some as old news, but you’ll save a considerable amount of money picking this one over its latest successor. It’s considerably smaller when you compare it to the Galaxy S8, and aside from the “Active” models it’s the last modern Samsung flagship with a flat screen. But it has a whole host of other modern features, like IP68 water resistance, Samsung Pay, an SD card slot, and what we’d still consider a very capable 12-megapixel rear camera.
If something small and pocketable is simply more to your liking, and you don’t mind the impending end-of-life status of software updates after the next major release, the Galaxy S7 remains a good deal. Keep in mind, however, that the Galaxy S7 comes from the era of Micro-USB ports … you may need to have a different cable if you’ve already started to upgrade the rest of your setup to USB-C.
Update September 2017: The list was brought up to date with the addition of the Note 8 and Galaxy S8 Active, as well as the removal of the Note 7 and Galaxy S7 edge, for simplicity’s sake.