iPhone 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Which phone to buy?

Between them, Apple and Samsung occupy around 40% of the mobile phone market share. Samsung’s flagship smartphone for this year is already delighting its owners, but now we know that Apple’s iPhone 8 is just days away – arriving in the UK on 22 September.

We’ve had a chance to play with the iPhone 8 and have some early impressions here. Our full review will be here soon, but we’re now in a position to say whether you should wait for Apple or get yourself a Samsung Galaxy S8 today.

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iPhone 8 vs Galaxy S8: Design

Samsung promised they’d make us re-examine what a phone looks like with the Samsung Galaxy S8, before launch. In the end, it wasn’t that far removed from most smartphones, albeit a very pretty example of the genre. The curved glass and infinity display make for a fantastic looking handset, albeit one that’s more than a little fragile.

The iPhone 8, on the other hand, doesn’t reinvent the wheel. You’ll be looking at the eye-wateringly expensive iPhone X for that kind of shift. So no edge-to-edge display, but a handset that is, by anybody’s definition, handsome. iphone_8_vs_samsung_galaxy_s8_2

That also means there’s no curve to the screen. On a purely aesthetic level, that’s a bit of a shame, but on a practical level, it’s either a good thing or a neutral one. The former because a curved screen makes breakages more likely and repair costs significantly higher; on the latter because curved displays aren’t actually that useful, barring a couple of gimmicks. Samsung has yet to make the case for them being essential, rather than just pretty, in other words.

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While we’re being (mildly) critical of the S8, it’s worth pointing out that one of its few missteps is in the placement of the fingerprint scanner, which is on the back next to the camera. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, keeps the fingerprint scanner on the home button.

And of course, the iPhone 8 introduces wireless charging for the first time. This is a feature that Samsung flagships have had for three generations, but Apple’s arrival should be celebrated: we’ll likely be inundated with quality wireless charging stations.

iPhone 8 vs Galaxy S8: Specifications

It’s always hard to compare iPhones to any other Android handsets before release, in terms of raw power. Why? Because Apple uses its own processors, so there’s nothing out there to compare it with. The iPhone 8, like the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, contains the A11 Bionic chip which promises a suitably impressive speed boost over last year’s model, but what that means in real terms remains to be seen.

The S8 is easier to assess, because it’s already out there, and we can see how it compares to rivals. And the answer is very well indeed. It’s powered by the top-of-the-range Snapdragon 835 (in the US) or Exynos 8895 here in the UK. And the results are always impressive:galaxy_s8_vs_iphone_8

What we can say is that while the Samsung Galaxy S8 overtook the iPhone 7 last time around, it wasn’t by too much. It would be surprising if the iPhone didn’t retake the lead in September before Samsung starts the race off again in 2018.iphone_7_vs_galaxy_s8_performance

The first benchmarks look good, although they should be taken with a pinch of salt until we can look at them ourselves. But on Tuesday, a Geekbench test purported to show an Apple handset with six cores (that matches the A11 Bionic) getting scores of 4,061 in single-core tests and 9,959 in the multi-core version. As the chart above shows, that simply leaves the S8 in the dust.iphone-x-iphone-8-benchmark-test

Of course, this might be the iPhone 8 Plus or the iPhone X – but given they’re all using the same chipset, you wouldn’t expect massive variety in the benchmark scores.

iPhone 8 vs Galaxy S8: Camera

While the iPhone 8 Plus has a dual-lens camera, the iPhone 8 has just a single lens 12-megapixel snapper. The pictures looked good on stage at Apple’s keynote, but the proof will be in the pudding.

Samsung hasn’t branched out into dual-lens cameras in the S range yet, but that doesn’t seem to have done their cameras any harm. The S8 may have only been a modest improvement on the S7’s (on paper, they were identical: 12 megapixels, f/1.7 aperture) but it’s still the second best in the business to our eyes – just a little shy of the superior snapper on the Google Pixel.

Apple has its work cut out catching up. We’ll know if it’s managed it when our review model arrives.

iPhone 8 vs Galaxy S8: Price

The Samsung Galaxy S8 retails quite high – £689 – but can be found for a lot cheaper. Right now, you can buy a Samsung Galaxy S8 SIM-free for just over £479 at Amazon, and contract prices have come down similarly. Contracts start at around £32 per month with a £50 upfront cost – £32 per month from O2 with 12GB data looks pretty good to us.

Apple has gone in high. The iPhone 8 will start at £669, a direct pound to dollar conversion which was as predictable as it was infuriating. For that you get the 64GB version. If that’s not enough for you (and bear in mind you can’t throw in a microSD card like with the S8) then you’ll be wanting the 256GB model, which will set you back £819 – a price fast approaching Note 8 levels. That means contract deals start on the pricey side.


iPhone 8 vs Galaxy S8: Verdict

Much of this comes down to how flush with cash you are. While the S8 retails for a similar price to the iPhone 8, in real terms it’s dropped rapidly. You’ll find it far easier to get a good deal on the Galaxy S8 than you will the iPhone 8 – at least for a few months.

Aesthetically, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is considerably prettier, and mixes things up a bit, while the iPhone 8 falls back on a familiar, albeit iconic, look. In performance, early benchmarks make it look like the iPhone 8 will be very hard to beat. Hardly surprising when the S8 had a six-month headstart, but worth highlighting all the same.

Much of this will likely come down to OS preference, of course. Some people just don’t get on with Android, in which case it’s hard to argue for the S8. 

Whichever handset you end up buying, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. Well, until the new models come out next year, of course…

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