The Samsung Galaxy Note8 has received a lot of praise since its launch. From stuff like its dual camera setup with dual optical image stabilisation, to just how stunning the smartphone looks in general. However, not everything is peachy in the Note8’s world and while it’s an impressive device, there are a few things that we really didn’t like with the Note8.
So, before you check to see if your bank account can take the hit you’re about to give it by placing a pre-order for the Note8, read this first.
1. No stereo speakers
To me, this is probably the biggest thing they left out when they released the Samsung Galaxy Note8. It’s 2017 and yet Samsung — who is supposed to be at the top of the Android smartphone game — does not make a flagship smartphone with stereo speakers. And I’m not even asking for full-fledged dual stereo speakers like HTC’s original BoomSound or those on the Nexus 6P. I would be plenty happy with an “earpiece stereo” speaker setup like you’d find on the iPhone 7 Plus.
Just look at 2017’s crop of flagship smartphones. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a pair of proper stereo speakers. HTC’s U11 has an earpiece stereo setup (which sounds amazing), and so does the Huawei P10 Plus. Heck, even the Xiaomi Mi 6 has earpiece stereo speakers (albeit one that’s still some ways behind HTC’s), so what’s Samsung’s excuse?
Maybe, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the bezels on the smartphone are too thin. Maybe Samsung should have given it a little more top and bottom bezel so they could fit an earpiece stereo speaker setup. I know I would gladly take that trade off.
2. For a 6.3-inch phone, the battery is absolutely tiny
Not only is it smaller than last year’s Note7, the Galaxy Note8’s 3,300 mAh battery is even smaller than this year’s S8+ which already sports a relatively conservative 3,500 mAh cell.
Sure, the media and critics have sympathised with Samsung’s desire to avoid another explosive situation — and that’s completely understandable…I guess. But the fact remains that the Note8 has an absolutely tiny battery for a smartphone with its kind of specs. After all, it does have a bright Quad HD+ Super AMOLED panel that’s pushing nearly 3K resolution across a massive 6.3 inches.
I’m not really convinced that it’ll be able to last a full day with my typical usage pattern but I won’t give Samsung too hard a time for this until I’ve actually used it as my daily driver. Maybe the 10nm processor inside it will be efficient enough. Maybe.
3. Fingerprint scanner is STILL in a dumb spot
We hated the position of the S8’s fingerprint scanner. It was right next to the camera lens without a significant ridge to help users easily differentiate it from the camera without smudging the lens up. It was also really high up on a phone that is already much taller than your usual handset thanks to the 18.5:9 aspect ratio.
And guess what, the Note8 suffers from pretty much the exact same problem. Yeah, maybe it’s a little bit easier to discern between it and the camera lens, but it’s still in an inconvenient spot for a phone that’s even taller than the Galaxy S8+. For most people, the sensor is just too high up and I’d really prefer that they place it somewhere in the middle of the back of the smartphone instead.
Or, better yet, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, but I understand that the tech still isn’t ready yet. So let’s wait for Note9?
4. Not running Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box
Doesn’t it just suck when your brand new smartphone that literally just launched arrives with software that is already a year old? Meanwhile, people on the 2016 Google Pixel and Pixel XL will likely have Android 8.0 Oreo up and running on their devices already.
I don’t know if this problem lies with Google or Samsung, but I do know that this is a problem that really has to stop happening. Why ship some of the best hardware to ever grace the face of the Earth if you’re just going to dump outdated software on it?
Granted, the Note8 will almost definitely be upgraded to Android 8.0 Oreo, perhaps even before the end of 2017, but I want Oreo right out of the box. After all, I’m probably paying about RM4,000 for this smartphone.
5. Non-user-programmable Bixby button
Oh boy. Probably the most polarising thing about Samsung’s latest crop of flagship smartphones is the company’s very own voice assistant, Bixby. Some hate it, some like it. I personally lean more towards the side of the former, though, not because I dislike Bixby, I just don’t like that there’s a non-user-programmable physical button dedicated to launching it.
To make matters worse, it’s easily pressed by accident and can sometimes be mistaken for the volume button when you’re not paying attention.
I like being able to customise stuff on my smartphone — that’s the whole reason why I like Android. I want to make it my own and in my world, the Google Assistant is more important than Bixby because I pretty much live on Google’s services.
However, I will say that Samsung is working hard at Bixby. They revealed a bunch of interesting command “macros” that you can issue which will get Bixby to do specific tasks based on a certain command and that’s pretty cool. Will it be super effective? I can’t say for certain yet. What I do know for certain is that I’d like to at least be given the option to remap that Bixby button to some other function if I so desired.
Other little niggles
Besides what we’ve mentioned earlier, there are a few more points that perhaps aren’t so universal and are more down to personal preferences. The price, for one, will likely be the highest that ever on any Note device. Coming in at RM3,999, it’s a whopping RM800 more expensive than the Note7 it succeeds.
Next, is the fact that until now, Samsung still uses a hybrid dual SIM tray for the Note8 which means users will have to choose between a dual SIM setup and sacrifice on microSD expansion, or get a microSD card and stick to just one SIM. How hard could it be to just put a dedicated slot in? They’re doing that for their Galaxy A series phones. In fact, why are almost all the flagship phones like this?
Then you’ve got the camera UI — which Alex goes into detail here — but that can be easily fixed with a software update. Finally, perhaps the most subjective of it all: The Note8’s camera module. Some of us at the office dig it, others think it sticks out like a sore thumb on any colour but Midnight Black.
All things considered, the Note8 is still a very interesting smartphone. Good and bad we’re looking forward to trying it out for real in our full review. What do you want us to check out when we review the device? Let us know in the comments below!