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The Galaxy S8 versus the Galaxy S7 — is it worth the upgrade?

Tech Insider logo Tech Insider 14-05-2017 Antonio Villas-Boas

galaxy s7 vs s8 © Provided by Business Insider Inc galaxy s7 vs s8 You've read the Galaxy S8 reviews, and suddenly your Galaxy S7 seems old and antiquated.

However, upon closer inspection and thought, you might realize that your Galaxy S7 isn't really that far behind the Galaxy S8. Sure, the Galaxy S8 boasts a bunch of new features and a gorgeous design, but do those new additions warrant an upgrade that'll set you back at least $700?

And if you have an older phone but the Galaxy S8's price tag seems high, you could be better off, and $150 richer, by upgrading to the Galaxy S7 instead.

Perhaps you need a refresher that compares the Galaxy S7 to the Galaxy S8 — we've got you covered. Check it out:

Thinner borders mean a bigger screen, but not a much bigger smartphone.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc The Galaxy S8's thinner borders around its screen allow it to have a bigger screen while maintaining a similar overall device footprint as its predecessor. However, the Galaxy S8's bigger screen doesn't mean your apps and videos will look bigger...

The screen is bigger, but not in the way we're used to.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Don't expect your apps and videos to look bigger than they do on your Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge.

The Galaxy S7 dons the conventional 16:9 aspect ratio, the same aspect ratio as your computer monitor or your TV. The Galaxy S8's screen, on the other hand, has a taller 18.5:9 aspect ratio. This means that, despite the Galaxy S8's larger screen, apps and content won't look much bigger. Instead, the Galaxy S8's taller aspect ratio means you see more of your apps at any one time.

While the S8's taller screen is striking and it's nice to see more of your apps on the screen, it's tough to recommend spending a minimum of $720 if you already have the S7. Even if you're looking to upgrade and you're deciding between the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S8, you can save yourself around $200 by going with the Galaxy S7 and be perfectly happy.

Thinner borders also means that Samsung changed the way we use our fingerprints to unlock the Galaxy S8.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc The Galaxy S8's thin borders leave little room for the fingerprint scanner, which is found on the bottom, below the screen on the Galaxy S7. So, Samsung moved it to the back of the Galaxy S8.

This one is totally up to you. Some like the fingerprint scanner on the back while it frustrates others. Personally, I prefer the fingerprint scanner on the front so I could unlock the phone while it's resting on a table rather than having to pick it up and reach for the scanner.

Facial recognition.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc The Galaxy S8 has two extra ways to unlock the phone, including facial recognition and iris recognition. These alternatives let you unlock the Galaxy S8 without having to pick it up to reach for the S8's fingerprint scanner on the back.

The Galaxy S8's facial recognition is the least secure out of the three methods, but it's still likely to be secure enough for most people. It works as quickly as fingerprint scanning in well-lit situations, and you don't need to unnaturally lift the phone up to your face. You can be looking down at your phone as usual and it'll recognize your face. Still, it doesn't work so well in a dark rooms, as the front-facing camera may not have enough light to recognize your facial features, and you'd need to hover your face above the Galaxy S8's front camera if you want to unlock it while it's resting on a table.

Iris recognition.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc The company behind the Galaxy S8’s iris recognition, Princeton Identity, claims it's more secure than fingerprint scanning. It works quickly and easily, but it could ask you to move the phone closer to your eyes before unlocking it, which can feel unnatural. And, as with facial recognition, you'd still need to hover your eyes above the Galaxy S8's front camera to unlock it if it's resting on a table.

Thinner borders also brings a big change to the traditional home button.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Despite the ultra-thin borders, Samsung still managed to keep a home button where it's traditionally found at the bottom of the Galaxy S7's screen. The difference is that the S7's traditional, physical home button has evolved into a modern pressure-sensitive touch button that's embedded underneath the S8's screen. It makes for a sleek, button-less front panel design. Overall, it's a more modern and aesthetically pleasing way to use the home button, but it's not a feature that should make you rush to buy the Galaxy S8 over sticking with your S7.

No more capacitive Android function buttons.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Samsung was one of the last holdouts for the old-fashioned, off-screen touch-sensitive Android function buttons, which include the "back" and "recent apps" buttons. On the Galaxy S8, Samsung moved those buttons to appear on the bottom of the screen itself. 

Having the Android function buttons on the screen allows the S8 to have those gorgeous ultra-thin borders, and it doesn't affect a user's experience, as the buttons are always on the screen.

Bixby hasn't made the best impression so far.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Samsung's own take on a smart voice assistant, called Bixby, is off to a rocky start. It currently doesn't support voice commands, and there's already a great voice assistant built in to most recent Android smartphones running the latest version of Android called Google Assistant. Bixby is certainly not a reason to upgrade to the Galaxy S8 from the S7.

Performance.

The Galaxy S8 is undoubtedly quicker than the Galaxy S7, but the S7 is no slouch, either. I could still whizz around the Android OS with barely a hickup, and apps open quickly and run smoothly. With that said, it's not clear how long the S7's performance will hold up. The usual lifespan for a smartphone's performance is about two years before it starts to show its age, and the Galaxy S7 recently celebrated its first birthday in March 2017.

Minor improvements to the camera.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Samsung made very few changes to the already-excellent Galaxy S7 camera in the Galaxy S8. It's still the same 12-megapixel camera with an ultra-fast auto-focus for quick, sharp photos, but Samsung says it's improved its low-light performance to be sharper. The Galaxy S7's camera is already the best-in-class when it comes low-light shots, so unless you take a lot of photos at night, the S8's camera isn't a huge deal.

The S8 has a slightly improved front-facing camera.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Samsung gave the S8 front-facing camera an 8-megapixel sensor over the S7's 5-megapixel shooter. It also added better auto-focus to the Galaxy S8's front-facing camera, which could make for faster selfies that are sharper and in-focus. The S7 works just fine as a selfie-taking smartphone, but if you take a lot of selfies, you might find value in the S8.

USB-C on the S8 has its benefits, but it hasn't reached its full potential yet.

© Provided by Business Insider Inc Both the Galaxy S7's microUSB port and S8's USB-C port  support fast charging. The main benefit of the Galaxy S8 using the new USB-C standard is that it can transfer data faster than the older microUSB. Sure, it means you can probably transfer your photos from the S8 to your computer a lot faster than with the S7, but that's not USB-C's best feature.

USB-C is fast enough to be used for powerful applications, like turning the S8 into a sort of lightweight computer. With Samsung's new DeX dock, you can connect a computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the Galaxy S8, all through its single USB-C port. Once connected, you'll see a lightweight desktop Samsung operating system that works with Samsung apps and some Microsoft apps, like Word and Excel. 

It might not be useful for everyone, but at least it's a proof of concept of USB-C's power. I'm excited to see what else USB-C can be used for with a smartphone.

Conclusion:

© Provided by Business Insider Inc As usual, the new features and design of a new smartphone may not necessarily warrant an upgrade from its predecessor, and it all comes down to raw performance.

I wouldn't recommend buying the Galaxy S8 as an upgrade from the S7, as the S7 still has at least another year of life left before it starts to show its age in the performance department. Plus, battery life hasn't been dramatically improved, and nor has the camera.

If you have an older phone you bought in 2015 and before, like the Galaxy S6 or S5, the Galaxy S8 is mighty tempting. Just keep in mind that the Galaxy S8's $720 base price tag is pretty high, even for a new flagship smartphone.

You could consider upgrading to the Galaxy S7, which you can buy for around $575, depending on your carrier (AT&T is the most expensive at $595). However, you should also keep in mind that it may start to slow down a year or so earlier than the Galaxy S8.

With that said, even if the S7 starts to slow down by March 2018, you'll still have a beautiful phone with an excellent camera for about $575. It might just take couple seconds longer to open and run apps.

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