The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is one of the best smartphones released this year. It combines the many winning qualities of a premium smartphone into a fantastic package, but as someone who is always on the move in between assignments and meetings, there are several features on the Note 8 that I really appreciate.
In our office, we’ve been using the Note 8 for close to a month now, and both myself and my colleague Andrew (who wrote the excellent and comprehensive Note 8 review) have used it on assignments as our main device. The Note 8 barely broke a sweat as it kept up with our busy schedules, and was more than capable when used as, you know, a smartphone.
The Real Flagship Dual Camera
The Galaxy S8 already had what was almost universally accepted as having the best smartphone camera around, but Samsung has managed to trump that with the Galaxy Note 8. The new dual-camera setup adds a 12MP sensor with a telephoto lens, offering 2x optical zoom as well as a new feature called Live Focus.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about the main sensor. It’s the same excellent 12MP f/1.7 shooter from the S8, which is capable of producing great images in all but the harshest lighting conditions. It also has the fastest autofocus we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Here are some sample images we shot with the Note 8:
So how does Samsung improve an already excellent camera? Slap in another sensor, of course! The new dual-camera setup retains the excellent properties of the main sensor, while introducing greater photographing flexibility with 2x optical zoom and the ability to take stunning shots with DSLR-like depth of field effects (or bokeh effects).
While 2x optical zoom is simply a tap away, the bokeh effects can be enabled using the new Live Focus feature. Using information from both sensors, the camera software intelligently separates the foreground, and blurring out the background to create a new image that – in the best lighting conditions – are frankly fantastic. Here are some shots we took on Live Focus mode:
This phone is a game-changer if you love traveling. The rear camera saves precious memories of your trips without weighing you down like a DSLR, while the front camera has autofocus – only Samsung flagship smartphones have this feature for now – which allows you to take perfect selfies for those solo adventures.
Oh, and not to forget, mobile shutterbugs need never worry about running out of storage space on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Not only does it have a microSD card slot, saving and syncing your photos on Google Photos also gives you unlimited storage for your photos. Plus, with something like U Mobile’s Roam-OnzTM feature, which offers free data roaming in 12 countries, you can set Google Photos to upload over mobile data and have peace of mind that every shot you take is backed up over the cloud, no matter where you are.
Dual SIM, Dual Messenger
Many entrepreneurs and businessmen hold different phone numbers and SIM cards, including foreign ones. For these people, a dual-SIM phone isn’t a luxury, but a necessity – when moving between neighbouring countries, for example, they simply need to go to the phone’s settings and enable the second SIM card for calls and data access, saving plenty of money from roaming charges.
But an interesting trend has come up in recent years: with the increasing popularity of dual-SIM phones, many users are also requesting for dual-apps or “app clones”, where the same app (social/messaging apps) can be used for two different accounts on the same device.
While there are some Chinese Android ROMs that offer this feature, Samsung has now embraced the dual-app age. Given the fact that almost every flagship smartphone from Samsung has a dual-SIM slot, it was only logical that Samsung also has a dual-app function – on Samsung devices, it’s called Dual Messenger.
Dual Messenger allows Note 8 users to use popular social and messaging apps with two different accounts (two Facebook accounts, two WhatsApp accounts, and so on). Both apps will run simultaneously, meaning you don’t have to switch from one WhatsApp phone number to the other (like what Instagram does). The second account will have a dedicated app icon which you can put on the Home screen, and can be identified with the Dual Messenger watermark at the bottom right.
Plus, with U Mobile’s App-OnzTM, you get unlimited data to access your social media accounts – no matter how many there are currently on your smartphone. This includes Dual Messenger apps, too, so not only do you have unlimited data to two WhatsApp accounts, App-OnzTM offers unlimited data access for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
Dual Messenger is a genuinely useful feature for a variety of reasons, especially if the user has both work and personal phone numbers. This spares users the hassle of carrying a second phone just to maintain a second messaging app account, and it also keeps personal phone numbers private and away from business purposes.
For example, with Dual Messenger, an online seller can post a secondary WhatsApp number on a sales listing so they can negotiate with customers without using a second phone or revealing their personal phone numbers.
Earlier this year, both Samsung and LG introduced a bold new change to smartphone design by employing a new aspect ratio for its displays. The Galaxy S8 series and LG G6 have narrower displays (18.5:9 and 18:9 respectively), which, as it turns out, proved to be a rather brilliant move.
Not only are the phones easier to hold and grip, the additional vertical real estate was perfect for a relatively new Android feature: split screen view. As an aside, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 makes split screen use easier by introducing App Pair, a function that opens two user-selected apps simultaneously in split-screen mode.
Anyway, this new aspect ratio isn’t the only thing that’s great on the Galaxy Note 8. The front of the phone is almost entirely screen, allowing Samsung to fit a larger display onto a smaller body. This “Infinity Display” is gorgeous, and is so iconic following its debut on the Galaxy S8 series, Samsung ended up using it as a core image teaser for the Note 8.
The display itself is exemplary. Samsung’s Super AMOLED display technology is one of the industry’s finest, capable of displaying brilliant, punchy colours while maintaining a power draw that’s so low, the company introduced the Always On Display, so anything important on your phone is just a glance away.
Finally, for such a large, vivid display it would be a shame if one does not use it to binge on Netflix or YouTube. Thankfully, the Galaxy Note 8’s display also supports HDR, resulting in one of the best mobile displays ever made – DisplayMate calls it “the most innovative and high performance smartphone display” it has ever tested.
Having a great display definitely was a game-changer in long-haul commutes. With U Mobile Video-OnzTM, users get unlimited data access to video streaming platforms such as YouTube and Netflix, so that one-hour train ride to the other side of town now equates to one full episode of your favourite series.
High Performance, Greater Efficiency
As a flagship Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 definitely ticks all the boxes when it comes to hardware. It packs the latest Exynos 8895 octa-core chipset built on the advanced 10nm process, offering exceptional performance with better efficiency.
It is also Samsung’s first smartphone with 6GB of RAM, which is higher than even most laptops. This is 50% more memory compared to the S8 series, and would theoretically help improve the Note 8’s multitasking capabilities – perfect for the power user who’s always switching between apps to get things done.
Speaking of power, while the 3,300mAh battery does not sound exactly generous, the phone still consistently lasts from sunrise till the night on a single charge. This is because of the power efficiency on the 10nm Exynos chipset, alongside some intelligent app management software. But, if you need to top up during the course of the day, the Adaptive Fast Charging rate is impressive too.
Not to forget, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is rated IP68 for dust and water resistant, too. This phone does not fear water, which means you can go for that cool underwater shot you’ve always wanted to try, or better yet, rinse off whatever stains that accidentally get on your phone.
The Mighty S Pen
How does one talk about the Galaxy Note without bringing up the S Pen? This year’s model is the best S Pen Samsung’s ever created, but that’s a given. With 4,096 pressure levels, it writes like a normal everyday pen. In our line of work, we’ve actually seen Note users whipping out their S Pen to immediately take notes without unlocking their phones – Samsung calls this Screen Off Memo, and these notes are automatically saved in the Notes app.
The idea is simple, and the execution is great: anytime you take out the S Pen when the phone is locked, the screen automatically becomes a blank piece of paper for you to write anything on: interview notes, to-dos, or something as simple as a reminder that you can later pin on the Always On Display.
For travelers, the S Pen allows for easy and instantaneous translation of foreign texts. S Pen Translate lets you translate entire sentences accurately simply by hovering the S Pen over the text on screen. It’s powered by Google Translate, so you can be sure of its reliability.
Finally, given how the Millennial generation are somehow perfectly capable of communicating entirely via GIFs, Samsung has not one, but two ways of embracing the GIF age. The first is something called Live Message, where you can write a personalised message using the S Pen and have it saved as a GIF file that you can use later on.
The second, more fun way is by creating your own GIF simply by cropping any portion of the screen and letting it run for some seconds. The software then automatically stitches the footage together into a GIF animation. This means you can even capture a video playing on the screen and turn part of it into part of your GIF repertoire.
Jack of All Trades
Whether you are a career-driven individual or a free spirit determined to see the world with your own eyes, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a powerful companion to own. It goes without saying, too, that the best smartphone deserves a great data plan to fully unlock its potential. And, with U Mobile’s latest Unlimited Device bundle plans, owning one of the best Android smartphones has never been more affordable.
Own the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 from just RM2,429 with the UD bundles that start from RM60 a month. With generous data quotas, the UD60, UD90, and UD130 plans also come with U Mobile-exclusive features such as Call-OnzTM, App-OnzTM, Video-OnzTM, and Music-OnzTM. Find out more at www.u.com.my.
Disclosure: This article is sponsored by U Mobile.