It’s safe. But here’s why you shouldn’t buy the Galaxy Note 8 (yet)

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is the safest smartphone you can buy. Compared to the Galaxy Note 7 and its unfortunate tendency to catch fire, that’s a very good thing. Sadly, in its quest to create a phone that doesn’t spontaneously set ablaze, Samsung forgot to make a phone that has any fire at all.

The new Note 8, while technically impressive, reeks of a company unwilling to rock the boat. What could have been 2017’s most exciting phone is an exercise in restraint, and a letdown. Lucky for you, competition to take the Note 8’s spot is just heating up.

Nothing new to see here

The Galaxy S8 is a great phone, and one of our favorites in 2017. It’s beautiful, capable, and selling in great numbers. On arrival, the Infinity screen stood out as its big new feature, which was a good thing because otherwise the Galaxy S8 wasn’t a big technological leap forward in smartphone history.

The Note 8 is basically a slightly less pretty Galaxy S8 Plus with a stylus.

That’s because Samsung was saving itself for the Galaxy Note 8, right? After all, the Galaxy Note 7 introduced several exciting features to the range and the line-up, including iris scanning, water resistance, and an even more sensitive S Pen stylus. Now the Galaxy Note 8 is here, we know the answer: No.

The Note 8 is basically a slightly less pretty Galaxy S8 Plus with a stylus. Samsung got the formula right with the Galaxy S8, the sales proved it, and because the Note 7’s advancements caused problems, it appears Samsung decided to play it really safe with the Galaxy Note 8. Even the designers seem to have held back, giving the Note 8 squared off corners, fewer curves, and flatter sides. “Careful,” it seems like they thought, “let’s not push our luck.”

The one feature that does separate the Note 8 from the S8 Plus is the dual-lens camera. It’s a lot like the Apple iPhone 7 Plus’s dual-lens camera, and pretty much all the other dual-lens cameras out there. It’s a safe, established feature Samsung thought up by watching other phone makers do it first. Yes, there are other new features, mostly software, but nothing that would make you want to buy this phone over a Galaxy S8 Plus, unless you absolutely must have a stylus.

The Galaxy S8 could be forgiven for not having masses of new features, because the design is gorgeous, the screen is great, and it has the fastest processor out there. Seeing Samsung try to pull the same trick with the Note 8, but with a less attractive design, isn’t exciting.

All safety, no fun

Without a doubt, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will be the safest, least-likely-to-explode smartphone you’ll hold in your hand this year. Samsung top brass must have acted like hypochondriacs, requesting test after test on the Note 8, eliminating all possibility of an explosion caused by battery failure, suspect design choices, or internal overheating. If it could legitimately label the Note 8 as fireproof, we’re sure it would.

It’s a natural reaction to tragedy. If our homes are burgled, we buy better locks and an alarm system to minimize the chances of it happening again. The Note 7’s name will forever be synonymous with exploding batteries, and Samsung will want to ensure it’s only that model number that suffers. The estimated $17 billion the company may have lost due to the accidents, recalls, and PR disasters are also strong encouragement to get the Note 8 exactly right.

For the Galaxy S8, Samsung introduced an 8-point battery test, which includes everything from visual checks to x-ray tests, along with voltage and charging assessments. Just in case you’re still worried, Samsung states in big bold letters “Safety is our priority,” at the bottom of the webpage detailing its battery safety checks. The same level of diligence has been used on the Note 8.

Making such a big deal about its phones not being fire hazards is probably not what Samsung wants to spend its marketing budget on, and the only way to stop that from happening with the Galaxy S9 is to make sure no more phones explode. Samsung knows the reasons why the Note 7 failed — it has told us several times — and isn’t going to make the same mistake again. It’s also putting the right measures in place ensuring it doesn’t end up making a different mistake, that has the same fiery outcome. Outside of owners dowsing it in gasoline and dropping a match on it, the Galaxy Note 8 almost certainly won’t catch fire.

But as much as we like Samsung’s new “Safety first” stance, the Galaxy Note 8 is too frightened to stand out.

Before you buy a Note 8, check out these phones

The Galaxy Note 8 is a Galaxy S8 Plus with a stylus, and a dual-lens camera thrown in. It is going to be a good phone, no doubt. But it hasn’t caused our hearts to flutter, our pupils to widen, or our wallets to open. It shouldn’t open your wallet either, at least not yet. There are a few phones coming very soon that could generate the excitement the Galaxy Note 8 lacks.

The LG V30 is shaping up very nicely. It has a beautiful screen just like the LG G6 (only OLED and even bigger this time), a revised wide-angle dual-lens camera (which really does do something different than all the other dual-lens cameras out there), and great audio. LG’s phones are usually cheaper than Samsung devices, and the V30’s design looks like a winner, so far.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Google is expected to launch a successor to the Pixel in October. It’s still one of our favorite Android phones, and the Pixel 2 leaks have us excited.

Huawei will also launch what we expect is the Mate 10 in October. It may be the company’s first phone with a bezel-less screen, and a new, more powerful processor. Huawei’s Leica-tuned cameras have been consistently excellent, so we’re hoping for more of the same.

Finally, Apple will arrive with up to three phones in September or October, one of which may be very special indeed.

There are plenty more phones that have been released in 2017 that are all worthy contenders, including the HTC U11, and the OnePlus 5. You can check out our best smartphones guide here.

There are a few phones coming very soon that could generate the excitement the Galaxy Note 8 lacks.

LG, Huawei, Google, and Apple all have direct challengers to the Galaxy Note 8 and, on paper, they’re all more exciting than Samsung’s safe baby. If you’re tempted by the Note 8, our advice is to wait and see what comes out with this autumn, and then pick the best.

The Galaxy Note 8 is not going anywhere. It can’t get any safer, outside of Samsung encasing it in yards of bubble wrap. There probably won’t be a recall happening between now and October either.

If you’re in the market for a big phone, you should see this as an opportunity. There has never been a better time to look around at the competition. There are a lot of fantastic smartphones out right now, and some good cheap phones, too.

Mobile

The Galaxy A8s is Samsung's first with a hole-punch camera cutout

Samsung is building exciting, technologically innovative midrange phones, and the latest to be revealed is the new Samsung Galaxy A8s, which may give us an idea of what the new Samsung Galaxy S10 will look like.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Mobile

Honor to out-megapixel the competition with 48MP camera on upcoming View 20

After its phenomenal success with the View 10 in 2018, it looks like Honor is getting ready up the ante with its forthcoming Honor View 20. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Deals

Amazon slashes price of 2018 iPad to under $250 in time for Christmas

Whether you love Apple or prefer Android, this 2018 iPad 32GB tablet deal is rather tempting. If you're still on the hunt for gifts, then this deep discount from Amazon makes now an excellent time to pick one up.
Wearables

How to use the ECG app, set up irregular rhythm notifications on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the best smartwatch iPhone owners can own, and it just got even better with the addition of the ECG app and ability to identify irregular heart rhythms. Here's how to set it all up.
Mobile

Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.
Home Theater

Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Mobile

The LG V40 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Watch W7 are discounted for the holidays

LG announced a series of deals for the holiday season where you can buy the company's two flagship phones, the V40 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, as well as its latest smartwatch, for between $150 and $200 off, depending on the device.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Mobile

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.
Mobile

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.
Music

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.
Computing

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?