Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung is not known for their short update cycles and many owners of flagship smartphones such as the Galaxy S8 have long been asking why they are still stuck on Android 7.0 Nougat, when Android 8.0 Oreo was released in August of this year. The answer lies somewhere in Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, a skin over the Android OS which is tailored by Samsung specifically for their handsets. For a couple of months now, rumours have been flying around that Oreo would be coming to the Galaxy S8, mainly in keen-eyed snippets gleaned from sources in S. Korea and elsewhere. Even the recently launched Galaxy Note 8 was released with an updated version of Nougat 7.1.1, albeit a couple of days after Oreo’s official release by Google. Then yesterday Samsung Experience 9.0 beta was announced, which is a test version of Oreo and the new Samsung UI for the Galaxy S8 and S8+.
Well needless to say, the beta has been received with open arms by those who want the latest and greatest, myself included. However, the beta test drive is limited to Galaxy S8 and S8+ in South Korea, the US, and the UK (unlocked UK handsets) and in the US, only T-Mobile, Sprint, or unlocked devices are eligible to join the test. This put me in a quandary since I live in Argentina and use a local SIM card, but I applied anyway hoping that I might just slide in under the radar.
Indeed – but there are more than nine ways to skin a cat and since my Galaxy S8 was bought and activated in England using an O2 SIM card, popping it back in whilst registering again was very simple and I was accepted into the program instantly. Or maybe I was number 4,999, who knows?
So I managed to sneak into the Oreo BETA program, but not before carrying out a full backup of my phone using Samsung Smart Switch, just in case things went belly up.
Clearly, BETA programs are just that and should be used with caution, but the advantages of the new Android 8.0 are many, so if you enjoy tinkering with BETAs and are prepared to accept the risks, make sure you meet the requirements and install the Samsung Members App (known as Samsung+ in the US), then sign up and you’ll eventually see an invitation to register for the BETA.
- Improved notification channels
- Picture in picture for multitasking
- Auto WiFi on/off
- Icon notification dots
- Auto-fill passwords
- Improved storage management
- Longer battery life
- Smart text selection
- Vitals – extra security
In practice, the improvements are subtle. Notifications can be channelled, delayed and tweaked in new ways now and like in iOS, dots will appear on icons, which can be changed to numbers or removed entirely, depending on your level of OCD.
I haven’t noticed a marked improvement in battery life just yet, although I’m assured that Oreo has changed the way it handles background process limitation, so I imagine it will be an aspect I’ll notice over time. Picture-in-picture is a nifty feature I was looking forward to and as far as I can gather is only available on YouTube Red which is prescription only and not on the standard version of YouTube, although this may change. It is available in other Apps including Google Chrome, Maps and VLC. I couldn’t get it to work in any of these programs however. Also, I use the Swiftkey keyboard due to its superb ability to type in several languages simultaneously, but it does have a tendency to crash in the beta version
Have I noticed any significant benefits yet? No, not really and although the Oreo beta feels a tad quicker, I expect the final stable version due to be released next year will have many of the teething problems sorted out by then. For the moment, I’m happy to test it and provide feedback as it was intended.