I was switching over from an LG G4, which became best known for its widespread and fatal manufacturing defect, so anything else would be a vast improvement. But the stunning beauty of my first Samsung phone blew away any expectations I had as I unboxed the device, a wow factor that hasn't gone away as it always has with any other purchase. Seriously, there's no bad angle of this phone.
One of the strong suits of my G4 was the camera, and I was worried that the S8 would be a downgrade since the resolution is a little lower. So far in the 11 pictures I've taken, the S8 has produced even more vivid images, and performs even better in low-light conditions. Selective focus is a neat feature, allowing for a semi-portrait mode. With just a little software refinement, I believe this phone is capable of a fully functional portrait mode, like the Note 8's Live Focus feature. Though I worry that Samsung won't release that feature to the S8 line to keep the Note 8 slotted above for marketability reasons (Samsung, if you're reading, don't do that).
As for durability, no I have not tested the phone's IP68 water resistance nor do I intend to, but it does provide for peace of mind. Because of the glass front and back, this is the first phone I've ever gotten a case for, since I like the feel of a slim and caseless phone, but that's a small price to pay to make sure your beautiful and flawless device stays that way.
Next is Samsung Pay. As a huge price shopper, I aim to get the maximum value out of every purchase, and the Samsung Rewards program that is embedded within Samsung Pay is just the cherry on top. You earn points per transaction (not by amount unfortunately) so that's extra cash back on top of what you get with your credit card. And occasional promotions make it easier to rack up points. So this phone does pay for itself (albeit very slowly). And the best part about Samsung Pay is that it works at any credit card terminal where you would swipe (or insert) your card, not just terminals built for Android/Apple Pay which use NFC.
Lastly, many buyers are probably split between the S8+ and Note 8 as I was myself. Here's what I see the decision boiling down to: screen size, cameras, S Pen, battery, and price. As for screen size, you'll be hard pressed to be able to discern the 0.1" difference. It took me a while with the two display models side by side, so I don't see this difference holding any weight in this decision. As for the cameras, yes, the Live Focus portrait mode with the Note 8's dual cameras is amazing, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm optimistic that the S8's selective focus will be improved with future software updates. So the Note 8 gets a point here. Next is the S Pen. No question, the S Pen is a cool device with unique features not found on other stylus phablets. For me personally, I couldn't see myself getting used to a stylus, so it would've gone mostly unused. If you're a fan of the S Pen, give the Note 8 a point here, but if not, then it's a draw (pun intended). In case you're wondering, no the S Pen from the Note 8 does not work on the S8. Due to the internal space requirements for the S Pen's slot, there is that much less space in the Note 8's chassis. And because Samsung packs their phones full of features and the hardware necessary to have said features, the Note 8's battery capacity takes a hit. The S8+ has a 3500 mAh battery whereas the Note 8 has a 3300 mAh battery. Note 8 reviews I've come across have said positive things about battery life, so it's a matter of great and greater battery life, but the S8+ wins here. As a side note, the S8 has a smaller battery, but a smaller screen to power. My mom just got the S8 herself, and I've noticed similar battery life between her phone and mine. But the Note 8 has a ever so slightly larger screen than the S8+ and a smaller battery, so its shorter battery life is to be expected. And most importantly, price. The $100-150 difference was substantial enough for me to not even consider the Note 8. Had money not been an issue, I probably would've gotten the Note 8 instead, solely for the Live Focus feature.
As an epilogue, I'd like to mention the advantages/disadvantages of shelling out the ~$150 premium for the unlocked version compared to the carrier versions which are usually discounted further. First, not carrier bloat means that your bootups are free of carrier branding and your OS is as pristine as a wi-fi tablet or dare I say, the iPhone. And you won't have carrier bloatware that you want to, but can't uninstall. I'm using my phone on Verizon. Keep in mind this phone uses a nano-SIM, which I didn't have switching over from the G4. It is possible to cut a micro-SIM down with an X-Acto knife to get it to work in a nano-SIM phone, but it's not worth the hassle at all. Go to any Best Buy or Verizon corporate store (make sure it's not a Verizon "authorized dealer/reseller" since they like to charge for a SIM).and they'll hook you up, and you shouldn't have to pay a dime. Another minor difference I noticed was the LTE logo is the universal icon in the status bar when mobile data is turned on which is difference from Verizon's (mind you I had used 3 Verizon smartphones prior to getting this unlocked one). The one disadvantage is the lag in software updates since Samsung (for whatever reason) tends to update the most stock version of their phones last even though they should be the easiest to update. So far, this model has kept up, but only time will tell.
If you have any questions about this particular model, the unlocked advantages, or specifically using this on Verizon, please leave a comment and I'll try to get back to you ASAP.