Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is a stellar achievement in design — assuming there are no unforeseen disasters to come. You can read all about the phone’s fantastic hardware in both Dan’s review and Vlad’s piece on the S8 Plus somehow being usable in a single hand.
But the S8’s hardware stands out in another special way, and it’s something that Android smartphone shoppers in the US rarely see: there’s no carrier branding on the device on any of the big four networks. The front of the S8 is free of any logos. It’s all screen. But the phone’s tall form left plenty of room on the back for a Verizon or AT&T stamp. T-Mobile and Sprint have largely stopped putting their mark on flagship phone hardware, but the biggest two carriers haven’t shown the same restraint. LG’s G6 has a stamp, for instance. AT&T’s is as big as the damn fingerprint sensor.
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But with the Galaxy S8, there’s nothing. Not a Verizon checkmark or AT&T globe to be seen anywhere. To me, carrier logos on phones have always been equal parts tacky advertising and a desperate attempt to cling to subscribers. “If we put this here, they can’t leave!” Apple has never tolerated it on the iPhone since the beginning. And now, perhaps Samsung has reached a level of status where it can tell even the biggest mobile carriers not to take way from its incredible looking gadgets. That it took this long shows just how much sway Verizon and AT&T wield.
They’ve still got a grip on the software, though. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint splash screens when you power them on — and plenty of carrier-installed apps. But the hardware itself looks identical (and excellent) no matter where you buy it. My, how far we’ve come.