After years of sticking to physical keys, Samsung is switching over to on-screen buttons for the Galaxy S8 — but it's putting a bit of a twist on them.
Like nearly all other Android phones, the Galaxy S8 will display a bar of three buttons at the bottom of the screen: multitasking, home, and back. But in a unique approach, Samsung has made the home button pressure sensitive, letting you push on the bottom of the screen to activate the home button even if a full-screen app has hidden it.
It's a small touch, but it could help ease the transition to the S8 for people used to having a physical, always-present button at the bottom of their phone. (The feature works a lot like Apple's Force Touch, just confined to a single location on the screen.)
There's a mix of good and bad to come out of this. On the plus side, Samsung can put much slimmer bezels on the front of the phone, and that looks really cool.
On the downside, physical buttons are easier to pick up for people new to smartphones (though that's not necessarily a huge issue for a top-of-the-line phone in 2017), and the removal of them requires Samsung to relocate its fingerprint sensor. Rear fingerprint sensors can be great, but Samsung has decided to place the S8's right beside its camera, which seems pretty awkward at first glance.
So the results of Samsung's switch on-screen buttons seem decidedly mixed. Most Android phones have been using this method for years, so it's not like the decision to go virtual should be a huge problem. But a lot is resting on how comfortably Samsung placed that fingerprint sensor.
Our first impression? My colleague Dieter Bohn writes that the fingerprint sensor is placed "too high up on the phone to comfortably reach, and it’s also right next to the camera module, which might mean you’l be getting fingerprints on the camera more often than you’d like.” You can read his full first look at the phone right here.