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Commentary Phones

Why I might trade my iPhone for a Galaxy S8

Commentary: Every time a new Samsung Galaxy comes out, I think about making the switch -- and this year it's more tempting than ever.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Galaxy S8: The good, the bad, the beautiful

Every year Samsung announces its new hero Galaxy phone in the spring, half a year before the new iPhone comes out in the fall. And every year, a few pundits write articles about how it might be the right time to switch from iPhone to Galaxy -- or really from iOS to Android.

The problem with writing this article is that every year Samsung brings out a phone that's arguably better than the iPhone, but then six months later, Apple counters with something new, improved and just innovative enough to keep its legions of fans -- Android fanboys invariably call them sheeple -- from bolting from the iOS herd.

After playing around with the Galaxy S8 Plus, I was tempted to make the switch.

David Carnoy/CNET

In fact, a relatively small percentage of users end up switching from iOS to Android and vice versa each year. In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal cited stats from market researcher Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, which reported that 11 percent of former Android users bought an iPhone in 2016 while 15 percent of former iPhone users switched to Android. Of course, iPhone users aren't all switching from an iPhone to a Samsung phone; they're moving to several different Android vendors (LG and ZTE also picked up market share last year, according to the same WSJ story).

So, will the Galaxy S8 move the needle on those "switch" numbers? The biggest variable is the battery question. But the black cloud of the Note 7 fires doesn't appear to have damaged the wider Galaxy brand: S8 preorders are said to be outpacing last year's model, and Samsung's brand reputation has already bounced back from its post-Note 7 low, at least according to one survey.

Is the turnaround in Samsung's fortunes because of its extreme safety precautions in the new model or just the short memory of modern consumers? I don't know, but I'm willing to give the S8 a try myself. I'll likely be upgrading my iPhone 6S this year -- it's my primary phone -- and after playing around with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus after the big Galaxy S8 launch event a few weeks ago, I was smitten.

Here are a few reason I might switch:

Apple's truly new iPhone will likely cost a bundle

Rumor has it that Apple is going to release three new iPhones this fall. Two of them will be refreshes of the current iPhones -- basically, the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus -- while the "new" flagship model with all the new bells and whistles and rumored curved screen will cost upwards of $1,000. (When you consider that the 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus already costs $969, £919 or AU$1,569, it's really no stretch.)

I'm willing to bet that phone will be very similar to the Galaxy S8 Plus in that it will have a high screen-to-phone-size ratio (translation: it will be an iPhone 7 Plus screen in an iPhone 7 body). But I'm not sure I want to pay $1,000 for a phone. By September we should see some discounts on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, which currently list for about $750 (£689, AU$1,200) and $850 (£779, AU$1,350) respectively, depending on which carrier you buy from.

I'm tired of paying such a premium for additional memory

In the US, the base models for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have 64 GB of memory and feature a microSD expansion slot for adding more memory. You can add a 128 GB microSD for about $40 (the phones support up to a whopping 2 TB). If Apple follows its current lineup, new iPhones will come in 32 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB flavors. But you pay an extra $100 for each step up, which feels like highway robbery compared to those microSD card prices.

The Galaxy S8 has a headphone jack and will come with a pair of AKG earbuds that Samsung will sell separately for $99.

David Carnoy/CNET

I'm not as wed to the Apple app store as I once was

Yes, I'm the same guy who said last year that he wanted a Galaxy phone running iOS. But a year later, I feel less and less bound to Apple's operating system. I now only play a handful of games and most the apps I use tend to be free and available for both Android and iOS. Also, I use Android devices as part of my day-to-day testing of accessories and other products, so I've amassed a fairly large collection of paid Android apps over the years that I can throw onto any Android phone.

I know that a lot of people are locked into iTunes, too. Thankfully, I never really bought a lot of music, movies or TV shows through Apple. And with Apple Music on Android, and Netflix, Amazon and Vudu videos being cross-platform, I have plenty of options.

I can live without iMessage

Another Apple-only option I can do without: iMessage. It's excellent and one of the reasons iPhone users don't switch from iPhone to Android. For instance, for my colleague Patrick Holland, no iMessage on Android is a deal-killer. I get that. But I don't text so much that it's become part of my lifeblood.

iPhone battery life has plateaued in recent years

A lot of people are hoping Apple improves the battery life of its next-gen phones. In order to get through the day, I turn the brightness on my iPhone screen way down (Apple recently replaced my iPhone 6S battery free of charge because mine was one of the defective ones). If the battery life continues to stay the same I'll be disappointed.

I've never loved Siri -- and I don't need Bixby to be great

Maybe because my initial experience using Siri wasn't all that great I rarely use the iPhone's voice assistant (yes, she improves with each iPhone hardware and iOS upgrade). It's unclear how good Bixby Voice, the Galaxy S8's new voice assistant will be, because it hasn't launched quite yet. But it's not a make or break feature for me.

I don't think the placement of the fingerprint scanner is a fatal flaw

The biggest early knock against the Galaxy S8 is the placement of the fingerprint scanner right next to the camera lens on the back of the phone. In her review, my colleague Jessica Dolcourt wrote she had no idea what Samsung was thinking when put it there: "Other rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, such as the LG G6 and Google Pixel, are closer to the middle center of the phone's body, well clear of the camera and flash." But the phone also features a face unlock option -- though it's admittedly less secure -- as well as an iris scanner, though that doesn't work seamlessly in every scenario. But hey, there's even the less fancy PIN or pattern unlock option, which I was always fine with.

I like having a headphone jack

Can I live without a headphone jack? Yeah, I can. But I also wouldn't mind having one. The GS8 has that port, no dongle necessary. And it's still just as water-resistant as the iPhone 7.

Will I make the jump? Honestly, I'm still probably going to wait to see what Apple shows off in the fall. (Apple, unsurprisingly, did not respond to my request for comment on any info on forthcoming iPhone products.) By that time, Samsung will also get a second chance to impress: The Note 8 should hit in August, if the company follows its recent release schedule.

In the meantime, Samsung has already delivered a gorgeous phone, and I'm more open than ever to setting my iPhone aside.

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