The S Pen is part of the phone’s performance and the handset works brilliantly with it. Press on the stylus when it’s installed in its cubby hole and it pops out, alerting the phone that it’s being used and replacing whatever’s on screen with a series of stylus-friendly options.
You can scribble on the Note8 to make notes, for instance, using Samsung Notes and you can also use it for live messaging. And this doesn’t just work in normal usage, it is also effective on the lock screen. On the Note8, what is called the Always-On Display which can show the time, for instance, when the screen is otherwise mostly blank, can also be accessed by the S Pen for ‘screen off memos’. And in this latest version of the software, you can write for up to 100 pages. Which is quite a long shopping list.
The large screen also allows for other Samsung specialities like App Pairs which let you have two apps onscreen at the same time, pairs which you can save together as well as putting two ad hoc apps together as you choose. It’s a neat use of the display.
The phone is also powerful enough to work well with Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Siri and Google Assistant. Though it’s worth noting that Google Assistant is also on this phone. Bixby is activated by a side button on the phone and aims to be capable of helping you do anything on the phone by voice, which makes it handy for those with accessibility issues. Bixby is also becoming an effective virtual assistant which will grow but it does beg the question, do you really need multiple voice-activated assistants on one phone?