SINGAPORE: Electronics giant Samsung on Wednesday (Mar 29) threw the covers off its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, with much of its fortunes - at least in the mobile phone space - riding on it being a hit with consumers.
The South Korean conglomerate knows that it must reverse the public perception on the safety of its products, following a year strewn with bad publicity. Its previous offering, the Galaxy Note7, saw an ill-fated launch after consumers reported of the phone’s battery bursting into flames while charging, forcing the company to issue a global recall and eventually retire the model for good.
The mobile unit’s president, Mr DJ Koh, noted as much, saying it has been a “challenging year” for the conglomerate, during his opening remarks at the launch event in New York, which was also streamed online.
Channel NewsAsia was able to get a first-hand look at the new device and here are some quick observations:
No bezel, no problem
The company kicked bezels to the curb in the latest iteration of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Coming in two models, the S8 and S8+, screen estate is now 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch respectively, now that the borders have been eliminated. This follows Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi’s Mi Mix, which also sported the bezel-less look, when it was unveiled last year.
Bye bye, home button
Samsung took a leaf from Apple’s playbook, and went one step further, by eliminating the physical home button completely on the S8. Instead, the pressure-sensitive home “button” (see below) emerges when tapped on, even when a full-screen app in use covers it.
Other hardware innovations include a 10nm processor, which gives more zip to processing power, and comes with 3,000 mAh and 3,500 mAh battery power for the S8 and S8+ respectively. This fares favourably compared with the 1,960 mAh and the 2,900 mAh sported by Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
Recent woes with the Note7 battery were, not surprisingly, given little mention.
Software, software, software
Not content with the hardware innovations, Samsung also showed its software chops by introducing a new digital assistant, Bixby, which it touted to be aware of what is going on on the screen even as the user gives audio commands. It also introduced new biometric authentication methods such as iris scans and facial recognition software, to go with fingerprint scans and the conventional numeric and pattern passwords.
Samsung = Smart
Or at least, that is what the company hopes to be known as, even as it made another push to control consumers’ smart devices at home using a single app - Samsung Command. Samsung executive Sriram Thodla said during the unveil that this is a platform to manage one’s Web-connected appliances. No mention, though, whether they should be from Samsung.
Expanding the ecosystem
Samsung also made its recent US$8 billion acquisition of Harman International Industries count, when it announced that all S8 devices will come bundled with a pair of wired AKG earbuds. This will be music to some consumers’ ears.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 will start shipping internationally from Apr 21 and will be available in Singapore some time in April, but pricing details have yet to be announced.
Some of the accessories to be sold alongside the S8, including the wireless charging docks (centre).