The stakes are high for Samsung Electronics’ roll-out of the Note8, after the previous model’s exploding battery fiasco last year.
Like the Note7, which was scrapped and cost the South Korean company an estimated US$6bn, the new smartphone sports a big screen and advanced features to make it a more versatile device compared with Samsung’s main Galaxy S8 flagship product. Like its predecessors, it includes a stylus.
By keeping the same brand name, Samsung is making clear that the Note8 is an iterative (and better) device, and signals that it thinks it’s fixed the problems with the previous version. While the Note doesn’t command as wide an appeal as the Galaxy S line, both are premium devices in Samsung’s efforts against Apple in the battle for global smartphone supremacy. The Note also helps the Suwon-based manufacturer keep pressure on its rival just before the release of three new iPhone models in September.
“The Note8 is arguably Samsung’s most important smartphone launch in its history,” said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics. “After the Note7 battery fiasco, Samsung has been given a second chance by consumers and the company must not screw it up.”
Even with the Note7 debacle and the de facto head of the Samsung conglomerate on trial for bribery and embezzlement, Samsung’s ability to sell hardware and earn profits remains intact. Net income was a record 10.8 trillion won ($9.5bn) in the latest quarter, on sales that rose 20% to 61 trillion won in the three months ended June.
The most significant change in the Note8, unveiled on Wednesday in New York, is a larger display that curves at the edges like the S8. The 6.3-inch Amoled screen, a variant of the organic light-emitting diode display used on many recent high-end smartphones, is noticeably bigger than the Note7’s 5.7-inch touchscreen and slightly larger than the Galaxy S8+’s 6.2-inch display. Although many phone makers are working on ways to get a fingerprint scanner built into the display, the Note8 — like many other models — will have one on the back.
The longer screen lets users view more content, such as text messages and e-mails, without having to scroll, Samsung said in a demonstration. The Note8 also has new features for the stylus: users can write notes without unlocking the device, draw animated pictures that can be shared with contacts and words can be highlighted to be translated into different languages. The bigger screen also lets users swipe from the display’s edge to launch two paired apps at a time in a split view.
The new smartphone from Samsung will also feature an upgraded camera system that sports two lenses on the back for the first time. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the advanced optics let users take pictures that can determine depth so that the background behind a person’s profile can appear blurred. The Note8 will also support gigabit LTE, a faster networking technology for browsing the Web and downloading content, which the next iPhone won’t have, Bloomberg News has reported.
The Note8 will face competition from not only Apple’s new iPhone, but also Huawei Technologies’ Mate 9, LG Electronics’ upgraded V series and Essential’s PH-1, according to Mawston. Samsung regained its number one position in global smartphone shipments earlier this year, with 23% of the market, after losing ground during the Note7 debacle. Cupertino, California-based Apple had 12% in the second quarter, while Huawei held 11%, according to IHS Markit.
In an effort to reassure customers who may have lost trust in Samsung devices because of the Note7 fiasco, Samsung said it worked with Underwriters Laboratories, a safety certification firm, to validate the Note8’s reliability. The new smartphone will sport a battery of 3 300mAh, slightly smaller than the Note7’s power pack. Samsung also released a repurposed version of the Note7 called the Note FE last month with a smaller battery.
“I know lots of loyal Note series customers, they were so disappointed,” DJ Koh, Samsung’s president of mobile communications, said in an interview in June. “Disappointment is deeper, the expectation is higher, so I must meet their demand and their expectation through the Note8.” — Reported by Mark Gurman and Sam Kim, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP
- The Galaxy Note8 will be available through all operators in South Africa from 22 September and is expected to cost about R18 500 off-contract