Samsung launched its new Galaxy S8 smartphone with a bombastic event in New York, promising a “new beginning” for mobile handset design as well as for the Korean company after a series of safety and corporate crises.
The Galaxy S8’s signature feature is a new “infinity display”, which wraps around the edges of the device to give a larger screen in a smaller body. Claiming the biggest design breakthrough since Apple’s iPhone set the template for touchscreen smartphones a decade ago, Samsung said the S8 and larger S8 Plus would mean less scrolling down a Facebook newsfeed and allow new kinds of multitasking, such as chatting with friends while watching a video.
While touting its latest innovations, Samsung acknowledged the multibillion-dollar recall of the Note 7 last year, after its last big smartphone launch was stopped in its tracks by a spate of exploding batteries. The S8 goes through Samsung’s “toughest safety checking ever”, the company said, with an eight-point battery test.
DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile communications business, said at the outset of the event: “As you all know, it has been a challenging year for Samsung – a year filled with valuable lessons, hard decisions and important new beginnings.”
But without mentioning the Note 7 by name, he quickly moved on to explain how the S8 would mark “not just the launch of a great device but the beginning of a new way to experience the world”.
As well as the new screen, the S8 features Samsung’s new virtual assistant, Bixby, as well as an improved front-facing camera for sharper selfies and a new face-recognition system to unlock the phone.
The launch comes after Apple overtook Samsung to become the top-selling smartphone maker in the fourth quarter of 2016, at a time when handset sales growth is slowing in many parts of the world, including the US and China.
“In a market where consumers are becoming increasingly numb to indistinguishable smartphone launches, Samsung is redefining expectations with the Galaxy S8 and S8+,” said Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.
“The Galaxy S8 is arguably the most important launch of the last 10 years for Samsung, and every aspect will be under the microscope following the Note 7 recall. The S8 is unquestionably a strong product, but Samsung must now deliver a faultless launch to move on from the difficulties of 2017. If this happens it will emerge in an even stronger position.”
The device goes on sale on April 21.