Everything We Know About the Samsung Galaxy S8
There has been talk that Samsung needed to move more quickly than usual to introduce a new flagship smartphone this year to make customers forget about the exploding battery debacle of last summer’s Galaxy Note 7.
But the South Korean electronics giant has actually gone the other way, slowing down to ensure its upcoming Galaxy S8 is both desirable and safe. Instead of unveiling its latest phone in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, as it has done for the past few years, Samsung is holding out until March, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Samsung has spent the past few months enhancing its safety procedures and all new batteries will undergo an eight-point inspection, including a time-consuming X-ray check, to catch problems before they get into the hands of customers. Samsung is expected to use the curved glass screen from its Galaxy S7 Edge on all models of the S8, which is also expected to lose its home button in favor of a virtual on-screen button and a fingerprint reader on the back.
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The delayed introduction will also give Samsung more time to perfect the software on the new phone, particularly a new voice-controlled digital assistant feature dubbed Bixby. While phone makers have to ramp up physical production months in advance of the introduction of a new device, they can tweak software continuously and simply dispatch an over-the-air patch to update models that have already left the factory.
Samsung’s Note 7 battery disaster hurt the company’s worldwide smartphone sales during the all-important holiday shopping season, according to surveys by Counterpoint Research. From August—just before the Note 7 was recalled due to its potentially exploding battery—through the end of December, Samsung’s global market share in premium phones sales plummeted from 35% to 17%, Counterpoint reported. Apple’s (AAPL) share of the category, which includes phones that cost $400 and up, jumped from 48% to 70%.
Many of the features of the new flagship Galaxy phone have already leaked. Unlike last year, when Samsung largely ignored taking its cues from Apple’s iPhone 6S, the S8 will copy a few ideas from Cupertino, starting with the voice-controlled assistant. Apple’s Siri feature has gained many capabilities since it was first introduced in 2011 and now faces growing competition from Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s digital assistant. Samsung moved to play catch up in October by buying Viv Labs, a company started by Siri co-creators Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer.
For the first time, Samsung will also follow Apple’s lead and release its flagship smartphone in two different screen sizes, the Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. Apple has had great success convincing a growing portion of its customers to spend more for its larger-screened Plus model. In the United States, 35% of iPhone owners had a Plus model at the end of 2016, up from 25% a year earlier, according to a survey released by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The larger phone not only brings in more revenue but also drives a higher profit margin for Apple.
In at least one regard, however, Samsung will not mimic Apple. The Galaxy S8 will still include a standard headphone jack, the Journal reported, avoiding the controversy Apple endured last year when it dumped the ancient connector from the iPhone.