NEW YORK - Samsung launched its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, Wednesday (March 29), in a crucial period for the company as it seeks to shake off the damage done to it by the global recall of its Note7 smartphones.
The S8 line, which will be available in Singapore in April, comes in two variants: the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8, and the bigger Galaxy S8+ with a 6.2-inch display. Both are quad-high definition screens which are able to support high dynamic resolution videos. The phone also sports a number of new features and tweaks, including an artificial intelligence (AI) digital assistant.
The South Korean electronics giant launched the S8 at its own Unpacked event in New York City, opting not to jostle with phone launches from most of its competitors, such as Huawei, LG and Sony, at the Mobile World Congress last month where they revealed their line-up for the year ahead.
Samsung did not provide the price of the S8, saying that more details will be released soon. When the S7 launched in May last year, the phone retailed for $998 in Singapore.
The larger S8 phones are radically redesigned from last year's 5.1-inch S7 phone and the 5.5-inch S7 edge. The S8 sports a curved display surface similar to that on the edge line of smartphones and have dramatically bigger screens, with minimal bezels on the top and bottom.
In order to accommodate the bigger screen size, Samsung removed the physical Home button on the S8 - a first in the Galaxy S line's history - for virtual navigational and Home keys.
The fingerprint sensor, which used to be on the Home button, has now shifted to the back of the phone next to the 12-megapixel rear camera.
The S8 will run the latest Android operating system, Android 7.0, right out the box.
Samsung traditionally releases two versions of the smartphones with processors made from different manufacturers, even though the specifications and performance are largely similar. With the S8, Singapore users are getting the Exynos 8895 processor chip, rather than the Snapdragon 835 one.
The S8 comes with a 3,000mAh battery while the S8+ sports a larger 3,500mAh battery. Both of them will support fast charging through USB-C and also wireless charging.
The S8 is the first Samsung device to feature Bixby, the company's new AI assistant software. The phone will have a dedicated button on its left to activate the virtual assistant.
Users will be able to use voice commands to tell Bixby what to do in Bixby-enabled apps. Samsung also said Bixby will be able to understand contextually what the user is doing on-screen and will tailor its suggested options for the user.
"The Galaxy S8 is our testament to regaining your trust by redefining what's possible in safety and marks a new milestone in Samsung's smartphone legacy," said Samsung Electronics' president of mobile communications business D.J. Koh.
The firm faces challenges for the S8's launch. Earlier this year, the South Korean electronics giant began a marketing campaign, including in Singapore, to assure consumers on the safety and quality of its phones.
This followed the worldwide recall of its Note7 handsets after reports of the phone emitting smoke or catching fire in the United States, South Korea and Australia last year.
In January, Samsung said this was due to battery issues of the Note7 and said it now has an eight-point safety check protocol that includes using X-ray tests on the batteries. The company said the steps have been worked into the S8's development.
Then in February, the de facto head of Samsung Group, Mr Lee Jae Yong, was arrested in South Korea on bribery charges.
Besides the new phones, Samsung also launched on Wednesday an updated version of its virtual reality kit, the Gear VR, which is compatible with the S8 phones. The new device comes with a controller to provide more immersion and ease of use while using virtual reality software.
To go with the S8, Samsung also announced a new Gear 360 camera, which is able to take 360-degree footage in 4K video.
Lastly, Samsung also announced a docking station which can connect the S8 to a monitor which transforms the mobile user interface into a more PC-like one, allowing users to use their smartphones almost like a mini-computer.