Samsung seeks to woo back users with new S8

Samsung launched its latest smartphones, the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 (far left) and a bigger 6.2-inch Galaxy S8+, in New York yesterday. Analysts do not expect consumers to rush out and get the phones as they will be more wary after the Note7 debacle.
Samsung launched its latest smartphones, the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 (left) and a bigger 6.2-inch Galaxy S8+, in New York yesterday. Analysts do not expect consumers to rush out and get the phones as they will be more wary after the Note7 debacle.ST PHOTO: LESTER HIO

Successful launch of smartphone needed to help firm recover from Note7 fallout

Samsung launched its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, yesterday, at a crucial period for the company as it seeks to shake off the damage from a global recall of its Note7 handsets and the arrest of its vice-chairman.

A successful S8 launch is essential for the beleaguered South Korean electronics firm looking to regain consumer confidence after the events of the past six months, but analysts say Samsung has quite a task ahead of it.

"It is possible that consumers won't go rushing out immediately to get their hands on the new Galaxy S8," said IDC Asia-Pacific research manager Kiranjeet Kaur.

Samsung is banking on the S8's design and features to woo back users. The phone's bezel-less screen, which replaces the physical Home button with a virtual one, gives users more screen space for media consumption.

The S8 is the first Samsung device to feature Bixby, its new artificial intelligence assistant software. Consumers can use voice commands to tell Bixby what to do in Bixby-enabled apps.

The phone also has a 12-megapixel rear camera.

Samsung launched the S8 at its own Unpacked event in New York, opting not to jostle with launches from competitors such as Huawei, LG and Sony at the Mobile World Congress last month.

The S8 line, which will be available in Singapore next month, comes in two variants: A 5.8-inch Galaxy S8, and a bigger Galaxy S8+ with a 6.2-inch display.

Samsung did not provide prices, saying more details will be released soon. The S7 retailed at $998 when it was launched last May in Singapore.

Analysts said the new premium smartphone is well designed enough to get Samsung back on its feet, but noted consumers might be more wary.

"I expect the market will wait, after what happened to the Note7 globally, as consumers have the tendency to be sceptical and would probably adopt a wait- and-see attitude," said Mr Cris Duy Tran, a consultant for digital transformation at market research firm Frost & Sullivan. "The S8 needs to offer an exemplary experience to regain consumers' confidence."

The challenges facing Samsung as it launches the S8 include the arrest of its de facto head, Lee Jae Yong, on bribery charges over his role in a scandal that led to the impeachment of former South Korean president Park Geun Hye.

The S8 also has to shoulder the fallout from the Note7's global recall, after manufacturing and design faults with the batteries caused some of the phones to catch fire and led to the recall of 2.5 million units worldwide.

Samsung ramped up a safety marketing campaign ahead of the S8 launch, stressing a new eight- point battery safety check in advertisements. "The Galaxy S8 is our testament to regaining (consumers') trust by redefining what is possible in safety, and marks a new milestone in Samsung's smartphone legacy," said Samsung Electronics' president of mobile communications business D.J. Koh.

Earlier this week, Samsung also announced it would be selling refurbished Note7 units worldwide.

But a Samsung spokesman said such handsets will not be sold in Singapore. "The objective of introducing refurbished devices is solely to reduce and minimise any environmental impact," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'Samsung seeks to woo back users with new S8'. Print Edition | Subscribe