Samsung hopes to hit the right note with new phone

Members of the media at a preview of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 on Wednesday. The phone has dual rear cameras, added features for its S Pen Stylus and a large 6.3-inch display.
Members of the media at a preview of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 on Wednesday. The phone has dual rear cameras, added features for its S Pen Stylus and a large 6.3-inch display.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Success of Note8 could reverse fallout from last year's global recall of Note7, say analysts

The stakes are high for Samsung's latest phablet smartphone, the Galaxy Note8, as analysts say that all eyes will be on the handset to see if it can reverse last year's fallout from Note7.

Users of the Note series were left without a new version of the phone for almost a year, as Samsung initiated a global recall of all Note7 smartphones due to battery issues that led to phones catching fire.

Its successor, the Note8, was officially announced by the Korean electronics conglomerate on Wednesday. It is the first Samsung phone to have dual rear cameras, added features for its S Pen Stylus, and a large 6.3-inch display - the largest in a Samsung phone.

It is also the priciest smartphone the company has produced, retailing for $1,398 in Singapore.

Even so, it would not deter tech adopters and Note enthusiasts who are already prepared to pay a lot for a premium product, said Gartner principal research analyst Tuong Huy Nguyen. Furthermore, Samsung seems to have bounced back from the Note7, given the recent success of its S8 line of smartphones released earlier this year.

"It's been almost a year since the Note7 was recalled. Most of the negative reaction was short term and has worn off by the first half of this year," he said. "This doesn't mean consumers have forgotten about the incident, but I don't think it will have a significant impact on sales of the Note8 as the overall brand has already recovered from the bad PR of the Note7."

"A lot is at stake for Samsung with the Note8," added Mr Anshel Sag, an analyst at technology advisory firm Moor Insights and Strategy. He expects consumers to be "cautiously optimistic" about the Note8. "I think Samsung has done a good job of acknowledging the mistake, showing how they've fixed it and how they are going to prevent it in the future," he said.

The Note series has traditionally been Samsung's most innovative smartphone - it is the one that the company chooses to roll out new high-end features on. For example, last year's Note7 was the first time iris recognition was implemented in a new phone. But some analysts point out that the company seems to be erring on the side of caution with this year's model.

"Samsung has taken safe steps for Note8, maybe because it didn't want to risk another scandal if something went wrong," said IDC Asia-Pacific research manager Kiranjeet Kaur. "But it is also because there isn't enough time between various flagship launches to push any big advancements. This is good and bad - good because Samsung stays safe, and not so good because there isn't anything spectacular that users get to see."

Fans of the phone are undeterred, however, by the Note7's battery issues. Public servant Eddeham Rahman, 30, said: "I'm not worried. I believe Samsung has allocated a lot of its budget to make sure its batteries are safe. I'm sure it will not want a repeat."

The smartphone's release comes amid a crucial time for Samsung's leadership succession. Billionaire Lee Jae Yong, Samsung Electronics' vice-chairman and heir to the Samsung Group, is on trial on charges ranging from embezzlement to perjury. The verdict will be handed down today and prosecutors are seeking a 12-year jail term.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'Samsung hopes to hit the right note with new phone'. Print Edition | Subscribe