Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8 on Wednesday, its latest flagship smartphone boasting a new voice assistant and larger display as the technology titan looks to steal a march on Apple and regain ground after the embarrassing Note 7 saga.
The device comes in two models with different screen sizes – the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inch Galaxy S8 Plus.
Some of the key features of the device include a so-called “infinity display”, giving the device a bezel-less curved edge and a 12 megapixel back camera. For the top five features, click here. CNBC also got hands-on time with the product.
“The high-end big phone market is growing and we had a challenge of as you mentioned, people getting a bit tired of renewing their phone with the same design. So we decided to take a big step forward and change the design,” Jean-Daniel Ayme, Samsung’s corporate vice president for mobile in Europe, told CNBC in an interview.
The Galaxy S8 is potentially one of Samsung’s most important device launches of recent times as it faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Huawei, a maturing smartphone market, and seeks to make the Note 7 episode – in which it was forced to recall and discontinue the smartphone because they were catching fire – a distant memory.
“The S8 is a 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,” Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by email.
“With the Samsung Galaxy S8 breaking design boundaries and with high expectations for a significant upgrade to the iPhone to mark the product’s tenth anniversary, 2017 could be the year that sees smartphones emerge from an innovation slumber.”
When asked by CNBC if he is confident the Galaxy S8 won’t face any problems like the Note 7, Ayme said “absolutely”, pointing to a new quality control measures the company has put in place.
Samsung also revealed Bixby, a smart voice assistant to rival Apple’s Siri. It will be able to answer questions you ask, but Samsung highlighted how it’s different.
One use case involved taking a picture of a monument and Bixby being able to tell you information about this as well as recommendations of restaurants nearby. Another example allowed a user to ask Bixby to bring up all the photos taken in London.
While Bixby’s functions will be limited at the beginning, functionality will grow. To this end, Samsung Connect was also launched. It’s an app that allows users to control a number of internet-connected home devices such as TVs or refrigerators. Bixby will launch with the ability to understand American English and Korean. Samsung is working with partners to allow Bixby to control other apps and appliances.