After a humiliating recall that turned airline safety announcements into a walking advertisement for the failure of a flagship product, Samsung hopes to turn the page in 2017 with the new Galaxy S8. According to numerous media reports, Samsung will launch the newest version of its award-winning Galaxy smartphone line in March or April – and the phone will be dramatically redesigned, losing the navigation buttons that have taken up screen space on earlier models.
Samsung Looks To Overcome String of Embarrassments
The Galaxy line of smartphones, also known as “phablets,” and tablets has become one of the staples for Samsung, a South Korean conglomerate that makes a wide range of consumer electronics. First introduced in 2009, the Galaxy series runs on Google’s Android operating system and is one of the biggest players in the mobile computing device market segment. In fact, although not as profitable, the success of the Galaxy has allowed Samsung to rival Apple as a player in the mobile computing market.
However, Samsung was rocked in September 2016 with revelations that the Galaxy Note 7 – a popular “phablet,” an informal term used to describe a device that falls in between a smartphone and a tablet in terms of size – had a serious design defect. Although the cause hasn’t been conclusively explained yet, the Galaxy Note 7 ‘s batteries were prone to catching fire. (According to The Economist, analysts have speculated that the phones were packed too tightly and the batteries – made from lithium-ion – had no room to expand as they typically do during use.)
After initially providing new batteries to customers, the company was deluged by complaints that the phones continued to catch on fire even after the replacement. By October 11, the company had had enough. They announced a complete recall of the Note 7 and a discontinuation of the product line. And they had to team up with the Federal Aviation Administration to run announcements at airport terminals that warned passengers about the combustion risk of the devices.
In addition to the turmoil surrounding the Note 7, Samsung has also been tarnished by a political scandal in South Korea that has brought down the country’s president and ensnared top corporate executives. Lee Jae-yong, the only son of Lee Kun-hee, Samsung’s gravely-ill chairman, has been questioned by authorities on accusations that he participated in a bribery scheme that reached the highest levels of the South Korean government. While no charges have yet been filed, the specter of another scandal continues to swirl around the company.
To clear the air, Samsung is banking on a radically-redesigned Galaxy S8, which will do away with navigational buttons in the hardware and instead rely on navigational buttons on the screen. The device also boasts Samsung’s trademark “edge” design, with a large screen that fills the entire screen curving on both edges. Many customers prefer this concept to boxier cell phones because it provides added dexterity when held in hand.
According to leaked reports, the phone will also feature dramatically improved processing speeds and an improved digital assistant, known as Bixby.
Galaxy S8 Prospects Depend on Consumer Sentiment
Samsung apparently does not plan any price reduction for the new Galaxy model. Some media reports have even pegged large price increases, especially for the top-of-the-line models with high processing capacity and speed.
While the company seems poised to provide a strong user experience and considerable upgrades to the phone and tablet, it remains to be seen just how much damage the Galaxy Note fiasco did to the company’s reputation. Initial sales of the new models should provide a useful gauge.
Image Source: Samsung