This morning in New York, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) held its most important Samsung Unpacked event to date. This one was for the launch of the Galaxy S8, the company’s flagship smartphone. This is a make-or-break moment for Samsung — at least where it comes to its position as the world’s biggest smartphone maker.
This is the time where Samsung has to convince consumers to forget about the Galaxy Note 7, exploding battery and all.
The Galaxy S8 is the phone that will take on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and its 10th anniversary iPhone 8 (or iPhone Edition). And it has to hold off Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) and its Google Pixel Phone. In other words, there’s a lot riding on the Galaxy S8.
Here’s everything you need to know about Samsung’s most important smartphone, ever.
Galaxy S8: Near Bezel-Free Infinity Display, No Home Button
Apple isn’t the only one working to banish bezels and buttons from its phones. Samsung had the same idea and this year it’s taken big steps in that direction. Its new Galaxy flagship has no side bezels — just screen right to the curved edge — and its greatly reduced them at the top and bottom. It calls this the Infinity Display — a name Dell sort of already coined with its XPS 13 laptop.
This requires a pressure-sensitive virtual home button located beneath the display, and moving the fingerprint scanner to the back. The hardware buttons along the edges do remain, resulting in a huge display housed within a relatively small form factor. Although, adding vertical space has resulted in a “stretched” aspect ratio. Samsung does note it has worked with Google to ensure that extra screen real estate gets used. The display isn’t just big, it’s sharp and is the first to get mobile HDR certification.
The Galaxy S8 comes in two sizes. This time the Galaxy S8+ features the same design as its smaller sibling (unlike last year where the larger model got a curved Edge display), built around the Infinity Display. With that new design, the plus model offers a whopping 6.2-inch display, while even the standard Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch screen — without getting cumbersome (thanks to minimizing the bezels).
In comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus display is 5.5-inches.
Bixby to Take on Siri and Google Assistant
AI-powered virtual assistants have become key features on smartphones. Apple has Siri and Android has Google Assistant — although Google did keep that as a Pixel Phone exclusive for a few months.
Likely in response to that Google exclusivity move, last fall Samsung bought Viv, an AI startup from the creators of Siri. That acquisition paid off with Bixby, Samsung’s own AI agent. Samsung considers Bixby important enough that the company previewed the technology a week before the Galaxy S8 launch, and also gave Bixby a dedicated button on the new Galaxy smartphone.
Where Siri and Google Assistant are focused on answering questions and helping users to accomplish tasks, Bixby does this to an extent, but is currently positioned more as a helper to make using supported applications easier.
Key Galaxy S8 Specs
As is expected with a new generation of a smartphone, the new Galaxy receives significant hardware upgrades, including a snappy new CPU.
- Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display with HDR support (5.8-inches and 6.2-inches)
- Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 835 CPU with 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage, expandable using microSD cards
- 12-MP dual-pixel primary camera, 8-MP front camera
- Face recognition security
- Iris scanner biometric security
- IP 68 dust and water resistant
- 3000mAh battery (3500mAh for S8+) with fast charging
- Gigabit LTE and Gigabit Wi-Fi ready
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Wireless charging optional
- Optional DeX dock for use with keyboard and monitor
- Samsung Pay, Samsung Pass support
- High performance, $99 ear-buds tuned by Harman included
- Weigh 5.3 ounces and
- Available in black sky, orchid gray, arctic silver, coral blue, maple gold
Samsung is making a play for the smart home. Samsung Connect is a take on Apple’s iOS Home app — and like Siri, Bixby can use it to control your smart devices by voice. But while Apple dropped out of the router business, Samsung is introducing its own, the Samsung Connect Home mesh router.
Pricing and Availability
You’ve seen Samsung’s new flagship smartphone and it looks pretty impressive. But how much does it cost? And when can you get your hands on one?
The Galaxy S8 goes for $750, while the Galaxy S8+ will set you back $850 (carriers may sell for less). Both models are available for pre-order starting March 30, and will go on sale beginning April 21. Samsung will also be selling a new, improved Gear VR headset and controller (free with pre-orders) and a new version of its Gear 360 VR camera.
Is the New Galaxy S8 Good Enough?
The big question, of course, is whether the new Galaxy S8 is good enough: Good enough to take on Google’s smartphone ambitions with its Pixel Phone; good enough to hold its own against the iPhone 8; and perhaps most importantly, good enough to finally put the Galaxy Note 7 behind it.
We should have a good idea once SSNLF releases Galaxy S8 launch sales numbers. But based on what we saw at today’s Samsung Unpacked event, the company has a real shot at staging a smartphone comeback.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.