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Samsung to lean on loyalists for Galaxy Note 8 launch

Monday - 17/07/2017 13:20
Reportedly, the device will be unveiled at a media event that Samsung is planning to hold in New York in August. It is believed the new phone will have a curved screen & two rear cameras. Newslook

NEW YORK—It's been a question ever since last year's ultimately recalled Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices kept catching fire: Will customers come back for more?

Samsung is set to unveil a brand-new Galaxy Note 8 at a New York City event in late August, according to Reuters and South Korea publication The BellFollowing a tradition of August updates to the Note line — and jumping ahead of the anticipated iPhone 8 launch in September — the new phone is expected to have a slightly larger display than the Samsung Galaxy S8+'s 6.2-inch display and sport two rear cameras.

Last fall's brand-damaging and expensive ($5.3 billion-plus) recall of the popular Note 7, caused by batteries in the device that overheated, would have seemed to put the nail into the Note coffin. The repeat recall followed weeks of reports on consumers burned, jolted awake or surprised in mid-air by phones smoking and catching fire. But Samsung's mobile chief had vowed to bring back a better, safer Note 8.  

“Samsung is undoubtedly moving cautiously with the next Note 8 — it cannot afford a repeat of the Note 7. But I would argue that the company has moved on, and consumers are likely to trust that the new phone will not explode,” said tech analyst Avi Greengart, a research director at GlobalData. 

A representative for Samsung declined to comment for this report. 

Samsung’s Note customers have traditionally been its most loyal, and the company has repeatedly apologized for the Note 7 fiasco. In January, Samsung blamed design and manufacturing flaws associated with the phone’s batteries (which were produced by the company’s battery suppliers) on the problems. And Samsung implemented an 8-point battery safety check across the product line that included a durability test, visual inspection, x-ray test and other tests.

This Sept. 8, 2016, photo,
shows a damaged
Samsung Galaxy Note 7,
in Marion, Ill., belonging to
Joni Gantz Barwick,
who was woken up at 3 a.m.
by smoke and sparks
from her Galaxy Note 7.
 (Photo: Joni Gantz Barwick, AP)

More recently Samsung brought out the S8 and S8+ smartphones, the company’s first major flagship phones since the Note. There has been no repeat of the battery issues—the phones underwent the 8-point safety check—and the devices have been largely well received, even given delays with the voice features in Bixby, the company’s new artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant.

Samsung has not only publicly committed to continuing the Note brand, but even recently released what it dubbed a “remastered” version of the Note 7 in South Korea to minimize the environmental impact of the recalled devices. And yes, these Note 7 Fan Edition devices, as they’re called, have new batteries that have also passed the 8-point safety check, along with reworked components from the original Note 7.

“From everything I’ve seen since the issues last year started, perceptions of Samsung’s products haven’t been affected all that dramatically, and especially among Samsung loyalists they’ve barely budged,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

But Dawson does see other potential barriers to Note 8 sales, notably potentially higher prices coupled with the fact that it is getting harder and harder for Samsung to differentiate between its phablet device and the S8 and S8+.

“The Galaxy S8 phones arguably hit some of the same sweet spots the Note has historically occupied, with the really large beautiful screens in a more compact device, and so the Note has to stand out on either the stylus alone or some combination of other new features,” he says.

USA Today's Ed Baig tries out Samsung's new smartphone before it hits store shelves. USA TODAY

Any new Note device will almost certainly include a version of the Samsung’s souped-up stylus S Pen, just as predecessor Note models have—the S8 and S8+ do not come with a stylus. But when it comes to screen size, consider that last year’s Note 7 ($850 and up when released) had a 5.7-inch display; the S8 and S8+ ($720 and up) have 5.8 and 6.2-inch display sizes respectively. 

 “Overall, whether the Note 8 looks like a compelling device for the price in its own right will be the single biggest factor in how it sells," says Dawson. "Not leftover worries from last year’s fiasco.”

Email: ebaig@usatoday.com; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaigon Twitter

Source: USA Today:

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