The new Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the most important big smartphone in the company’s history, is launching in New York today, hoping to right the wrongs of last year’s “exploding” Note 7 and tempt people away from rivals with a new dual-camera system and massive “infinity display”.
The Note 8 looks to rekindle Samsung’s dominance of the so-called “phablet” category, which the company invented with 2011’s original Galaxy Note, featuring the same winning formula that made its predecessors a success until the Note 7 debacle: big screen, big specs, long battery life and an advanced stylus to “get things done”.
The Note 8 runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat, has a 6.3in quad HD+ infinity display with a similar minimal-bezel design to that of the Galaxy S8+, dual 12-megapixel cameras on the back and plenty of biometric security options to choose from, including a fingerprint scanner, iris scanner and facial recognition.
DJ Koh, president of Samsung mobile, said: “We appreciate the relentless passion of the Note community. They’ve been a constant inspiration to us and we designed the new Note for them. From the Infinity Display to the smarter S Pen and the most powerful Dual Camera, the Galaxy Note 8 lets people do things they never thought were possible.
But the Note 8’s biggest challenge is to displace the memories of the Note 7 that ended in a wholesale recall, leaving fans disappointed and would-be buyers wary of a repeat performance.
Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, said: “It’s a testament to Samsung’s stubbornness and determination that the launch of the Note 8 cements its position as the leading Android smartphone maker, drawing a clear line under the Note 7 problems.”
Samsung had a similar problem with the well-received Galaxy S8 line of devices, which were the first top-end devices to be launched by the company after the Note 7’s failure. At the time it trumpeted a new eight-point battery safety check and a recommitment to extensive quality control to try and help alleviate buyers’ worries.
With the Note 8, Samsung is pushing independent safety testing firm UL International as its quality assurance step. Sajeev Jesudas, president of UL International, said that the Note 8 passed a “rigorous series of device and battery safety compatibility test protocols”.
The Note 8 has a display that is 0.1in bigger than the already large-screened Galaxy S8+, but also has a slightly less rounded profile, which makes using the stylus easier on the curved edges of the screen. The stylus slots in the bottom when not in use and features a collection of productivity tools that launch when pulled out, from drawing on the screen and instant translation to animated gif and emoji creation.
The Note 8 also supports the company’s DeX accessory that turns the smartphone into a computer with monitor, keyboard and mouse support, and multi-tasking using two apps side-by-side on the smartphone.
Two is better than one
Arguably more important for Samsung is the company’s introduction of its first dual-camera system on the Note 8. Where rivals such as LG, Huawei and recently Apple, have equipped various smartphones with two cameras on the back that work in conjunction to produce better photos, Samsung has stuck to a single camera solution until now.
The Note 8 has two 12-megapixel cameras on the back, one with a telephoto-like two-times zoom and the other with a more traditional wide-angle lens. Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus uses a similar system, but Samsung’s dual camera system is the first to use optical image stabilisation for both cameras on the back, which is designed to remove blur and camera shake.
Wood said: “Having image stabilisation on both lenses takes Samsung one step ahead of Apple, but at present there don’t appear to be any plans to support augmented reality features – something we expect to feature prominently on the next iPhone.”
It is Apple’s anticipated new iPhone, expected in September, that will be Samsung’s biggest challenge. The two companies have been fighting over the “floating voter” of smartphone buyers – the roughly 20% of owners who would ever consider switching platforms from Android to iOS and visa versa.
Wood said: “By launching the Note 8 now, Samsung gets the oxygen of publicity ahead of Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone 8. Samsung will be hoping that a trio of competitive high-end products – the Note 8, S8 and S8+ – will appeal to anyone looking for a new Android phone. Furthermore, these devices are certainly good enough to turn the heads of a few iPhone owners who fancy a trying a different device.”
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will come have 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage with a microSD card slot for adding more, Bluetooth 5.0 and will come in black and gold in the UK, with grey and blue colour variants in other regions. It will cost £869 and is available for pre-order from today, shipping on 15 September.