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Can Samsung Bounce Back with the Galaxy S8?

Can Samsung Bounce Back with the Galaxy S8?
Brian Oaster

Imagine how you would feel if your product exploded in your customer’s handbags.

Although Samsung fumbled a couple of times at first, they eventually got it together and took responsibility for last year’s completely unexpected Note 7 disaster. Since then Samsung Mobile President Dongjin (DJ) Koh has been very transparent about the measured steps the company is taking to ensure the safety of their upcoming high end smartphone, the Galaxy S8.

Samsung released a statement saying: “Our investigation, as well as the the investigations completed by three independent industry organisations, concluded that the batteries were found to be the cause of the Note 7 incidents.

“Nonetheless, we provided the target for the battery specifications for the innovative Note 7, and we are taking responsibility for our failure to ultimately identify and verify the issues arising out of battery design and manufacturing process prior to the launch of the Note 7.”

Although Samsung Mobile took responsibility for its hot commodities, the Note 7 explosions were actually caused by a battery defect, which is traceable back to Amperex Technology and Samsung SDI (an affiliate company under the Samsung umbrella), who manufactured the batteries before they even got to Samsung Mobile’s factories. In a way, this catastrophe could’ve fallen in the lap of any smartphone manufacturer. It just happened that Samsung had a lapse in safety testing, and the bad batteries slipped through.

A similar such lapse is no longer likely, given Samsung’s new 8-point battery testing process and ratcheted-up quality control standards. Naturally, they are going above and beyond to make sure that lightning doesn’t strike twice. Since the recall, Samsung has been taking Notes–in more ways than one–and the fire of their past disaster seems to have fuelled them to much higher standards with the S8.

But will consumers forgive them? It seems likely. With a fatality rate of zero, the Note 7 debacle remains largely the stuff of jokes and memes–although many of the injuries sustained by customers were no laughing matter.  Moreover, a ReportLinker survey indicates that nearly 9 out of 10 Samsung customers are still likely to go with Samsung for their next smartphone upgrade.

But the stakes are still high for the South Korean tech giant. Even if consumers have gotten over the Note 7 disaster, any problems that arise with the S8 will be under greater and more immediate scrutiny. And the S8 already has problems.

So what can we look forward to with the Galaxy S8?

Introducing Bixby

The biggest fireworks at this launch will be for Samsung’s new voice activated AI personality, Bixby, the first such feature on a Samsung Mobile device. In one way it’s nothing new. Apple users have been ordering Siri around for five years already. Samsung wants to surpass Apple, but must know that you can never surpass an innovator through mimicry.

That said, Samsung has an unexpected edge that Apple cannot touch: it’s traditionally an appliance manufacturer, and as the Internet of Things expands to include smart household appliances, Samsung will be able to integrate a home AI platform more easily than its rivals. It’s a good long term strategy, and time will tell if it gives Samsung a leg up on its Californian competitor.

Fingerprint, Iris Scan, & Facial Recognition Security

In addition to the now common fingerprint security, Samsung will expand the iris scan pay authentication that was introduced with the doomed Note 7. Users will also be able to unlock their Galaxy S8 with facial recognition technology, something Apple is rumored to be working on as well for the upcoming iPhone 8.

Proof in the Pudding (or the Ashes)

Will the launch be another disaster for some new reason, or will brand loyalty prevail? At the end of the day, we will have to wait and see how Samsung’s three-years-in-the-making Galaxy S8 fares with global consumers. At the end of the month, when the smartphones hit stores, Samsung’s execs will be breathing a sigh of relief–or bracing themselves for another storm.

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