Galaxy S8 takes stage

Sam­sung aims to douse Note 7 de­ba­cle with new phone

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Anick Jes­da­nun

Sam­sung seems to be play­ing it safe with its first­ma­jor smart­phone since the em­bar­rass­ing re­call of its fire- prone Note 7. The Galaxy S8 fea­tures a larger dis­play than its pre­de­ces­sor, the Galaxy S7, and sports a voice as­sis­tant in­tended to ri­val Siri and Google As­sis­tant. But there is no in­crease in bat­tery ca­pac­ity, pro­vid­ing the bat­tery more breath­ing room. The Note 7 pushed the en­gi­neer­ing en­ve­lope with its bat­tery, which con­trib­uted to a se­ries of spon­ta­neous smart­phone com­bus­tions.

The Galaxy S8 will come in two sizes, both big­ger than last year’s mod­els. Both mod­els have screens that curve around the edges and get rid of the phys­i­cal home but­ton.

The Note 7 re­call cost Sam­sung at least $ 5.3 bil­lion. Though many cus­tomers re­main loyal, any fur­ther mis­step could prove fa­tal for the brand.

“We’re in the process of earn­ing back that trust,” said Drew Blackard, a se­nior di­rec­tor of prod­uct mar­ket­ing for Sam­sung. In the U. S., Sam­sung will start tak­ing or­ders Thurs­day, with ship­ments sched­uled for April 21. Prices haven’t been an­nounced.

Sam­sung has blamed the Note 7 fires on mul­ti­ple de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fects in its bat­ter­ies. In­spec­tors con­cluded that the ini­tial bat­ter­ies were too small for their ca­pac­ity, and that their ex­ter­nal pouch put pres­sure on the in­ter­nal struc­ture, lead­ing to dam­age and over­heat­ing.

Sam­sung re­called the phones and shipped re­place­ments, but the newer bat­ter­ies had weld­ing de­fects and a lack of pro­tec­tive tape in some bat­tery cells. Sam­sung re­called the re­place­ments, too, and scrapped the phone.

The com­pany says phones will now go through mul­ti­ple in­spec­tions, in­clud­ing X- rays and stress tests at ex­treme tem­per­a­tures. The stan­dard­size S8 phone has as much bat­tery ca­pac­ity as last year’s Galaxy S7, but the phone is 4 per­cent larger by vol­ume. The larger S8 Plus model has 3 per-

cent less ca­pac­ity than the Galaxy S7 Edge and the same ca­pac­ity as the Note 7, but the phone’s vol­ume is larger by 12 per­cent and 6 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Both mod­els have larger dis­plays, meaning more drain on the bat­tery. Sam­sung says soft­ware and pro­ces­sor ef­fi­cien­cies will let the new phones of­fer all­day bat­tery life un­der nor­mal use.

Big­ger, wider screens

The S8 phone’s dis­play mea­sures 5.8 inches di­ag­o­nally, com­pared with 5.1 inches on the S7. The S8 Plus will be 6.2 inches, com­pared with S7 Edge’s 5.5 inches and the Note 7’ s 5.7 inches. Both S8 mod­els are taller than their pre­de­ces­sors, but widths are roughly the same to pre­serve one­handed use.

Sam­sung is get­ting rid of the “Edge” dis­tinc­tion and bring­ing curved sides to all S8 phones. It’s also min­i­miz­ing the frame, or bezel, sur­round­ing the dis­play; gone is a hor­i­zon­tal strip with the home but­ton at the bot­tom. In­stead, Sam­sung is em­bed- din ga vir­tual home but­ton in the dis­play, leav­ing Ap­ple’s iPhones as among the fewto sport a dis­tinct home but­ton.

Meet Bixby

Sam­sung claims its new voice as­sis­tant, Bixby, will do much more than ri­vals from Ap­ple, Google, Mi­crosoft and Ama­zon. For one thing, Sam­sung says Bixby will be able to han­dle any smart­phone task cur­rently man­aged by touch. Bixby also will of­fer in­for­ma­tion on books, wine and other prod­ucts scanned with the phone’s camera.

But there’s ama­jor caveat: Bixby will work only with se­lected Sam­sung apps, in­clud­ing the photo gallery and mes­sages. Not all touch com­mands will have voice coun­ter­parts right away. Other apps will be able to adopt Bixby, but Sam­sung has had a mixed track record in get­ting other com­pa­nies to sup­port its home- brewed func­tions like Bixby.

New fea­tures

The front camera is get­ting a boost to 8megapix­els, from 5 megapix­els, while the rear one stays at 12 megapix­els.

As with pre­vi­ous mod­els, the S8 is water and dust re­sis­tant and fea­tures a mem­ory card slot to sup­ple­ment 64 gi­ga­bytes of built- in stor­age. The S8 will get an iris scan­ner to let peo­ple un­lock the phone by look­ing at it; the fea­ture was new in the ditched Note 7 phone.

Sam­sung will in­clude pre­mium ear­buds from AKG, a brand it ac­quired when it bought Har­man In­ter­na­tional.

Be­yond the S8

Sam­sung’s vir­tual- re­al­ity camera, Gear 360, will ac­com­mo­date a higher res­o­lu­tion, known as 4K, and work with iPhones, not just Sam­sung phones.

An op­tional docking sta­tion will turn the S8 phone into a desk­top com­puter when con­nected to a reg­u­larTV. In that mode, peo­ple will be able to re­size win­dows and­work with sev­eral apps at once. It’s sim­i­lar to what Mi­crosoft of­fers on its Win­dows 10 phones. Sam­sung also un­veiled a router that dou­bles as a hub for in­ter­net­con­nected ap­pli­ances and lights.

Sam­sung said its pre­vi­ously an­nounced Gear VR head­set up­grade, which will now in­clude a hand- held con­troller, will go on sale in April for about $ 130. Ex­ist­ing own­ers can buy just the con­troller for about $ 40.

Justin Deni­son, Sam­sung’s se­nior vice president of prod­uct strat­egy Justin Deni­son, un­veils the com­pany’s Galaxy S8 at David Gef­fen Hall in New York onWed­nes­day. Ja­son Kempin, Getty Images

The Galaxy S8, which comes in two sizes, left, is dis­played with the Gear 360 camera, cen­ter, and the Gear VR head­set. The As­so­ci­ated Press

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