Samsung will launch its Galaxy Note 8 Aug. 23, with the hopes of driving its own upgrade cycle to fend off Apple's latest iPhone and put 2016's Galaxy Note 7 debacle in the rear view mirror. Here's a look at the key questions to ponder.
Rest assured that the Galaxy Note 8 will be a critical launch for Samsung. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus was the first installment in Samsung's rebound cadence and the Galaxy Note 8 is expected to seal the deal.
For now Samsung is revving its marketing engine for the Note 8. Among the key issues:
Are the features in the Galaxy Note 8 good enough to spur purchases before the Apple iPhone 10th anniversary launch? The rumor mill has been in overdrive with the Galaxy Note 8 and leaks are everywhere. What we know so far is that Samsung is planning a dual front-facing camera setup as well as a few colors such as midnight black and gold. The screen is expected to be a bit larger than the Galaxy S8 Plus at 6.3 inches. One unknown is whether Samsung will put the fingerprint scanner under the screen or keep it in its awkward spot on the back as it does with the Galaxy S8. CNET has the rumor roundup, but an S Pen built-in speaker and pressure sensitive screen are on the table.
Here's the issue: Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 launch comes just a few weeks before Apple's iPhone shindig. Yes, the Galaxy Note caters to a different audience than the iPhone with different platforms, but you do wonder whether tech buyers will play wait-and-see before making a decision on the device.
Will the Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 compete? This question was addressed on Samsung's second quarter earnings call. Aside from the S Pen, the two Android devices are likely to rhyme. Here's how Samsung exec answered a question about the sibling rivalry. KyeongTae Lee, vice president of Samsung's IT and mobile unit, said:
To answer your second question about how we plan to respond to the Note 8 launch together with the existing S8 Plus. As you know, the Note series itself, since it was first launched in 2011, has actually pioneered its own segment, the so-called phablet segment with its large screen size. Also, the S Pen feature and has been able to gather a very strong and devoted following. And it's a very unique product that only Samsung offers. And so as we prepare for the new launch in the second half, we have further enhanced various multimedia features that are highly used by the Note users, also have even built better, more functions and features into the S Pen so that the users can look forward to new experiences. In the second half, in addition to the launch of the Note 8, we will continue to maintain the S8 series. And overall, we plan to have more performance and sales in terms of the overall flagship on a year-on-year basis for the full year.
That's a nice, long non-answer, but it's also worth noting that the larger S8 accounted for more than half of the Galaxy S8 sales in Samsung's second quarter.
Will Samsung land business users? The Galaxy Note is primarily a business productivity tool with its S-Pen stylus even though it's billed as a flagship device. Samsung hasn't addressed the business productivity uses yet, but it does note that it has an installed base that'll be interested in the latest Note.
Can the Galaxy Note 8 regain customer trust? Samsung handled the Galaxy Note 7 issue fairly well, but the latest Note will be monitored closely after launch. Lee said, "We are confident that we are on track to regain trust from our customers and the market by moving quickly to overcome the Galaxy Note 7 issue."
Does price matter? The Galaxy Note 8 won't be cheap and may be north of $900 or so. In the land, of good enough Android handsets the Note 8 could run 3x the price of other smartphones. Perhaps price doesn't matter, but some analysts are beginning to wonder. Korea Investment Securities analyst Jay Yoo said that Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus sales were 10 percent lower than his estimates in the second quarter.
"While overall demand appears solid as total smartphone shipments satisfied guidance, the poor Galaxy S8/S8 Plus sales suggest high-end unit sales are down due to the lofty average e selling price," said Yoo. Samsung said its marketing spend in the third quarter will spike as it tries to convince you that the new Note is worth the money.
In summary, here are a few items I'd like to see with the Galaxy Note 8:
- Move the fingerprint scanner to the front. The fingerprint scanner on the back arrangement is a headache.
- Keep the microSD card slot.
- More Android and less Android overlay from Samsung.
- A large display (the rumors make it sound massive) that feels smaller.
- Long battery life without the risk involved with the Note 7. Samsung has to get the battery right.
- A big improvement in the smartphone camera -- as well as other Galaxy Note specs -- to justify the premium price.
- A capacitive touchscreen on the device.
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