Galaxy Note 8: Has The Note 7 Debacle Forced Samsung To Play Too Safe?

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The Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (KRX:005930) brand is something that nearly all of us are familiar with. Along with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung has been at the forefront of the smartphone industry for the past decade. While Apple’s forte is the iOS mobile platform, Samsung phones are usually the pick of the bunch when it comes to the best that Android has to offer. This is a huge deal as Android is by far and away the most popular mobile operating system on the planet, with nearly 88% market share. Keeping all of this in context, it is no surprise that the launch of any flagship Samsung device is one of the headlining events in the smartphone industry. This is especially true of the Samsung Galaxy Note line of devices, which are true flagships of the Samsung smartphone product line.

However, during the recent Galaxy Note 8 reveal, the dark cloud of the Note 7 was casting its shadow on the Note 8, and tempering the enthusiasm somewhat. It is undeniable that the Note 7 debacle has affected Samsung in a big way. It has also undoubtedly affected the Note 8 as well. Let us have a closer look at Samsung’s latest flagship device, and how it was moulded by unfortunate events of the past.

A Quick Look At The Galaxy Note 8

One look at the new Galaxy Note 8, and you can tell it is an ultra premium device. Samsung has carrier over the incredibly successful Galaxy S8’s design language over to the Note lineup as well. This means that the Note 8 gets an edge-to-edge bezel less display with curved edges and the tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio. The entire body is fashioned out of glass and aluminium in a seamless construction. Spec wise, the Note 8 will feature the Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895 SoC along with up to 6 GB of RAM. It will also feature a 6.3 inch AMOLED display with a 3,300 mAh battery. The device also comes with a slew of the usual Note features such as wireless charging, water resistance and the S Pen stylus.

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Why Was Samsung Afraid To Innovate?

A cursory glance at the spec and features on offer makes one thing very clear – there is very little to distinguish the Note 8 from the Galaxy S8+. In fact, the Note 8 is identical to the S8+ in many respects, including the SoC powering the device. In fact, the only upgrades of much consequence are the dual camera, the S Pen stylus and slightly larger screen. Not much has changed in other respects, including the positioning of the fingerprint sensor, which is as awkward as ever. In fact, some changes, like the smaller 3,300 mAh battery, make it a downgrade on the Galaxy S8+ which has a 3,500 mAh battery.

This is highly unusual for Samsung when it comes to the Note lineup. Samsung has a long history of significant innovation with the Note smartphones, which is where Samsung implement all of their cutting edge features. These features later make their way into their Galaxy smartphone lineup. In fact, the popular Samsung’s smartphone features such as curved displays and iris scanner first made their debuts on Note devices. Here, we can clearly see the influence of the Note 7 on the design of the Note 8.

The Note 8 is the result of Samsung playing it safe. The biggest change to the Samsung formula here is the addition of a dual camera setup. Even this, however, can hardly be called innovative. Many smartphone manufacturers have been doing this for the past couple of years, including arch rival Apple. Samsung is merely catching up to the dual camera hype train. There are few other software goodies included, but hardly enough to warrant the “Note” branding or the exorbitant pricing. Samsung conservative approach here is typified by the battery in the Note 7, which is 200 mAh less than last year’s Note 7. In fact, it is even lower than this year’s Galaxy S8+! The Note 8 lacks the “wow” factor that so many of its predecessors boasted.

Despite All, The Note Is Likely To Be A Resounding Success

Samsung’s conservative approach is quite evident when it comes to the Galaxy Note 8. However, the question is – does it matter? Samsung has done all the right things ever since the Note 7 fiasco to steady the ship and retain consumer confidence. They got it right with the Galaxy S8/S8+. This is amply evidenced by their reclaiming the top position (in terms of sales volume) from Apple and strong sales in subsequent quarters. Samsung has also made concerted efforts to rectify their battery problem with their eight-point battery check and partnership with UL to certify the Note 8 as safe. Samsung has also come out with a discount program for previous Note 7 owners in the US, who may get up to $425 off the Note 8.

To their credit, Samsung has not attempted to shy away from the Note 7 disaster and sweep it under the carpet. In fact, they plainly acknowledged it during the Note 8 reveal event and thanked their loyal users for continuing to stand by them. On the other hand, Samsung users have themselves stayed loyal to the Samsung and Note brand. According to Statista, only 18.2% of current Samsung owners will avoid the Note 8 because of the Note 7 debacle. This number is even lower for previous Note 7 owners, with only 13% refusing to consider buying the Note 8.

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The bottom line is that despite a clear lack of innovation, the Note 8 is still among the best that Android smartphones have to offer. Samsung’s brilliant design language, along with state of the art features and specs has resulted in a very desirable device. The new dual camera and Note exclusive features are just icing on top of the cake. There is no reason why the Note 8 can’t be successful. Unless of course, it starts exploding again.

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