BUSINESS

Samsung unveils much-awaited Galaxy S8

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : Mar 30, 2017 - 17:32
  • Updated : Mar 31, 2017 - 14:24
Samsung Electronics has finally unveiled its flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone, the tech giant’s first premium phone since the embarrassing recall of its fire-prone Note 7 last year.

The new features of the much-awaited smartphone -- artificial intelligence assistant Bixby, a bigger display and facial recognition -- did nothing to dispel the notion that the tech giant excels on hardware but is relatively weaker with software compared to its Western counterparts.

Smart voice assistant Bixby, which had garnered attention even before the launch, turned out to be not yet complete, despite much fanfare.

Earlier, Rhee In-jong, Samsung’s mobile chief, said Bixby will significantly exceed Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant, but it can’t yet answer questions like how old a celebrity is or give the capital of South Korea. Bixby will also only work within a limited number of Samsung apps for the time being.

Samsung said since the technology is based on deep learning, the level of the service will get better as time goes by.

“We are having a somewhat hard time connecting natural language and applications, but we will quickly stabilize it through deep learning technology.” Koh Dong-jin, Samsung Electronics’ mobile business chief, told local reporters at a press briefing on Monday, two days before the unpacking event in New York.

Koh Dong-jin, Samsung Electronics’ mobile business chief, presents the Galaxy S8 at the company’s unpacking event in New York on Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics)

The hardware giant has still wowed audiences with other new features, including the bigger display and improved biometrics.

Galaxy S8’s most eye-catching feature is its new display referred to as an “infinity display” that minimizes bezels -- right and left and even up and down -- curves around the edge. The home button has been ditched, instead displaying a bar of three buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Samsung has also newly integrated facial recognition to make unlocking the phone and signing into websites easier. The facial recognition technology recognizes the user’s identity by first analyzing the face frame, saving it in a database and comparing it with real-time video. The information used for facial recognition is safely stored in a trust zone, which is encrypted, the company said.

Samsung is confident of record-breaking sales when its new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus are released.

“We set the initial supply of Galaxy S8 double the Galaxy S7. Since we are preparing the supply without difficulty, there will be no issue of supply delay,” Koh said at the press briefing.

According to his calculations, Samsung is initially preparing 20 million units of the Galaxy S8.

Local securities predicted Galaxy S8 will sell more than 46 million units this year, a similar level to its predecessor Galaxy S7. KB Investment & Securities predicted 46 million units for this year’s sales, Dongbu Securities expected 47 million units and Eugene Securities set the figure at 60 million units.

Park Kang-ho, an analyst at Daishin Securities, said, “Galaxy S7 will be the momentum to rebuild the premium smartphone brand of Samsung Electronics, having struggled after the Note 7 debacle.”

“This year’s premium phones will be divided into Samsung and Apple, with the latecomer’s threat predicted to be insignificant,” Park said.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)