DESPITE an unprecedented, multibillion-dollar worldwide recall, Samsung has stuck with the Note brand for its latest flagship smartphone, so how good is it?
Samsung’s Note 8 will feature a smaller, redesigned battery for greater safety, as well as new, more advanced features to convince buyers to return.
DESPITE an unprecedented, multibillion-dollar worldwide recall, Samsung revealed it would stick with the Note brand for its latest flagship smartphone, and make it bigger in almost every way — except battery size.
The world’s leading smartphone maker officially unveiled its Galaxy Note 8 handset in New York overnight, debuting its largest Note phone screen yet, its highest price, and world-first camera technology, but a smaller power source to avoid any repeat of the battery fires that extinguished its predecessor.
Samsung Electronics Australia IT and mobile director Garry McGregor said the company debated whether to revive the Note brand for the $1499 smartphone, due out on September 22, but decided to keep it at the insistence of loyal customers who were “reluctant to give the Note 7 back”.
“There was a lot of discussion but the main tipping point was based on customer feedback,” he said.
“Customers wanted another Note device.
“By bringing a new device out, it brings a natural closure to what happened with the Note 7.”
Samsung may have to work hard to win back some buyers, however, following the Note 7’s recall just two weeks after it went on sale last year.
As part of their campaign to win back fans, Samsung is also offering a free screen replacement program that will cover one cracked display in the first 12 months of ownership if you buy the phone by October 31.
The Note 7 disaster saw more than 51,000 Australians forced to hand in their handsets after faulty batteries in many of the phones overheated and caught fire.
As such, Samsung’s Note 8 will feature a smaller, redesigned battery for greater safety, as well as new, more advanced features to convince buyers to return.
Additions include the largest screen in a Note device to date, measuring 6.3 inches, a longer and thicker glass and metal body, a quad-core chip and 6GB RAM for speedy operation, and the company’s first dual-camera system.
The two 12-megapixel rear phone cameras will be the first in the world to use optical image stabilisation to minimise movement blur, will deliver a 2x optical zoom, and also will let users alter a photo’s focus after it’s captured.
Mr McGregor predicted the Note 8’s dual camera, larger screen, and a more pressure-sensitive stylus would be its biggest drawcards when Samsung opened pre-orders for the phone on Friday.
Despite the new features, Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi warned there could be “less initial demand” for the Note 8 as consumers waited to make sure it was safe to use.
“Consumers are not going to be as quick to rush out and buy this handset but, given the all-clear, it shouldn’t have a material impact on their sales over the lifetime of the product,” he said.
“It must be safe and it must not have the same issues the Note 7 had. The impact of it having the same issues would be catastrophic.”
New research from Gartner showed Samsung’s smartphone sales finally improved between April and June after falling for nine months following the Note 7 recall.
The South Korean tech giant remained the world’s leading smartphone maker, however, with 22 per cent of the market compared to Apple’s 12 per cent.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 8 REVIEW
BEFORE the bedside fires, the recalls, the evacuations, the ominous pre-boarding announcements that stretched on for months, the Samsung Galaxy Note was just known as a great big phone.
It was the first to deliver a sizeable screen, and a pen to do more on that screen.
It introduced advancements like curved displays, split-screen multi-tasking, and Samsung’s Quick Launch camera feature.
And when you hold the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in your hand, it makes you remember the good times.
More innovation. Less fire risk.
This phone doesn’t look terribly different to the Samsung Galaxy S8+ — it’s a little bigger and a little more square-shaped — but its features are pure Note-of-old.
Its dual-camera system offers features its rivals don’t match, its pen offers more sensitivity, and it boasts so much grunt that it can be connected to a screen and used like a desktop computer.
That’s not to say this smartphone is without fault.
There are at least two curious safety and design choices at play inside Samsung’s latest high-end phone, and it’s the Note’s most expensive outing yet.
But can its new features, and one big safety promise, lure big-screen phone fans back to Samsung? We tried the phone at Samsung’s New York event to find out.
THREE CAMERAS, ONE PHONE
The best thing about this smartphone isn’t obvious at first glance.It’s hiding around the back.
The dual-camera system provides the most compelling reason to invest in the Note 8, even though Samsung is late to the technology (Huawei, LG, and Apple got there first).
Its two cameras provide a resolution of 12 megapixels each but they also both use optical image stabilisation — an important extra that can make the difference between a blurry shot and something worthy of social media.The Note 8 is the first smartphone to do this.
And what you can do with these twin cameras might surprise you.
THE BIGGEST SCREEN YET
Note smartphones are known for their big screens but this is the very biggest.
The Note 8 breaks the record with a 6.3-inch display that curves over either side of the phone and leaves little room for borders at the top and bottom.
This gives users plenty of room to use two apps at once, and you can even save your favourite app pairs together to open both with one tap.
The Note 8 screen also features an impressive resolution of 521 pixels per inch (the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, by comparison, offers 401ppi), and a bright Super AMOLED backing.
This display is capable of showing off 4K video too, though there is one caveat: you’ll have to change its resolution to Quad HD+ in the Settings menu as it’s set to Full HD+ by default, presumably to save battery life.
A LOT OF EXTRAS
It’s worth noting that this phone features IP68 water resistance, space for a memory card, voice assistant Bixby, and seriously powerful hardware.
The Note 8 also adds a 10 nanometre processor (the past model was 14nm) and 6GB of RAM, ensuring it should run apps quickly.
This power helps when you connect the phone to a DeX dock and monitor, as you can view apps on the big screen and use the phone like you would a desktop PC.
Samsung is also throwing in a couple of unusual enticements to returning Note customers this year. Those who pre-order the phone can claim a $119 wireless charging station, and anyone who orders the phone before October 31 can claim one free screen replacement in the first 12 months.
The one thing every Note 8 buyer will be wondering: is it safe to charge this phone by a bed?
Samsung has employed experts to ensure its batteries are safe this year.
The trade-off for this safety promise is a smaller battery, however, at 3300mAh rather than 3500mAh.
The company says the Note 8 should power on as long as the Galaxy S8, but this might disappoint big-phone owners who typically expect a longer time away from the charger.
Samsung has also placed the fingerprint sensor beside the rear camera again, making it tricky to reach given the Note 8’s size. The scanner and camera lens are separated by the flash this year, though.
The Note 8 will also only be available in two colours in Australia (black and gold), and with 64GB of built-in memory. There’s also no flat-screen option and, at $1499, this smartphone is the most expensive Samsung has ever released.
It’s a gutsy move to bring the Note brand back after battery fires and a worldwide recall.
The Note 8’s combination of a groundbreaking dual-camera system, an even larger screen, water-resistance, and power to spare is bound to convince Note loyalists to return to the fold, however. That focus-shifting camera could also win it some new fans … once the phone’s safety record is proven.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Pre-order date: August 25
Release date: September 22