Samsung’s latest flagship Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are flying off the shelves. The new Galaxy phones have garnered positive reviews all over, though the Bixby assistant is not as great as it was rumored to be. The Korean electronics giant disclosed on Monday that the Galaxy S8 was the “best ever” smartphone launch in the company’s history, though it did not reveal specific numbers.
Galaxy S8 pre-orders 30% higher than Galaxy S7
That’s not surprising, especially considering the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus had received more than one million pre-orders in South Korea alone. The new handsets went on sale in key markets including the US and South Korea on April 21. Tim Baxter, the President and COO of Samsung Electronics America, said in a statement that pre-orders for the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were 30% higher than last year’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. It’s a fair comparison.
The 30% growth seems healthy, especially considering the S8 launched in the wake of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, which was a PR nightmare. The record pre-orders indicate that users have forgiven Samsung for the faulty batteries inside the Note 7, at least for now. Baxter said the company had “recommitted” itself to innovate not only with products and services, but also in process.
Baxter’s statement refers to the eight-point battery safety check Samsung had put in place to avoid a Note 7-like disaster. With a strong launch, the Galaxy S8 has bucked the concerns that it would be negatively affected by all the bad press around the Note 7. Ahead of the S8 launch, Samsung’s marketing team had launched a series of ads focusing on the manufacturing process and product safety.
Galaxy S8 Plus has the same battery as Galaxy Note 7
Baxter said the consumer response is “humbling, energizing and points to a great launch week.” He added that Samsung would continue to push the boundaries to offer smarter, better, and more exciting experience to consumers. Samsung also offered a free Gear VR headset with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, which certainly didn’t hurt the sales.
What’s even more interesting is that the 6.2-inch Galaxy S8 Plus has the same battery as the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. A teardown by iFixit revealed that the S8 Plus and Note 7 batteries are identical in terms of voltage, capacity, and even design tolerance. Both phones feature a 13.48Wh battery pack (3500mAh at 3.85V). Also, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus batteries are non-removable. It doesn’t mean the S8 Plus is vulnerable to overheating like Note 7. Samsung has said that the Note 7 explosions were caused by a battery manufacturing error rather than design flaw.
The Korean electronics giant has improved battery safety with its latest flagship devices. The use of non-removable batteries in Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus reflects Samsung’s confidence in its eight-point battery check program and other initiatives. Experts at iFixit found that even spacing, installed position, and reinforcement of the S8 Plus batteries are similar to the Note 7.
Galaxy S8 Plus to sell better than S8
Despite featuring the same battery as the Note 7, the Galaxy S8 Plus is widely expected to sell better than the S8 because consumers still value the screen real estate. Analysts at Yuanta Securities Korea Co. said in a research note that Samsung is estimated to sell 50.4 million units of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus by the end of this year.
The research firm said the S8 Plus would make up 27.1 million units or 53.9% of those sales. Yuanta pointed out that the bigger screen model has almost always outperformed its smaller sibling in Samsung history. The Galaxy S6 Edge made up 51.3% of the total sales, and the Galaxy S7 Edge accounted for 51.9% of the sales of the last year’s flagship models.
The research firm has many reasons to believe that the S8 Plus would do better than the standard model. Growing popularity of mobile streaming and gaming has increased demand for larger displays. Also, consumers in key markets such as China and South Korea are more likely to grab the Plus variant because it comes with an increased 6GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The Galaxy S8 comes with only 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.
Bixby has a long way to go
The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are great on the hardware front, but they are not equally impressive in terms of software. Samsung’s much-hyped AI assistant Bixby is largely a disappointment. It looks half-baked. Though Samsung has added a dedicated button for the voice assistant, its most important feature Bixby Voice won’t be ready until later this spring. It will not offer voice recognition until it gets the spring update.
Also, Bixby speaks only Korean and US English. It means millions of customers in key markets such as China, Europe and India will not be able to use the voice assistant. Since the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus come with Google Assistant pre-installed, many users are reprogramming the Bixby button to launch Google Assistant or another app of their choice.
Samsung promises to fix the reddish tint issue
Many Galaxy S8 owners have complained about a weird reddish tint on the screen. Samsung told them that it was not a quality issue, and affected users could fix it from the Settings menu. But users didn’t see any signs of improvement even after changing the display settings. Many people who took the phones to the service centers were asked to get their handsets exchanged.
The problem was reportedly caused by a Deep Red display technology that Samsung used in the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. The S8 OLED panels have two subpixels: red-green and blue-green. Samsung had strengthened the red to balance the two greens, which is responsible for the reddish tint on some devices.
The Korean company promised recently that it would soon push out a software update to fix the problem. The update will allow users to readjust colors over a wider range.
It’s worth pointing out that last year’s Galaxy Note 7 didn’t show any battery problems until several weeks after the launch. The Galaxy S8 is just a few days old. It’s too early to say it would not face any major issues in the future.