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Samsung aims to start 'new era' with Galaxy S8

The Korean tech giant has unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8. It seeks to draw a line under a safety scandal that led to a humiliating global recall of millions of its Galaxy Note 7 handsets.

Samsung attaches big hopes to the release of its Galaxy S8 smartphone, attempting to win back consumer trust while bolstering its credentials as the main rival of US tech giant Apple.

Apple had taken the lead in the fourth quarter of 2016, when it sold 77 million iPhones, compared to Samsung's 76.8 million, according market research firm Gartner.

On its website, Samsung says the latest addition to the Galaxy lineup represents "the start of a new era."

'All-screen' handset

Samsung is getting rid of the "Edge" distinction and bringing curved sides to all S8 phones. Two versions were launched at a media event in New York on Wednesday, with 6.2-inch (15.75 cm) and 5.8-inch curved screens - the largest to date for Samsung's premium smartphones.

The phones, which will go on sale on April 21, are slightly longer but comparable in width to their predecessors as Samsung has eliminated nearly all of the bezel borders around the face to maximize the screen surface area.

The S8 features Samsung's new artificial intelligence service, Bixby, with functions including a voice-commanded assistant system similar to Apple's Siri.

Gone is a horizontal strip with the home button at the bottom. Instead, Samsung is embedding a virtual home button in the display, leaving Apple's iPhones as among the few to sport a distinct home button.

As with previous models, the S8 is water and dust resistant and features a memory card slot to supplement 64 gigabytes of built-in storage. The S8 will get an iris scanner to let people unlock the phone by looking at it - the feature was new in the ditched Note 7 phone.

Watch video 01:54

Samsung seeks to bounce back

 An optional docking station will turn the S8 phone into a desktop computer when connected to a regular TV. In that mode, people will be able to resize windows and work with several apps at once. This feature is similar to what Microsoft offers on its Windows 10 phones. 

Lost ground

With the new device, Samsung is hoping to regain lost market share, which has been slipping following the Note 7 fiasco and the arrest last month of its vice-chairman and heir to the parent Samsung group on corruption charges.

Lee Jae-Yong has been arrested and indicted for bribery, along with four other senior executives, in connection with a graft scandal that saw ex-president Park Geun-Hye impeached.

Moreover, Samsung was forced to halt all sales of its Galaxy Note 7 last year, after a chaotic recall over faulty batteries that saw replacement devices also catching fire. The debacle cost the South Korean company $5.48 billion in lost profit and hammered its global reputation and credibility.

JK Shin, Samsung's chief executive in charge of the mobile division, said the company would make sure the Note 7 problem "never gets repeated," adding that Samsung "will revive our premium image by improving designs through differentiation and introducing innovative intelligence interfaces."

For some analysts, the S8 has the potential not only to challenge Apple's iPhone but also shake up the broader smartphone market.

uhe/jd/bea (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

 

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