Samsung Galaxy Note8
Today in New York City, I attended the Samsung Electronics launch event for its top-of-the-stack smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Note8. It needed to be a big day for Samsung as they have not had a super-premium Note phone in the market for a year and they had to convince the audience that they were on the top of their game and could be successful again in the market. I'd like to share with you a quick take on the launch but will start first with some comments on the Note8 target market, an interesting group.
"Go-getter" target market
The Samsung Galaxy Note line of smartphones has their own set of enthusiasts and fans, and based on research I have reviewed or performed, they are “go-getters” who are trying to get ahead. These consumers and business users view the Note as the best mobile tool to get things done. I haven't done sizing on the audience, but we can all visualize who these folks are. As those Note8 fans haven’t seen a new Note in a while, I expect them to pounce on the Note8 immediately.
In the overall premium smartphone market, given the S8 sold better than the S7 cond the Note8's strong value proposition, I expect the Note8 to sell very well.
Compared to Samsung Galaxy S8
A good place to start would be to compare the Note8 to what you are likely familiar with, the Galaxy S8. Versus the S8, the Note8 has a few, key features that differentiate it, specifically the dual camera and the S Pen. The dual camera supports dual OIS (optical image stabilization) and depth of field for a bokeh (blurred background) effect that can be changed on the fly and even edited afterward. The S Pen is very useful, and users can even take pages of notes on their screen without ever logging into the phone. It will even display the note, like a grocery list, without having to log in. I have researched simple pen use for years, and I believe the Note8 implementation is as close to perfection as it gets. It took many generations of S Pen to get here, but the company is here. Also, the 6.3” Note8 display is a lot larger than the S8 but is similar in size to the S8+. Finally, the Note8 has squared edges, unlike the S8, which makes it easier to hold without a case.
Versus smartphone competitors
I believe the Note8 is Samsung’s best opportunity to gain market share on the competition as this is the first super-premium phone the company has had for years. As we don’t know the features or pricing yet of the upcoming Apple iPhone “X,” it’s impossible to say how competitive the Note8 is versus Apple’s next generation.
Versus most smartphones today though, the Note8 may have the following advantages for those who care about:
- Dual OIS and on the fly bokeh editing. Some phones only use a dual lens for better blacks and don't even do bokeh or don’t do it well as the wrong part of the image is blurred.
- Display is larger, edge to edge (Infinity), Always On, higher resolution and is OLED
- 1Gbps LTE modem to connect to the most modern "gigabit-class” CAT12 networks available now from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile
- Iris login in addition to fingerprint, facial, and typed PIN and password
- Multi-windowing with App Pair for easier multitasking
- Fast cable-charging and fast wireless charging
- VR support (GearVR, Samsung VR, and Daydream)
- Pen support (S Pen) for notes, screen off memo, drawing, live messages, translations
- IP68 tested (dust and five-foot water resistance)
- Desktop expandability with DeX to use Note8 as a windowed, desktop PC (dock required)
- Encrypted, secure folder
- MU-MIMO WiFi support (faster and relieves wireless congestion; router must support MU-MIMO)
- 256GB SD card upgradeability
Versus a few smartphones, the Note8 may have the following disadvantages for those who care about:
Good consumer phone, even better business phone
- Note8 fingerprint reader on the back of the display, which is hard to reach and possibly smudges the camera lens.
- Samsung has an AirPod equivalent, but not as fast, versatile or as high quality
- Lack of iMessage, many friends and family's de-facto messaging app (except for my son with the S8)
- Samsung cases don't fit nearly as well as phones like the iPhone
- Consistent responsiveness. This one is hard to explain, but it's the "feel" of other devices.
The Note8 strikes me as a really good consumer phone, but an even better business, "get stuff done" smartphone. First off, let me say I am in the minority of analysts who think smartphone vendors should do more for business users. Sorry, I don't buy the line of thinking that says the jet-setting business person has the same phone needs as the stay at home parent. I'm not buying that at all.
The Note8 has some features I believe will make enterprises and business people happy:
- Dual camera- Cameras aren't just for selfies or for eclipses. Insurance adjusters, real estate agents, architects, and builders all need better cameras. Also consider how visual AI works, demanding a better camera. New business visual AI apps are popping up all over the place which does things like automatically determine how much money you should get back from insurance after a car wreck, determine what skin condition you have by taking photos of it. If you have heard of the team "GIGO", Garbage In, Garbage Out- this law applies to visual AI. The better the camera, the better the visual AI and the better-automated result.
- S Pen- This one should be a no-brainer by now given everyone has jumped into "pen". Many business people take their notes on the PC but more take them on paper. With the Note8's Screen Off memo, the worker doesn't even have to open the phone to take pages of notes. Samsung really nailed it here and led the new pen revolution. One thing Samsung could do to make it even more enticing to the enterprise is to have the Notes app sync with OneNote that complies with corporate data protection policies.
- Iris scan- Workers have things like gloves, oil, dirt on their hands and even callouses, and fingerprint readers don't work so well in these cases. Iris scanning is a fine alternative.
- Knox 2.9- The US military says Knox security is safe for them and therefore we can surmise that it's secure for businesses. Sure it's more complex than that but I don't have room for a 10,000-word essay on it here. Many of the issues enterprises have with Android are solved with Knox.
- Secure Folder- The Note8's secure folder capability is as much for the user as it is enterprise IT. Secure Folder protects IT from getting contaminated with their worker's apps and data and it also protects users privacy from IT unless, of course, IT performs a complete smartphone wipe.
- App Pairs- The Note8 improves multitasking with App Pairs, a simple way of pairing two apps you want to see on the display and getting more done. Case in point yesterday at the airport when I was trying to find my discount code, figure out what hotel I needed to go to and summon Uber. I clumsily went back and forth from Mail to Calendar to Uber, copying and pasting the information. After a brief time, even Uber resets itself. With pairing, I could have the Calendar and Uber open at the same time and complete that same task more quickly and accurately.
- DeX- Like S Pen, this is a business no-brainer. With DeX, you can turn your phone into a light, windowed desktop computer with a full display, keyboard, and mouse. Enough said.
- QuickCharge- It's one thing to run out of batteries when you're watching cat videos but how about when you're doing that executive check-in at the end of the day Friday? Or when you need to send that urgent email or text on that deal that is slipping through your hands?
- IP68- Why so many businesses buy smartphones that aren't IP68 compliant is a bit puzzling to me as most enterprise notebooks are just that. I'd like to see Samsung go even one step further and offer a version that is not only IP68 but MIL-STD 810G.
- Headphone jack- I personally don't mind not having a headphone jack, but some may, especially if they're on conference calls all day.
As I predicted a year ago, the Note7 issues did not have long-lasting effects on Samsung. Given that sales of the Samsung Galaxy S8 exceeded that of S7, I believe consumers are well past the Note7 or Samsung issues. If there were severe brand damage, this would not be the case and the S8 would have sat on the shelves. Airlines no longer warning passengers as they do on board airplane checks have helped. Finally, consumers are a forgiving bunch, and as long as there aren’t strings of issues, they quickly forgive and forget. Just look at the automobile industry with the many safety defects and recalls.
All in all, it was a good day for Samsung. The Galaxy S8 was a hit, the Note7 is clearly behind them and now it's onto the future with the Note8. I believe the Note8 provides Samsung the best opportunity to gain premium smartphone share it has had in years, not only with its current fans but with new consumers and businesses.