* S8 has biggest screen to date for Samsung premium phones
* Samsung also launching new AI assistant Bixby
* Aims to recover market share vs Apple after Note 7 debacle
* S8 to go on sale on April 21
By Se Young Lee
March 29 Samsung Electronics Co Ltd
unveiled its Galaxy S8 flagship smartphone as it battles to
regain the market leadership it lost to Apple Inc after
the embarrassing withdrawal of the fire-prone Note 7s.
Boasting some of the largest wrap-around screens ever made,
the long-awaited S8 is the South Korean tech giant's first new
premium phone since the Note 7 debacle in October, which wiped
out $5.48 billion of profit and helped Apple overtake Samsung as
the world's top smartphone maker in the fourth quarter.
Two versions of the Galaxy S8, code-named Dream internally,
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. There is also a new
facial recognition application that lets users unlock their
phones by looking at them.
Samsung is hoping the design update and the new features -
nothing revolutionary but focused on making life easier for
consumers - will be enough to revive sales in a year Apple is
expected to introduce major changes to its iPhones for their
10th anniversary, including the very curved screens that have
become staples of the Galaxy brand.
The S8 is also crucial for Samsung's image as a maker of
reliable mobile devices. The self-combusting Galaxy Note 7s had
to be scrapped in October just two months after their launch and
a failed attempt to recall the Note 7s in September was
particularly damaging, investors and analysts say, leading to
questions about the firm's credibility.
Samsung responded by implementing new battery safety
measures after an internal investigation identified battery
problems from two different suppliers as the cause of the Note
Still, some analysts say consumers may be wary of potential
safety problems with the S8.
"Initial sales of the S8 may appear slow compared to what
was typical for previous model releases," said Lux Research
analyst Christopher Robinson. "In other words, smaller initial
Samsung's early marketing of the S8 has eschewed the safety
issue, which brand experts say is an attempt to avoid reminding
consumers of the images of burnt Note 7s that spread throughout
the world's media late last year.
($1 = 1,113.8200 won)
(Reporting by Se Young Lee in Seoul; editing by Stephen Coates
and David Clarke)