The stakes are high for Samsung Electronics Co.'s rollout of the Note 8, after the previous model's exploding battery fiasco last year.
"None of us will ever forget what happened last year," Samsung Mobile chief executive DJ Koh told a New York audience Wednesday at the phone's unveiling.
Like the Note 7, which was scrapped and cost the South Korean company an estimated $6 billion, the new smartphone sports a big screen and advanced features to make it a more versatile device compared with Samsung's main Galaxy S8 flagship product. Like its predecessors, it includes a stylus.
By keeping the same brand name, Samsung is making clear that the Note 8 is an iterative (and better) device, and signals that it thinks it's fixed the problems with the previous version. While the Note doesn't command as wide an appeal as the Galaxy S line, both are premium devices in Samsung's efforts against Apple Inc. in the battle for global smartphone supremacy. The Note also helps the Suwon-based manufacturer keep pressure on its rival just before the release of three new iPhone models in September.
"The Note 8 is arguably Samsung's most important smartphone launch in its history," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics Inc. "After the Note 7 battery fiasco, Samsung has been given a second chance by consumers and the company must not screw it up."
Even with the Note 7 debacle and the de facto head of the Samsung conglomerate on trial for bribery and embezzlement, Samsung's ability to sell hardware and earn profits remains intact. Net income was a record 10.8 trillion won ($9.5 billion) in the latest quarter, on sales that rose 20 percent to 61 trillion won in the three months ended in June.
The most significant change in the Note 8 is a larger display that curves at the edges like the S8. The 6.3-inch AMOLED screen, a variant of the organic light-emitting diode display used on many recent high-end smartphones, is noticeably bigger than the Note 7's 5.7-inch touchscreen and slightly larger than the Galaxy S8+'s 6.2-inch display.
The company also posted information about a new smartwatch online. Called the Gear Fit 2 Pro, it will be water-resistant and capable of tracking swimmers, two features that became available on the Apple Watch in 2016. Apple plans to debut a new version of its watch later this year that adds support for LTE wireless networks, Bloomberg News has reported. In an interview with CNBC, Koh confirmed the company is also working on a smart speaker to take on Amazon's Echo and Apple's upcoming HomePod, but he didn't disclose details or timing.
In an effort to reassure customers who may have lost trust in Samsung devices because of the Note 7 fiasco, Samsung said it worked with Underwriters Laboratories, a safety certification firm, to validate the Note 8's reliability.
"I know lots of loyal Note series customers, they were so disappointed," Koh said in an interview in June. "Disappointment is deeper, the expectation is higher, so I must meet their demand and their expectation through the Note 8."