The tech giant has released what may be the ultimate business phone. But can the Note 8 banish the ghosts of its exploding predecessor in the battle with Apple's new iPhone? Our technology editor handles with care as he finds out
The business phone segment is among the most profitable around. This is not just because the handsets themselves are among the most expensive devices with the best margins. It's also because business users remain willing to spend two to three times as much (€60 to €100) per month as non-business users out of sheer ignorance about what a competitive monthly package actually costs.
Against this backdrop, Samsung yesterday unveiled its new contender, the Note 8. This is the successor to the doomed Note 7, scrapped after several handsets overheated or caught fire. Samsung is hoping that that episode does not overshadow what was previously the company's most esteemed line of flagship smartphones, stretching back six years. The Note line of phones changed the smartphone industry, normalising large screens before competitors.
In doing so, it contributed to an irreversible change in the entire media, tech and entertainment industries, with a growing list of content now primarily focused on large-screen phones rather than laptops, tablets or televisions.
So what's the Note 8 like? Our hands-on preview of the device revealed a slick, streamlined phone that looks like a powerful bet to claim the top business phone title.
Its screen size now stands at a massive 6.3 inches, a fraction bigger than Samsung's recent S8 Plus (6.2 inches) and far larger than Apple's current iPhone 7 Plus (5.5 inches). However, Samsung has given the device the same bezel-less design as its S8 models, meaning that the phone is barely bigger in overall size than Apple's biggest iPhone despite the significant extra screen size.
Despite its extra size, the Note 8 has one drawback that could hurt it - its battery is smaller than its sister device, the Galaxy S8 Plus.
The reason for this is twofold. First, Samsung has to make room for its S-Pen stylus, which comes directly off potential extra battery life. Second, the company is (understandably) reluctant to get too adventurous in pushing alternative battery-extension processes, given the negative aura still hanging around its battery technology after the Note 7 fiasco. So it has opted to accept that the Note 8's 3,300mAh battery may not match the Galaxy S8 Plus's 3,500mAh battery.
The Note 8 has taken a leaf out of Apple's book by having dual cameras on the back of the device. Both featuring 12-megapixels, one is a wide-angle (f1.7) lens while the other is a telephoto (f2.4) lens.
A front-facing 8-megapixel f1.7 lens is also present. However, Samsung believes it has an edge over Apple for two reasons. First, the company claims that its camera sensor is bigger (fractionally) than that on the high-end iPhone 7 Plus.
This means that it can let in more light, which usually results in better, sharper images. Secondly, the Note 8's camera is claimed to have better optical stabilisation than the iPhone 7. Samsung showed off a number of tests to try and prove this. If true, it means that the Note 8's camera will produce slightly sharper images in low light and when taking photos with shaky hands. I tried out the optical stabilisation when using the phone's camera in video mode and could see it in action. It simply won't allow jerky movements.
A slightly better camera, a similarly sized screen and a smaller battery make a tough case for this phone to be a must-have business phone when compared to Samsung's existing S8 Plus.
So what's the Note 8's distinguishable selling point? Samsung holds that it's the S-Pen, the slim stylus that fits into the bottom right hand corner of the phone.