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Samsung after the fire: big screen Galaxy S8 phone debuts

Samsung introduced the Galaxy S8 phone overnight. It's the first major phone release from Samsung since the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 which the company discontinued last year after some phones caught fire.

The Galaxy S8 has a large screen, even by modern phone standards. Yet it doesn't need a large case.

That's because Samsung's 5.8 display takes up almost the entire front of the phone case. There is far less bezel, that's the space around the side of the screen. To save even more room Samsung removed the physical home button, it's now a virtual button and part of the display.

Bixby takes on Siri

Samsung introduced Bixby, a virtual assistant that rivals Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. Like its competitors Bixby responds to the phone owner's voice commands.

There's also a docking station that Samsung says turns the Galaxy S8 into a desktop computer. It's debatable whether there's any demand for a desktop computer based on the Android operating system and Samsung's software overlays. The idea has already been used by HP with a Windows-based device.

Beyond those features there's not much to excite non-geek phone users. The overnight news was predictable, most of it flagged well in advance. It seems phone technology is, for now at least, at an evolutionary dead-end. The logical conclusion being a near featureless glass slab.

Galaxy S8 more expensive than iPhone

For the first time Samsung is asking a higher price than Apple for the new phones. The Galaxy 8 is NZ$1300 while the Galaxy 8 Plus with a 6.2 inch screen sells here for NZ$1500. Apple's iPhone 7 starts at NZ$1200 and the iPhone 7 Plus is $1430.

The question posed by the Galaxy S8 is whether it can restore confidence to Samsung's phone brand. Last year's Galaxy Note 7 debacle began when some phones spontaneously caught fire. Samsung recalled and replaced phones, but the fires continued.

In the end Samsung dropped the Galaxy Note 7 losing billions and ceding market share to rival brands.

If the Galaxy S8 proves to be reliable and safe it will go a long way towards Samsung's rehabilitation. The company continues to sell more phones than any rival and has a loyal following.

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