Samsung Galaxy S8 and the sad state of smartphones

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After the exploding Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Samsung needed a smartphone that could thrust it back into reckoning and inspire confidence in customers. The company’s answer —  Samsung Galaxy S8 that was unveiled on Wednesday — marks the progression in smartphones, but isn’t a technological marvel.

Barring Bixby, Samsung’s virtual assistant, the Galaxy S8 is just an upgrade. It may not necessarily mean that the smartphone wouldn’t give you bang for the buck, but the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the latest indicator of a malaise that the smartphone industry is dealing with.

Devices from the stables of Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC, among others, sure make great companions but are they really the “innovations” which the companies claim they are?

Samsung Galaxy S8’s Infinity Display or bezel-less display is only a hardware upgrade — curved displays, high-resolution displays have been in the market for a few years now. A better camera, a better processor and battery and slimmer phone is no surprise — it is an edict for smartphone makers.

Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs had said “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. Smartphone companies, including Apple, are surely hungry for more customers, but aren’t foolish to take risks, and instead are playing safe with tried and tested methodologies. They are not thinking out of the box.

Take, for example, Bixby — the virtual assistant spirals Samsung into the league of Apple and Google. It understands your interaction with the phone to give contextually relevant results. It looks smart, is aware and intelligent enough to take care of the Internet of Things set up at your home or workplace. Time will tell if there is a competitor worthy of taking on Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. Just like the two, Bixby and Samsung will struggle to get customers to use it and developers to customise apps with it.

That’s where the problem lies. Cutting-edge technology is being offered as an add-on. Hence, the industry can get away by saying it was a technology that was way ahead of its time. Customers, too, are at fault for not seeking more — they should make use of the technology and give a feedback.

Till then, smartphone makers would do well to take note of Jobs’s mantra: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

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