As much as consumers might suspect a marketing masterplan at play, Samsung's launch of the new Galaxy Note 8 phone at the same time as Apple's much-vaunted iPhone 8 and iPhone X and Xiaomi's Mi Mix 2 was apparently "a coincidence" according to a Samsung spokesperson at the unveiling of the Note 8 in Hong Kong this week.
"We had no idea they would launch now, we fixed it a few months ago," said Paulona Cheung, head of marketing, IT and mobile communications business at Samsung HK. "Whether it is helping or not... it might be, because people will directly compare the specs and obviously our spec is much higher than the rest of the competitors." Social-media users have been working on such comparisons all week, with a variety of results:
The Note 8, which started taking pre-orders in HK and Macau yesterday, is targeting business users for the first time with a memory capacity of up to 256 GB, Samsung's biggest yet, and Dex, a dock that allows users to access their phone screens on a desktop computer for a 'PC-like' experience.
The brand is also hoping to target "young generations" more than ever before, said Cheung, with creative features like 'live message', which enables users to decorate messages and pictures and edit photos into GIFs, and 'live Focus', a tool for adjusting camera field depth.
Samsung is "very confident" that the Note 8's upgraded cameras and S Pen, which has a thinner tip and enhanced pressure sensitivity, will make the phone stand out from the crowd, continued Cheung, particularly in loyal Hong Kong and Macau markets.
The regions are home to "a community" of Note lovers, according to Yiyin Zhao, vice president and head of IT and mobile communication business for Samsung HK, with "three out of four Note users saying their Note is the best phone they have ever owned." Understandably, reference to the fate of the Note 8's doomed predecessor was kept light at the launch, but a presentation that thanked fans "for believing in us" and doing "amazing things even when we disappointed you" hinted at the Note 7 disaster. Judging by pre-orders elsewhere in the world, which have reached a record high for the Note line, customers are also ready to move on—most of them, anyway.
Cheung thinks that the Note line's continuing popularity in Hong Kong and Macau stems from Samsung being the first brand to pioneer big-screen mobiles, with the launch of the Note 1 in 2011. The line targets a different audience to the Galaxy S range, which released its S8 and S8 plus models earlier this year. "S8 users are looking for design," said Cheung. "But the Note 8 users are looking for something practical."
Top row, left to right: the Note LTE, Note II, Note 3, Note 4; bottom row, left to right: the Note Edge, Note 5, Note 7 and Note 8. Samsung did not make a phone they called 'Note 6', in order to sync numbering with the Galaxy S range.