How Samsung can rebound from the Note 7 debacle in 2017
It's no secret that, after a strong start, Samsung had a rough bottom half of the year, with the flaming Galaxy Note 7 debacle. After taking that kind of knock to the brand and consumer trust, it'll require some strong moves to quickly rebound. Here's what we'd like to see from Samsung in 2017.
Turn quality control into a strength
Rather than trying to gloss over the inadequate quality control that led to the exploding Note 7 batteries, Samsung would be wise to own the mistake, learn from it and transform product-testing from a weakness into a strength. Use this embarrassing event as an impetus to become a stalwart of reliability.
Even if it means churning out fewer products, it's time for Samsung to establish itself as the most stringent product-tester in the business. It may not convince people overnight, but as long as Samsung makes this its mission, then over time people will grow to trust that a Samsung product is as reliable as any in the world of electronics.
Knock the Galaxy S8 out of the park
This would be the most immediately-noticeable step Samsung could take to get people excited about its products. The Galaxy S8 needs to feel like a big step forward for smartphones – both in style and substance.
The rumor mill suggests this may not be a far-off fantasy. Bloomberg reported this month that Samsung's next flagship is expected to have an "all-screen design" that scraps the physical home button for a bezel-free front. Considering Apple is rumored to launch an iPhone with a similar design later in the year, an all-screen Galaxy S8 (and larger Galaxy S8 edge?) could be not just a way to rebound, but a proactive strike against its rival.
Finer details like performance, software, camera quality and display quality would need to push the envelope as well.
Another rumor suggests Samsung will offer the S Pen (stylus) as an optional accessory for the S8. That would be an appropriate olive branch to the loyal, stylus-loving customers who were left in the dark after the Note 7 recall.
Kill the Galaxy Note brand
While we're at it, why not kill the Galaxy Note altogether?
This one is more about perception than the demise of the product line. Samsung can still make a large, high-end phone that uses a stylus; just call it anything but "Galaxy Note." That name is forever tarnished: Bringing it back would only elicit an endless stream of snarky comments about flaming batteries.
Gear VR 2.0
We've already seen two consumer-ready models of the Gear VR virtual reality headset (along with two semi-consumer developer kits before that), but their differences were all incremental. A radically-updated Gear VR that pushes the mobile virtual reality experience forward would also do a lot to rebuild brand enthusiasm.
Positional tracking (where the headset detects your neck-down movement in space) seems like the next obvious evolution in mobile VR, as high-end alternatives like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have offered this since launch. If Oculus and Samsung can crack the case of inside-out positional tracking (where no external sensors are needed) in 2017, that could make the Gear VR a legitimate rival to much more expensive VR systems.
Something to detect hand movement is another missing piece. Either motion controls (a la Oculus Touch, above) or precise and direct tracking of the hands would also go a long way towards erasing memories of the Note 7.
We haven't heard any chatter on this, though, apart from Oculus CTO John Carmack tweeting earlier this year that he was personally working on inside-out tracking for a future Gear VR.
Make us care about smartwatches
The Gear S3 was a fine (if overly-large) smartwatch, but it didn't offer any compelling reasons to bring new customers into the fold. If Samsung can make a wrist-worn wearable that forces us all to look at smartwatches through fresh eyes, that would be another huge boon.
Health- and fitness-tracking could be the key. Are there more advanced sensors the company can add to give you an unprecedented degree of health-monitoring in one device? A wrist-worn tricorder or sorts, in addition to more typical smartwatch functionality? If so, 2017 would be the ideal time to go all-in on that.
This is the most far-fetched item on our list, but it may take something that dramatic to ignite widespread interest in smartwatches.
Make a legit Surface Pro rival
Samsung took a stab at a Surface-like device in 2016, with the Galaxy TabPro S. But it was more a rival to the entry-level Surface Pro, with a lower-end Core M processor and limited ability to adjust the screen angle.
We'd like to see a Windows 2-in-1 that isn't just another me-too act, but marks a step forward in the space. We'd need to see powerful, current-gen Core i5 and i7 processors, paired with cutting-edge displays, versatile keyboards, active stylus support and adequate port options. Add aggressive pricing, and Samsung could potentially eat into some of Microsoft's considerable success with the Surface line.