SAN FRANCISCO — Dogged by combustible smartphones and recalls of other electronics, Samsung Electronics is hoping to find a path to product redemption.
The South Korean company on Wednesday introduced the Galaxy S8, its first major smartphone release since the scandal over its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, which were discontinued last year after some of the devices spontaneously caught fire.
“It’s been a challenging year for Samsung,” said D.J. Koh, the company’s head of mobile devices, adding that Samsung was ready to start anew.
Samsung’s Galaxy S8 phone features a large 5.8-inch screen without adding bulk to the device. The company said it made room for the screen by reducing the size of the bezel — or the forehead and the chin — on the face of the device. Samsung also made the home button into a virtual button and shoved it under the display.
With the Galaxy S8, Samsung also rolled out its virtual assistant, Bixby, to rival Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. Similar to previous virtual assistants, Bixby responds to voice commands.
Time — and sales — will tell whether the Galaxy S8 will restore confidence in Samsung’s smartphone brand. Last year, after the company received dozens of complaints about the Galaxy Note 7 overheating, and in some cases exploding, the company recalled the phones. But replacement phones continued to catch fire, and the company had to recall the devices a second time before killing the product altogether, sacrificing billions of dollars in revenue.
The Note 7 may still make a reappearance. On Monday, Samsung said that it might sell refurbished versions of the phone.
Jan Dawson, an independent analyst for Jackdaw Research, said the Galaxy S8 could help Samsung recover as long as the product worked reliably.
“Note 7 definitely did some damage to the Samsung brand, especially for people who had little or no personal experience with Samsung devices,” he said. “But as long as the S8 does well and doesn’t suffer from any of the same problems, the memories of the Note 7 issues will fade and Samsung will recover well.”
Samsung last year also issued a separate recall for 2.8 million washing machines in the United States. The machines were prone to detaching from the washing machine chassis, posing a risk of injury.
The Galaxy S8 arrives in stores next month with a starting price of $750.