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Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 kickoff: What to expect

The next Galaxy Note is nearly here.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Note 8 will try to win back burned Note 7 fans

On Wednesday, August 23, Samsung will reveal its most hotly anticipated phone in years -- partly because the Galaxy Note 8 will almost certainly be the company's highest-end flagship device and partly because the previous version had a tendency to burst into flames.

You'll be able to watch the event live at 8 a.m. PT, right here at CNET.

But first, wouldn't you like an educated guess at how Samsung's event will unfold? When I look into my crystal ball, here's what I see.

A no-nonsense presentation

Mark Zuckerberg created quite the photo opportunity at Samsung's Galaxy S7 launch.


Don't expect indoor fireworks to celebrate the Galaxy Note 8's launch -- or many distractions at all. While Samsung sometimes likes to put on a big show with celebrities and impromptu bouts of dancing, the company knows it can't afford to look disrespectful to customers affected by the Galaxy Note 7 battery fires.

That said, Samsung's last few phone unveilings were reasonably subdued as well -- unless you count the surprise appearance by Mark Zuckerberg at the Galaxy S7 unveil which led to this creepy photo.

A ginormous phone

I wouldn't expect Samsung to start with an apology, either. Samsung didn't address the Note 7 battery fires even once during its Galaxy S8 unveil in March -- it merely mentioned that the company had experienced "a challenging year" before diving right into its pitch for a brand-new product.

So what do the rumors say about the Galaxy Note 8? We're expecting a huge 6.4-inch handset with Samsung's signature S-Pen stylus, improved fingerprint sensor placement (perhaps beneath a curved glass screen), a Bixby button (for Samsung's voice assistant) and perhaps dual rear cameras for a fancy pseudo-optical zoom (like Apple's iPhone 7 Plus) or augmented reality applications.

What the Galaxy Note 8 will look like, according to reputable leaker Evan Blass.

Evan Blass

You can read our full Note 8 rumor roundup here.

A battery boast

During Samsung's hour-long Galaxy S8 unveil in March, it spent barely 20 seconds explaining that safety is the company's top priority and that it had created an eight-point safety check to test its batteries in the wake of the Note 7 disaster -- without actually mentioning the Note 7 disaster, mind you.

That might have been enough for Galaxy S8 buyers, but it won't be enough to appease Samsung's flagship customers. I'd expect Samsung to boast that its batteries are now the safest in the industry, maybe making other manufacturers' energy packs seem questionable by comparison. (Motorola might have something to say about that.)

And I'd definitely expect the company to recap its efforts to ensure battery safety, perhaps with a quick video of the testing process. Like this one:

Now playing: Watch this: What I saw inside Samsung's battery testing center

A possible discount -- but not an apology

I don't expect Samsung to actually apologize to Note 7 buyers during the Note 8 reveal. It'd be bad business to remind tens of millions of potential Samsung fans that its phones can occasionally explode -- especially considering only 2.5 million people ever bought a Note 7 to start.

But if some of those unlucky Galaxy Note 7 buyers are willing to give the Galaxy Note 8 a chance -- and why not? -- Samsung should really reward their loyalty.

That's what my colleague Jessica Dolcourt argues in this piece, and I think it's spot-on: Samsung can afford to give them some sort of discount, a free wireless charger, an extended warranty, or all of the above.

It would help lay the issue to rest, and it's not like every Samsung customer would take advantage of the deal. Samsung shipped over 48 million Galaxy S7 devices, according to Strategy Analytics, and the company reportedly hopes to ship as many as 60 million of the Galaxy S8. Those 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 customers are a tiny fraction of the company's phone business.

A Bixby relaunch

Samsung knows that voice-activated digital assistants like Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant are a big deal, but the company's own Bixby had a rough launch, at least in the US. The Galaxy S8 feature was met with skepticism from the very beginning, which only increased as Bixby got delayed -- repeatedly -- until it finally arrived in July in the states.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung's virtual assistant Bixby Voice is here

That's right: for three months, US Galaxy S8 owners had a button on the side of their phone meant for a feature that hadn't shipped yet. (You could tap the button to launch a Bixby menu, but not control things with your voice.)

The Galaxy Note 8 launch is a key opportunity for Samsung to give Bixby a fresh start, and I bet it spends plenty of time showing off Bixby and what it can do for you.

An alternate reality machine

If the whispers are true that the Galaxy Note 8 will come with a 4K-resolution screen and a dual camera, they could potentially make it the best phone for exploring other worlds.

Sure, while today's "Retina"-grade screens are plenty for your bare eyeballs, we still need all the resolution we can get inside a VR headset like Samsung's Gear VR, which uses magnifying lenses to blow up the pixels. 

And while Apple has made huge strides with a single camera for augmented reality apps like AR measuring tape, two cameras can allow a phone to more accurately see depth in the real world.

But even if neither of those come true with the Galaxy Note 8, it could still be the first phone to support both Samsung's Gear VR headset and Google's Daydream View headset right out of the box. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ recently added Daydream support, but it was only just this month.

Like Samsung did in March with its aspirational ostrich video, I'd expect it to end Wednesday's presentation with another look at a virtual world.

At this point, all we know for sure about Samsung's next big phone is the name: Back in January, the company confirmed to CNET that it wouldn't ditch the Note brand, and specifically suggested that a "Note 8" was inbound. (There's also this teaser video.)

It's strange to think that today's Galaxy Note owners are effectively upgrading from a Note 5 to a Note 8, since Samsung skipped the Note 6 name and the Note 7 was consumed by fire. But there you go.

Whatever the Note 8 holds, expect Samsung to promote it hard, alongside the S8 and S8 Plus, as an "innovative" phone that can stand up to the upcoming iPhone 8 and LG V30

Watch the Galaxy Note 8 launch here: Tune in on August 23 at 8 a.m. PT. 

Galaxy Note 8's August 23 launch is important because... Read our Note 8 rumor roundup.