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Image credit: Diana Goovaerts

Samsung took the wraps off its new S8 smartphone on Wednesday, and at the launch event the company went to pains to make one thing clear: this is not just about a phone, it's about an entire ecosystem.

Packed into the S8 are features that tie together many of the previously disparate mobile elements Samsung has been working on. The device, for example, comes with a new app – dubbed Samsung Connect – that allows users to tap into all of their smart home devices from one platform. That kind of ease of use can only be meant to facilitate not just more adoption, but also more utilization of the connected tools the company has already put out there.

And with its new artificial intelligence assistant Bixby, Samsung is trying to both bridge the gap and ease user friction further. Bixby's capabilities aren't limited to just actions within the S8 smartphone's space – the assistant can also do things like hail an Uber and learn your habits, likes, and dislikes to make recommendations based on where you are. Bixby is also context aware, which Samsung said will help it break down the barrier between touch and voice. That last bit is important as Samsung execs said they envision Bixby as conduit that will allow users to control their connected devices in the Samsung Connect app with their voice alone.

But there's more.

Samsung is also positioning its S8 smartphones as desktop replacements (or at least temporary stand-ins) with its new Samsung DeX dock. DeX allows users to connect their device to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to display and edit data from their device, while still retaining the phone's hassle-reducing features like facial recognition to unlock and sign in.

Of course, the S8 is also at the heart of Samsung's GearVR system, which now includes a Bluetooth controller with motion sensors, a touchpad, and dedicated trigger to provide more interactive experiences.

At Wednesday's event, Samsung execs billed the S8 as the start of a new era in smartphone design. And they may not be wrong.

“We are in a mature smartphone market. That's what has allowed Apple to get away with releasing a phone with the same form factor three years in a row,” IBB Consulting Senior Partner Jefferson Wang observed. “Yes, we are seeing some great design innovation from Samsung this year and expect the same from Apple … (but) continued investment in finding the next generational device leap is becoming more critical than ever.”

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