Samsung will have a lot to prove when it releases the S8 and S8 Plus, its 2017 flagship phones, at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
The launch in New York marks the South Korean tech giant's first smartphone release since the Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year, when there were nearly 100 reported cases of the Note 7 battery overheating and exploding. The issue resulted in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalling the spontaneously combustible smartphones last September.
After conducting an extensive investigation, Samsung confirmed that design and insulation errors led to the Note 7 backfire. Samsung introduced an eight-step battery safety check as a means of showing the company was taking the issues seriously.
The company, however, still faces an uphill battle with regaining credibility among consumers who continue to associate Samsung with the deluge of negative press that surfaced during the Note 7 controversy. On top of that, vice chairman Jay Y. Lee and four other Samsung executives were indicted last month on charges of bribery, embezzlement, perjury and hiding assets overseas.
Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White took that sentiment even further, arguing that even though Samsung will have some big product launches on Wednesday, Apple's iPhone "The Great" that's due out this fall has Samsung "on the ropes like never before."
The S8 is expected to include a water-resistant screen, eye-scanning technology and a virtual home button, as well as Bixby, the company's first Siri-like voice assistant, among other features.
In the aftermath of the Note 7 controversy, White believes consumers will be more apprehensive about buying Samsung devices.
"With Apple operating on all cylinders and a strong iPhone launch expected this fall, combined with the rise of more China-based competitors, we believe the pressure is on Samsung to deliver a strong upgrade without any missteps," White wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday morning. "We believe if Samsung stumbles again, the company's position in the smartphone market could be permanently impaired."
For the first time since 2011, Apple was ranked the No. 1 smartphone vendor in the 2016 fourth quarter, according to IDC Research. Apple bested Samsung, whose smartphone shipments declined 5.2% during the period, largely as a result of the success of the iPhone 7/7 Plus, the research firm said.
Apple also has attracted much speculation from consumers, analysts and members of the tech community as it prepares for the launch of its 10th-anniversary iPhone (dubbed by some as the iPhone 8 or iPhone X) later this year.
Comments from CEO Tim Cook have pointed to the possibility of augmented reality technology, while other reports indicated that it could have an organic LED screen and wireless charging, among other features.
Shares of Apple were flat at $143.80 on Wednesday morning, while Samsung common shares in South Korea closed up 0.8% at 2.09 million won ($1,874.46).