Samsung Galaxy S8 is the elephant in the room

There’s a Samsung-shaped hole in the new crop of phones we saw this week at Mobile World Congress, the industry’s largest mobile show. And that’s because Samsung didn’t launch one.

Instead, it introduced a tablet and a two-in-one, and tacked on a disappointing video teasing the Galaxy S8 event, taking place March 29 in New York. Samsung pushed the Galaxy S8 launch because it had to sew up its time-consuming and terribly embarrassing botched Note 7 launch.

And the Galaxy S8’s absence was palpable. Samsung’s launch typically helps anchor the show for industry watchers. Its massive presence whips up excitement year after year, and gives us phone reviewers a chance to compare the devices that’ll launch in the following months. Now we’ll have to wait to to size up top-tier handsets such as the LG G6, Huawei P 10 Plus and Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

Not that Samsung should mind that its phone didn’t show. It means the company can pick its own venue and start time. It doesn’t have to worry about journalists scrambling to arrive from other events, or dashing off for the next press conference across town. By controlling every detail of its own unveiling, Samsung doesn’t have to share the spotlight.

And competitors, too, can in theory shine without being eclipsed by the loud, flashy diva that is Samsung. But look what happened instead. It wasn’t LG’s slim, nearly bezel-less G6 that drew the most interest from CNET readers. It was the Nokia 3310, which isn’t even a smartphone. It’s an update of a 17-year-old design and it isn’t even going to work in many countries, including the US.

The audacity of such a blatant nostalgia play was one reason that press and readers glommed onto a phone that’s otherwise too basic to even notice. But then again, if the 3310’s color screen and return of the Snake game can steal the show, what does it say about the show’s wow-factor in the first place?

Had Samsung’s Galaxy S8 made an appearance, we’d be having a much different conversation than the reappearance of a year-2000 phone. And we’d all be better for it.

#TechDomes2017

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