Samsung’s Galaxy lineup got off to a great start in 2016, when the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge won rave reviews across the board, and it seemed like the phone maker’s momentum was going to continue with the Galaxy Note 7 — right up until multiple reports of that phone exploding forced two seaparate recalls and ultimately a halt to production.
Suffice to say that Samsung needs a win to earn back consumer trust, and next year’s Galaxy S8 is going to have to be the phone to do it. From a possible 4K display and dual cameras to other rumored features, here’s everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Latest News and Rumors
According to a report in Bloomberg on Nov 5, the Galaxy S8 will come with AI-enabled features that will be “significantly differentiated” from Apple’s Siri or the Google Assistant. This comes after Samsung purchased Viv labs, whose founder helped create the original Siri.
Artificial Intelligence: Viv Inside
Lee Kyeong-tae, Samsung’s vice president for mobile communications, told the Wall Street Journal that the Galaxy S8 will “feature a slick design and an improved camera.” But more importantly, the new phone is supposed to feature enhanced artificial intelligence. Those comments on design and camera aren’t surprising, but given Google’s strong push for AI on the Pixel with Google Assistant, Samsung’s interest in AI is notewhorthy, especially in light of Samsung’s recent purchase of Viv Labs, founded by the original creators of Apple’s Siri virtual assistant.
Further evidence for Samsung making its move into the virtual assistant space is a recent filing for a trademark on a voice-controlled assistant with the name “Bixby” that Kipris first reported on. There has been significant speculation over whether other manufacturers would integrate Google Assistant in the wake of the Pixel launch, but given Samsung’s track record with Android, it is not surprising to see the company striking out in its own direction.
Release Date: When will the Galaxy S8 arrive?
Samsung hasn’t made any official announcement about the Galaxy S8. But given the company’s recent history, we can make a pretty good guess. Samsung has stuck to a relatively consistent schedule with the Galaxy S line over the years, introducing new phones on or around each year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The 2017 Mobile World Congress starts Feb. 27, so a new Galaxy S phone could land around then.
This theory is supported by Italian tipster @Ricciolo1, who posted an alleged early mockup for the event from Samsung with the announcement scheduled for February 26, 2017 at 7 p.m.
Display: 4K UHD
Samsung has been at the forefront of smartphone display technology for years now, from early use of AMOLED displays to leading the big-screen phone charge with the original Galaxy Note. Looking at more recent innovations, the last two generations of the Galaxy S have featured a quad HD display (2560 x 1440), while Edge versions of the phones have featured a curved edge at either the right or on both sides of the devices.
Reports from the Korea Herald indicate that Samsung is ready to step up the resolution again to 4K UHD (2160 x 3840). A prototype of this 5.5-inch display was shown off by Samsung already in the context of a screen for VR headsets, but it is presumed that this would be the ideal fit for the Galaxy S8 as well.
This not only matches the display size that Samsung moved to with the Galaxy S7 Edge, but since Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset relies on a smartphone as its display, this bump in resolution is crucial to he;ping Samsung keep pace with the VR market.
Design: Fingerprint Reader Integrated into a Bezel-Less Screen
Samsung is one of the only Android manufacturers that has stuck with a physical hardware button in recent years. According to The Investor, though, that may finally change with the Galaxy S8.
This rumor hinges on information from a presentation at an October 2016 display conference given by Samsung Display engineer Park Won-sang, who indicated that Samsung would be rolling out a display in 2017 that covers 90 percent of the body. This represents a significant leap from even the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which covers approximately 76 percent of that handset’s front.
Achieving this ratio would mean dropping the physical home button. Mr. Won-sang even showed a mock-up of a Galaxy S7 Edge without the home button to illustrate what this bezel-less design might look like. While this would be a leap for Samsung, it is not unprecedented. The recently announcedXiaomi Mi Mix has already achieved a 91.6 percent screen to body ratio and rumors have pointed to Apple aiming for a similar mark in the next iPhone.
This leaves the question of what happens to the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S8. It’s possible that Samsung will simply move it to the back of the device, as seen on many other Android smartphones. But the more interesting move is direct integration into the screen.
Should Samsung use Qualcomm for its chipset, the company’s Sense ID ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is designed with exactly this purpose in mind. SamMobile has reported that Samsung is at work on its own optical fingerprint solution that would similarly allow for an in-screen solution, but rumors have suggested yields may remain too low.
Samsung may also be planning to integrate more lighting into the S8. The company has developed a feature called Smart Glow that uses lights to alert you to incoming messages and calls from key contacts, warn you if the battery’s getting low and help you take selfies with the phone’s rear camera. It’s already featured in the latest Galaxy J2 phones, and could find its way to the S8 as well.
Lineup: All Edge?
For the past two years, Samsung has offered at least two variants of the Galaxy S line — a standard flat-screen phone alongside the curved Edge option. Speaking to reporters following the launch of the Note 7, Koh Dong-jin, Samsung’s head of mobile said, “Samsung has considered that it would make the edge display as the identity of the Galaxy S smartphone lineup if the company can provide consumers differentiated user experience through software and user-friendly functions (for the curved screen).”
Put simply: Samsung’s looking to go all Edge.
Still, it’s unclear if the S8 will be the one where Samsung adopts the curved screen for all its flagship phones. (All signs point to “yes,” AndoridHeadlines suggests.) SamMobile reports that there are two distinct model numbers for the S8, SM-G950 and SM-G955, but this could simply be two sizes.
Cameras: Dual lenses?
With Huawei, LG and Apple now offering rear cameras with two lenses, look for Samsung to follow suit with the S8, according to the rumor mill.
Wccftech reported back in June that sources in China were claiming that Samsung Motors (SEMKO) is working on the camera. Further information followed in August from a Weibo tipster with a solid track record, who identified a 13-megapixel Samsung camera accompanied by a 12-MP Sony shooter. Up front, there will be an 8-MP camera along with the iris scanner originally found in the Galaxy Note 7, the tipster says.
Samsung could also go in an entirely different direction with the camera. In September, Tech Updatesposted a list of reported Galaxy S8 specs that included a 30-MP rear camera.
What’s Inside: Exynos 8895 or Qualcomm 830
The Galaxy S line has traditionally been split between Samsung’s Exynos processor and a Qualcomm chip depending on the region, and the Galaxy S8 is looking to be no exception. One interesting change to this dynamic is that Samsung is exclusively making Qualcomm’s 10nm chips, meaning they will be involved in the production of both CPUs.
According to SamMobile, the specific Exynos chip that will be used is the Exynos 8895 processor with ARM’s new Mali-G71 GPU. Performance is reportedly 1.8 times better than the Exynos chipset used in the Galaxy S7 and it’s optimized for 4K and VR.
The Qualcomm chipset being targeted on the other hand is one that Qualcomm hasn’t officially announced yet — a Snapdragon 830. It’s expected to be built on a 10nm process and is rumored to feature an octa-core setup. Much like the Exynos 8895, Qualcomm’s chip would be optimized for 4K and VR performance with support for up to 8GB of RAM.
Price: A Slight Hike?
There’s no clear rumor yet on what Samsung will charge for the Galaxy S8. But the rumored specs — all Edge screens and 4K UHD resolution — are pretty high-end and could command premium prices above the $699 Galaxy S7 and $795 Galaxy S7 Edge. Consider how the price of the Note jumped by around $120 from the Note 5 to the Note 7. (Remember, there was no Note 6.)
What We Want: A safe S8
The single biggest item on our Galaxy S8 wishlist would be a phone free from hardware problems. Samsung has to regain consumers trust with this release after months of preflight announcements about the Note 7’s bann.
If most of the rumors hold true regarding the hardware, the most pressing requests are going to be regarding battery life and cooling. While the battery life on Samsung’s top phones have been among the better devices we’ve tested, the demands of VR will require better battery life.
Another issue will be heat dispersal and preferably not the kind seen with Note 7. While a phone getting a little hot in your hand can be an irritation, a phone getting hot in your VR headset causes fogging issues and general discomfort — not what you are looking for in a VR experience.
We also hope Samsung pays attention to the software, and not just the aritficial intelligence the company hopes to bake into its future phones. Samsung’s done a lot to reduce the overhead of TouchWiz, but at times the proliferation of small new features can be overwhelming.
As for cameras, the S7 and S7 Edge continue to be our favorite smartphone cameras more than half-a-year after their release. We hope the S8’s cameras can push mobile photography even further.