Samsung’s next flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, will be arriving very soon.
The pressure is on for the Korean electronics giant to deliver a flagship phone that not only improves on the specs of last year’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, but also kicks the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus’ butt.
Adding more features has always been Samsung’s approach with new flagships, but as the company is no doubt aware after the Galaxy Note7 literally burned out, everyone will be watching closely to see what new safety measures it includes on the S8.
What exactly can we expect from the S8? Here’s what we’re hearing from the rumor mill.
Samsung’s gone with Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) displays for a while now and has yet to launch a phone with a 4K screen.
While rumors suggest the Galaxy S8 will finally make the leap to a larger (5.7-inch) and higher resolution 4K Super AMOLED display (3,840 x 2,160) — if only because the increased resolution and pixel density will make mobile VR look crisper — it’s by no means a lock-in.
Another possibility is Samsung will release two S8 phones, a “regular” model and an “Edge” model with Quad HD and 4K resolutions, respectively.
Conversely, another report claims Samsung might ditch flat displays altogether and only launch the S8 with curved edges. (Not a terrible idea since the whole dual curved screen look has become a signature Samsung aesthetic.)
It also wouldn’t be a stretch if the S8’s screen is HDR-ready, like the Note7 was.
No home button
Speaking of the display, Samsung is reportedly planning to embed the fingerprint sensor underneath it as opposed to putting it inside the home button.
By doing this, Samsung will be able to either increase the screen size and keep the S8’s phone dimensions the same (or roughly the same) as the S7, or shrink the device’s dimensions (specifically, the height, for better pocketing and one-handed use).
A recent Samsung Display TV ad showed off a mock-up for a phone with no home button. It’s unlikely Samsung leaked the S8 and was just showing a reference design, but even if the phone shown in the ad isn’t the S8, it at least shows Samsung is thinking of getting rid of the home button.
These renders from case makers also seem to support the curved screen and no home button design.
If history is any indication, Samsung might release the S8 with two different processors — one powered by its own Exynos chip and another by a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip.
Last we heard, Samsung might go with an Exynos 8895 chip and a Mali-G71 graphics chip that is said to provide up to 1.8x more graphics performance than the S7.
The other model is expected to come with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor, which will — surprise, surprise — be produced by Samsung using its 10-nanonmeter process for greater power efficiency. With the 835 chip, the S8 would gain a 27 percent boost in performance over the S7.
As for how much RAM, we’re hearing some sources say 6GB of RAM and others claim 8GB. Either way, it’ll be more than the S7’s 4GB.
Goodbye headphone jack?
Apple caused quite a ruckus when it removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7/7 Plus. And this year, Android phone makers appear to be ready to join the #noheadphonejack club.
There are conflicting reports saying Samsung will and won’t ditch the headphone jack. If the S8 has a headphone jack, Samsung will be able to rub it in Apple’s face. But if it doesn’t — then it’s time to accept it and go wireless.
‘Bixby’ AI assistant
The iPhone has Siri, Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile phones have Cortana and Google’s Pixelphones have the Assistant. Now Samsung is said to be launching its own AI digital assistant.
Rumor has it that the S8 will come with its own assistant, possibly called “Bixby” and powered by Viv, the artificial intelligence assistant Samsung acquired in October. Interestingly, the creators of Viv are the same people who created Siri before selling it to Apple.
Assuming Samsung doesn’t dumb Viv down, it could stomp all over Siri.
Samsung’s been waterproofing its phones for years. With the S7 and S7 Edge, the company stepped up its Ingress Protection rating to IP68, meaning the phones can be submerged in up to 4.9 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Additionally, the IP68 rating means they’re dust, dirt and sand resistant without needing any caps or covers.
With that level of protection, it seems unlikely Samsung would take a step back with the S8 and nix the weatherproofing. According to The Investor, the S8 will sport the same IP68 rating, making it just as weatherproof as its predecessor.
One or two cameras?
So far, we’ve heard almost nothing about what kind of improvements will be made to the S8’s cameras.
The logical thing would be for the company to copy Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus dual-camera setup. After all, any phone that uses Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 chip will be able to support dual cameras without any complex wizardry.
The closest clue to Samsung pursuing dual cameras for the S8 is a patent Samsung filed previously. But like all patents, it may never end up in any real product.
Traditionally, Samsung has used the annual Mobile World Congress as the stage to announce its new flagship phones.
However, this year might be different. Word on the street is the company might skip MWC this year and hold its own own “Unpacked” event in April. It’ll be later than usual, but given the disastrous Note7 launch, Samsung probably isn’t taking any chances.
As much as we think we know about the S8, there’s still a lot that we don’t know.
For example, how big will the battery be, and what will the software will look like? Will the front-facing camera get an upgrade? Will the S8 include the Note7’s iris scanner? Will there be wireless charging? How about expandable storage?
Heck, we don’t even know if Samsung will continue with the “glass sandwich” design it has used for the last two years.
Rumors can only tell you so much, and while most of them usually end up being true, there’s still plenty of room for Samsung to surprise us.