Editor’s note: This article is frequently updated to reflect the latest information available. We most recently added additional information about Bixby, Samsung’s new digital assistant.
With just a couple of months to go until its unveiling, rumors are flying about the latest Samsung flagship smartphone. Presumably to be called the Galaxy S8, it carries the extra pressure of being a sort of comeback kid—Samsung’s first big announcement after the exploding Galaxy Note7 debacle.
The details are pretty much in the rumor category at this point, but as the launch date draws near, a clearer picture is emerging of the device. We’ll keep updating this article with the latest information, but the most recent reports tease a number of exciting details, including some possible confirmation of a desktop dock, “infinity displays,” and evidence that the headphone jack won’t be leaving after all.
An even better display
The latest Samsung phone usually wins the “best display” crown from Displaymate, and it looks like this year won’t be any different. At first it seemed like Samsung was going to bump up the resolution to 4K (2160×3840), based on a report from the Korea Herald. However, while the Korea Herald has broken its fair share of Samsung news in the past, recent rumors indicate that the company won’t be going 4K just yet.
SamMobile’s sources report that the Galaxy S8 will retain the 1440×2560 quad HD Super AMOLED display of its predecessor, but will manufacture it using a new material that will help it last longer and use less power. The site also reports that the company will switch from the Diamond PenTile subpixel arrangement to a standard RGB stripe one, effectively increasing the subpixel count from 7,372,800 to 11,059,200. Sammobile claims the change will “provide a noticeable improvement in virtual reality environments.”
Additionally, BusinessKorea most recently reported that the S8 will utilize 2K resolution displays, with Samsung holding off on 4K until Galaxy Note8 launch.
The biggest yet
As far as the size of the S8 goes, SamMobile reports that the new displays will be even bigger, clocking in at 5.7 inches and 6.2 inches, an increase of more than a half-inch over the 5.1- and 5.5-inch S7 and S7 edge, equaling or exceeding the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note7. An early VentureBeat report backed up the 6.2-inch claim, as well as a rumor from South Korea-based Naver. The most recent leaks come in the form of a photo of a pair of the larger Galaxy S8 at VentureBeat. It shows USB-C ports (an optical illusion from the curve of the phone makes the one on the right look like microUSB, it is claimed). Using the camera module as a point of reference, they do indeed seem gigantic.
The Guardian backs up that claim, reporting that the two phones “will have screens in the 5-inch to 6-inch region, with the devices having the same or smaller proportions of previous versions of Samsung’s flagship smartphone but with larger displays.” Bloomberg also weighed in, reporting that the Galaxy S8 will feature a completely bezel-less design not unlike the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept phone that launched earlier this year.
So, while the displays are going to be significantly bigger, the actual phone itself may not.
To edge or not
There’s some uncertainty about just how many phones Samsung will release, and what form they’ll take. Initial murmurings suggested that all S8 models will go for that Edge look with the dual-curved screen. Bloomberg also reported that the S8 “will only come with wraparound displays,” but a January report from Sammobile raised the specter of a similar lineup to the S7, with a regular flat model and a curved edge variant.
Furthermore, the Guardian shares some details about a so-called “infinity display (that) will cover the majority of the front of the device, with very little body on the top and bottom of the screen not dedicated to the display.” Furthermore, both versions of the phone “will have screens that curve down at the left and right sides of the device similar to the Galaxy S7 Edge,” according to the publication’s sources. Tipsters also tell the site that there wasn’t even room to put a logo or brand name on the front of the device, a design detail many users will appreciate.
A recent leaked picture by Twitter user @dfordesign backs up the Guardian’s description by showing a front panel that’s nearly entirely screen. Particularly of note are the rounded corners on the display, something we haven’t seen in most Android phones. It also would be the first Galaxy S phone without a physical home button.
A new digital assistant
Everyone is trying to get in on the digital assistant game these days. Samsung doesn’t want to just watch on the sidelines as the Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri, and Alexa battle for dominance. The company recently purchased Viv Labs for this purpose. The service can handle natural language queries like the other digital assistants in this hot space. Since the Google Assistant isn’t yet available to outside developers, Samsung clearly wants this type of capability and is keeping with its strategy of pushing its own services on the company’s hardware.
A report by Sammobile says the new Viv-powered digital assistant will be named “Bixby” and will work across nearly every native Samsung application: “Unlike S Voice, Bixby will be much more advanced, and it will work system-wide,” the site writes. “For example, it might be come in handy inside the Gallery app where you can ask Bixby to show you pictures and videos that satisfy particular criteria (similar to Google Photos and/or Apple’s Photos app in iOS 10). S Voice is likely to be replaced by Bixby in the Galaxy S8.”
Meanwhile, Korea’s ET News reports that the service will initially support eight languages, including English, Korean, and Chinese. That would best Google Assistant on the Pixel phone, which currently only understands English and German (though it also can speak Hindi, Japanese, and Portuguese in the Allo app).
The Guardian weighed in here, too. While it was less clear on the Bixby name, its sources said the AI assistant will be able “to perform tasks such as object recognition, using the smartphone’s camera similar to Google Goggles.”
Retaking the camera crown
Samsung typically offers the best-in-class smartphone camera. But with the S8 it will have some catching up to do to beat Google’s Pixel, which many regard as the current photography king.
There are a variety of reports to consider here, making this particular piece of the puzzle a little unclear. A report from Tech Updates indicated a 30MP rear camera. A tipster to Weibo says the phone will go dual lens, with 13MP and 12MP cameras. (However, Bloomberg reported that while Samsung is indeed experimenting with a dual-camera system, it may scrap the idea due to higher manufacturing costs.) An 8MP camera will be on the front, with other reports indicating it could have an autofocus for even better selfies. A trademark filing with the European Union Intellectual Property Office for “Samsung AF” seems to support that rumor.
In the Guardian’s report, sources said the S8’s camera will have a similar dual pixel sensor to last year’s S7, with “incremental improvements to image quality, low-light performance, and speed.”
Powering the engine
Samsung has typically used its own Exynos chip or a Qualcomm Snapdragon model depending on which region the phone is sold in. A SamMobile report says that trend will continue, with an Exynos 8895 processor with ARM’s Mali-G71 GPU on tap. Performance is said to be 1.8 times better than the S7 with optimizations for 4K and VR. The Qualcomm chip will be the recently announced 10nm Snapdragon 835, and a recent report suggests it may be exclusive to the Galaxy S8 at launch.
As far as the fingerprint sensor goes, the Guardian tossed cold water on the dream that it would be built into the display. According to its report, the scanner will move to the back of the display, like the Pixel and many other Android phones have already done. Additionally, recent case leaks seem to confirm the re-location fingerprint scanner, showing that it will be positioned in an odd place, just to the right of the camera.
Jack in the box
Apple made a lot of noise when it removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. A few Android handsets have done the same (most notably the HTC U Ultra and the Moto Z), and according to SamMobile, Samsung was looking to do the same with the Galaxy S8.
However, those fears are likely unwarranted. Several recent case leaks suggest that the headphone jack will remain on the S8, which was backed up by the Guardian’s sources, sure to be music to audiohpiles’ ears.
Elsewhere, Samsung is said to be prepping a unique feature for the Galaxy S8. Called the Samsung Desktop Experience, as revealed in a purported leaked slide from a Galaxy S8 presentation, the feature will reportedly allow the new phone to connect to a monitor to extend the workspace beyond the screen.
According to the description, the Galaxy S8 will work with an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor much like Continuum does on Windows 10. The details are sparse, but it appears that the phone would connect to a monitor via USB-C and expand apps for better viewing.
The Guardian’s report backed up this claim with a few more details. Sources tell the publication that a new dock and service will turn the phone into an “Android desktop computer, connecting to a monitor, keyboard and other peripherals called DeX (desktop extension) will be available.”
The Galaxy S8 is a premium phone, and it’ll demand a premium price. The S7 debuted at $699 and the S7 Edge went for $795. A six-inch plus screen could go for more, perhaps closer to the MSRP of the Note7, which went for as high as $880 depending on the carrier.
A research note by Goldman Sachs claimed that Samsung the Galaxy S8 could cost the company as much as 15 to 20 percent more than the S7 to manufacture due to the effect of rising raw material prices. That means that the flagship handset could jump to more than $800 for entry-level buyers, but it’s unclear from the report (and unlikely, given customer expectations) how much of the additional costs would be passed along to consumers. However, Apple quietly increased the price of its iPhone Plus by $20 earlier this year, so a price increase isn’t out of the question.
When’s it coming?
Samsung has already announced that the phone won’t be making it’s debut at Mobile World Congress this year, and according to a Wall Street Journal report, the S8 won’t actually arrive until April. Last year the S8 went on sale March 11, but an April release may be required to give Samsung just enough time to avoid the catastrophe it experienced with the Note7. Sammobile chimed in with a date of March 29 for the unveiling, with the launch in South Korea and other markets not happening until April 20.
A report from South Korea-based Naver echoed the claims of an April release date, adding that the company was eyeing a New York City event for the S8 unveiling. In August, Samsung held its annual Unpacked event at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York to debut the Note7.