Next year could be a really interesting one if we see Samsung debut the world’s first fully flexible and folding smartphone with the Samsung Galaxy X. However, following the Galaxy Note 7 “explosiongate” debacle we’re less sure of Samsung’s plans. There’s no two ways about it, the firm is scrambling into damage control mode, and while rumours that the Galaxy Note brand would be axed completely appear to have been squashed, other reports indicate that Samsung may be dialling back on its ambitions for 2017 more generally, including the Galaxy X. Samsung may simply launch the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 next year and leave it at that.
Meanwhile, however, Apple is still expected to revamp its entire iPhone line-up, introducing an all-glass build and AMOLED displays.
While such big changes are sure to get the blood pumping there will be a certain amount of business as usual, and Samsung is still expected to launch a successor to the Galaxy S7 in early 2017, likely around MWC in Barcelona; towards the end of February and the beginning of March.
Unsurprisingly, this new edition is thought to be the Samsung Galaxy S8.
What should we expect to see with the new Samsung Galaxy S8? There have been a few rumours already we can draw from, and also a few predictions that can reasonably be made based on Samsung’s habits and industry trends. Below I’ve outlined what I think the Galaxy S8 will be like in terms of features and capabilites.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Release Date
We didn’t have anything concrete for a little while, but following the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 meltdown it’s perhaps not too surprising that a teaser has “leaked” showing when the Galaxy S8 will launch in 2017. Despite rumours that it would launch early, Twitter source @ricciolo1 (a reliable source in the past) says that there will be “no early announcement” while posting what appears to be a leaked official teaser for the Samsung Unpacked Launch event. The flyer says that it will indeed launch at MWC 2017 in Barcelona, Spain, at a special event on February 26 from 7pm local time.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Design
Previously leaks regarding the Galaxy S8 have said that Samsung’s plans in 2017 will follow its habits in 2015 and 2016 with there being both a Galaxy S8 and a Galaxy S8 EDGE using Samsung’s curved EDGE display design. However, following the launch of the Galaxy Note 7, which featured a curved EDGE display but didn’t sport the name and was only released as one curved-display model, statements made by Samsung execs have hinted that we may see the Galaxy Note 7 approach extended to all of the firm’s flagship brands from now on. In short, that would mean that in early 2017, Samsung would launch one Galaxy S8 model, named as such, but sporting a curved EDGE display design.
And to put that in some kind of context, it was Samsung’s mobile boss, speaking to The Korea Herald at the New York Galaxy Note 7 unveiling, where he 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).”
Now, of course, that isn’t rock solid. We may indeed see the original rumours turn out to be true, with another dual-launch of both Galaxy S8 (flat display) and Galaxy S8 EDGE models. My money though, is on the solo Galaxy S8 with EDGE display theory, as I think Samsung has been building up to this for a while.
What about the rest of the design? Well that is a very tricky one to call. On the one hand we’ve seen the Galaxy S series keep the same metal and glass design language for two generations now (Galaxy S6 series and Galaxy S7 series), so industry onlookers might well assert that it’s time for a change to keep consumers interested. With that said, Samsung has historically been slow to change on the design front, it took a very long time for the firm to switch from plastics to a more premium build, so in some ways I doubt it is in a hurry to move on from this new aesthetic. That’s one part of it, the other is simply a case of “if it ‘ain’t broke”, I mean, from my point of view the Galaxy S6/S7 series design is the BEST design the firm has ever produced, and with the additon of waterproofing in the Galaxy S7 series it’s a pretty cohesive package. What really is there to change here?
I suppose the main thing which springs to mind would be the re-introduction of a removable battery feature; in a way LG sort of showed Samsung up this year when it launched the LG G5 on the same day as the Galaxy S7 and included a removable, modular battery compartment – something many vocal Samsung fans say they miss. However, it’s important to note that in spite of this the LG G5’s sales performance has paled in comparison to Samsung’s products, so clearly this isn’t as big an issue as many would have us believe. Aside from this possibility, and the prospect of the firm tweaking the overall shape, colours, and finish of the exterior, I honestly can’t think of many things Samsung could or would do which wouldn’t be change for the sake of change, but in the past that’s not something Samsung has necessarily been averse to. I also can’t imagine Samsung going down the LG or Lenovo Moto route of modular back panel accessories.
Some sources have said that Samsung is deliberately crafting the Galaxy S8 with VR in mind, the project is also known internally as “Project Dream” which has some connotations with Google’s Android-based VR project called “Google Daydream”; Daydream actually has a set of required specs Google has distributed to OEMs if they want to implement its features. Despite this, I’m not so sure the VR angle will affect the Galaxy S8 exterior design that much, again I think Samsung will want to preserve its existing design language, but more importantly it makes the most sense for phone-focused VR headsets (assuming that’s how Daydream will even work) to be adaptable to multiple form factors rather than just being made for specific models.
To be honest my current line of thinking is that Samsung will keep the Galaxy S8 as a relatively “solid” product that will bring in big numbers of consumers who want to know what they’re getting – a bit like iPhone customers really – meanwhile the Samsung Galaxy X will cater to those consumers bored by the Galaxy S8 design and who want the novelty of a brand new form factor.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Display
Again pointing to the Google Daydream VR rumours there have been several reports that the Galaxy S8 will use a 5.5in 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixel) display purpose-made to work with VR in mind; and that’s wide open to interpretation at this point but would, in my view, at least imply a Samsung Gear VR-style setup where the phone becomes your VR headset via the use of accessories. I think a 4K display is a distinct possiblity, although there are not many 4K phones on the market the kind of “arms race” push for higher spec components is something Samsung is prone towards on occasion.
It’s already rumoured to be using 4K for the Galaxy X, so it would also make sense for the Galaxy S8 too. There are of course considerations to be made, such as the added battery drain of such a high-res setup, and in truth, it isn’t strictly necessary from a typical phone use perspective as the current QHD resolution is perfectly adequate. Whatever the use scenario for VR is, however, may indeed make a 4K display more of an important feature – we just don’t know at this point! At the very least we can expect the same QHD resolution as the current Galaxy S7.
Whatever the resolution you can be sure the image quality will be high. Samsung is pretty much the undisputed king of displays at the moment, specifically its signature Super AMOLED, which it has refined more and more in recent years with clever things like diamond sub-pixel layouts to improve sharpness. I would bet good money that we’re looking at Super AMOLED for the Galaxy S8 and, as mentioned in the design section, I also think we’ll be looking at one model with a curved EDGE display whether it has the EDGE moniker or not. It’s a fairly wild bit of speculation on my part but I also think Samsung may take the curved EDGE display tech a step further to make the display a bigger, edge-to-edge affair with next to no bezels all round.
All versions of the Galaxy S8 will apparently feature EDGE displays as well.
“Now the Korean tech giant is promoting the curvy screen as its premium smartphone lineup’s key identity,” the report notes. “Sources said the company has already started securing display panels in two sizes — 5.1 inch and 5.5 inch — from its own display-making unit Samsung Display, the world’s sole producer of double-edged screens. “
Samsung Galaxy S8: Camera
Earlier in the year we’ve already seen reports that Samsung is working on a new sensor design that could improve on the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy Note 7’s already impressive imaging capabilities. According to the details, Samsung’s new kit has an f/1.4 aperture on a 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor rated at between 18MP and 24MP. To put that in some kind of perspective, the Galaxy S7 is on a par with many of its peers with a 12MP camera module featuring an f/1.8 aperture and a 1/2.5″ sensor size using a Sony sensor. At this point we don’t know if the new senor is one of Samsung’s ISOCELL or BRITECELL technologies.
On top of this, there are rumours that Samsung will follow the trend we’ve seen aboard the LG G5 and Huawei P9, and expected aboard the iPhone 7 Plus, with a dual-sensor camera. According to the details the dual-camera sensor will be engineered by Samsung Motors aka SEMCO, so the firm will be producing its own imaging tech this time round.
As of August 30, there’s further fuel on the fire for dual-camera sensor. A reputable Weibo tipster has reiterated that we’ll see a dual-sensor camera array on the Galaxy S8, claiming it’ll feature both a 12MP Samsung S5K2L2 sensor and an as-yet unidentified Sony 13MP sensor, both of which will operate in tandem for a better quality image and some special feature capabilities. The leakster also says expect a front-facing 8MP camera AND the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner.
Samsung Galaxy S8: Hardware
This is tricky. Typically Samsung has updated its Galaxy S flagship category with big leaps in processors every generation, however, with the reasonable assumption that the Galaxy S8 will be launched at MWC in early 2017 things would be extremely tight to get it ready for production with next-gen chips, considering where we are in 2016 and how little has been revealed about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 830 and supposed Samsung Exynos 8995. The indication would be that they’re not ready for production just yet, but they’d need to be soon in order for Samsung to be able to gear up handset production in time for February/March. Failing that we’d be looking at Samsung using a tweaked version of its current Exynos 8890 and/or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820/821, but that’s a risky curveball that may see backlash from critics and fans alike.
As of September 24, word has emerged from reliable source SamMobile that the Galaxy S8 will indeed run a next-gen Exynos 8995 chipset paired with ARM’s new Mali-G71 GPU. According to the report, the new GPU (which is the succcessor to the Galaxy S7 Exynos 8990’s Mali-T880MP12), uses ARM’s latest Bifrost architecture (running on 16nm semiconductor architecture), which is purpose built for next-gen 4K UHD resolution and VR applications. This sits rather nicely with earlier rumours about the Galaxy S8’s 4K, VR-orientated display and “Project Dream” codename (thought to be associated with Google’s “Project Daydream” Android VR initiative). The report adds that the G71 GPU will be up to 1.8 times faster than the last-gen T880MP12 and is thought to be faster than Qualcomm’s equivalent tech. On top of this, the 8995 chipset itself is believed to have a top speed of 3GHz on 10nm semiconductors, but it’s thought it may be throttled lower than this.
For memory, Samsung has so far offered the Galaxy S7 series in 32GB and 64GB flavours with 4GB RAM, and the Galaxy Note 7 with 64GB storage and 4GB RAM, in spite of rumours that the Note 7 would land with 128GB storage and 6GB RAM. However, Samsung has now confirmed that the Galaxy Note 7 will have a variant released in China with this 128GB/6GB combo. Considering how Samsung seems to operate I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was a testbed which, if the uptake is strong, would see Samsung rolling out these higher RAM and storage tiers more widely to its other devices going forward, and I’d include the Galaxy S8 in that. I’d also expect to see microSD making a return, but will we see the rumoured dual-slot for microSD and UFS cards? I hope so.
I’d expect to see the fingerprint scanner making a return, and probably the iris scanner from the Galaxy Note 7.