Samsung started 2016 out so well. The Galaxy S7 officially outsold the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and the Galaxy Note 7 came along and impressed everyone — until it went out with a bang. Samsung will want to leave 2016 behind, so attention has likely turned to next year’s flagship, which we know as the Galaxy S8. Samsung’s mobile communications vice president, Lee Jae-yong, has noted that, for starters, the Galaxy S8 will “feature slick design and an improved camera, as well as an enhanced artificial intelligence service.”
There are plenty of rumors about the phone already, so here’s everything you need to know.
Related: Everything we think we know about the Galaxy X, Samsung’s rumored foldable phone
Release date and availability
We’re hearing more and more rumors that Samsung will forgo the typical Mobile World Congress release for the new phone in favor of a private event in New York City. This event is largely expected to be held in April, and the latest rumors suggest that it will be on April 18. The news comes from South Korean news site Naver, which cites industry insiders.
Previously, we heard from The Wall Street Journal that we wouldn’t see an official unveiling until an April press conference in New York City, two months after MWC. Noted rumor leaker SamMobile corroborated that report in mid-December. Samsung, which has historically released new Galaxy devices in March, will use the extra time to “coordinate with external agencies to execute plans to recover confidence from consumers before releasing a new product on the market.” But the company hasn’t yet committed one way or the other.
It’s expected to be expensive. Goldman Sachs estimates that the component cost for the Galaxy S8 will rise 15 to 20 percent compared to the cost of for the Galaxy S7, and that Samsung will pass at least some of that cost to consumers. Specifically, the investment firm expects storage and memory prices to increase.
A desktop experience
According to the latest rumors, the Galaxy S8 will bring one feature that you probably haven’t seen on an iPhone — or on many other Android devices, for that matter. We first heard that the Galaxy S8 could bring a continuum-like desktop experience through a report from Windows blog All About Windows Phone, but now we may have a slightly better view of what that experience could look like.
The image isn’t a leak — but rather a concept image created by Androbit using information from other leaks, and we think that it’s a pretty nice look at what the desktop UI could end up being like.
It’s looking more and more like the device will function very similarly to Microsoft’s Continuum, which lets you use your phone as a computer simply by plugging it in to an external monitor. As you can see, the desktop experience looks somewhat similar to Windows, but is obviously not. Hopefully it will be able to run all of the Android apps that users have on their phone — doing away with the need to download extra apps just for use on desktop.
Accessories: Wireless headphones and a stylus
If rumors are to be believed, the Galaxy S8 won’t be wanting in the accessories department.
Samsung may follow Apple’s lead and launch new wireless in-ear headphones alongside the Galaxy S8. According to SamMobile, the company is in internal talks to release a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that “compete with Apple’s [wire-free] AirPods.”
And the Galaxy S8 will reportedly support Samsung’s proprietary stylus, the S Pen. Reports out of China suggest that the company nixed a prototype with an integrated stylus, but has decided to offer the S Pen as an external accessory.
A new digital assistant?
It looks like Samsung will develop its own digital assistant for use on the Galaxy S8. Samsung has trademarked the name “Bixby” for “computer application software for smartphones, mobile telephones, portable computers and tablet computers … used to operate voice recognition system[s] … [and enable] hands-free use of a mobile phone through voice recognition.” This hints that the name may end up being used for its assistant.
Reports also indicate that Bixby will be usable in almost all of the Samsung Galaxy S8’s native apps that come preinstalled on the phone. Bixby will also reportedly be a lot more advanced than Samsung’s S-Voice, and will work systemwide — which means you may not see Google Assistant at all on the Galaxy S8.
Galaxy S8 Plus
Rumors indicate that the Galaxy S8 won’t be a stand-alone device. In fact, it could be accompanied by an even more powerful “Galaxy S8 Plus” model.
According to reports, the main difference between the standard Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus is the size of the latter device’s display. It’s reportedly larger.
Security on our smartphones is very important — particularly now we can use them as mobile wallets, thanks to Android Pay and Samsung Pay. And the Galaxy S8 may integrate one of the top new security features introduced to Samsung’s range on the Note 7: an iris scanner. It’s a rumor we’ve heard before, but a new report citing industry insiders lends credence.
It says the Galaxy S8 will use the Note 7’s iris scanner, which has been given a performance boost to speed up the process, and will be placed along the top of the phone and separate from the selfie cam. And it suggests that Samsung will move the fingerprint sensor from inside the home button to the rear of the phone, effectively embedding it beneath the screen.
The report also mentions that Samsung Pass, a password manager introduced alongside the Note 7, will make a comeback on the Galaxy S8. It’ll reportedly rely a combination of biometric authentication and Samsung’s Knox technology to keep IDs and passwords safe.
According to the latest rumors, the Samsung Galaxy S8 could well be the first phone on the market to offer Bluetooth 5.0, the latest and greatest version of Bluetooth.
Bluetooth 5.0 was first introduced by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group just last week, and it’s far more capable than the Bluetooth 4.2 specification it replaces. In fact, Bluetooth 5.0 doubles the transfer speeds (up to a maximum of 2Mbps), quadruples the range, and dramatically reduces power consumption.
It’s important to note that Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t totally replace earlier versions of Bluetooth, of course. It just adds functionality to the core Bluetooth technology. Thankfully, it’s also backwards compatible, which means that Bluetooth 4.2 devices work with Bluetooth 5.0 phones — they just won’t get all the benefits.
Samsung recently announced that it would be acquiring Harman International for a whopping $8 billion, which gives the company access to Harman’s connected car tech. But it also gives Samsung access to Harman’s well-respected consumer audio brand. In short, future Samsung phones like the Galaxy S8 could be getting a serious boost in audio quality.
One rumor in particular says that the Samsung Galaxy S8 will include stereo speakers with Harman branding, similar to the HTC Boomsound speakers used on HTC devices.
The Galaxy series has seen a serious improvement in camera quality over the past few years, and we even rated the Galaxy S7’s camera as better than the camera on the iPhone 6S in some respects. According to recent reports, Samsung will go a step further for the Galaxy S8.
It won’t just be the rear camera that gets some attention, however. The Galaxy S8 may feature an autofocus selfie camera, according to ETNews in South Korea. We’re used to rear cameras with autofocus, but only a few — Sony’s Xperia XA and HTC’s Desire Eye, for example — have it on the front camera. The camera will allegedly feature an encoder sort of focusing mechanism rather than a voice coil motor, meaning the focusing actuator will be on the side of the lens rather than the middle of the lens. That’ll allow for a camera module with lower depth.
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
The actuator will also reportedly recognize people located at different distances in the frame. In other words, it’s going to be optimized for group shots — a feature Samsung reportedly plans to tout.
Moving to the rear of the S8: according to a tip from Chinese social media site Weibo, the phone will feature a dual 12MP + 13MP rear-facing camera, which ties into the trend for dual-camera setups, as seen on the Huawei P9, Mate 9, and Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. However, exactly how it will work, or what type of effects it will produce, isn’t clear.
More: Is there a new Samsung Gear VR on the horizon?
Processor and specs
The Galaxy smartphones have traditionally been among Samsung’s most powerful in terms of hardware, and the Galaxy S8 looks likely to continue that tradition. Rumors suggest it will use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 processor (which Samsung will build for Qualcomm), meaning it’ll deliver more processing power while consuming less energy than its predecessors. But like some previous Galaxy S phones, the Snapdragon-equipped version may not be the only model.
Rumors also suggest that Samsung may use an Exynos 8895 processor with ARM’s new Mali-G71 GPU, which is nearly twice as powerful (1.8 times, to be exact) as the Mali-T880 MP12 GPU found in the Exynos 8890-powered Galaxy S7. This new GPU makes use of ARM’s Bifrost architecture, which allows for high-end 4K and VR experiences. It’s also compatible with Vulkan, OpenGL ES 3.2, GPU Compute, and Android RenderScript APIs.
New information from China suggests that the S8’s internal RAM will be pushed up to 6GB, and that the phone’s maximum internal storage will be an impressive 256GB.
Samsung may seriously step up its game for the display on the Galaxy S8 in an effort to tempt customers to purchase phones after the Galaxy Note 7 debacle. So how nice will the display be? Well, according to Samsung mobile engineer Park Won-sang, who spoke at the iMID Display Exhibition in late October, the display on the Galaxy S8 will cover an impressive 90 percent of the front of the phone.
“Samsung Display would roll out a full-screen display whose display area ratio (a scale that measures space taken up by a display on the front part of a handset) reaches more than 90 percent next year,” said Won-sang, according to a report from The Next Web.
There’s traditionally been a choice between a curved Edge display and a flat screen on Samsung’s flagship smartphones, but that might not be the case this time around. Aaccording to a report by The Korea Herald, the company is considering ending the regular, non-curved model for its flagship Galaxy line.
Still, new rumors from SamMobile suggest that the opposite is true, and that Samsung will, in fact, keep the flat variant around — at least for now.
More: Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall
“Sources said the company has already started securing display panels in two sizes — 5.1 inches and 5.5 inches — from its own display-making unit, Samsung Display, the world’s sole producer of double-edged screens,” the site reports. Those are the same size displays as the current Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.
Although it was previously reported by My Drivers that the new handset would feature at 4K screen, Sammobile now reports that is not the case, and that the Galaxy S8 will stay with the 2K display. This could be because the technology simply isn’t ready, or would just be too costly to implement on a large scale.
Still, Samsung showed off a 4K 5.5-inch display for VR at the SID Display Week in May, so the company is clearly working on bringing 4K to small screens. Of course, it was just a prototype, which indicates that it may take time before we see it on an actual device.
Reports say Apple is going to remove the physical home button on the iPhone 7S/8 in 2017. Samsung may do it first with the Galaxy S8. The latest reports suggest that the Galaxy S8 will have an all-glass front, with Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint scanner mounted underneath the panel. This is in line with previous rumors that the home button would sit beneath tempered glass. With the physical home button gone, Samsung may go ahead with a bezel-less display on the front of the S8. That lines up with what Apple is trying to do.
The latest news regarding the S8 circle around the “3D Touch” feature. Korean media is reporting that “an official of a Samsung supplier” is claiming the South Korean manufacturer is “mulling to adopt the force technology partially from the S8.”
Battery, USB Type-C, and Headphone Jack
The battery inside the Galaxy Note 7 is one that apparently caused a lot of problems, and Samsung will not want history to repeat itself with the Galaxy S8. South Korean news sources, as detailed by the The Korea Herald, are reporting Samsung is in talks with LG Chem to produce the cells for use inside the upcoming phone. Samsung used its own batteries in the first batch of Note 7 phones, and another Chinese supplier named ATL for the second, which was an equally problematic batch.
Samsung is apparently already supplied with camera modules by LG Innotek, another part of the LG Group, so although the pair are rivals, business deals have been struck between them in the past. However, the battery deal with LG Chem hasn’t been finalized, according to local news sources.
The Galaxy S8 will also adopt the USB Type-C reversible charging port, which offers fast charging and quicker data transfers, Sammobile confirmed.
It will not, however, have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, Samsung is reportedly doing away with the standard jack, which will make for a thinner phone and space for a larger battery. But if it makes you feel any better, Sammobile reports that Samsung might integrate stereo speakers from Harman, a company Samsung is buying for $8 billion.
With Android 7.0 Nougat already here, it’s almost certain that the Galaxy S8 will ship with the latest flavor of Android when it launches. Samsung likes to add plenty of its own apps and software to make its Galaxy phones more exciting, so what does it have planned for the S8?
Following Samsung’s acquisition of Viv Labs, an artificial intelligence company started by members of the team that developed Apple’s Siri, the S8 will get its own virtual assistant. This has been confirmed by Samsung, when executive VP Rhee Injong discussed the feature during a November briefing. He stated the assistant would connect to third-party services and apps, and the more that do so, the more useful and intelligent the assistant will get.
Another software feature rumored to make its debut alongside the S8 is a new app known as Family Care. As its name suggests, the app will allow for parents — or the powers that be within a family — to serve as the final arbiters over what apps can be installed on a handset, or how long the device can be used. Family Care will reportedly also give users control over notifications and reminders and parents can sync their own phones with their children’s with a QR code.
Kids can even request a pickup from their chauffeur (read: mom or dad) with the Family Care app, sending their location and a pickup timeframe to their parents.
We will update this post as we learn more information.
This story was originally published in July 2016. Updated on 1-05-2017 by Christian de Looper: Added news that Galaxy S8 could be released on April 18.