Update

Samsung Galaxy S8 rumor roundup: Here's everything we know so far

From a new digital assistant to a beefed-up camera, Samsung is angling for a major comeback in the new year.

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Editor’s note: This article is frequently updated to reflect the latest information available. We most recently added information about Samsung’s digital assistant, a non-Edge variant and a possible Windows 10 Continuum-type feature.

With just a few 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 a Windows Continuum-type feature, a new assistant, and more evidence that we won’t be seeing 4K displays. Read on for more:

An even better display

The latest Samsung phone usually wins the “best display” crown from Displaymate. A report from the Korea Herald indicates Samsung is going to bump up the resolution on the S8 to 4K (2160x3840), improving upon the current S7 line. The Korea Herald has broken its fair share of Samsung news in the past, so there could be some merit to the rumor. However, more recent rumors seem to indicate that the company won’t be upping the resolution.

SamMobile’s sources indicate that the Galaxy S8 will retain the 1440x2560 2K 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 one, effectively increasing the pixel 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 the Galaxy Note 8 getting the 4K treatment.

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 dwarfing 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. Additionally, the publication said that while Samsung toyed with the notion of adding a Note-style pen to the S8 Plus, it ultimately decided to scrap the idea. Even with the bigger model, however, the physical dimensions of the S8 aren’t expected to increase, due to a higher screen-to-body ratio.

Bloomberg also weighed in on the topic. Citing “people with direct knowledge of the matter,” the site reported that the Galaxy S8 will feature a completely bezel-less design not unlike the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept phone that launched earlier this year. Bloomberg seems to break with both Sammobile and Naver by saying the devices will retain their current 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch enclosures, though it’s unclear from the report whether the screens will actually be larger due to the screen-to-body ratio.

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 an early January report from Sammobile raised the specter of a similar lineup to the S7, with a regular flat model and a curved edge variant. 

However, according to Tom’s Guide, Samsung head of mobile Koh Dong-jin said the following at the ill-fated Note7 launch: “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.”

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.”

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 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 a 13MP camera and 12MP Sony lens. (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.

No matter how the specs turn out, expect Samsung to try and wow potential buyers by claiming it’s built the best smartphone camera out there.

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 Snapdragon 830, according to the rumor, though the company has yet to announce said chip. It’s more likely going to be the Snapdragon 835. It’ll be built on a 10nm process and feature an octa-core setup. It’ll support up to 8GB of RAM and also be ready for 4K and VR. Bloomberg confirms the use of the 835 chip as well.

In terms of other specs and build, there’s talk that Samsung will finally ditch the physical home button. This would be necessary if the October presentation by Samsung display engineer Park Won-sang turns out to be the plan. He said the company would be creating a display that covers 90 percent of the body. The already svelte Galaxy S7 Edge, for comparison, covers 76 percent.

The fingerprint sensor has been rumored to be integrated into the screen, though we don’t know if Samsung has had the time to perfect that solution. The other option would be to put it on the back, as done by the Pixel, Nexus, LG, and other phones. As expected, rumors also peg the Galaxy 8 to dump the micro-USB port in favor of USB-C.

Hit the road jack

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 Moto Z), but none of the major models have embraced a wireless future. According to SamMobile, Samsung could be the first with the Galaxy S8. The rumor site reports that the 3.5mm headphone jack will be removed from Samsung’s next flagship, making it impossible to simultaneously listen to music using wired headphones and charge without using some kind of dongle or adapter.

The site doesn’t say whether Samsung will include USB-C headphones or an adapter for legacy headphones, but it seems likely it would. And there’s one bright spot for music lovers: the phone may finally come with built-in stereo speakers.

Desktop expansion

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 slide, which shows floating mobile app windows and desktop icons on a widescreen monitor, describes the feature as the “next mobile workspace.”

Cashing in

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?

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the S8 won’t be here until April. Typically Samsung debuts the phone at Mobile World Congress, which this year is Feb. 27. 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.

A report from South Korea-based Naver echoed the Journal’s claim 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.

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