With the Galaxy S7, Samsung finally create the class-leading smartphone they’d been threatening – but failing – to deliver for several years. And then the Galaxy Note 7 came along, only to promptly toddle off permanently whilst piddling all over their parade. One step forward, two steps back.
So it’s vital for Samsung’s very survival as a trusted tech brand that it produces the goods with its next flagship smartphone – and we don’t just mean by making something that doesn’t explode in people’s pockets.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is going to be a pivotal phone for Samsung, and it’s edging ever nearer to launch. And here’s what we know about it so far.
What we know
>>> A farewell to flat screens
The future, it seems, is curved – at least where Samsung’s smartphone screens are concerned. A story in the Korea Herald suggests Samsung may not release a flat-screened version of the Galaxy S8 at all, instead producing a single model with a curved screen. Given the warm receptions to the curved displays of the Galaxy S7 Edge and Galaxy Note 7, we can certainly envisage this being the case.
>>> No bezel, no problem
Bloomberg reports that the Galaxy S8 will be Samsung's first phone to come with a bezel-free design, meaning the screen covers the entire front face of the device. Such designs aren't unheard of, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept featuring one, but if the rumours are true, the Galaxy S8 would likely be the first production smartphone to do away with a frame.
SamMobile believes the physical home button will be removed (which fits in with the above), and that the device's fingerprint sensor will be integrated into the front screen.
>>> A 4K display?
Another report by the Korea Herald claims the screen is likely to be 5.5in in size, with a 4K Ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 – a claim based on the fact that Samsung recently exhibited a prototype AMOLED screen with precisely these specs at a trade show in California.
That’s over 800 pixels-per-inch (ppi), an insane level of detail which might come across as overkill on a portable device. After all, it’s not as if the 2K screens of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are lacking in sharpness.
A December report from SamMobile claims otherwise, saying a 2K resolution will be retained from the Galaxy S7 models, but that the image quality will be improved thanks to a new material in the AMOLED screen.
>>> More pixels = better VR
But Samsung could be making this resolution leap with one eye (or more appropriately, two eyes) on virtual reality. When you use a smartphone as a display for a VR headset, the headset’s lenses magnify the screen so much so that, even with a 2K display, it’s possible to pick out individual pixels (the fact that the screen is only a couple of inches from your eyeballs is a major factor, too). With a higher resolution, that pixellation would be lessened, increasing the detail in the VR image and, in theory, boosting the realism of the VR experience.
>>> A new Snapdragon on board?
Very little speculation about the Samsung Galaxy S8's internal specs has appeared thus far on the internet, with one notable exception: it's rumoured to be getting a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset.
This system-on-chip (which has been confirmed by Qualcomm, without any specifics being revealed) is apparently built on a 10-nanometre process, which should significantly boost efficiency and power. The current Qualcomm flagship, the Snapdragon 820, is built on a 14nm process, so if the new chip is physically the same size, it could fit far more transistors on to its surface – hence the performance upgrade.
Bloomberg believes there'll be a version of the phone with the Snapdragon 835, and a version with Samsung's own Exynos CPU aboard.