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.
That's why 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 Galaxy S8 is going to be a pivotal phone for Samsung, and it’s edging ever nearer to launch. Here’s what we know about it so far.
What we know
>>> It'll have a curved screen
The future, it seems, is curved – at least where Samsung’s smartphone screens are concerned. There have been countless stories 'confirming' that the Edge version of the phone will actually become the standard version, with the flat version being killed off. 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. A recent photo (courtesy of @evleaks via Venture Beat, see above) appears to back this up.
>>> There will still be two versions though
While there won't be one curved and one flat version, reports do suggest there'll still be two models of the S8. One will have a big 5.8in screen and one will have an even bigger 6.2in display.
>>> It won't have a bezel
Or not a very big one at least: reports suggest that the 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 lovely Xiaomi Mi Mix featuring one for instance, but if the rumours are true the Galaxy S8 would be the first mass-produced smartphone to do away with a frame.
>>> And it won't have physical buttons either
Several reports and the photo above indicate that the physical home button will be removed. Based on the latest photo, it appears that the device's fingerprint sensor has been relocated to its rear, next to the camera sensor.
>>> It might well have a 4K display
Previous Galaxy flagships have maxed out at 2K, but it looks likely that the S8 will have 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.
>>> It'll be a VR monster
If Samsung does make this resolution leap, it'll be doing so 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. Given that Samsung also makes the Gear VR headset, that would make a certain amount of sense.
>>> It'll have a new Snapdragon processor 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. It also seems likely that in some regions the S8 will come with a Samsung Exynos chip rather than a Qualcomm effort, but that performance would be roughly equivalent between them.