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. Here’s what we know about it so far.
What we know
>>> It'll be revealed in late March
Samsung chose not to launch the S8 at MWC this year, presumably because it wanted to do more product testing and avoid another Exploding Galaxy Phone scenario. Instead, it'll reveal the S8 at its own Unpacked event on 29 March. We'd therefore expect it to be available in mid-late April.
There’s also speculation that we’ll see the foldable Galaxy X smartphone announced at the event, which might of itself justify a launch separate to MWC, if it turns out to be the important, groundbreaking device it's expected to be.
>>> 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
This one could be a big change for Samsung - it's had a home button at the front of its phones for years. All leaked pics so far suggest it will be removed for the S8, and the device's fingerprint sensor relocated to the rear, next to the camera sensor.
That doesn't mean there won't be any home button on the front, though. According to the latest rumours, Samsung will be adding a software button instead - one that's even visible when your phone is in standby mode, using the always-on tech last seen on the Galaxy S7. You'll be able to tap it to wake the phone, and double-tap it to jump straight into the camera app, just like you could with the physical buttone on older phones.
>>> 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.
There's probably going to be a new Gear VR launching alongside the S8, too. The headset might not change very much from the current generation version, but it'll come bundled with a controller for more immersive games and experiences - so basically everything Samsung needs to take on Google's Daydream View. All we know for sure is that it'll communicate with phone or headset over Bluetooth; there's no clue yet as to whether it'll be a one-handed controller, or ship as something to hold in both hands like Oculus Touch.
>>> It should control your TV, too
THe latest leaked pictures seem to show a Galaxy S8 fitted with an IR blaster, which should mean it will double as a universal remote once you've programmed in all your devices. IR blasters haven't exactly been high on the features list for flagship phones recently, so this is a bit of a surprise. It could be a region-specific feature, or we could all be changing channels with our phones once the S8 arrives in April.
>>> It'll have its own AI assistant
Samsung isn't going to bundle Google Assistant on the S8 and call it a day - it will also be adding Bixby, an AI helper of its own. Confirmed in a blog post ahead of the Galaxy S8 launch, Bixby will have its own dedicated button to trigger it, apparently avoiding the confusion that comes with voice activation. Shots fired, Siri.
It's still unclear what Bixby will actually do different to Google, Microsoft and Apple's existing AI, but it will apparently only work with a selection of Samsung apps at launch. Eventually smart home controls and third party app support will follow, but at first, you'll just be adding calendar appointments, sending SMS messages and making calls without having to tap the screen first. We think.
>>> 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.
>>> The fingerprint sensor will move to the back
Samsung phones have had a physical home button below the screen for what feels like forever. It eventually morphed from dumb button to smart fingerprint sensor, but it's always been at the front. Not any more for the S8, though. Leaked photos of official Samsung cases show a clear cut-out on the back of the phone for a fingerprint sensor, just to the side od the camera lens.
The leaked pics suggest we're in line for a slimmer, more slender phone, too - it almost looks stretched compared to the phones we're used to right now. A sign of the different screen aspect ratio, perhaps.
>>> We're not yet sure what sort of camera it'll have
Some rumours have suggested the Galaxy S8 will be the first Samsung device to arrive with a dual-sensor camera module on board. This isn’t a particularly groundbreaking feature these days, what with the LG G5, Huawei P9 and iPhone 7 Plus all sporting some kind of two-lens, two-sensor setup for the rear camera, but given that it has the potential to drastically improve low light or colour performance (like the P9) or offer a wider angle option (like the G5), it would be a welcome addition. Other reports, though, suggest that the S8 will keep its existing rear camera setup but that the front cam will see an upgrade from 5MP to 8MP and that Samsung will introduce all manner of new software features such as Google Glass-style AR searching via the camera. The Note 7's glance-operated unlocking feature is also expected to be included.
>>> It'll still have a headphone socket
The most recent image shows what is clearly a headphone port down the bottom, so no iPhone-style shenanigans here.
>>> And it'll charge via USB-C
One other feature taken from the Note 7 will be USB-C charging; the S7 and S7 Edge both came with microUSB.
>>> The battery will be bigger than last year
The S7 and S7 Edge had 3000mAh and 3600mAh batteries, but the S8 and S8 Plus should up the ante. The standard S8 should arrive with a 3250mAh battery, while the larger S8 Plus will get a 3750mAh cell. Any improvement is a good one, especially as Samsung could have just played it safe in the aftermath of the Note 7 battery catastrophe and stuck with what it knows works. Combined with new, less energy-sapping CPUs, the new phones should last that little bit longer than the outgoing models.
>>> There'll be (at least) three colours at launch
You can't launch a phone in one colour any more - it's just not the done thing, and Samsung doesn't look set to disappoint. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus should arrive in Black, Gold and Orchid Grey colours at launch. We'll have to wait and see if more jazzy hues arrive later.
>>> It'll cost more than last year's model
Increasing prices seem to be inevitable but it also seems to be the pattern for this year's flagship phones. Leaked retailer listings have suggested the S8 will be at least US$100 more expensive than the Galaxy S7, and the same premium looks to be attached to the S8 Plus too.
All the latest news
>>> 21 March 2017
Samsung released a blog post confirming that the Galaxy S8 would be getting its own AI assistant, called Bixby. Little is known about how Bixby will work, or how it'll differ from Google Assistant or Siri, but we do know it'll have a dedicated hardware button. That'll save you getting confused with Google Assistant, which is activated through the Home button.
>>> 19 March 2017
Another leak from Evan Blass seemingly confirmed the colours Samsung will be offering when the Galaxy S8 arrives. Both the regular S8 and larger S8 Plus should arrive in Black Sky, Orchid Grey, and Arctic Silver.
>>> 07 March 2017
Android Authority spotted some more leaked pictures that seemingly reveal a few more of the Galaxy S8's features, including an IR blaster. We don't know if every phone will be getting one, or if it will be limited to specific regions, as they aren't hugely popular over here in India.
>>> 01 March 2017
"The one you've been waiting for" - Evan Blass absolutely nails the description in his exclusive first look at an official render of the Galaxy S8, which he posted to his @EVleaks Twitter account this week. The face-on photo shows a phone with barely-there bezels, curved edges, and potentially with an iris scanner at the top.
>>> 27 February 2017
The launch event invites have gone out. Samsung's Unpacked event will be on 29 March as previously rumoured, and will take place in New York and London. Alongside the invites Samsung also released a new teaser video called 'This is a Phone'.
What does it mean? Well, combined with 'Unbox your phone' message in the invite image at the top of this page, it could refer to either the S8 being an entirely curved-side device - no Edge version, just a big and small curved-side S8. Then again, it could refer to the possible launch of the new flexible, foldable Galaxy X phone. Who knows...
>>> 22 February 2017
Sammobile strikes again with a leaked photo showing off the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus with software home buttons. How they work is still unknown, but the site reports that they'll recognise pressure to wake the phone from standby, and will recognise a double-tap to jump straight into the camera.
>>> 21 February 2017
A controller for a new version of Gear VR recieved Bluetooth certification, seemingly revealing that a new virtual reality companion is due alongside the Galaxy S8. With much larger 5.8in and 6.2in screens rumoured, a redesigned headset might be needed to accomodate larger phones. Good spot, Sammobile.
>>> 17 February 2017
A leaked retail listing out of Ukraine (spotted by SamMobile) revealed what colours to expect the S8 and S8 Plus to arrive in and also how much each phone will cost. Bad news: there's almost definitely going to be price hike over last year's phones.
>>> 05 February 2017
Photos leaked to AndroidPure showed official S8 cases for both the regular and plus-sized variants of Samsung's new phone, complete with oversized cutouts on the rear for a repositioned fingerprint sensor next to the camera lens, instead of on the front like previous Galaxy smartphones.
>>> 01 February 2017
A Korean report spotted by SamMobile revealed what size battery to expect inside the two Galaxy S8 variants: 3250mAh for the standard Galaxy S8, and 3750mAh for the larger Galaxy S8 Plus. Those are both bigger batteries than the current S7 and S7 Edge, but hopefully neither will have the same tendency to explode as the 3500mAh cell found in the Galaxy Note 7.
>>> 27 January 2017
Venture Beat publishes photos of what it claims are the two Galaxy S8 variants, and states that the phone will be unveiled in New York on March 29.
>> 23 January 2017
Reuters carries a story covering Samsung's announcement regarding the Note 7 battery fault. Koh Dong-jin, Samsung's head of mobile, says the latest flagship won't be launched at MWC 2017.
>> 8 December 2016
A Bloomberg story claims the Galaxy S8 will have a bezel-free "all-screen" design, with the display covering the entire front of the device.
>> 6 December 2016
Is the Galaxy S8 going to ditch the home button? SamMobile believes so, and also claims the phone will retain the 2K resolution of the previous generation while boosting the screen's image quality by use of a new material. The report also claims the fingerprint sensor will be incorporated into the front screen.
>> 19 June 2016
One Chinese site reports the rumour that Samsung has a dual-camera setup planned for the Galaxy S8, bringing it into line with the likes of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Huawei P9.
>> 9 June 2016
The Korea Herald claims that Samsung wants to feature a 4K resolution in order to boost the phone's capabilities as a VR machine. More pixels means greater sharpness when the phone's mounted in a Gear VR headset, basically.
>> 8 June 2016
According to the Korea Herald, Samsung may well ditch the flat screen version of its flagship this time around, going only with a curved screen S7 Edge-style model.