Several months and several compelling challengers later, Samsung's brilliant Galaxy S8 still ranks atop our list of the best smartphones today. And it may be the Galaxy S9 that ultimately dethrones it.
Yes, just as the sun rises each morning, Samsung will debut a new Galaxy S smartphone in 2018. But after the startling transformation seen with the Galaxy S8, will Samsung try to reinvent the handset yet again, or opt to refine and enhance what worked so well the last time around?
Extensive leaks suggest the latter, but the Galaxy S9 may pack a couple of surprises in the mix. With just weeks remaining before the official reveal, here's a look at everything we know so far about Samsung's next super-phones.
When will the Samsung Galaxy S9 be out?
We first saw the Samsung Galaxy S8 (shown) in March 2017 and the phone shipped a few weeks after, but we will see the Galaxy S9 earlier in the year.
Following rumours that pegged a launch anywhere between CES in January and sometime in March, Samsung mobile president DJ Koh confirmed to ZDNet that the Galaxy S9 will be revealed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 at the end of February.
And now we have an official invitation: the Galaxy S9 will be first shown at a Samsung Unpacked event in Barcelona on 25 February, just before the official MWC festivities begin. Samsung's teaser image says, "The Camera. Reimagined." That lends some credence to the rumours of an adjustable aperture for the main back camera.
VentureBeat suggests that the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will then begin selling on 16 March, which just so happens to be the date shown on the leaked render up top.
No doubt about it: Samsung says the phone will show on 25 February, and we think a March release is certain to follow. Start saving your money, folks.
How much will the Samsung Galaxy S9 cost?
Probably more than last year's Galaxy S8, if the latest rumours are any indication. Flagship phone prices have been trending upward over the last year, and Samsung won't be the one to buck that trend this time around.
The Galaxy S8 launched at ₹57,900 with the Galaxy S8 Plus weighing in at ₹64,900 – and then Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 8 at a staggering ₹67,900. Of course, Apple topped all of those phones with the ₹89,000 iPhone X, while the Pixel 2 XL came in at ₹73,000.
Now TechRadar reports that the standard Samsung Galaxy S9 will sell for £789 (around ₹70,400) in the UK, representing a £100 (around ₹10,000) bump over its predecessor. If the Galaxy S8 Plus follows suit, then we may see it launch at ₹57,000, or ₹1000 more than the Note 8 at launch.
Korean site ET News, meanwhile, suggests that the price there will rise from 935,000 won (about ₹55,200 ) to somewhere between 950,000 and 990,000 won (₹55,000-₹58,000) - which still sounds better than the reported UK price!
We expected some kind of bump for the Galaxy S9, but ₹10,000 is going to be a lot more to ask after a steady uptick in pricing - especially with such great budget Android flagship options out there today. It's not shocking, though, and we expect that the price will be near that reported ₹70,400 figure.
What will the Samsung Galaxy S9 look like?
Have you seen the Galaxy S8? Yeah, the Galaxy S9 will probably look a lot like it.
And that's fine, considering how gorgeous the Galaxy S8 is. Remember how the Galaxy S7 was a near-duplicate of the Galaxy S6, aside from some very slight tweaks? That's what we'll get from this year's model, too.
In fact, that image up at the top appears to show the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus in their official forms. The render hails from Evan Blass over at VentureBeat, and the notorious leaker has spilled the beans on countless phones over the last few years. We trust his reporting, especially given the other Samsung phones he's leaked in the past.
And now he's shown us the Lilac Purple versions of the Galaxy S9 Plus (above) and the standard Galaxy S9 (below).
With the same 5.8in and 6.2in screen sizes pegged for the models, it looks like there won't be any truly transformative changes. Well, just one: putting the fingerprint sensor below the back camera module should ease the fumbling sensation from the Galaxy S8.
According to Blass, both Galaxy S9 models will come in Midnight Black, Lilac Purple (shown), Titanium Gray, and Coral Blue colour options.
We're sure that the VentureBeat/Blass leaks are legit, which means the Galaxy S9 looks almost exactly like the Galaxy S8. But that's exactly what we expected, so there are no huge surprises here.
What about the Samsung Galaxy S9's screen?
As mentioned above, it sounds like Samsung is sticking with the 5.8in and 6.2in screen sizes from the Galaxy S8, and as before, those will be extra-tall displays that dominate the entire front of the screen.
Every time a Galaxy S phone is coming, there's always speculation that Samsung is considering a 4K display – which would make Gear VR experiences significantly better. But we haven't seen too much talk on that this time around, so we expect another Quad HD (2K) Super AMOLED screen on there. Which is still awesome.
VentureBeat says that the screens will be nearly identical to last year's in size and quality, so that's what we're expecting.
Putting a 4K display on a smartphone requires a lot of extra power to keep things running smoothly, not to mention extra battery capacity – but the visible advantages are incredibly slim on a device that small. We're not expecting that to happen with the Galaxy S9.
How much power will the Samsung Galaxy S9 pack?
It'll be evolution here again, as Samsung is expected to use a newer version of its 10-nanometer Exynos system-on-a-chip for the Galaxy S9 in some territories, and the just-revealed Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 elsewhere.
How powerful those chips will be remains to be seen, but they should provide a nice step up over the still-top-of-the-line Exynos 8895 and Snapdragon 835. Apple's latest iPhone chip, the A11 Bionic, is beating every Android contender in benchmark testing, so we'll see whether Samsung and Qualcomm can take a fresh lead later on this year.
As for RAM, VentureBeat suggests that the Galaxy S9 will ship with 4GB RAM while the Galaxy S9 Plus will join the Note 8 in offering 6GB RAM for a little extra zippiness.
No huge surprises here: those are the chips we expect the Galaxy S9 to use, although we don't know yet now big of a performance boost they'll offer over the S8. And giving the S9 Plus some extra perks over the S9 will help differentiate the handsets beyond just the size... and maybe let Samsung widen the price gap too.
What kind of cameras will the Samsung Galaxy S9 have?
Here's another rumoured advantage the S9 Plus will have: a second back camera. Much like the iPhone 8 and 7 models, the core S9 will reportedly have a single camera on the rear while the S9 Plus will offer a Note 8-esque dual-camera setup.
The main camera on both could offer the widest aperture seen on a smartphone to date: f/1.5, which is a notch better than the f/1.6 aperture seen on the LG V30+. This is very much a rumour right now, though, as no other phone company has managed to create a camera with such a wide aperture. Samsung has a China-only flip phone that can do it, but that's made in much smaller numbers than what would be needed for the global Galaxy S9.
The secondary camera on the S9 Plus will reportedly come in at f/2.4.
That's not all: a report from Chinese site VTECH (via Neowin) suggests that the Galaxy S9's main cameras will offer adjustable aperture, ranging between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the lighting conditions. Consider that a serious step towards true DSLR-like quality from a phone camera. Samsung just launched a flip phone with that kind of feature in China, interestingly enough.
Also, Samsung's Galaxy S9 event invite (up top) suggests a major camera reinvention, and an adjustable aperture on a smartphone would certainly fall into that category.
And now VentureBeat has confirmed the reports about the variable aperture setting on the main 12-megapixel camera, although the secondary 12MP sensor will be a fixed camera. They also report that it will offer "motion-detected, 'super slow-mo' video capture (rapid movement triggers 480fps recording at 720p)." We should also see an 8MP selfie shooter on the front.
With more and more larger flagship phones going for the double-camera setup, including Samsung itself with the Galaxy Note 8, it doesn't surprise us to hear about the plans for the S9 Plus. In any case, Samsung used to hold the smartphone camera crown but has been bested by other phones – we'll see if that wider and potentially adjustable aperture helps put the S9 on top of the competition.
Is there anything else I should know about the Samsung Galaxy S9?
Yes! Last year's so-so DeX Station, which let you link up a display, keyboard and mouse to use the Galaxy S8 as a basic PC, is getting a reboot.
According to a hefty leak from Evan Blass over at Venturebeat, the DeX Pad will lay flat, letting you use the phone screen as a touchpad or keyboard. Handy if you're more used to laptop scrolling than a traditional mouse. When rumours of a DeX Pad first started swirling, there was talk of a wireless charging coil to keep your battery topped up while docked - but the leaked renders clearly show a USB-C connector.
Both phones will still have a headphone port, according to VentureBeat, so Samsung remains a welcome holdout in that regard. Also on the audio front, the site suggests that the Galaxy S9 models will have AKG stereo speakers, adding a bit more bump to your playback.
It sounds like you might just lay the phone down on the pad, rather than dock it or plug it in, with wireless charging keeping you topped up.
That's great to hear on the audio front, if true, and the DeX Station upgrade seems like a really smart idea. It's still super niche, but at least that approach sounds a lot more useful and functional, and could ship more units if it's priced affordably enough.