There’s no doubt about it: Samsung’s Galaxy S range has come a long way.
Now in its seventh incarnation, the Korean company’s flagship smartphone was once derided as plasticky, ugly – a wannabe iPhone, lumbered with bloatware and substandard specs. But no more: the current Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are brilliantly built, thoughtfully designed, cutting edge handsets; the equal of anything in Apple’s smartphone stable. The Galaxy S series has at last come of age.
But, as ever in the world of consumer technology, our thoughts are already turning to the future. What’s next for Samsung’s flagship? Presumably it’ll be called the Galaxy S8, and presumably it’ll be an Android phone, yes – but what about the details? The specs, the design, the features that are going to convince droves of us that this is the next phone we should be buying?
Suffice to say, proper details currently somewhere between “scant” and “non-existent” – after all, we’re only in August, and we’re unlikely to see the product launched until February or March next year. But a few exciting details have started to emerge from the rumour mill, and that, coupled with our own educated guesses, is what forms the basis of this preview.
Read on to find out everything we know, and everything we think we know, about the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Bye bye 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.
A VR virtuoso?
Another report by the same website claims the screen is likely to be 5.5in in size, with a 4K 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.
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 type of Snapdragon on board?
Very little speculation about the Galaxy S8's internal specs has appeared thus far on the internet, with one notable exception: it's rumoured to be getting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 830 chipset. This system-on-chip (which hasn't even been officially announced by Qualcomm, so take all this with a pinch of salt) is said to be 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 onto its surface – hence the performance upgrade.
Double the photographic fun
One rumour out of China is that 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 and Huawei P9 (and, rumour has it, the 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.
When’s it out?
Given the past few Galaxy launches, we feel the most likely date for the official Galaxy S8 reveal is late February 2017.
Samsung traditionally holds a glitzy event just before MWC’s official start (which, next year, is 27 February), in which the company announces that year’s flagship – or in the case of the S7 and S7 Edge, flagships.
There’s some speculation that we’ll also see the foldable Galaxy X smartphone announced at the 2017 event, which is the only factor that gives us pause in our prediction. The Galaxy X could be such an important, groundbreaking device that Samsung sees it as deserving of its own launch event, in which case either it or the Galaxy S8 could be pushed back a few weeks.