With major flagships like the Pixel 2, Note 8, and iPhone X rounding out the headlining releases for the year, the rumor mill now turns its gaze towards the future. 2018's flagship season kicks off with Samsung's answer to its major competitors — the Galaxy S9.
The S8 series of flagships was a huge success by most accounts, and they largely erased the Note 7 debacle from public memory. With the tumultuous 2016 firmly in the rearview, Samsung looks to make a huge splash with the highly anticipated follow-up to its nearly bezel-less Galaxy S8 and Note 8.
Details surrounding the Galaxy S9 are still pretty murky, so it's worth noting that anything listed here must be taken with a grain of salt. As more information surfaces regarding this upcoming flagship, we'll be sure to update this roundup with pertinent information. That said, let's get down to the nitty-gritty and sort through what we know so far.
It's well established that Samsung follows a pattern for its famed Galaxy S series, falling between February and April, from announcement to general release. While it's currently impossible to pin down any exact dates at this point, BGR suggests that the S9 might be announced and released earlier than usual. So it's safe to at least guess that Samsung might formally introduce the Galaxy S9 around the same time Mobile World Congress is set to take place, around February 26, 2018.
It's all but certain the Galaxy S9 will carry on the current tradition and come in two sizes, and they will likely look like more streamlined, updated versions of the Galaxy S8. The new flagship is predicted to have even thinner bezels around its AMOLED Infinity Display for a more immersive experience. To get a clearer image of what the S9 might look like, we only need look to Benjamin Geskin's highly realistic renders of upcoming flagship:
The biggest change might either be what material will be used for the S9's rear panel or the general layout of various sensors and cameras on the back of the phone. Ice Universe, a Chinese leaker with a great track record of smartphone prediction, has tweeted that the "back of the Galaxy S9 will change a lot." Unfortunately, however, he didn't elaborate on his post, so we'll need to wait for further details to emerge.
In another key design aspect, Ice Universe goes on to tweet and write on Weibo that Samsung will continue to buck the trend and keep the headphone jack for both the S9 and its larger counterpart. If this news turns out to be true, Android fans worldwide who can't live without their analog headsets will breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The Galaxy S8 was the first flagship to sport the 10 nm Snapdragon 835 and even secured exclusive rights for initial production batches that forced competitors like LG to either switch to lower-end processors to meet deadlines or delay their release entirely. This scenario may very well play out again with the release of the S9, with BGR reporting that the upcoming Snapdragon 845 will be exclusive to Samsung upon its initial release.
Disappointingly, there are talks that Samsung will only offer 4 GB of RAM to complement the S9's top-of-the-line processor. According to AndroidHeadlines:
The Galaxy S9 will pack in 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage, which is quite surprising considering that most rumors suggested that the phone will ship with 6 GB of RAM on the inside.
History dictates that Samsung will likely use its very own processor to power its flagship for markets outside the US. We're starting to get an inkling of this, as hinted in Samsung's website:
The Exynos 9 Series 9810 is Samsung's latest flagship processor, with 3rd-generation custom CPU cores, upgraded GPU, and gigabit LTE modem with industry-first 6CA support. It is built on 2nd generation 10nm process technology.
The interesting part in the quote above is its mention of being the first to support 6CA. For those who are curious, 6CA stands for six carrier aggregation, which will be able to support download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, a 20% improvement over the current 5CA's 1 Gbps. In theory, an S9 will be able to download an HD movie that's more than 1 GB in size in less than 10 seconds or completely get rid of headache-inducing buffering while live-streaming movies or video chatting.
As great as this feature is, details are still a little sketchy with regards to whether or not 6CA support will be available to 845-powered variants S9. We'll be sure to keep an eye out on this front and update as more details emerge, so hang tight.
2018 may finally be the year that Samsung adopts a dual camera setup for its flagship phones. According to AndroidHeadlines, the Galaxy S9 will feature a 16 MP dual camera setup that's capable of capturing an incredible 1,000 photos per second for its primary shooter and employ a pair of 12 MP cameras for its selfie camera.
Though they do go on to admit that the legitimacy of the source for the front cameras was dubious at best, the speculation has some validity to it, especially given Samsung's track record of attempting to one-up Apple at every turn. With the iPhone X and its advanced array of front-facing cameras and sensors currently grabbing all the spotlight, it's logical to surmise that the S9 will up the ante and sport front-facing dual camera modules, for starters.
Ice Universe claims on Weibo the cameras will be built with anti-glare BBAR layer ghost technology, which is a type of material used to reduce glare and ghosting. If true, it will be interesting to see how the S9 cameras stack up to the competition.
The current rumors regarding the upcoming S9's cameras will naturally pave the way for speculation about any advanced biometrics the new flagship might bring to the table. The tidbits that have come to light suggest that the S9 will feature an advanced facial recognition system that will be on par with the iPhone X's Face ID. According to Ice Universe, the S9 will come standard with a 3D camera, with Pocket Lint going further and suggesting that:
The Galaxy S9 front camera will be able to create a 3D depth-sensing map of your face to recognize it's you. It also shouldn't matter if you change your hairstyle or wear glasses for example and the camera may also be able to 'see you' in low-light conditions.
One of the biggest letdowns with the S8 was its last-minute switch from a fingerprint sensor embedded inside the display to a more conventional external sensor that was relocated to the rear of the device. The change was well-publicized and blamed on the technology not being perfected in time for mass consumption.
This technological hurdle has seemingly been solved by Qualcomm and is reportedly set to make its way to smartphones by 2018. With its debut coinciding with the arrival of the Galaxy S9, it stands to reason that there's a chance that Samsung will incorporate it into its flagship.
Disappointingly, however, recent reports suggest that the S9 will still utilize a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner on the S9. According to SamMobile, Samsung will likely forgo the use of a screen-embedded virtual sensor in favor of the tried-and-true physical sensor that will be placed on the back below the rear camera. Ice Universe corroborates this, and has tweeted that the company will go with a more conventional fingerprint scanner with "100%" certainty.
What kind of headphones could we see with the Galaxy S9? According to Ice Universe, the most likely answer is a new pair of AKG earbuds, which makes sense considering the S8 is packaged with a pair of AKG earbuds as well.
Ice Universe goes on to speculate that the earbuds could be wireless. That would be awesome, however, AKG does not currently produce wireless earbuds. And seeing as Samsung's wireless earbuds cost $200, it's tough to see the OEM packaging them for free with each S9. It's like if Apple included their AirPods with every iPhone purchase.
We may have gotten one of our first looks into the S9, thanks to a leaked case rendering. Case maker Ghostek created renders for the S9, which reveal quite a lot about the phone's aesthetic. The S9 appears to have upgraded to the dual-camera setup of the Note 8, but with the vertical positioning of the iPhone X. The fingerprint reader also has a new home, directly under the camera, which users should find much more comfortable than the awkward fingerprint reader of the S8, S8+, and Note 8.
Sources tell BGR that these renders are mostly accurate. However, the top bezel of the S9 will be narrower than in the render, and the speaker will look different as well.
SamMobile gives us reason to believe these claims are true. The cite reports that the S9 may have a screen-to-body ratio of 89–90%, which would support BGR's sources. SamMobile cites unnamed "tipsters," so this rumor should be taken with a grain of salt. However, pairing both theirs and BGR's reports paints a picture of an S9 with very little bezel.
That's all we have so far with regards to the upcoming Galaxy S9. With 2018 fast approaching, be sure to check back often as we get more juicy tidbits about this premium flagship phone. What do you think about the Galaxy S9, and what features would you like for Samsung to improve upon or include on its newest premium handset? Let us know by posting in the comments section below.