Editor’s note: This article is frequently updated to reflect the latest information available. We most recently added information about the on-screen navigation buttons, iris scanner, desktop dock, camera, and a possible launch date.
With just a couple of months to go until its unveiling, rumors are flying about the latest Samsung flagship smartphone. Presumably to be called the Galaxy S8, it carries the extra pressure of being a sort of comeback kid—Samsung’s first big announcement after the exploding Galaxy Note7 debacle.
The details are pretty much in the rumor category at this point, but as the launch date draws near, a clearer picture is emerging of the device. We’ll keep updating this article with the latest information, but the most recent reports tease a number of exciting details, including information about the screen size, on-screen navigation controls, and camera.
An even better display
The latest Samsung phone usually wins the “best display” crown from Displaymate, and it looks like this year won’t be any different. At first it seemed like Samsung was going to bump up the resolution to 4K (2160x3840), based on a report from the Korea Herald. However, while the Korea Herald has broken its fair share of Samsung news in the past, recent rumors indicate that the company won’t be going 4K just yet.
SamMobile’s sources report that the Galaxy S8 will retain the 1440x2560 quad HD Super AMOLED display of its predecessor, but will manufacture it using a new material that will help it last longer and use less power. The site also reports that the company will switch from the Diamond PenTile subpixel arrangement to a standard RGB stripe one, effectively increasing the subpixel count from 7,372,800 to 11,059,200. Sammobile claims the change will “provide a noticeable improvement in virtual reality environments." Additionally, BusinessKorea most recently reported that the S8 will utilize 2K resolution displays, with Samsung holding off on 4K until Galaxy Note8 launch.
However, a screenshot of a feature list from notable leaker Evan Blass (seen above) seems to settle the rumors once and for all. According to the seemingly official sheet, at least one of the models will feature a Quad HD+ Super AMOLED screen—not quite 4K, but definitely an improvement over the S7.
The biggest yet
As far as the size of the S8 goes, SamMobile reports that the new displays will be even bigger, clocking in at 5.7 inches and 6.2 inches, an increase of more than a half-inch over the 5.1- and 5.5-inch S7 and S7 edge, equaling or exceeding the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note7. An early VentureBeat report backed up the 6.2-inch claim, as did a rumor from South Korea-based Naver. The most recent leaks come in the form of a photo of a pair of the larger Galaxy S8 models at VentureBeat. It shows USB-C ports (an optical illusion from the curve of the phone makes the one on the right look like microUSB, it is claimed). Using the camera module as a point of reference, they do indeed seem gigantic.
The Guardian backs up that claim, reporting that the two phones “will have screens in the 5-inch to 6-inch region, with the devices having the same or smaller proportions of previous versions of Samsung’s flagship smartphone but with larger displays.” Bloomberg also weighed in, reporting that the Galaxy S8 will feature a completely bezel-less design not unlike the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept phone that launched earlier this year.
In his leaked spec sheet, Blass points to a 6.2-inch screen for the larger S8+ model (or 6.1 inches if you discount the rounded corners of the display. However, while the display is going to be significantly bigger than the S7's 5.5-inch screen, the actual phone itself may not. Based on what we've seen, the bezels are incredible small, so the footprint might not actually be much bigger than last year's model, despite all those extra pixels.
To edge or not
There’s some uncertainty about just how many phones Samsung will release, and what form they’ll take. Initial murmurings suggested that all S8 models will go for that Edge look with the dual-curved screen. Bloomberg also reported that the S8 “will only come with wraparound displays,” but a January report from Sammobile raised the specter of a similar lineup to the S7, with a regular flat model and a curved edge variant.
Furthermore, the Guardian shares some details about a so-called “infinity display (that) will cover the majority of the front of the device, with very little body on the top and bottom of the screen not dedicated to the display.” Both versions of the phone “will have screens that curve down at the left and right sides of the device similar to the Galaxy S7 Edge,” according to the publication’s sources. Tipsters also tell the site that there wasn’t even room to put a logo or brand name on the front of the device, a design detail many users will appreciate.
A recent leaked picture by Twitter user @dfordesign backs up the Guardian’s description by showing a front panel that’s nearly entirely screen. Particularly of note are the rounded corners on the display, something we haven’t seen in most Android phones.
Based on the images that have been leaked, the S8 will be the first Galaxy S phone
without a physical home button. And it appears that Samsung will be handling the navigation much like other button-less Android phones do. According to several leaked images—including a diagram (seen left) of what appears to be the S8 owner's manual—the phone will utilize virtual buttons that appear when you need them, likely similar to the swipe-down method on the Pixel and other phones. It's unclear from the images whether Samsung will allow customization of the button like many phones do, but it's worth noting that the picture shows the back button on the right, in line with the backwards placement Samsung utilizes on its other devices.
A new digital assistant
Everyone is trying to get in on the digital assistant game these days. Samsung doesn’t want to just watch on the sidelines as the Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri, and Alexa battle for dominance. The company recently purchased Viv Labs for this purpose. The service can handle natural language queries like the other digital assistants in this hot space. Since the Google Assistant isn’t yet available to outside developers, Samsung clearly wants this type of capability and is keeping with its strategy of pushing its own services on the company’s hardware.
A report by Sammobile says the new Viv-based digital assistant will be named “Bixby” and will work across nearly every native Samsung application. “Unlike S Voice, Bixby will be much more advanced, and it will work system-wide,” the site writes. “For example, it might be come in handy inside the Gallery app where you can ask Bixby to show you pictures and videos that satisfy particular criteria (similar to Google Photos and/or Apple’s Photos app in iOS 10). S Voice is likely to be replaced by Bixby in the Galaxy S8.”
Meanwhile, Korea’s ET News reports that the service will initially support eight languages, including English, Korean, and Chinese. That would best Google Assistant on the Pixel phone, which currently only understands English and German (though it also can speak Hindi, Japanese, and Portuguese in the Allo app).
The Guardian weighed in here, too. While it was less clear on the Bixby name, its sources said the AI assistant will be able “to perform tasks such as object recognition, using the smartphone’s camera similar to Google Goggles.”
Retaking the camera crown
Samsung typically offers the best-in-class smartphone camera. But with the S8 it will have some catching up to do to beat Google’s Pixel, which many regard as the current photography king.
There are a variety of reports to consider here, making this particular piece of the puzzle a little unclear. A report from Tech Updates indicated a 30MP rear camera. A tipster to Weibo says the phone will go dual lens, with 13MP and 12MP cameras. (However, Bloomberg reported that while Samsung is indeed experimenting with a dual-camera system, it may scrap the idea due to higher manufacturing costs.) An 8MP camera will be on the front, with other reports indicating it could have an autofocus for even better selfies. A trademark filing with the European Union Intellectual Property Office for “Samsung AF” seems to support that rumor.
In the Guardian’s report, sources said the S8’s camera will have a similar dual pixel sensor to last year’s S7, with “incremental improvements to image quality, low-light performance, and speed.” And Blass's leaked spec sheet backs up this claim, reporting that the S8 will actually sport the same 12MP dual pixel main camera, along with a slightly upgraded 8MP selfie shooter.
Powering the engine
Samsung has typically used its own Exynos chip or a Qualcomm Snapdragon model depending on which region the phone is sold in. A SamMobile report says that trend will continue, with an Exynos 8895 processor with ARM’s Mali-G71 GPU on tap. Performance is said to be 1.8 times better than the S7 with optimizations for 4K and VR. The Qualcomm chip will be the recently announced 10nm Snapdragon 835, and a recent report suggests it may be exclusive to the Galaxy S8 at launch.
As far as the fingerprint sensor goes, the Guardian tossed cold water on the dream that it would be built into the display. According to its report, the scanner will move to the back of the display, like the Pixel and many other Android phones have already done. Additionally, recent case leaks seem to confirm the re-location fingerprint scanner, showing that it will be positioned in an odd place, just to the right of the camera. However, Blass claims the S8 will adopt the Note 7's iris scanner, so we might not need to reach for it as often as we did with the S7.