On Feb. 25 we’ll see the size of Samsung’s ambition. Will the company blow us away with one of 2018’s best phones or deliver an incremental upgrade that drives customers into the arms of Apple, Google, LG or OnePlus?
Ahead of the Galaxy S9’s launch at the Mobile World Congress show (MWC) in Barcelona this weekend, the rumors paint a picture of a premium phone that could give the iPhone X a serious run for its money. And a new report from German site Win Future corroborates many of the rumors we’ve been tracking for weeks: a face unlock tool to rival Apple’s Face ID; a possible (but unlikely) virtual fingerprint reader; and new color options including lilac purple.
Plus there’s everything we’ve learned about Qualcomm’s’s Snapdragon 845 processor, which is likely to power the Galaxy S9, and which is raising our expectations for some serious advancements in camera and security technology. Samsung’s new series of YouTube ads strengthens the case for suspected camera upgrades that will enable superfast focus, enhanced slow-motion, low-light capture — and animated emojis, like the ones first seen on the iPhone X.
But our greatest hope for the Galaxy S9 concerns design more than technology. We’re fired up about the seemingly likely prospect of Samsung relocating the flagship’s fingerprint sensor to a more ergonomic position — below the rear camera lens instead of to its side — which would eliminate our biggest hangup with the Galaxy S8.
Between all of Apple’s new phones and the hangover from the Galaxy Note 7, which was recalled twice in 2016 due to exploding batteries, Samsung has a lot to prove with its forthcoming flagship. And with days to go until the announcement, the rumor mill is going nuts. What follows is a collection of what we know for sure and what we’re hearing about the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S9.
Confirmed: It will be called the Galaxy S9
We’ve heard all kinds of theories about what Samsung might call this phone, especially in light of Apple boldly skipping over the iPhone 9 for the iPhone X. But Samsung is playing it straight — and subtle, with only the slightest nod tucked nonchalantly in the 10th paragraph of the company’s latest earnings press release: “In the first quarter, the company expects the mobile business to improve its earnings, led by an increase in sales of flagship products with the launch of Galaxy S9.” What’s in a name, anyway?
Confirmed: We’ll see it on Feb. 25 at MWC
It’s official: Feb. 25 is the big day. Earlier in January, the company confirmed to CNET that the Galaxy S9 would be unveiled at Mobile World Congress, which this year runs from Feb. 26 to March 1 in Barcelona. But now we have the invitation, with its large purple “9” on a black background and the words “The camera. Reimagined.”
Rumor: Preorders on March 1, sale date on March 16
According to Korean telecom carriers, which already have their hands on the official preorder and release schedule, the Galaxy S9 preorders will begin on Feb. 28 in Korea. It will hit store shelves on March 16, as reported by The Investor. This syncs up pretty closely with the timeline tweeted by leaker Evan Blass back in January.
Rumor: It could cost hundreds more than the Galaxy S8
Since last year, there were rumors that Samsung might increase the price of its next Galaxy by £100 (roughly $140 or AU$175). Now, Evan Blass has tweeted prices that are way higher: £841 for the Galaxy S9 (roughly $1,035 or AU$1,325) and £997 for the Galaxy S9 Plus (roughly $1,225 or AU$1,570). If accurate, Samsung’s new entry-level Galaxy S9 would be more expensive than Apple’s $999 base model iPhone X. For context, the Galaxy S8 started at $750, £689 and AU$1,119.
Rumor: Samsung has its own version of Face ID
The Galaxy S9 may feature a new technology that rivals the iPhone X’s Face ID, as reported by SamCentral. According to an APK teardown of the latest Android Oreo beta for the Galaxy Note 8, future Samsung phones may have something called “Intelligent Scan.” Now, Samsung’s existing face unlock software isn’t considered secure enough to use Samsung Pay. The iris scanner is. Apparently, Intelligent Scan combines iris scanning and facial recognition. And according to the code, Intelligent Scan can unlock your phone and sign in to websites, and works well in low-light or bright conditions.
Even before Apple upped the ante with the iPhone X, Samsung had something to prove in the facial-recognition department after hackers fooled the Galaxy S8’s iris scanner using a photo and contact lenses. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Intelligent Scan will make it into the Galaxy S9.
Rumor: It could feature Samsung’s version of Animoji
Giving additional credence to the reports of enhanced camera technology, the Galaxy S9 is rumored to come equipped with a 3D emoji feature in the vein of Apple’s Animoji, according to Korean news outlet ETNews. In fact, it sounds nearly identical. The report coyly suggests that Samsung’s version has a distinctive twist but offers no further details.
Rumor: Two cameras on the back but just one on the front
The Galaxy S9 Plus will probably have dual rear cameras, but I’m skeptical about the non-Plus model’s prospects. Renders posted by Evan Blass show a model purported to be the Galaxy S9 with a single camera lens positioned above a fingerprint sensor.
That said, a Reddit user’s photo, first published by SamMobile, of a Galaxy S9 retail box lists dual rear-facing 12-megapixel cameras and a single-lens 8-megapixel front cam. There’s also a 5.8-inch Quad-HD+ super AMOLED screen. So there’s that.
Both the S9 and S9 Plus could come equipped with Samsung’s new Isocell sensors, however, which support fast autofocus abilities that help it hone in on fast-moving subjects, even in dim light. This technology allows for super-detailed slow-motion video recording with 1080p resolution at 480 frames per second, meaning the video should be both crisp and buttery smooth. And the Snapdragon 845 may give the Galaxy S9 some other advantages — including making it the first to record 4K Ultra HD video.
Rumor: It won’t have a virtual fingerprint scanner
One of the highlights of CES was the mysterious prototype phone shown by Chinese manufacturer Vivo. We now know it’s called the Vivo X20 Plus UD, that it went on sale in China in January and that its virtual home button, which appears only when you need it and then gets out of the way, is awesome. Vivo calls it Clear ID.
What does this have to do with Samsung? The newest leaked images have dimmed our hopes that the Vivo’s embedded scanner might find its way onto the forthcoming Galaxy S9 — and we’ve been bitten by rumors about an embedded scanner before. We’ve accepted that it’s a long shot and that we’re far more likely to see a Galaxy S9 that follows in the footsteps of the recently released Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus, which have dedicated hardware-based fingerprint scanners centered below the rear camera.
Rumor: First with a Snapdragon 845 processor (which is insanely fast)
The Galaxy S9 is expected to be one of the first phones in 2018 to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset. (It’s expected to run Samsung’s own Exynos 9 Series 9810 processor in Asia and perhaps other regions.)
CNET ran 12 tests on the Snapdragon 845 processor, and it delivered in a big way, performing at least 25 percent faster in the vast majority of them. (See the complete benchmark scores for the Snapdragon “reference phone” vs. the Galaxy Note 8, Google Pixel 2 XL and LG V30.) It has the potential to make the Galaxy S9 a real contender to the iPhone X as processing champ.
Rumor: DeX Pad replaces the DeX Dock
The Samsung DeX Dock connected the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 to a monitor for a desktop-like experience. According to VentureBeat, an upgraded version of the device — the DeX Pad — will deliver similar functionality in new form-factor that allows the docked phone to be used as a touchpad or virtual keyboard.
Rumor: A faster wireless charger
Speaking of accessories, here’s one that sounds like a pretty safe bet. Samsung’s website recently published an online manual for a new wireless charger (model number EP-N5100) that doesn’t match any existing charger in the company’s catalog. Wireless charging is nothing new for Samsung’s phones, of course, and the new model supports incrementally more powerful charging than the Galaxy S8. But we don’t know officially whether the Galaxy S9 will be able to charge faster or take advantage of the higher wattage supported by the EP-N5100.
Rumor: Super battery life
According to the latest information, the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are likely to have 3,000 and 3,500mAh batteries, respectively, just like their predecessors. Qualcomm says its Snapdragon 845 chip delivers 30 percent better power efficiency. But there’s no telling whether the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus could push beyond the vaunted 20-hour mark. The S8 and S8 Plus both lasted about 16 hours in our tests, and the Note 8 about an hour longer.
Rumor: It will look a whole lot like the Galaxy S8
Twitter leaker Evan Blass has posted a number of credible-looking photos of what he says are the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. They show off a design that’s more iterative than revolutionary: a larger swath of usable screen space courtesy of narrower bezels, and a case profile that’s a bit taller and narrower. But we’re OK with that because it looks likely that Samsung has fixed the Galaxy S8’s biggest flaw — a fingerprint sensor positioned too closely to the right of the rear camera lens.
Rumor: Purple!? And also probably silver and gray
Evan Blass has tweeted images that show the Galaxy S9 in black, lilac purple and titanium gray, and has suggested that coral blue may also be an option. Though it usually sticks to conventional phone colors, Samsung has been known to occasionally liven things up with gold or even a special-edition hue such as the burgundy Galaxy S8 and pink Galaxy S8 Plus.
Poetic Cases’ protectors for the Galaxy S9 Plus, now available for preorder, show a silver and gray Galaxy S9 Plus, and we’ve also seen a video of a black Galaxy S9 dummy. Of course, none of these products are official, so we’re still holding out hope for a more colorful palette.
Confirmed: It will have a new, soothing ringtone
Samsung refreshes its “Over the Horizon” ring tone every year. Coming to the Galaxy S9 soon, here’s what it sounds like for 2018.
Rumor: 512GB of storage built right in
Samsung may dramatically raise the stakes when it comes to internal storage. It’s announced the beginning of mass production of a 512GB chip that would give the Galaxy S9 eight times the integrated capacity of the 64GB Galaxy S8.
The specs on the leaked image of the retail box show a 64GB capacity model. But, if we can dream for a moment, a 512GB Galaxy S9 would totally dwarf the competition: The highest-end, late model iPhones top out at 256GB of storage and the Google Pixel 2 XL comes in 64GB or 128GB versions. (It’s worth noting that Samsung chips often find their way into non-Samsung phones, including the iPhone.)
Rumor: The Galaxy S9 could have a headphone jack
The newest renders bolster one of the earliest rumors about the Galaxy S9: that it will have the vaunted headphone jack. The once-mundane 3.5mm port has become an increasingly rare, “vintage” feature that could make the Galaxy S9 that much more attractive to people who aren’t ready to ditch their collection of wired headphones. Apple walked away from the legacy port with its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and hasn’t looked back, and the Google Pixel 2, Moto Z, Essential Phone and others have followed suit.
Rumor: It could be radio-ready
How about some old-school FM radio to go with that retro headphone jack? Tom’s Guide reports that Tagstation, maker of the Next Radio app, says Samsung will activate the FM radio chips in some forthcoming phones. This would presumably allow you to listen to the radio on your phone without streaming over an internet or cellular connection.
Rumor: A foldable Galaxy S9 (probably won’t happen)
Samsung has stirred chatter about this one. The company said three times during its latest earnings report that it’s developing foldable displays, one of the components that could be used in a phone that folds up. We’re not expecting it to show up in the Galaxy S9, but it could appear in a different model later this year or next.
In 2016, Samsung filed a patent for a foldable phone, and later that year Bloomberg reported that the company was considering releasing two models with bendable screens. Late last year, the president of the company’s mobile business told the Associated Press that Samsung would launch such a phone once it resolved “some problems.”
We’ll continue to keep an eye on news and rumors in the run-up to the Galaxy S9’s official debut on Feb. 25.
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