Samsung’s Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, and Galaxy S10 Plus have been in stores for months now, and the newly announced Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus will soon join them. But even with all those flagships available, that's not stopping some people from thinking about the next big Samsung release.
Rumors are already beginning to swirl about the Galaxy S11 — if that’s what Samsung winds up calling next year’s flagship phone. Most of the speculation right now centers around whether the upcoming phone will deliver features that the Note 10 doesn't offer.
The S11’s launch might be a year away, but already, there’s talk of Samsung’s plans for next year’s flagship. Here’s what we’ve heard so far.
Latest News & Rumors (Updated Aug. 10)
- Samsung has announced it's beginning production of a 108MP camera sensor, which it's worked on with Xiaomi. Whether it'll be ready for use with the S11 is unknown.
- Benchmarks for the Snapdragon 865 have leaked. It's widely expected that the Galaxy S11 will feature that upcoming mobile processor from Qualcomm.
- With the Note 10 featuring a lot of the same camera hardware found in this spring's Galaxy S10, it now seems more likely that the S11 will adopt the 64-megapixel Isocell Bright GW1 sensor.
Galaxy S11 release date
We’re about a year away from the next Galaxy, but history can be our guide. For the S10, Samsung held the product launch in San Francisco a few days before this year’s Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. The year before, the S9 debuted during MWC, as did 2016’s Galaxy S7. The one exception was the 2018 unveiling of the Galaxy S8, which happened a full month after the big smartphone trade show in Spain.
The takeaway from this pattern? Mobile World Congress is a good indicator of when Samsung is ready to unveil a new phone, even if that event doesn’t happen at the show itself. Mobile World Congress 2020 will likely take place in the last week of February, if you want to start planning out your Galaxy S11 countdowns now.
A 'perfect' full-screen display
It's been the holy grail of smartphone design for some time now: an edge-to-edge, pretty much bezel-free screen that can slot the front-facing camera behind the display panel without the need for a notch or motorized slide-out camera. And Samsung might be the closest to achieving it, according to rumors out of South Korea.
It's little surprise that Samsung is working on such technology — practically all phone makers are tirelessly inching toward that goal, and Samsung's display engineering muscle would certainly suggest it would be the first to achieve it. The real question is whether or not we can expect to see such an innovation debut with the Galaxy S11. At this point, it's far too early to assume that we will, so keep your eyes peeled for updates as we get closer to the end of 2019.
A Qualcomm 5G chip
Speaking of Mobile World Congress, during the 2019 edition, Qualcomm discussed the future of its 5G chips. Going forward, the company plans to integrate the actual 5G modem with its mobile processor.
Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said that the technology will make its way to devices next year. And already, Samsung has committed to using the chip in its flagship models.
It is indeed a big step for Qualcomm. The company’s first 5G modems — the X50 right now, and the X55 shortly — are standalone chips that sit alongside the handset’s processor. That tends to create chunkier devices that might not be as power-efficient as some would like. Perhaps not coincidentally, the upcoming Galaxy S10 5G features a massive 6.7-inch screen and huge 4,500 mAh battery. It’s also 0.31 inches thick and weighs 6.98 ounces, compared to the 6.17-ounce Galaxy S10 Plus, which is slightly thinner at 0.3 inches.
According to Qualcomm, the new combined chip would be more power-efficient, which would let phones like the Galaxy S11’s battery last longer. And since there will only be one chip inside the smartphone, it would give Samsung more of an opportunity to streamline the smartphone’s design and perhaps make it less chunky.
While we're talking about Qualcomm, let's not forget that the Galaxy S lineup is usually the first to feature the latest Snapdragon mobile processor. That's likely to be the Snapdragon 865 if Qualcomm sticks to its standard numbering conventions. (The Snapdragon 855 powers both the Galaxy S10 and Note 10, after the Snapdragon 845 handled 2018's big Android flagships.) Qualcomm usually announces details about its new processor in December so stay tuned to find out what that might mean for the S11's performance and power usage.
Of course, you don't have to wait until the end of the year to get some hint as to what you might expect from the new Qualcomm chip. Leaked benchmarks appeared on Geekbench in August that show a multicore result of 12,946 for something code-named Qualcomm Kona.
To put that number in context, Apple's A12 Bionic chip — currently the pace-setter among mobile processors — tallied an 11,515 score when we tested the iPhone XS Max. Assuming Qualcomm Kona is the Snapdragon 865, that would make the S11 faster than the current crop of iPhones, though the iPhone 11 arriving next month will likely feature a new A13 processor that sets a new bar for performance.
Camera improvements — this could be big
It's hard not to be underwhelmed by the cameras on the Galaxy Note 10, which features the same triple lens setup that Samsung introduced with the S10 lineup earlier this year. (The Note 10 Plus does add a time-of-flight sensor, but that same feature can be found on the Galaxy S10 5G.)
Better photos might be on the way with the Galaxy S11, though. In May, Samsung introduced a new 64-megapixel image sensor, the Isocell Bright GW1, which is meant to take on the likes of the 48-megapixel sensor found in Huawei's P30 Pro. That same month, reports out of Korea claimed that Samsung had developed an ultra-slim optical 5x zoom camera module, which would improve upon the 2x zoom found in Samsung's current camera phones.
The initial images reportedly shot by the image sensor look promising. Though compressed to post on Twitter by leaker Ice Universe, the image still shows plenty of detail on the building's windows. Under normal light conditions, the sensor would produce a 9,216 x 6,912-pixel photo.
In August, Samsung revealed its 108MP camera, which is had designed in partnership with Xiaomi. The Isocell Bright HMX sensor is based on similar tech to the 64MP Isocell Bright GW1, and is due to begin production in September. While it's hinted that the S11 will have a big step up in its camera technology by Twitter leaker Ice Universe, we can't be certain right now if this means the S11 will use either of these super sensors, or if the technology won't be quite ready for the assumed release date of early 2020.
Going With USB-C — and no headphone jack
Interestingly, a report from October 2018 provided some clues as to what we might be able to expect from Samsung’s Galaxy S11.
ETNews said that Samsung has decided to go with USB-C exclusively in the Galaxy S11. That means the company will ditch the headphone jack and requiring you to use wireless earbuds or a dongle in the box that will let you plug in 3.5mm headphones.
The fact that the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus have ditched the headphone jack makes it all but certain that we've seen the last of the 3.5mm port on Samsung's flagship phones.
Name change on the way?
Although Samsung has stubbornly stuck to the Galaxy S branding in its flagship, there’s a chance that might change starting with the Galaxy S11.
A report from the Yonhap News Agency suggested that Samsung is considering what it wants to do with the Galaxy S11’s name. The company’s executives are apparently concerned that “eleven” and subsequent versions, like “twelve” and “thirteen,” are too difficult to pronounce.
Instead, Samsung might opt for a standardized branding in the next Galaxy phones and get away from the numbered branding going forward.
What we want from the Galaxy S11
We’re likely to hear more details about the Galaxy S11 now that the Note 10 has made its debut and leakers turn their attention to what Samsung has planned next. We have a few things we’d like to see in Samsung’s next phone.
- No punch holes: The Galaxy S10 has single cutout for the front camera, while the S10 Plus has two punch holes; the hole moves to the center of the screen on the Note 10, but it's still there. And while you can hide these in software, that alternative doesn’t look good either. We’d like to see Samsung offer selfie cameras that are behind the display and invisible. Alternatively, Samsung could go the pop-up selfie cam route, but that design has been polarizing so far in phones like the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3.
- Even better photos in low light: Google has nailed the ability to take photos in very dark environments with the Pixel 3’s Night Sight mode, but the Galaxy S10 still struggles a bit even with its new Bright Night setting and AI on board. We’d like to see even better low-light pics from the Galaxy S11.
- Make the gestures more natural: The Galaxy S10 gives you the choice of using software buttons for getting around the phone or gestures, but the latter is clunky. You swipe up from one of three places to see recent apps, go home or go back. The Pixel 3 and iPhone XS do a better job in this area.
- Ditch the curved display (or avoid accidental touches): As sleek as the curved design is for the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, Samsung is on to something with the flat Galaxy S10e. A flat display means you’re much less likely to accidentally press something on screen when you’re simply trying to hold the phone.
Stay tuned for more updates on Samsung's Galaxy S11 plans as leaks and other details emerge.