How will Samsung top the Galaxy S8 with next year's phone? (Credit: Tom's Guide)That would be the Galaxy S9. Expect the bar to be raised once again when Samsung releases its flagship — it's set to make its debut at Mobile World Congress this month — as the S9 will reportedly add key missing features to what already is the best Android phone.
What should you expect? Here’s everything you need to know right now about what’s planned for the Galaxy S9.
Update Feb 20: Latest Galaxy S9 News and Rumors
- A Reddit poster says the Galaxy S9 could have class-leading battery life.
- Teaser videos posted by Samsung on its Korean YouTube page trumpet some of the camera features coming to the Galaxy S9.
- The S9 could feature 3D emoji similar to the Animoji feature Apple introduced to its iPhone X.
When You'll See the Galaxy S9
It's official: the world will get its first look — officially, anyway — of the Galaxy S9 at Samsung's Unpacked 2018 event on Feb. 25 in Barcelona, a day prior to the start of Mobile World Congress. The invitation doesn't mention the Galaxy S9 by name, though it prominently features a "9" and contains the "Camera Reinvented" tagline we've been hearing as of late.
As for when the Galaxy S9 and S9+ will land on store shelves, that's still up in the air. However, Evan Blass previously claimed Samsung is targeting a March 16 release, based on information he says he received from an executive at a prominent case maker. Blass says the devices will go up for pre-order a little more than two weeks earlier, on March 1. That's consistent with a newer report from Korean outlet ETNews, which claims pre-orders will remain open until March 8.
Biggest Galaxy S9 Change: The Camera(s)
Samsung has made it quite clear what to expect from the S9 — a radically redesigned camera.
We first learned about the Galaxy S9's new camera from a leaked image of the box, shared via Reddit. While the list of specs on the packaging didn't give away much, mostly because many of the details have been carried over from the Galaxy S8, the rear shooter still looks to see a notable upgrade in the form of a new 3-stack ISOCELL sensor.
A page on Samsung's website that was briefly published and noticed by SamMobile before being taken down detailed the new camera technology. The main appeal of the sensor appears to be its layered design, which allows for quicker and more accurate focusing. SamMobile also reports the new shooter may support slow-motion video at 960 frames per second and 720p resolution. If true, this would put it on equal footing with Sony's Xperia XZ1 — the only phone that currently supports the feature. A Samsung teaser video seemingly confirms that super slo-mo is coming to the new phone.
Samsung's phase detection autofocus tech could see an upgrade in the Galaxy S9 as well, with the ability to measure the distance to fast-moving objects even in poor lighting situations.
Meanwhile, the leaked image of the phone's packaging mentions a 12-megapixel sensor in Samsung's upcoming flagship that can shoot at two different apertures: f/2.4 and f/1.5. The latter would make for the widest aperture of any smartphone on the market and would come in handy in low-light settings.
Expect a single lens on the back of the Galaxy S9. The Galaxy S9+, however, is expected to add a second lens, following the lead of the dual-lens Galaxy Note 8.
How Much Will the Galaxy S9 Cost?
Get ready to pay up for this new phone. ETNews also reports a slight price hike is planned for Samsung's home market, of South Korea, from the equivalent of $875 to anywhere from $895 to $935. That's somewhat consistent with other reports on the S9's price, which claims that the new phone will cost $100 more than the Galaxy S8, which cost $749 at launch. The S9+ would cost about as much as the $850 Galaxy Note 8, based on these rumors.
How Many Models Will We See?
Conventional wisdom over the last several months has suggested that Samsung is only planning two new models: updates to the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. However, a few new reports say that's all wrong and the company might actually offer a smaller model to complement those bigger alternatives.
Ice Universe, a highly respected Samsung leaker, suggests that Samsung is planning a version that would come with a sub-5-inch screen. The Galaxy S9 Mini, as it might be called, would come with all the same high-end components, like the Snapdragon 845, but have a smaller screen to accommodate smaller devices, Ice Universe predicted, according to Forbes.
The Ice Universe claim was given a bit more credence soon after, when Valuewalk said that the company is indeed planning a Galaxy S9 Mini. That report said the smartphone would have a screen with a 4-inch display, but exactly how big is unknown.
All that said, recent rumors about the Galaxy S9 launch haven't mentioned an S9 Mini, so if you're expecting to see that phone in Barcelona, you may be disappointed.
What Other Specs Will We See in the Galaxy S9?
We've got a more detailed look at how the Galaxy S9's rumored specs compare. But here's an overview of other features likely to ship in Samsung's new phone.
• Powerful Snapdragon 845 Processor: Look for Samsung to up the ante on the S9 with a next-gen CPU that’s more efficient and features better performance than even the impressive 835. That would be the Snapdragon 845, which Qualcomm first previewed at its Snapdragon Technology Forum in December. We were recently able to benchmark the Snapdragon 845 for ourselves, and found that while the phone doesn't completely close the gap to the A11 Bionic chipset powering the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, it does diminish Cupertino's advantage. And it certainly outperforms the Snapdragon 835 inside last year's Samsung's flagships.
Snapdragon 845 (Credit: Tom's Guide)In addition to faster performance, the Snapdragon 845 chip promises better security, longer battery life and enhanced camera capabilities.
• More RAM and Storage: The Galaxy S8 and S8+ made do with just 64GB of on-device storage, though there was the MicroSD slot for optional expandability. According to a report from SamMobile, that could change for the Galaxy S9. The latest details claim Samsung is planning a 128GB version of the Galaxy S9 to complement the base 64GB configuration, alongside three different Galaxy S9+ models sized at 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. Better yet, the S9+ is expected to get an increase to 6GB of RAM across the board, putting it on equal footing with the Galaxy Note 8.
• Similar battery capacities: A report from BGR says that the S9 will pack a 3,000 mAh battery and the Galaxy S9+ will have a 3,500 mAh battery, so you should expect more endurance from the Plus model. A more recent report from Android Headlines backs up this claim, citing battery replacement listings from a Hong Kong-based repair shop.
A more recent report says the Galaxy S9 could last 1.5 days on a charge, which would be very impressive.
• Hello, Android Oreo: This will hardly shock anyone, but the S9 and S9+ will both feature Google's latest OS, though it's unclear whether it will be Android 8.1 or any earlier version of Oreo.
What About the S9's Design?
Did you enjoy the bezel-free screen Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S8? Good, because it's coming back in the S9.
The S9 should be the same size as this Galaxy S8. (Credit: Tom's Guide)The Bell, a South Korean site, reports that Samsung has already ordered 5.8- and 6.2-inch displays for the S9. Those are the same sizes that the S8 and S8+ offer. To which we say: good.
Even better, Samsung looks like it's going to fix one of the biggest flaws with the S8's design. Leaked renders of both the Galaxy S9 and S9+ show that the fingerprint sensor has moved below the rear cameras, instead of being right on the side where it was too easy to smudge the camera's lens.Image Credit: SlashLeaks
How Will the S9 Compare to the iPhone X?
Although rumors indicate Samsung won't be able to challenge Apple on the Face ID front, the Galaxy S9 shouldn't be completely upstaged when it comes to face-scanning tech. An instructional video discovered by an XDA Developers member who tore down the Settings app on the new phone has revealed that Samsung is planning a new authentication system called "Intelligent Scan." By the looks of it, Intelligent Scan combines two-dimensional iris and facial scanning for a more secure method than either alone.
However, while the system may be more robust than what Samsung already had in place on the Galaxy S8, there's no indication it will be dependable enough for applications besides unlocking the phone, like mobile payments.
Intelligent Scan recently surfaced again in a patent filing picked up by LetsGoDigital. The application details how the system works, and even alludes to Intelligent Scan making the jump to other products like PCs and televisions in the future.
While the Galaxy S9 probably won't support the depth-sensing imaging tech necessary to enable something like Face ID, it should still be powerful enough to handle it from a computational standpoint. Samsung recently announced its new Exynos 9810 chipset, which is expected to power overseas models of the phone. Like Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845, the processor that will more than likely be used for U.S. models, the new Exynos chip is built for 3D facial recognition as well as face tracking filters.
Another report from the Korea Herald states that like Apple and Huawei, Samsung is actually working on a dedicated AI sub-processor of its own, specialized for tasks like facial and object recognition. According to anonymous sources referenced in the piece, Samsung's AI chip is currently equal in power to those in the A11 Bionic and Kirin 970, found in the iPhone X and soon-to-be-released Mate 10 Pro, respectively. However, continued development through 2018 could mean that the Galaxy Note 9 receives an even more powerful version of this chip later in the year.
Finally, Samsung could try to replicate Apple's Animoji feature, according to a report circulating in Korea that claims the S9 will support 3D emoji. Adding fuel to this particular rumor is a Samsung teaser video that ends with an emoji-like twist.
What Will the S9 Look Like?
Image Credit: VentureBeat
After a steady stream of leaked images and renders from those who claim to have seen the phone, we've established a pretty firm idea of what the Galaxy S9 will look like.
The latest comes from again from Evan Blass, a respected leaker, who posted an image of the 5.8-inch Galaxy S9 and 6.2-inch S9+ side by side. Both phones look to be consistent with the rumors we've heard to date. Samsung reportedly opted for a more conservative approach to this year's flagships, and decided to skip a comprehensive redesign. As a result, these devices look quite similar to the Galaxy S8 line.
Blass also shared a new color Samsung is planning for the Galaxy S9 — Lilac Purple — in addition to a returning Coral Blue hue. Both will reportedly join Midnight Black and Titanium Gray. In the past, Samsung hasn't sold all colors of Galaxy S devices in all territories, and at this time we don't know if some of these won't make the jump to North America.
In January, we got another look at the Galaxy S9 thanks to a video that recently surfaced on China's Weibo social network. In it, an individual rotates a dummy unit of a black Galaxy S9, showing off the new rear camera and central fingerprint sensor arrangement.
Renders from case producers and other third-party accessory makers have also shown devices that emulate the S8 duo, even down to the headphone jacks. All leaks surrounding the Galaxy S9+ point to a second lens for the rear camera, which appears to be the only significant difference between the two models besides the size.
What About Accessories?
We knew Samsung was planning a revision of its DeX Station for the Galaxy S9, though until now we didn't know the form it would take. According to the latest leaks shared by VentureBeat reporter Evan Blass and blog SamMobile, the new dock will function more like a pad, rather than holding the device up like the current generation model.
Image Credit: @OnLeaks
The DeX Pad, as it's being called, will transform the Galaxy S9 into makeshift desktop PC when connected to a monitor with an HDMI cable. The render shared also shows two USB 3.0 and one USB Type-C port on the back, while the phone is connected to the dock through a USB Type-C module that raises up out of the surface of the pad.
Just as the current DeX Station utilizes on-board fans to prevent overheating, this design sports a ventilation grille that would sit underneath the phone, cooling it as it's used. However, the Ethernet port appears to have been omitted from the design. Finally, Blass says the DeX Pad will be backwards compatible with Samsung's previous-generation flagships.
Samsung has a lot on its plate right now. The Galaxy Note 8 is a very impressive handset, but that product is targeted at early adopters and power users, and isn't as key to the company's fortunes as the more mainstream Galaxy S line. The good news is that each successive rumor indicates the Galaxy S9 will improve upon many of the features that make the Galaxy S8 so great.