Samsung Galaxy S9: Everything we know so far

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Several months and several compelling challengers later, Samsung’s brilliant Galaxy S8 still ranks atop our list of the best smartphones today. And it may be the Galaxy S9 that ultimately dethrones it.

Yes, just as the sun rises each morning, Samsung will debut a new Galaxy S smartphone in 2018. But after the startling transformation seen with the Galaxy S8 (shown above), will Samsung try to reinvent the handset yet again, or opt to refine and enhance what worked so well the last time around?

Rumours are just starting to pour in with a launch likely only months away, so we’ve compiled some more of the best leaks below and offered our take on how reasonable they seem at this point.

WHEN WILL THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9 BE OUT?

We first saw the Samsung Galaxy S8 (shown) in March 2017 and the phone shipped a few weeks after, but one rumour suggests that Samsung might wait less than a year to show the next one.

Korean site The Investor suggested this year that Samsung’s order for OLED panels would be ready in November, and thus speculated that the Galaxy S9 would be launched in January 2018. That’s due to the two-month turnaround between screen production and the S8’s launch.

However, this rumour hasn’t been widely accepted, as that March-April window is usually prime time for Android phone reveals, including Samsung’s Galaxy S. VentureBeat suggests a little of both, however: a cameo appearance at CES in January before the full unveiling in March.

FACT OR FICTION?
We say fiction on a full January launch: the Galaxy S8 is still going strong and has fended off rivals like the Apple iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 XL well. We see little reason for Samsung to jump the gun and skip its usual March debut. But a quick tease could be useful.

HOW MUCH WILL THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9 COST?

We haven’t heard any substantive rumours about the Galaxy S9’s ticket price, but flagship phone prices have been trending upward over the last year – and we fully expect Samsung to bump up the S9’s price at least a little bit.

The Galaxy S8 launched at R15,500 with the Galaxy S8 Plus weighing in at R17,500 – and then Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 8 at a staggering R18,500. Of course, Apple topped all of those phones with the R20,500 iPhone X.

FACT OR FICTION?
It’s tough to see Samsung staying put with the same R15,500 price point as the Galaxy S8 when the market has shown that flagships can command higher asking costs. Maybe it’ll just be R16,000, or something like R17,500, but don’t be surprised to see some kind of bump here.

WHAT WILL THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9 LOOK LIKE?

Have you seen the Galaxy S8? Yeah, the Galaxy S9 will probably look a lot like it.

And that’s fine, considering how gorgeous the Galaxy S8 is. Remember how the Galaxy S7 was a near-duplicate of the Galaxy S6, aside from some very slight tweaks? That’s what we’re expecting from this year’s evolution.

With the same 5.8in and 6.2in screen sizes pegged for the models, there’s been little in the way of rumours about transformative changes. We’ll probably still see the curved right and left edges, with maybe a bit less bezel on the top and bottom. Meanwhile, VentureBeat suggests that the fingerprint sensor will now be located underneath the camera array, instead of awkwardly next to it.

This speculative Galaxy S9 Plus render above from a Korean message board (via BGR) shows how it might be placed below a dual-camera array, which looks like an improvement to us.

Meanwhile, SamMobile suggests that there will be a new purple colour option in addition to black, gold, and blue.

FACT OR FICTION?
Sounds right to us: there’s no good reason to scrap the great Galaxy S8 design, and if they can figure out how to make the fingerprint sensor fall in a more comfortable location, then we’re ready to hand over our wallets to make the upgrade.

WHAT ABOUT THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9’S SCREEN?

As mentioned above, it sounds like Samsung is sticking with the 5.8in and 6.2in screen sizes from the Galaxy S8, and as before, those will be extra-tall displays that dominate the entire front of the screen.

Every time a Galaxy S phone is coming, there’s always speculation that Samsung is considering a 4K display – which would make Gear VR experiences significantly better. But we haven’t seen too much talk on that this time around, so we expect another Quad HD (2K) Super AMOLED screen on there. Which is still awesome.

FACT OR FICTION?
Putting a 4K display on a smartphone requires a lot of extra power to keep things running smoothly, not to mention extra battery capacity – but the visible advantages are incredibly slim on a device that small. We’re not expecting that to happen with the Galaxy S9.

HOW MUCH POWER WILL THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9 PACK?

It’ll be evolution here again as Samsung is expected to use a newer version of its 10-nanometer Exynos system-on-a-chip for the Galaxy S9 in some territories, and the just-revealed Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 elsewhere.

How powerful those chips will be remains to be seen, but they should provide a nice step up over the still-top-of-the-line Exynos 8895 and Snapdragon 835. Apple’s latest iPhone chip, the A11 Bionic, is beating every Android contender in benchmark testing, so we’ll see whether Samsung and Qualcomm can take a fresh lead in the new year.

As for RAM, VentureBeat suggests that the Galaxy S9 will ship with 4GB RAM while the Galaxy S9 Plus will join the Note 8 in offering 6GB RAM for a little extra zippiness.

FACT OR FICTION?
No huge surprises here: those are the chips we expect the Galaxy S9 to use, although we don’t know yet now big of a performance boost they’ll offer over the S8. And giving the S9 Plus some extra perks over the S9 will help differentiate the handsets beyond just the size… and maybe let Samsung widen the price gap too.

WHAT KIND OF CAMERAS WILL THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9 HAVE?

Here’s another rumoured advantage the S9 Plus will have: a second back camera. Much like the iPhone 8 and 7 models, the core S9 will reportedly have a single camera on the rear while the S9 Plus will offer a Note 8-esque dual-camera setup.

And the main camera on both could offer the widest aperture seen on a smartphone to date: f/1.5, which is a notch better than the f/1.6 aperture seen on the LG V30 and Huawei Mate 10 Pro. The secondary camera on the S9 Plus will reportedly come in at f/2.4.

That’s not all: a report from Chinese site VTECH (via Neowin) suggests that the Galaxy S9’s main cameras will offer adjustable aperture, ranging between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the lighting conditions. Consider that a serious step towards true DSLR-like quality from a phone camera. Samsung just launched a flip phone with that kind of feature in China, interestingly enough.

FACT OR FICTION?
With more and more larger flagship phones going for the double-camera setup, including Samsung itself with the Galaxy Note 8, it doesn’t surprise us to hear about the plans for the S9 Plus. In any case, Samsung used to hold the smartphone camera crown but has been bested by other phones – we’ll see if that wider and potentially adjustable aperture helps put the S9 on top of the competition.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S9?

Yes! Both phones will still have a headphone port, according to VentureBeat, so Samsung remains a welcome holdout in that regard. Also on the audio front, the site suggests that the Galaxy S9 models will have AKG stereo speakers, adding a bit more bump to your playback.

And lastly, the so-so DeX Station from the last time around – which let you link up a display, keyboard, and mouse and use the S8 as a PC – is getting a reboot. Now the docking station will lay flat, letting you use the screen as a touchpad or keyboard. Handy!

FACT OR FICTION?
That’s great to hear on the audio front, if true, and the DeX Station upgrade seems like a really smart idea. It’s still super niche, but at least that approach sounds a lot more useful and functional, and could ship more units if it’s priced affordably enough.

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