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16/02/2017

Samsung's Galaxy S8 flagship is coming -- and with it, a shot at redemption.gs8-concept-steel-drake-ff-camera.jpg

A slick concept design for the Samsung Galaxy S8

Steel Drake on Behance.net

Launching a safe, buyable Galaxy S8 is the South Korean company's chance to get its phone business back on track after the disastrous drama of recalling 3 million Galaxy Note 7 phones when numerous Notes caught fire. (To be clear: unlike the Note 7, there have been no known claims of fires or explosions with the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, so this line's reputation is completely intact.)

Although Samsung's profits are soaring on the strength of its chips as well as S7 and S7 Edge phone sales, it will still need to make up the $5 billion it lost on the Note 7 -- and that's not counting any impending lawsuits.

Samsung has the power to make a truly great phone. After all, reviewers like me had initially lauded the Note 7 as one of the most impressive phones Samsung had ever made. The question is, will the Galaxy S8 have enough of the goods to refocus shoppers who bolted after the Note 7 debacle? And can Samsung win back buyers' trust?

We've already heard a fair amount about the Galaxy S8, and more rumors and leaks surface every day. So far, we're liking what we hear about the follow-up to last March's Galaxy S7, even if we don't fully embrace each and every shred of speculation. As always, we're reserving judgment until Samsung makes its official Galaxy S8 announcements.

The Galaxy S8 could launch as early as March 29 (it won't appear as usual at the Mobile World Congress show), and start selling mid-April. We bring you the most important rumors of the bunch.

What we know for sure

Galaxy S8 might get the Edge's double dose of curves

Alleged renders of the Galaxy S8 and larger Galaxy S8 Plus.

OnLeaks

The Galaxy S8 may make the "Edge" line obsolete. If the phone has the same curved sides as the S7 Edge (probably on a smaller body size), then it would give all of Samsung's flagship phones -- the S8 and Note lines -- curved screens by default. For buyers, that means a gorgeous device with extra tools on the Edge displays. For Samsung, it means flooding the market with phones that have something cool its competitors don't.

Dual-curves screens for all is significant from a manufacturing perspective, too. It would mean that Samsung had finally scaled the production process enough to make enough curved screens for all its global phones. That's something we saw start with the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 last August, so this is a safe bet.

Two phones: Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus?

But that wouldn't mean Samsung would only sell one phone. Keeping up with a recent tradition, the Galaxy S8 could still come in two sizes. While some refer to it as the Galaxy S8 Edge, the larger of the two devices has another nickname, the Galaxy S8 Plus. Keep reading for more detailed sizes and hardware specs.

Galaxy S8s could launch March 29

Before the Note 7 blew up in Samsung's face, we all assumed that it would unveil the Galaxy S8 and company in its usual late-February/early-March cycle that's tied to the giant Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Spain. But Samsung has confirmed that the Galaxy S8 won't launch at the show.

Instead, scuttlebutt puts the Galaxy S8 launch date at an event in New York on March 29. The push isn't unprecedented. Samsung also announced its Galaxy S4 phone a few weeks after 2013's MWC show at a standalone event in New York (and that had its own drama).

But it could tease the S8 on February 26

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Samsung's officially going to MWC, but not for the S8 phone.

Samsung

Samsung isn't showing up to Mobile World Congress empty-handed. The company is revealing a product believed to be the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, and rumors are that Samsung will run an official video reel teasing the Galaxy S8. That event takes place on February 26 in Spain.

We also hear murmurs that Samsung might tell us when that Galaxy S8 event will actually be.

We'll be watching.

The Galaxy S8 might sell in mid-April

Rumors peg the sale date as April 14 or April 18, which would give customers time to preorder the phone before it ships.

There may be more to go around

Samsung could ready 16 million total units of the Galaxy S8 phones for its first batch of sales, a sign that the company anticipates high demand. The rumor suggests that the smaller Galaxy S8 will account for 10 million of those and the remaining 6 million phones would be the larger S8 Plus.

Big, "bezel-less" displays

The Galaxy S8's face could be 85 percent or 90 percent screen, according to various reports like this one. That isn't just conjecture. Longtime rival LG has announced that its "Full Vision" display, which allows for a much larger screen proportionate to the phone face, is coming to its LG G6, a phone that will launch at Mobile World Congress later this month. Chinese phone maker Xiaomi is already selling its own version, the ceramic-backed Mi Mix.

5.8- and 6.2-inch screens

One rumor says that Samsung will be able to fit a 5.8-inch display into the S8 and a 6.2-inch screen on the S8 Edge/Plus. Both screen sizes are larger than the Note 7's 5.7-inch screen real estate, but the S8 is expected to have a smaller footprint than both the Note 7 and S8 Edge/Plus.

Samsung's 'Bixby' assistant may have its own button on Galaxy S8

Reports suggest that Samsung could reveal is own AI in the upcoming Galaxy S8 phone -- although that phone may be delayed, considering the troubles with the Note 7.

It could have an AI assistant named Bixby

Filing a patent for a digital assistant named Bixby is a pretty good indicator that the Galaxy S8 will have the rumored Bixby assistant and maybe a female voice variant named Kestra. (Samsung bought AI startup Viv late last year.) Riding on the back of Samsung apparently trademarking the name Bixby Vision is the latest rumor that points to AI use in the camera.

Bixby is expected to:

Bye-bye, home button?

The Galaxy S8 could toss out its whole home button -- including the fingerprint reader -- and use an optical sensor that lives beneath the display. That's supported by Samsung partner Synaptics' release of its own optical fingerprint scanner that fits the bill. It's quite possible that the two are one and the same.

Fingerprint reader on the back?

Leaked images of an (alleged) Samsung-made case has a cut-out on the back where some people think the fingerprint reader will go.

Samsung could emulate the Moto Z and Apple iPhone to ditch its headphone jack.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Two rear cameras and better selfies on the way

A report out of Korea points to two cameras on the back, just like with the iPhone 7 Plus, LG V20 and Huawei P9.

Samsung's next front-facing camera could also bring auto-focus to the Galaxy S8 using technology that differs from autofocus in the phone's main camera. Don't worry about that camera module sticking out, either. The rumor out of Korea claims this module will remain flush with the phone face.

It might get this Qualcomm exclusive

It's being circulated that Samsung's S8 phones will be the first to get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, and that other phonemakers can't have it until after the S8s go on sale. The new chip promises faster speeds, better battery savings and better graphics than last year's 820 and 821.

But of course, Samsung would have to make the most of the 835 to pull ahead of other high-end phones.

The Galaxy S8 might have an all-new battery supplier

Samsung could step away from the two companies that made the Galaxy Note 7's exploding batteries (including Samsung's own SDI outfit) and use Japanese manufacturer Murata Manufacturing instead. The move would help create some distance from the Note 7 fiasco.

Bigger batteries on board

The Galaxy S8 will muscle up with a 3,250mAh battery and the S8 Plus with a 3,750mAh battery if this rumor pans out.

Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus should be water-resistant

It wouldn't surprise us if both Galaxy S8 phones recieve a water-resistant rating of IP68. In fact, we expect it. The Galaxy S7 family and Note 7 had the same rating, too. And they all passed our most recent pool test.

samsung-galaxy-s8-case-leak.jpg

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Apparently, these Samsung-made cases leaked, revealing what's thought to be a fingerprint-reading cutout on the back.

HDBlog.It

The Galaxy S8 could lose the headset jack, just like the iPhone

When the Galaxy Note 7 first launched, Samsung told me it was "proud" of its headset jack. That tune might change if this rumor is right.

In its place, phone owners would have to use wireless Bluetooth-connected headsets (like these) or headsets that plug into the phone's expected USB-C port (either directly or through an adapter dongle).

Then again, it might keep the headset jack after all

A newer rumor comes from a leak of a case said to belong to the Galaxy S8. The case has familiar button recesses and camera cutouts, but also a small round passthrough just the perfect size for a standard 3.5-millimeter headset jack.

Super-high 4K resolution

It's also expected that Samsung will go ultra-high-def for its next big phone, bumping up the S7's current resolution (2,560x1,440 pixels) to a 4K resolution of 3,840x2,160 pixels.

Sony beat Samsung to the UHD punch last year with its Xperia X Performance. At that time, TV reviewer David Katzmaier and I argued the futility of such a move, but with VR headsets that integrate with phones slowly gaining fans (like Samsung's own Gear VR), there is at least one case for having more pixels on your phone than you might have on your TV.

Or maybe not

A contradictory rumor says this isn't going to happen, and that we'll instead have the same 2K screen resolution as the Galaxy S7 (2,560x1,440 pixels), but one that's made with a new version of the AMOLED display material. The upshot: Screen quality is still expected to improve.

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Unlike the S7 and S7 Edge here, both Samsung's Galaxy S8 phones could curve.

Josh Miller/CNET

 

The Galaxy S8 might have a pressure-sensitive screen

Yeah, yeah, we've heard this rumor before when the Galaxy S7 was supposedly going to have a screen you could press and hold to make submenus pop up (like Apple's 3D Touch for iPhone). It never happened, but maybe this time, one Korean outlet reported, it will.