All jokes aside 2017 is shaping up as a watershed year – not only for Samsung but its arch rival Apple. Perhaps both can be rightfully accused of running out of things to do with a glass slab. People want innovation and excitement. It will be a make or break year because if either, especially Apple, persist with boring me-too evolutions instead of gobsmacking revolutions, market share will plummet.
Unfortunately, the technology in processors, memory, batteries, storage and screens has not seen a major leap forward. There are no rollable mind blowing 8K screens yet, no five-day batteries, and no sonic screwdrivers. Although Samsung has made some incredible leaps forward with its 3D V-NAND memory and SSD, so we will see more of that.
So, what will we see in the Samsung Galaxy S8 due for release by April next year?
The big new feature will be AI – artificial intelligence - coming from the acquisition of AI software company Viv Labs that was behind Siri. (iTWire article here). Its AI-enabled features will significantly differentiate it from those of Apple's Siri, OK Google, Amazon Alexa, or Microsoft Cortana.
Knowing Samsung its first iteration of AI on the phone will be designed by propeller-head programmers – as it is wont to do – and it will do everything plus more than its rivals do. It may beat them on paper, but it will take a while to get it right as the end users and designers take over and add the human interface to AI – something that Apple is so good at.
I hear rumours of Samsung and Microsoft getting closer, and I expect to see more interoperability with Office 365 and other MS products. This will come in the form of bundled apps but also in the form of single login to Windows devices and accounts using the S8 fingerprint – makes sense and differentiates from other brands. Hmm – what about a Continuum experience thrown in for good measure?
Samsung cannot resist the allure of a flagship with a stylus, but the Note Brand is as on the nose as Dreamworld’s Thunder River Ride. Enter the Samsung Galaxy S8 Edge Plus replete with a 6+” (some say 6.2”), stunning AMOLED screen and an S-Pen.
It will push the screen to body ratio even higher – 90% is mooted - possibly by removing the physical home key, using ceramic speakers, and sensors to fit it into the same physical size as the Note 7. This is similar to what Xiaomi Mi Mix has done. (iTWire article here).
My guess is that they will pump as much tech into this model and make it such good value – ignoring the bean counters - that it will wipe the floor of all other comers. That tech will include 8GB RAM, probably a 64 or even a 128GB base storage and even a 256/512GB option although why that is necessary when it supports microSD to 2TB and OTG drives is beyond me.
The new User Interface (UI) is called Grace is apparently amazing, but it has to perform within the parameters set by Google for Android Nougat. (iTWire article here). I am expecting great things as Grace and her apps become real added value for Samsung users especially as it extends its smartphone ecosystem into the home with smart TV’s, smart wearables, appliances, and IoT.
The Galaxy S8 Edge will have a larger 5.7” screen courtesy of the same tech for the S8 Edge Plus, but it will be even thinner. The Edge will be even more useful for notifications and one handed use.
I would be surprised if they bother with a flat S8 – instead, they will put that niche to use as an active, mil-spec, device.
Camera wise it is one DxOMark behind the top rating Google Pixel XL, and it won’t be too hard to improve on that to take the crown for the best camera again. Whether it goes dual rear camera like the iPhone 7 Plus, LG G5 or Huawei P9 is not really an issue – picture quality is what counts and Samsung already has the widest f/stop apertures and dual big pixels. I hear rumours however of a 3D front camera. How greater leap it makes will come down to cost.
Looks wise it cannot change too much as it needs to fit into all those VR headsets and pockets – it will still be a glass slab.
And its support of Wireless fast charging, microSD and waterproofing out of the box makes it even more desirable.
Quality wise Samsung needs to tell the unvarnished truth about the Note 7 debacle and prove that it will not happen again. All indications are that this will be the case and frankly all will be forgiven. I don’t care if they have to delay past April either.
And finally, a comment on Samsung versus Apple. Samsung makes a lot of the components and technology used giving it a very good control of its supply chain. Simply put it can do almost anything it wants, and I expect to see much more innovation when launched. Samsung knows what will make the S8 et al., sell.
Apple designs excellent kit but don’t own manufacturing or supply chain. That frankly is why the iPhone 6, S, and 7 and Plus versions look so similar – to recoup R&D costs and make maximum profit they need extraordinary long runs counting on costs reductions along the way. “What is the best Apple iPhone in 2016 – the iPhone 6 (about the minuscule difference between the 6, 6S, and now 7). While Apple has deep pockets, its CEO and shareholders seem unwilling to throw money at a solution that is generally working.