The delay was, of course, to ensure that any recommendations from the Galaxy Note7 issue were adopted. So, what does it have up its sleeve for a device that would like to offer a flagship Android alternative to the impending 10th anniversary iPhone – 8/X?
First, a fact. Like Apple’s iPhone 8, the GS8 began development about 18-24 months from launch. Both companies are limited by technology that they can be sure is available at the time of manufacture (three-six months out) and a supply chain that can deliver the components in quantities that are needed.
Apple has a little longer – it typically launches in September. The question is whether the Samsung delay allows Apple any headroom to counter any innovation shown by the former as we already know that Apple has secured components for a total of a 100 million run (not all at once). One must assume it is committed to whatever it has designed.
Some GS8 things are clearer now, not because of leaks from suppliers as is the case with Apple — Samsung produces most of the components so it has better security against leaks — but because of various patents and designs, it has registered.
Here is an update:
- The design will follow the current Edge format – this has another year’s life in it before it flows down to the A series. There were rumours of a complete wrap around Edge — see “Fig 1” below from Patently Mobile — but as this was filed in February 2017, it is likely for the 2018 model.
- AMOLED QHD, 100% sRGB. Screen sizes will be GS8 5.7” and GS8+ 6.2” with increased screen to body ratio supporting the 18:9 (2:1) screen ratios of the LG G6 and the rumoured iPhone 8 – but they won’t be physically larger than the GS7. Moving to 18:9 and smaller bezels means the end of capacitive home keys. It may also mean more use of the Edge swipe over screen for one-handed use.
- There won’t be an integrated S Pen, but the screens will support that so it may be an option. The integration of S Pen requires just a little too much room for svelte Galaxy design.
- Looks like the 3.5mm headphone jack is gone – most of the other brand flagships have taken similar directions. There is a strong rumour that it will include AKG tuned wireless earbuds in the pack but it is more likely to have USB-C to 3.5mm DAC/adapter
- Top and bottom firing stereo speakers with Dolby technology to beef up its VR capability
- 4GB LPDDR4 and 64GB UFS 2.0 will be the base with microSD support to 2TB – China may get a 6/128/256GB option.
- The GS8 will use the new Exynos 9, 8895, 10nm FinFet, quad core, System on a Chip. It includes a gigabit Cat 13 LTE modem, five carrier 5CE (band) aggregation; 27% performance increase and 40% less power use over the 14nm Exynos 8 in the GS7; 4K record up to 120 fps; vision processing unit (for VR and biometrics), Mali-G71 GPU; Hi-Res sound codecs; and it is rumoured to have RAM on die, making it the smallest, most powerful chip that may beat the Qualcomm 835 due later this year – the latter may appear in the S8 S Pen version later this year.
- Bixby, an AI-based assistant that uses front and rear cameras for location context, can launch apps, do searches, make payments, and more. Bixby is the outcome from Samsung acquiring Viv Labs last year. Viv co-created Siri which Apple later purchased. Bixby will exhibit humanlike intelligence, use a natural way to ask and respond to questions, and supports nesting context (where you ask it several questions that relate to each other). Bixby will be seen in TVs and home automation soon. But there is reportedly a flight between Google and Samsung over this and OK Google may KO Bixby (as it appeared to do with the latest HTC U).
- Its current IP68 rating may get a boost to IP69 to withstand larger drops.
- The big, dual pixel, camera module and SoC support dual cameras and it is likely, given Apple, LG, Huawei and others move to a dual camera (albeit with different technologies) that the GS8 will have one too. It will also have iris and voice biometrics.
- A removable battery will not be present due to the increased IP rating, but wireless and fast charging is a given.
- Samsung will play up the value of Knox for Android security and corporate use.
So, is it an Apple killer?
The answer is who cares? Android and iOS are now such feature-rich operating ecosystems with hordes of loyal followers that massive switching between Samsung and Apple is unlikely.
Apple users are a happy lot, if more well-heeled than most, so unless the new iPhone is out of their reach it will sell like hot cakes. The exceptions to this are in emerging economies like India and China (if you could call the latter that) where it seems they are now willing to buy local brands like OPPO, vivo, Huawei, Xiaomi, One Plus, and ZTE – all of which are putting out fantastic products that have fantastic value. And China has now banned telco subsidies so the iPhone is being sold at rack rate.
Samsung users were somewhat stirred but not shaken by the Note7 issues, but it appears that they are a forgiving lot – pre-sales will be a better indicator, but rumour has it Samsung will produce 10 million S8 series in the first quarter alone. And Samsung has the excellent value Galaxy A series with almost all the Galaxy S series features so I would not be surprised to see it remain the world’s largest smartphone maker.
The image above comes from Olixar, a case maker that will have S8 accessories at launch.
Leaked photo allegedly shows a Galaxy S8 beside a Galaxy S8 Plus with their huge new displays and tiny bezels. Image credit: @UniverseIce, Twitter