Samsung Galaxy S9
MARIE BLACK rounds up everything we know so far
It’s interesting, given that the Galaxy S9 is rumoured to appear in early 2018, just how few images have leaked. We’ve yet to see a photo of the Galaxy S9 in the flesh, and even renders and concept images are notably thin on the ground. At a guess we’d say this is because it’s going to look an awful lot like the Galaxy S8.
That certainly seems to be the case, judging by the first Galaxy S9 cases from accessory maker Olixar (shown at the top of this page). With the Galaxy S9 on the left and Galaxy S9+ on the right, it’s clear that a
key difference between the two is a dual-camera on the larger model. This is backed up by a rear Galaxy S9 panel unearthed by Sammobile, which reveals space for only a single camera and fingerprint scanner.
Interestingly, both images – and the Galaxy S9 schematic that leaked via Weibo (shown above) – suggest there will be a fingerprint scanner on the rear, but in a new position below the camera. This goes against rumours that the S9 will get an embedded under-glass fingerprint scanner at the front.
As before we’d expect to see a 5.8in Infinity Display on the Galaxy S9, and a 6.2in version on the S9+. The new phones should see a performance boost with either the 7nm Snapdragon 845 or 10nm Exynos 9810 inside depending on your location. With a Snapdragon 845 inside the Galaxy S9+ has posted a multi-core score of 8351 points in Geekbench 4 (that’s very fast).
There is rumoured to be a new purple colour option, but less likely are reports that the Galaxy S9 could have a modular design. Samsung is allegedly
planning to introduce magnetic pins on the back of the phone that will allow the attachment of external modules. And the DeX dock, sold as an optional extra, will now operate wirelessly and resemble a pad rather than a dock, reveals Galaxy Club.
Predicting the Galaxy S9 release date is no longer as easy as it once was. Traditionally Samsung has launched its flagship the day before MWC, which would put its announcement on 25 February 2018.
However, in 2017 it delayed the Galaxy S8 launch until March, with the phone going on sale at the end of April. While it said it used this extra time for thorough battery testing (the earlier Note 7 was taken off sale due to battery problems), it also had the exclusive on the Snapdragon 835. By delaying its launch it prevented other manufacturers using that chip in their flagships until after it had gone on sale.
Though we are fairly certain the Snapdragon 845 will feature in the Galaxy S9, at least in the UK, we do not yet know whether Samsung again holds the exclusive on the chip. If it does, we may see another March launch event.
In 2018 there is talk of LG announcing its rival G7 early in January at CES 2018, which Samsung may choose to copy. There are some rumours to back up this theory – Samsung began shipping OLED panels two months early in November, and the Galaxy S9 was (allegedly) first spotted on Geekbench way back in July – but the company has denied that a January unveiling is likely. (To be fair, if the G7 really is coming early we should expect the company to start revealing its features via press releases in the very near future.)
VentureBeat sources claim the phones will be on show at CES 2018. It’s usually a very reliable source, though we suspect it might merely mean that the Galaxy S9 will be seen by some people behind closed doors at CES.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ were Samsung’s most expensive S-series phones yet at £689 and £779 respectively. Part of this extra cost can be attributed to the new features, but finances following both Brexit and the Note 7 disaster have almost certainly come into play here, too.
Until this year, Samsung always kept its pricing reasonably constant, and in line with other flagship phone makers. For that reason we’d be surprised to see the price go any higher than the current RRP.
It’s always worth considering with Samsung phones that – more so than with any other manufacturer’s smartphones – SIM-free prices fall rapidly in the few months following launch.
New features and specifications
Samsung reportedly began working on the Galaxy S9 in late March 2017, which would mean it is already six months ahead of schedule compared to where it was with the Galaxy S8 and S8+ last year. And that means more time for quality control, more time for building in new features and, hopefully, more happy customers.
Amazingly, in July 2017 an early version of the alleged S9 was spotted in the Geekbench database – that’s some seven or eight months before we expect to see the phone announcement. A device with the model name SM-G9650 is listed with a 1.78GHz quadcore Snapdragon 845 processor and just 4GB of RAM. It scored 7371 points in the RenderScript test, which is lower than the Galaxy S8 managed in the same test. There are no performance scores.
An unnamed source suggests the first work on the Galaxy S9 began with the screen, and that there is not expected to be any change with the sizing: so we’ll see a 5.8in Galaxy S9 and 6.2in Galaxy S9+.
The Bell reports that Samsung has already ordered these screens from suppliers, but with one key difference: they will feature the in-display finger-print-scanning tech that was rumoured for but never made it into the final spec of the Galaxy S8.
As we approach the Galaxy S9 release date, however, that’s looking increasingly unlikely. The Investor reports that the in-display finger-print-scanning tech won’t be ready in time, while Ice Universe says the fingerprint scanner will remain on the rear but under the camera rather than to its side.
We’d expect to see the same 2960x1440, 570ppi, Super AMOLED ‘Infinity’ panel on the S9, and another 529ppi panel on the S9+. Given that Samsung by default limits the screen resolution to Full-HD+ (2220x1080) in the Galaxy S8, we really don’t think it will push up the resolution up to 4K.
It is possible that despite keeping the same dimensions and resolution the display technology itself could be improved. Samsung is reportedly using screen tech code-named ‘Sunflower’ for the Galaxy S9 – it’s still Super AMOLED, but should improve display fidelity and be more consistent and reliable.
The new virtually full-screen 18.5:9 ratio will also likely remain, as will features such as the always-on display and edge functionality. However, in 2018 we could see Samsung follow the route Apple has taken with the iPhone X and minimize the top bezel even further.
Rather than a thin strip at the top in which to house the sensors, camera and speakers the iPhone 8 features a notch at the top and then minimizes the bezels to the left and right of this. It’s not an attractive design, but it does allow for a higher screen-to-body ratio. Patents unearthed by Galaxy Club suggest Samsung has the same idea.
Samsung will allegedly implement its Y-OCTA tech into both models this time around, with only the standard Galaxy S8 getting the treatment in 2017 (the Galaxy S8 Plus does not and the Note 8 apparently will not get it either). Y-OCTA uses a single manufacturing process for the screen and the touch-film element.
In 2016 Samsung patented a glass-coating technology that helps water to bounce off the screen, making it much easier to use in the rain. This tech could well be introduced in the Galaxy S9, which will itself most likely be waterproof. (The Galaxy S8 is rated IP68, which means it is resistant to submersion up to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes.)
In the UK we’ll almost certainly see the Snapdragon 845 powering the Galaxy S9, which was in early December confirmed by Qualcomm at a special press event in Hawaii. It may once again hold the exclusive on this chip, forcing rivals to wait until the Galaxy S9 has been unveiled to use that same chip, but for now that is merely a rumour.
The 10nm Snapdragon 835 Samsung helped Qualcomm to manufacture was 27 percent faster and 40 percent more energy-efficient than the company’s
previous 14nm chips. The upcoming Snapdragon 845 is said to be built on the 7nm manufacturing process, and will be even faster and more efficient than ever.
(The nm figure relates to the distance between transistors, and the more you can squeeze on to a chip the faster it will be.)
Key new features offered by the Snapdragon 845 include a secure processing unit (SPU) that Qualcomm says offers “vault-like security” with the microprocessor, memory, crypto engine and random number generator all sitting on its own power island. Performance and battery life will also improve, thanks to an octa-core Kryo 385 CPU with four 2.8GHz high-power cores and four 1.8GHz low power cores; the 845 is 30 percent more efficient than the 835 for gaming, video and AR/VR, says Samsung.
Qualcomm’s new super-fast X20 LTE modem is built-in, offering CAT 18 speeds of more than 1Gb/s, as well as an enhanced Spectra 280 image
signal processor. Qualcomm has bumped up video recording potential to Ultra-HD, and added in various AI improvements.
Performance from the Galaxy S9 with the Snapdragon 845 inside is expected to get a real boost. Geekbench 4 scores for the Galaxy S9+ have been revealed on the site’s database, and as you can see in the chart below they are quite a bit faster than that of the Galaxy S8+. (Interestingly the database also reveals 5GB of RAM, suggesting there is 6GB on at least one of the Galaxy S9+ models.)
Elsewhere in the world Samsung uses its own Exynos chips, and has just announced the Exynos 9810 which is the most likely candidate.
We don’t know a great deal about the 9810, but we do know it’s built on the second-generation 10nm process, which is interesting given that the Snapdragon is thought to be 7nm. We also know that it features M3 cores, and builds in improvements to the GPU, which may now be the Mali-G72.
Samsung has announced that its next-generation Exynos chips will feature LTE modems that support six carrier aggregation (6CA). A first in the industry, Samsung says this unlocks a maximum download speed of 1.2Gb/s (20 percent faster than the Galaxy S8, which has a 5CA modem). It should allow you to download an HD movie in just 10 seconds, and eliminate buffering.
Samsung is also said to be looking to build AI processing right into its chips, which will perform better when hard-coded to the chip than left to the software. So Bixby could become a lot more efficient.
Storage and RAM
You get 64GB of storage as standard with the Galaxy S8, along with microSD support. That’s already quite generous, so we’re not expecting to see any changes here. Something we might see in the S9, though, is for Samsung to finally push up the RAM allocation from 4GB to 6GB, as it has done for the Note 8. This is by no means out of the question, with some phones that are now a year old offering this amount of memory. It would also help it in its quest for everincreasing performance.
Although the size of the phone is not expected to change, we could see battery capacity get a boost with the Samsung Galaxy S9. ET News reports that Samsung will facilitate this using a new type of motherboard that uses substrate-like PCB technology to squeeze in more layers of components – or extra room for the battery pack.
Fast charging – both wired and wireless – will likely feature, though we suspect Samsung will continue to use its own Adaptive Fast Charging tech rather than the Quick Charge built into Snapdragon processors.
Samsung traditionally leads the pack when it comes to new smartphone features, so we’re somewhat puzzled by the fact it has yet to introduce a dual-camera on its S series. Nevertheless, one does feature in the Note 8, so expect it to feature in the Galaxy S9 too, but likely only in the Plus variant.
Samsung’s Note 8 has a 12Mp dual-lens camera with dual-OIS and 2x optical zoom.
It’s been claimed that the Galaxy S9 will be able to shoot incredible 1,000fps slow-mo video. This will apparently be achieved using a three-layered image sensor that adds DRAM to the sensor and logic chip, which began mass production in November. This builds on the two-layered approach seen in current high-end smartphones, though Sony has also used a three-layer system in its XZ Premium and XZ1 phones.
Ports and connections
Samsung introduced USB-C rather than Micro-USB for the Galaxy S8, though it didn’t follow the likes of Apple in removing the 3.5mm headphone jack and relying on wireless or USB-C audio. There is a danger it could take that plunge this time around, though nothing has yet been confirmed.
One change we would like to see in the design, and something we hope Samsung will take into account following significant consumer criticism, is the awkward placing of the rear fingerprint scanner. It’s not so much being on the back of the handset that offends us, but how it is wedged in beside the camera as if it were an afterthought. It’s looking likely that this will be moved to a new position below the primary camera.
However, the Galaxy S9 could be the phone in which we finally see the fingerprint scanner built into the screen glass itself. Qualcomm has announced
Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensors, a new ultrasonic technology that allows fingerprint-sensing tech to be built directly into a phone’s OLED screen. It also works in glass and aluminium.
Synaptics has also announced its Clear ID FS9500, an under-glass fingerprint sensor that it says will be found in a top five smartphone company in a bezelfree OLED infinity display. There’s no evidence that it is referring to the Galaxy S9, but that is the exact same name used by Samsung for it own displays.
Just in time for the Galaxy S9’s release Samsung has been awarded a patent for an under-glass fingerprint scanner. According to GSMArena, the patent suggests that a smartphone could have up to 12 pressure points on the whole screen for the fingerprint to allow secure apps, contacts, and messages.
The audio on a phone can be a bit forgotten but Samsung won’t with the Galaxy S9. According to rumours it will not only keep the headphone jack but also come with wireless AKG headphones in the box. They might just be tuned by AKG like the current Galaxy phones but it still sounds good.
Android O is almost certainly the operating system you’ll find on board the S9 and S9+, albeit with the TouchWiz UI on top. Samsung also introduced the Bixby AI assistant in the Galaxy S8, which we would have thought would have only got more intelligent for the Galaxy S9.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8