It’s time to start getting excited about the Samsung Galaxy S9.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 enjoyed months of uninterrupted attention following its April 2017 release, but it could only hold the spotlight for so long. The immensely popular device has been overshadowed in recent months by the release of the Pixel 2 XL, iPhone X, and its own bigger sibling, the Galaxy Note 8.
Samsung will try to inject some life back into its flagship smartphone line when it releases new models in early 2018.
Here’s everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+.
Samsung Galaxy S9 design
The S9 will likely be made of aluminum and glass and feature Samsung’s signature curved edges. We suspect there will be subtle differences to the S8, similar to the evolution from the S6 to the S7.
The one glaring design flaw of the S8 is its poorly placed fingerprint sensor. There’s a lot of speculation about where Samsung will move it. If not under the display (more on that below), it could find its place below the camera, like most current configurations.
Apart from the fingerprint sensor and design changes needed to accommodate new features (display and camera), the S9 will likely look identical to its predecessor, which means another year with the cursed Bixby button.
Samsung Galaxy S9 display
While we don’t know for sure, it’s a safe bet to assume the S9 and S9+ will retain the beautiful “Infinity” display. It was a standout feature on the S8 and Note 8 and is now a defining element of the Galaxy line.
It’s more likely Samsung will stretch the screen even further to the device’s top and bottom edges. Which brings us to Galaxy loyalists’ biggest fear: an iPhone X-like notch. If it does show up, it’s more likely to be on the bottom of the display, not around the front-facing camera.
A Samsung patent application surfaced in October, revealing a Galaxy device with a fingerprint sensor cutout on the bottom of its screen. Keep in mind, of the hundreds of patents large hardware companies like Samsung file, very few see the light of day. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the embedded fingerprint sensor will first debut in late 2018 on the Galaxy Note 9, not the S9 lineup.
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ will reportedly feature 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch displays, the same size as their predecessors. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the larger of the two is just .1-inches smaller than the Note 8—a device that will likely remain the largest in the group. Not a fan of the trend toward hulking, unwieldy phablets? We’ve got good news for you. November reports claim Samsung will unveil three new S9 devices, including a 5-inch Galaxy S9 Mini.
We’re holding out hope for a model with a display that sits somewhere between the two current offerings, but that’s looking unlikely.
Samsung Galaxy S9 camera
If it’s anything like the S8, we should expect nothing less than some of the best smartphone image quality out of the S9. Rumors and leaks on the rear-facing camera are surprisingly thin. However, analysts agree it will get a dual-lens camera upgrade.
Park Hyug-woo, an analyst at Shinhan Investment, told South Korean business publication the Investor that he expects the S9 will come with standard wide-angle and secondary zoom lenses. “The Galaxy S9 and Note 9 will likely be fitted with a dual-lens camera and some of the firm’s divisions, including the inductance capacitance resistance unit, will post improved profits,” he said.
There are also reports claiming the S9 and S9+ will sport 16-megapixel sensors, a slight increase in resolution from the 12MP camera on the S8 and S8+.
Shifting to the front-facing camera, an intriguing face-off between Samsung’s facial-recognition authentication method and Apple’s controversial Face ID is brewing. Ice Universe, a well-known leaker from China, posted on Twitter that the S9 will come with a “3D sensor front camera.” That sounds a lot like the technology Apple uses on the iPhone X. Let’s just hope it’s more secure than Samsung’s previous embarrassing attempts.
Korean news site ETNews wrote in September that Samsung is mass producing an image sensor that can take 1,000 images per second. That’s not as unlikely as it may sound. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium can shoot at 960FPS, which enables super-slow-motion video capture.
Samsung Galaxy S9 processor
For the second year in a row, Samsung could have a processing advantage over its Android competitors. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (expected to be unveiled in December) could be exclusive to the S9 and S9+, according to Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin. That would be bad news for fellow South Korean rival LG and its G6 follow-up. The new processors should be more powerful and energy efficient and come with many other benefits, like better video and image processing, a more powerful modem, and improved security.
While it’s likely the S9 will come with a new, upgraded Qualcomm chip, it’s still unclear how much RAM Samsung will include. The Galaxy S8 and S8+, like many other 2017 flagships, shipped with 4GB. However, Samsung raised the stakes when it packed a whopping 6GB in the Note 8. There have been reports of a prototype Galaxy S9+ on Geekbench that used 4GB of RAM, but extremely low benchmark scores suggest it could be a hoax.
Samsung Galaxy S9 battery life
We won’t know how long the S9’s battery lasts until we get our hands on a review unit. Samsung’s flagships fared well last year, with both the S8+ and Note 8 easily lasting 1.5 days of normal use despite their high-resolution OLED displays.
An ETNews report says Samsung is working on a new motherboard that packs more components into a smaller area. This could allow for a larger capacity battery than the 3,000mAh found on the S8. However, the new board will reportedly only work with the Exynos variant of the S9, not the Qualcomm versions it ships in the U.S.
Samsung Galaxy S9 headphone jack and audio
There aren’t many rumors about the Galaxy S9’s speakers. Since Samsung will likely keep the bezel-less display around, we suspect they will sit on the bottom of the device, where they’ve been positioned since the S6.
The more pressing question is what will Samsung do to the headphone jack? It’s unclear right now. There are conflicting reports surrounding the controversial port. Ice Universe claims the S9 will come with a traditional headphone jack. However, PhoneArena found a post on Chinese tech site “TechDroider” with sketches that show the phones without one. Take both reports with a grain of salt.
Samsung Galaxy S9 software
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ will run on Android Oreo, the latest operating system from Google, according to Samsung. That will make it the first Samsung flagship released with everything Oreo offers, including Picture-to-Picture, Notification Dots, better overall performance, and, of course, new emoji.
Samsung also confirmed its Samsung Experience 9.0 skin (formerly TouchWiz) will be available on “the next Samsung Galaxy flagship devices.” The company is already letting select users test a beta version of the software so it can gather feedback and refine the user experience. Samsung’s Android skin has been polished in recent years and includes several useful features not found in stock Android. It’s not clear what new software will come to the S9, but expect more Bixby and edge display features.
Samsung Galaxy S9 release date
So, when will it be released? While we won’t get a firm release date until 2018, we can make an educated guess using past release dates and early rumors.
Here’s the announcement date for all previous Galaxy S phones:
Galaxy S – March 2010
Galaxy S II – February 13
Galaxy S III – May 3
Galaxy S4 – March 14
Galaxy S5 – February 24
Galaxy S6 – March 1
Galaxy S7 – February 21
Galaxy S8 – March 29
As you can see, every Galaxy S phone since the S III has been announced in February or March. If the alternating pattern continues, we should expect a late February release for the S9. That approximate timeline is strengthened by a September report from BGR that claims the S9 will launch earlier than the S8 and S8+ did in 2017.
Forbes contributor Ewan Spence wrote on Oct 11. that the model numbers for the phones will be SM-G960 (Galaxy S9) and SM-G965 (Galaxy S9+). He suspects Samsung will either stick with a late March release or go back to the old pattern and unveil the devices right before Mobile World Congress (MWC) on Feb. 25. MWC will take place from Feb. 26 to March 1, 2018.
Samsung typically starts shipping devices the month after they’re announced, so expect the S9 and S9+ to arrive in March or April.
Samsung Galaxy S9 price
We probably won’t know pricing until the official unveiling, but we can at least narrow things down. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ launched at $725 and $825, respectively. With the price of phones increasing across the board last year, we’d be surprised if the Galaxy line gets a price decrease. We also don’t expect it to top the $950 Note 8. A conservative estimate for the price of both phones is between $700 and $900, with the larger model costing an extra $100.