Every year technology and communications media traverse the globe to invade Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress. It is where we glimpse future mobile technologies as well as the usual annual launch of a new Samsung Galaxy class device – in this case the S9.
Now for fear of upsetting all the other Android smartphone makers Samsung has taken the crown every year since at least its Galaxy S5 (April 2014) when it stopped being a smartphone maker and started becoming a smartphone innovator and designer.
The Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8 are the best smartphones on the planet ticking every box. Camera, power, AMOLED screen size/ratio, IP68, Wireless charging and a build quality par excellence.
No, I am not taking away from the excellent handsets from LG (V30), Nokia (8/9/10), Sony (XZ series), HTC (U11) or Google (Pixel 2/XL) or the raft of up and coming Chinese Dragons – what I am saying is that the Galaxy S series is the one to beat, and it makes Samsung try harder to stay ahead.
Its technology then flows down to its Galaxy A and J series next year and is emulated, within the bounds of intellectual property rights, by many other makers.
So here are the rumours.
Intelligent facial recognition: The S8 already has facial recognition, but it can be beaten. Something called ‘Intelligent Scan’ is biometric authentication that combines iris scanning and facial recognition and works well in low-light or bright conditions.
The camera reimagined – Dual cameras on S9+ and Note 9 and more camera app features: Dual cameras are in vogue, and Samsung’s take is to use two colour sensors, fast lenses, big pixels, and lots of post-processing smarts. It did not win the DXOMark with the Note 8 (not far off) and needs to outdo the iPhone X and Pixel 2. We will see more imagery manipulation, picture over picture, 3D Animoji style stickers, tag shots and more bokeh.
Rumours also indicate the base S8 will have a 12MP Dual Pixel lens with optical image stabilisation and a variable f/1.5-2.4 aperture. It can switch between f/1.5 (low light shots) and f/2.4 (depth of field). Some have mentioned super slo-mo at 1,000 fps.
Screen and design: The S8 series set the bar for the 18.5:9 tall screen fitting a 6.3” into the Note 8. Frankly, there is little more it can do before the phone gets too long. There is no hint of a dual screen model, but there is a strong rumour that the fingerprint reader will be part of the screen. And there may be more front cameras in the already impossibly slim top bezel.
Processor: Samsung uses the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon (in this case the 845 ) for some markets and its own Exynos 9810 processor for most markets. There is little between the two processors, and Samsung even makes the 845 for Qualcomm. So, we will see the Spectra 280 image signal processor (16MP and 60fps and up to seven cameras), Adreno 630 GPU, AI Hexagon 685 DSP, a secure processing unit (that works with Samsung Knox), Quick Charge 4 (5% charge in 15 minutes), the X20 LTE modem (1.2Gbps/150Mbps)with Wi-Fi AD, Bluetooth 5, aptX HD etc.
Battery: About the same capacity but given the Qualcomm 845 power sipping it may last 30% longer.
Sound: Courtesy of the Qualcomm 845 the sound capability will improve. Stereo speakers (for VR ad a set of AKG buds are on the cards.
Dual SIM: On the S9+ in some markets
RAM: 6GB and 64GB base plus options in some markets of 256/512GB storage
Price: There is a strong rumour that the S9 will be around US$800 (A$1100) and the Plus $900 $1,200) plus taxes. This is slightly up on the official price of A$999.00/$1148.99. Phones will ship on 8 March in Korea and then roll out quickly to other markets.
More evolution and refinement of what is already the class leader. It is slightly disappointing that there is no revolution, so we wait another year – it will come in the Galaxy X.