About a year after its release, it’s fair to say that Samsung did a great job with its Galaxy S8 devices. It helped to set a new design trend for smartphones that prioritized maximum screen space, and its use of iris scanning was an innovation that demonstrated how biometric authentication could be made even more secure (in comparison to fingerprint scanning), but also more convenient.
Understandably, there has been a lot of speculation about what’s next in Samsung’s flagship smartphone line, and with the company expected to launch the device at this year’s Mobile World Congress, a picture is starting to emerge. While little has been officially announced, leaked images and industry insider reports are fueling speculation that could be seen as relatively credible.
So, what do we know – or think we know – so far about the Galaxy S9?
The Focus is On the Camera
This is the one thing that has been pretty much confirmed by Samsung. Its sparsely-worded invitation to the Galaxy S9’s launch featured in its headline, “The Camera. Reimagined,” with further text asserting, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, the latest member of the Galaxy family has a lot to say.” What exactly that means isn’t at all clear, but with Google having impressed reviewers with the AI-powered imaging of its Pixel 2 devices, and Apple having wowed users with the dual-camera depth sensing of its latest iPhones, it’s clear what Samsung is up against. It needs to match or beat these technologies to rest its S9 campaign on the camera, and that points toward some pretty sophisticated gear. On that note, leaked images ostensibly depicting the new devices show at least one model sporting a dual-camera system.
The Fingerprint Sensor is Still On the Back
Speaking of those leaked images, they also show a fingerprint scanner located right below the camera system on the rear of the device. This was often cited as the one major design flaw of the Galaxy S8: Many users found that the placement of the fingerprint sensor meant that their fingers would often accidentally smudge the camera lens. Samsung has heard these complaints and ignored them.
Alas, this is also a missed opportunity to be a pioneer of the in-display fingerprint sensor. It’s a technological next-step that even Apple is thought to have failed to achieve in its development of last year’s iPhones, but it is possible, with a lesser-known smartphone brand, Vivo, now boasting of a functional in-display sensor that will be in place on a forthcoming smartphone. But given Samsung’s focus on iris recognition since the S8 (really since the Note7, but let’s not open that can of worms), it seems that Samsung didn’t feel the fingerprint issue was worth the trouble.
Introducing ‘Intelligent Scan’
That focus on the iris will remain, but it looks like it’s also going to be complemented by sophisticated facial recognition. This speculation arises from new code and media found in Samsung’s settings app, which suggest that Samsung has refined its iris and facial recognition technology – the latter of which was apparently quite rudimentary on the Galaxy S8 – and combined them into a system called ‘Intelligent Scan’. Presumably, this is just a more secure and convenient form of user authentication than what was found on last year’s devices, and a response to Apple’s introduction of the Face ID facial recognition system on the iPhone X. Users want to be able to unlock their devices just by looking at them, and Intelligent Scan could make that process even more seamless on the Galaxy S9.
Is that, together with its superior camera, enough to make the S9 a formidable rival to the iPhone X? Perhaps more importantly, do these upgrades justify it’s anticipated hundred-dollar increase in price? We’ll be able to make a better guess after the device is officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with Samsung having scheduled its media event for February 25th.