The flagship phone launch of Mobile World Congress 2018, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is going to set the agenda for Android phones in 2018. Rumors are already beginning to fly about the Galaxy S9's design and features, and we're rounding them up in preparation for the phone's launch on the evening of February 26 in Barcelona.
Rumors for Now
As always, there are already a bunch of videos on YouTube claiming to give you the final lowdown, the complete set of leaks, or the total story on the Galaxy S9. They're probably wrong. While there are plenty of leaks out there to be sure, it's my experience over the past 14 years of covering phones that everyone always gets some things wrong in advance—and it's the people who most bombastically say they're right who get things the most wrong.
The Galaxy S9 is not expected to be a radical upgrade from the Galaxy S8. If Samsung is doing anything radical this year, it's going to be the rumored Samsung Galaxy X Folder, the folding-screen phone we might see this fall.
So the Galaxy S9 will probably be to the Galaxy S8 as...well, as the iPhone 8 is to the iPhone 7. But Samsung could very well have a surprise up its sleeve, especially in the area of software, which is the thing that leaks least often with these kinds of devices.
Design, Screen, and Camera
This shaky, 10-second YouTube video appears to show a Galaxy S9 being tested by a screen protector company. As you can see, from the front, the phone looks a lot like the Galaxy S8.
This five-second video, meanwhile, shows the back of the phone, most notably the repositioned fingerprint sensor.
According to Korea's ET News, the Galaxy S9 will come in two models, the 5.77-inch Galaxy S9 and the 6.22-inch Galaxy S9+.
Samsung's event invite says the phone will have new camera capabilities. According to ET News, the Galaxy S9 will have a f/1.5, 12-megapixel camera with OIS, and the Galaxy S9+ will have dual f/1.5 and f/2.4 12-megapixel cameras. Rumors cited by The Inquirer say the S9's camera sensor will record 1080p video at up to 480 frames per second, and will also have faster autofocus speeds.
The Galaxy S9's presumed Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor is the first chip that can record video in "Ultra HD Premium," combining 4K, HDR, and the Rec 2020 color space for super-high-quality photos and videos. Expect the Galaxy S9 to feature Ultra HD Premium and the 845's ability to do 60fps 4K capture.
Various rumors are saying that the Galaxy S9's screen will use "Y-OCTA" display technology, which is slimmer and has an integrated touch layer. This is unlikely to allow Samsung to put the fingerprint sensor under the display, but it may allow for those brighter, more colorful images that the Snapdragon 845 promises.
And yes, it sounds like it'll still have a headphone jack.
Processor and Software
We're pretty sure that the Galaxy S9 will be the first major device with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. There may also be a Samsung Exynos-based unit that's sold outside the US.
We got a full preview of the Snapdragon 845 at Qualcomm's event in December. The 845's major user-focused advantages come in the camera and screen departments, and rumors about new camera and screen technology may match up with the 845's new abilities.
The 845 also accelerates AI, which may mean better performance for Samsung's Bixby voice assistant. Much as nobody uses Bixby, it's a priority for Samsung. The 845 could speed up Bixby's voice recognition, for instance, giving it an advantage over Google Assistant. Bixby certainly needs an advantage.
That AI strength may dovetail in some way with a Korea Herald report about Samsung developing its own "AI chips," which could be included in the Exynos version of the S9 to keep its performance on par with the Qualcomm version.
Software-wise, the Galaxy S9 is likely to run Android 8.1. A mysterious rumor from Android Headlines says there will be a "new UX design" but doesn't give many details.
Carriers and Release Date
We expect that the Galaxy S9 (and Galaxy S9+) will come out on all of the major US carriers, just like the Galaxy S8 did. There will be an unlocked model, which will come out a month or two after the carrier model, again like the S8. The phone will support all of the US LTE bands, including T-Mobile's new band 71 for rural coverage. Pricing will be similar to the S8, which started around $720.
Champion leaker Evan Blass says that the Galaxy S9 will go on sale on March 16, and that sounds reasonable to us.
We're almost certainly going to hear more about the Galaxy S9 as we get closer to Mobile World Congress and the phone's official launch, and we'll update this story as we do.