Samsung's 2016 was rough. The company's flagship phablet, the Galaxy Note 7, exploded, was recalled for exploding, and then exploded again. This year's a pivotal one for Samsung, and it's going to take more than just non-exploding smartphones for it to bounce back.
Samsung's next phone (which will probably be called the Galaxy S8) is set to be unveiled at the end of March. In the meantime, we've compiled a thorough list of the rumors we've heard to date; most of them seem pretty likely, but one is more than a little bit crazy.
Just about the entire front of the S8 will be a display...
Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we got a smartphone with almost no bezels whatsoever. This is by far the most heavily-reported rumor of the bunch: the Galaxy S8 will have Samsung's quintessential curved, edge-to-edge OLED display, but it'll take up almost all of the real estate on the front of the device.
Leaked photos and videos of the alleged S8 (along with statements from sources in the know) seem to confirm this rumor, and frankly, it's the logical next step for Samsung, who's been pushing the boundaries of its smartphone displays for years now.
And Samsung's not the only one looking to cram as much screen as possible into its next flagship—rumor has it that one of the next iPhone variants will introduce a similar design.
...Which means good-bye, home button
With so much space being taken up by the S8's screen, the home button's going to need a makeover. More specifically, the physical home button as we know it will be kicked to the curb in favor of a virtual, on-screen button.
The move might miff fans of the Galaxy line's physical home button, but if the idea is to make a smartphone screen as big as one whole side of the phone, it was only a matter of time before the button got the boot.
But if the home button’s out of the picture, where do you put the fingerprint scanner?
The fingerprint scanner will be moved to the back.
According to sources (and a couple of leaked photos), you can expect to find the Galaxy S8’s fingerprint sensor on the back, right alongside the device’s primary camera. It's rumored that the next iPhone—with its uniform screen—will somehow keep its fingerprint sensor on the front by placing it beneath the display, but it looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer to see that tech in a Galaxy phone.
In my experience, if you’re used to having a fingerprint scanner on the front of your phone, it doesn’t take that long to get used its placement on the back. For better or worse, however, that’s exactly what dedicated Galaxy users will have to do once they get their paws on an S8: get used to it.
And, if you’re looking for a new way to bolster your smartphone’s security, the S8 will reportedly borrow a feature from the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7: iris scanners.
The Note 7's iris scanner will make a comeback.
One of the neatest features on the Note 7 (rest in peace, friend) was its front-facing iris scanners, which added an alternative security measure if you decided to use it. In our short time with the Note 7’s iris scanner, we were impressed with its speed and accuracy, but still opted for the tried and true fingerprint method.
The iris scanner could also be used to unlock Secure Folder, which was pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an ultra-secure private folder that could even be hidden from the Note 7’s home screen.
With the iris scanner potentially making a comeback on the S8, we fully expect to see the return of Secure Folder, too.
There are two variants of the S8, and one of them is huge.
Fans of huge phones will be happy to learn that it’s looking more and more likely that the S8 will come in two sizes, and both of them are substantially bigger than the Galaxy S7 variants.
Word on the street is that the larger of the two Galaxies—possibly dubbed the S8+—could feature a screen as large as 6.2 inches. According to the same report, the standard S8 will feature a 5.7-inch screen.
Since the displays allegedly wrap around the sides of the device and the home button’s supposedly gone, the actual sizes of the phones shouldn’t change that much.
The S8 will once again feature IP68-rated water resistance.
It would be quite the surprise (and not a very good one) if Samsung opted to nix the water-resistant casing that’s been a signature feature of its flagship smartphone line for years now, especially now that Apple’s taken a page out its playbook with the water-resistant iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
If I was a betting man, I’d bet my life on the S8 featuring the same IP68 water resistance rating that graced the Galaxy S6, the S7, and the Note 7. With an IP68 rating, the S8 could withstand spills, splashes, and a complete submerging of up to 1.5 meters for a half hour.
It’s very unlikely that the S8 will feature a foldable design.
A couple months ago, the smartphone world did a collective double-take at a rumor stating that Samsung was testing a flexible smartphone that could transform from a tablet to a more traditional smartphone with one fold. The rumor was based on a patent filed by Samsung last April that shows the concept in full.
It's certainly not an impossible task, but it's probably not going to happen this time around; this rumor is a fire we haven't seen any smoke from since it first appeared back in December. It's important to remember that companies like Samsung file patents like this all the time, and it's in no way an indication that it's moving forward with whatever elements are presented in the patent.
If a game-changing, foldable design was still in the cards, we'd likely have heard more rumblings about it by now.