A whole new year is right around the corner, and you know what that means for Samsung: a new Galaxy phone.
As the company prepares to launch its next flagship Galaxy phone (expected to be called the Galaxy S10) early next year, several reports of leaked features suggest the plan of attack is the same as it’s been: overwhelm rivals with tons of new features.
The latest S10 whispers come from the Wall Street Journal. The report claims Samsung’s next phone could come in three display sizes, measuring between 5.8 to 6.4 inches. These three versions are rumored to come with 3 to 5 cameras.
Additionally, the WSJ says Samsung’s working on a special fourth version with a massive 6.7-inch screen (the largest ever in a Samsung Galaxy S or Note phone) that’ll include 5G cellular connectivity. This would be Samsung’s first 5G phone and would be released initially in the U.S. and South Korea.
This 5G-equipped Galaxy S10 might have six cameras — two on the front and four on the rear. Even the most sophisticated smartphone, such as the LG V40 ThinQ and Huawei Mate20 Pro only have five and four cameras, respectively.
It’s still unclear which, but some S10’s might have a reverse wireless charging feature, which would allow the phone’s backside to wirelessly charge another device, such as another phone or a pair of wireless earbuds. Huawei’s Mate20 Pro already has this feature.
These new features alone could make the S10 stand out for the phone line’s 10th anniversary, but there’s more we’ve heard.
Previous reports suggest the S10 could have a built-in ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, displays that stretch even closer toward the edges with only a “punch hole” cutout in one corner for the selfie camera (so no notch), and Samsung’s revamped “One UI” interface for Android 9 Pie.
No word on whether Samsung will use a next-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon chip (it’s very likely), but it’s possible a rumored Exynos 9820-powered variant could be quite the powerhouse. The 8-nanometer chip has eight cores and is 20 percent faster on single-core, and 15 percent faster on multi-core operations.
The chip also has a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) just for handling AI tasks, a faster LTE modem capable of up to 2Gbps download speeds, and an improved image signal processor for possibly better video recording (8K-resolution capture at 30 fps or 4K-resolution at 150 fps).
It’s a lot to take in if you’re not a phone geek. These rumors all suggest the S10 might boil down to a classic Samsung philosophy: More everything.
Premium hardware is easy now, and Samsung needs to make software advancements a priority.
As a tech reporter and reviewer, that has me a little worried. I’ve watched Samsung cram more and more technologies into its phones over the last decade, and while it makes for an impressive spec list to boast about, it also pushes software into the backseat.
A bigger screen, larger battery, more cameras, and faster performance will always be things to look forward to, but Samsung still needs to work on its software. It’s not just slapping a new “One UI” coat of paint on top of Android and calling it day.
Increasingly, phone makers are levering AI to improve things like voice assistants, to better predict what you want to do before you do it, and even to aid mobile photography (i.e., the impressive Night Sight feature for the Pixel 3).
Samsung’s made some headway improving its once promising Bixby assistant, which was originally intended to allow users to use voice controls for all phone operations in lieu of touching and tapping. But Bixby is still nowhere near as intelligent as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, or even Apple’s Siri.
Samsung’s weakness has never been hardware — it’s software. And with the S10, that doesn’t appear to be changing. I could be proven wrong as Samsung gets on stage to announce myriad ways software will be pushed front and center, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
What Samsung needs to do to make the S10 a winner — to give people a compelling reason to upgrade — is to balance both new hardware and software features. Otherwise, I predict it won’t be able to maintain a lead (if it gets one) for long.
Premium hardware is easy now. Huawei, OnePlus, and virtually every phone maker can easily catch up. Not to mention, cramming in more hardware features is a risk of its own without additional safety checks. Samsung won’t want another Note 7 situation on its hands just because it decided to pack more into a glass and metal slab.
Software is hard. Samsung needs to make software advancements a priority as well.