Samsung Galaxy S8 price, specs, release date & features: Samsung expects high first quarter earnings

Samsung's smartphone launches are always highly anticipated events, but this year's Galaxy S8 launch is set to be even more interesting. The company has a lot to prove with its newest product, as it's the first device to be launched since the exploding Galaxy Note 7 grabbed headlines last year.

Still, we're expecting big things from the Korean giant. Its last few phones have been best-in-class devices - in fact, until it started exploding, the Note 7 was one of the best phones ever made. The company looks set to continue this trend and recent leaks look very promising indeed.

Picture credit: Samsung

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07/04/2017

Samsung today revealed it expects a 48% rise in profits for the first quarter of 2017, representing record earnings for the phone giant.

In a press release, Samsung issued guidance that it expects to take in 50 trillion Korean won (£35.5 billion) in consolidated sales and approximately 9.9 trillion won (£7 billion) in operating profit.

In the 2016 first quarter report Samsung made 49.78 trillion won (£35.4 billion) in sales and 6.68 trillion won (£4.7 billion) in operating profit.

The results suggest the company has managed to ride the wave of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, in which the phones became fire risks due to an overheating issue, and arrive during corruption allegations surrounding the company's chairman, Lee-Jae Young, who was arrested in February over his alleged role in a scandal involving South Korea's impeached president Park Geun-hye.

This is probably due to memory chip sales and the excitement surrounding the Galaxy S8, which ships later this month. Analysts are expecting the next quarter's April-June earnings to be even better due to the Galaxy S8, which can be used as a desktop computer, being released on 21 April.

Release date

Samsung officially revealed the S8 and S8 Plus on 29 March. It opened pre-orders the same day, which last until 19 April, with orders fulfilled from 20 April.

While rumours pointed to 21 April as the device launch date, based on previous launches like the Galaxy S7 and Note 7, Samsung confirmed the S8 will become available from 28 April in the UK.

Price

Samsung generally prices its flagship Galaxy phones at around £550 inc VAT, with the fancier 'Edge' variants costing a little bit more, but sterling's weakness amid Brexit uncertainty appears to have pushed prices up. The S8 will cost £689 and the S8 Plus will cost £779.

Specs & hardware

Unsurprisingly, Samsung looks set to continue using its own Exynos CPUs in its smartphones, and reports indicate that the Galaxy S8's processor will be the Exynos 8895 - octa-core chips built with the company's 10nm FinFET architecture. 

Elsewhere, it's likely to have a minimum of 4GB of RAM, a figure lags behind the 6GB allocation which is rapidly becoming the standard for this year's crop of flagship devices. Don't expect the S8 to be a slouch in the performance department though - Samsung's phones are routinely among the fastest on the market.

As with the Galaxy Note 7, the S8 will come with 64GB of storage as standard, along with expandable storage via MicroSD card and IP68 waterproofing. 

Screen 

Rumours suggest that Samsung will return to a release strategy previously seen with the Galaxy S6, releasing both a Galaxy S8 and a larger Galaxy S8 Plus. Both devices will likely use a QHD+ display, rather than making the jump to a 4K panel, which would be an unnecessary drain on the battery. The two models are rumoured to have 5.8in and 6.2in screens respectively, but Samsung has supposedly managed to achieve this without making the device footprint any larger than the S7's.

It's apparently done this by abandoning the physical home button, opting instead to slash the S8's screen bezels down to the bone and use software buttons instead. Judging by the extensive leaks that have come courtesy of various case manufacturers, the S8 will be seriously eye-catching, with a front panel that's virtually all screen.

Battery & safety issues

When it launches, all eyes will be on the Galaxy S8's battery, following the unfortunate debacle which saw Samsung's last device explode in people's hands. Power management and safety are certain to be highlighted by Samsung, which will surely be eager to shake the stigma of having had to do a full product recall of all Note 7 units.

This could well result in the Galaxy S8 having a smaller and less powerful battery than previous Samsung devices in the name of safety. While that may disappoint consumers, the company could compensate with more power-efficient internal components, so how much battery life suffers - if at all - remains to be seen. As with all dual-model launches, the S8 Plus will undoubtedly have a larger battery.

Fingerprint sensor & Iris scanner

If Samsung really has ditched the physical home button, the fingerprint sensor will have to be moved, as it currently lives in the home button as well. Leaks have suggested that it will likely be moved to the rear of the device - the spot it occupies on most other phones.

In addition to the now-standard fingerprint scanner, Samsung will probably incorporate iris-scanning biometric authentication technology into its new device. It was first introduced in the ill-fated Note 7, where it worked well, so we'd be surprised if it wasn't brought over into the company's main flagship range.

USB Type-C

Another feature that looks set to return from the Note 7 is the use of a USB Type-C charging port, rather than MicroUSB. The improved connector standard is rapidly becoming the norm among the industry's big hitters, and it brings proven advantages over its predecessor.

There are rumblings that Samsung might use the inclusion of a USB C port as an opportunity to do away with the headphone jack, too. Other manufacturers – most recently Apple – have used this tactic in the past, and it could allow Samsung to shave a few precious millimeters off the phone's profile.

Bixby

Samsung is jumping on the AI bandwagon this year, and will be including its own Alexa-style digital assistant - named Bixby - into the Galaxy S8. How sophisticated Bixby is remains to be seen - machine learning is the cornerstone of a good AI helper, and we doubt Samsung has enough cloud power or raw data to get Bixby up to the standard of Alexa or the Google Assistant.

DeX

One of the more interesting features to emerge from the various leaks is the new DeX mode. Similar to Windows 10's Continuum feature, this will allow S8 owners to plug their phone into a dock and use it as a desktop PC, complete with support for monitor, mouse and keyboard. While it's unlikely to be as capable as a dedicated PC, it should provide a flexible, versatile option for S8 users who want to be more productive.

More news
03/04/2017

Samsung lets you unlock S8 with your face - but there's a problem

Samsung has introduced a neat new way to unlock the Galaxy S8 - but it may leave your phone vulnerable to hackers.

When the S8 becomes widely available in the UK on 28 April, users will be able to choose between locking it with a password or with their fingerprint. But for a novel new method, Samsung will let users unlock the S8 with facial recognition.

The technology allows users to register their face on their phone, which only unlocks when it 'reads' that same face in the front-facing camera. Business Insider found that it was a quicker method than biometrics to unlock the device.

But a video surfaced on YouTube, in which MarcianoPhone, via iDeviceHelp, published a demonstrated that if a second person showed the S8 a photo of the user it recognised, it would still unlock to the homescreen.

IT Pro asked Samsung if it will patch the feature in time for the S8's official release, but it doesn't seem likely - the company said it doesn't consider the facial recognition unlock to be a security capability.

A spokesperson said: "The Galaxy S8 provides various levels of biometric authentication, with the highest level of authentication from the iris scanner and fingerprint reader. In addition, the Galaxy S8 provides users with multiple options to unlock their phones through both biometric security options, and convenient options such as swipe and facial recognition.

"It is important to reiterate that facial recognition, while convenient, can only be used for opening your Galaxy S8 and currently cannot be used to authenticate access to Samsung Pay or Secure Folder."

29/03/2017

Samsung has officially unveiled its new flagship phones, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus.

Thanks to a virtually uncountable number of leaks in the months leading up to the launch, fans already had a near-complete picture of what the finished device was going to look like.

As expected, the company has moved from a physical home button to a software-based equivalent, which has in turn enabled it to fit the S8 with a display that reaches almost every edge of the device.

Samsung has also neglected to release a flat-screened version of its latest device, and both models will feature the company's signature curved edge. As such, the phone manfacturer has also done away with the now-redundant 'Edge' branding.

The S8 range will be available in Midnight Black and Orchid Grey. A possible third colour, Arctic Silver, will be announced "in due course", Samsung said.

Rather than increasing the resolution to 4K, Samsung has sensibly kept the S8 and S8 Plus to a QHD+ resolution, with a pixel density of 570ppi and 529ppi respectively. Both devices also use a slightly unusual resolution of 18.5:9 - virtually the same as the LG G6. This means that the S8 will be tall and thin, and Samsung is touting its capacity for multi-tasking with two apps on the screen at once.

Samsung also claims that it's the world's first HDR-enabled phone, which is what LG also said about the G6. It seems that both phones will be set for a major showdown later on this year.

Performance-wise, it's nothing we didn't expect; the S8 features an octa-core processor with four cores clocked at 2.3GHz and a further four clocked at 1.7GHz. It also comes with 4GB of RAM, which isn't quite as much as some of its rivals; last year's OnePlus 3T, for example, had a whole 2GB extra. Still, we expect Samsung to squeeze class-leading speeds from it.

It ships with Android 7.0 out of the box, and uses USB Type-C for charging. The Galaxy S8 packs a 3,000mAh battery, while the S8 Plus has a larger 3,500mAh cell. 64GB storage comes as standard too, which is always nice.

Features are also unsurprising. As expected, it comes with expandable MicroSD card storage and an IP68 waterproof rating, as well as wireless and fast charging. It's also borrowed the Note 7's iris recognition technology.

Finally, Samsung has introduced a couple of unusual features with its latest devices. The most immediately attention-grabbing is its Bixby digital assistant, an AI-powered helper in the vein of Cortana, Alexa and Siri. Bixby will help you organise your calendar, answer questions and interact with various apps. This will be rolling out to Korean users first, followed by the US and the rest of the world.

The S8 will include a brand new productivity feature as well, in the form of the new DeX mode. Short for Desktop eXperience, DeX is a docking station that allows S8 owners to plug their phone into it and use it as a full desktop experience. Users will be able to use a monitor, mouse and keyboard to interact with apps, similar to Windows 10 Continuum.

All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S8 looks like a seriously impressive piece of hardware. With a gorgeous design, crowd-pleasing features and interesting selling points, Samsung's flagship might well be the phone to beat for 2017.

UK pre-orders open today and last until 19 April, and will be fulfilled from 20 April. The S8 will launch in the UK and Europe on 28 April, priced at £689 - the S8 Plus will cost £779.

23/03/2017:  The Galaxy S8 will be available in several colour options including black, grey, silver and gold, leaked promotional shots of the upcoming flagship have revealed.

Coming courtesy of notoriously prolific and generally accurate leakster Evan Blass, the new images look to be official promotional images that Samsung will release as part of the new device's launch next week.

As well as confirming what colours the device will be available in, the pictures also offer the best evidence yet as to what the Galaxy S8 will look like. As a slew of previous leaks have suggested, the phone will ditch the physical and capacitive buttons on the front of the phone, moving to software-based navigation for a virtually edgeless display.

The legitimacy of the leaks has been all but confirmed by Samsung PR chief Phil Berne, who replied to Blass' leaks with a tweet saying that they were "getting repetitive".

Samsung's Galaxy S8 might feature force touch technology, according to The Korea Herald.

The publication cited a source who attended a private presentation by Samsung at this year's Mobile World Congress, telling the site: "Samsung exhibited new technologies, including force touch, OLED (organic light-emitting diodes) without polariser, VR (virtual reality) headsets with high resolution, and blue-less OLED."

While the source mentioned that these technologies are expected to launch within one to two years, this person also said that Samsung will reportedly adopt force touch technology in the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.

Samsung's force touch, which is the company's own version of the 3D touch feature Apple built into the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, is a pressure-sensitive technology that detects between different pressures when a user presses their screen. While this technology has been used in other smartphones, it would be a first for Samsung.

The adoption of this technology, however, is not entirely confirmed. Although the source said that Samsung would reportedly apply it to the S8, this person also mentioned that the technology shown in the private room didn't look complete enough to be unveiled so soon.

An anonymous source told The Investor last November that Samsung was hoping to partially adopt force touch technology for the S8.

"Samsung is mulling to adopt the force touch technology partially from the S8 but the full adoption will come in one or two years," the source, apparently an official Samsung supplier, said.

So while we might not see Samsung's force touch technology at its full potential in the Galaxy S8, we might see it partially in action.

21/03/2017: Samsung Bixby AI engine is now official

Samsung has unveiled its Bixby AI engine, the company's answer to Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

The smart assistant doesn’t just answer the questions you put to it like other virtual smartphone assistants, but it's been built to give you the help you need, when you need it most. Samsung explained it'll make using your home devices a breeze.

Although Samsung hasn't revealed exactly what Bixby will do or how it will do it, the company explained it will understand the context of the application someone is using and will help them carry out the current work-in-progress continuously.

"Instead of humans learning how a machine interacts with the world (a reflection of the designers’ abilities), it is the machine that needs to learn and adapt to us," InJong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D of Samsung's software and services division, said.

"The interface must be natural and intuitive enough to flatten the learning curve regardless of the number of functions being added. With this new approach, Samsung has employed artificial intelligence, reinforcing deep learning concepts to the core of our user interface designs."

What is clear is that the AI engine will work across the entirety of Samsung devices. It won't just be limited to selected applications, which the company said confuses users on other devices. It will also let users decide how to interact with the platform. They can use touch or voice, whichever comes most naturally to them.

Rhee added that Bixby doesn't need complete information to work best. "Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal. This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use," he explained.

Source: itpro

Samsung's smartphone launches are always highly anticipated events, but this year's Galaxy S8 launch is set to be even more interesting. The company has a lot to prove with its newest product, as it's the first device to be launched since the exploding Galaxy Note 7 grabbed headlines last year.