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4 things Samsung may be saving for its Galaxy S10 that the Note 9 doesn't have

In-screen fingerprint reader? 5G readiness? Samsung could be saving these all for its next flagship.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sometimes it just helps to wait.

With Samsung's launch of its new Note 9, the phone's incremental updates like a Bluetooth-enabled S Pen stylus, a higher-capacity battery and a slightly bigger display doesn't exactly deliver any new earth-shattering technology.

In fact, in her review of the Note 9, CNET editor Jessica Dolcourt said that the phone "offers few real innovations over last year's Note 8." That being said, Samsung could be saving the good stuff for its next flagship phones in 2019 -- yes, we're thinking that far ahead -- which are expected to be called the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus.

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In addition to the predictable advancements we expect to see in the next year (like running the latest Android 9.0 Pie OS out of the box, having the next Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm and improved camera features in general), we've compiled a list of features that we didn't get in the Note 9 -- features that we hope Samsung may just be holding off for its next Galaxy S10 go-round.

In-screen fingerprint reader

The Note 9's fingerprint reader is now located below the rear cameras. This is a notable improvement from the Note 8, which had the sensor right next to the camera lenses. While greasy fingerprints are less likely to smudge the camera with this new placement, an even better location for the reader would be within or beneath the display.

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Vivo's in-screen fingerprint reader.

James Martin/CNET

Known as Fingerprint On Display, or FOD, we've already seen this technology in the Vivo X20 Plus UD and Vivo Nex. The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS, announced in March, has it too. We expect the feature to roll out in plenty more phones in the near future, with analyst IHS Markit predicting it will be available in 100 million phones by 2019.

With the Note 9's expansive 6.4-inch screen, the phone definitely had room for it. Unfortunately, this is a trend waiting in the wings, so we may just have to wait for FOD in the Galaxy S10.

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5G readiness

Known as 5G, the next generation of high-speed cellular technology is soon approaching, with broad US availability expected sometime in 2019 to 2020. US carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are already setting up 5G networks and devices, while China is leading the pack by building 350,000 new cell phone towers since 2015.

Many phone makers have already announced their commitment to making 5G phones by next year, including Samsung. And last week, Motorola showed off its first 5G phone, the Moto Z3, which connects to 5G networks with an attached Moto Mod accessory.

Because the Note 9 doesn't have 5G connectivity, we expect the Galaxy S10 to be part of this early 5G wave of phones. Especially since Samsung is putting more than $22 billion toward the technology (along with AI, biopharmaceuticals and other endeavors).

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With the help of a Moto Mod, the Moto Z3 can hit 5G speeds for Verizon users.

Juan Garzon/CNET

3D front-facing cameras

The Note 9 combines iris and facial scanning to unlock your homescreen, but that's not quite the same as a secondary, 3D-mapping front-facing camera. Employed by Apple's iPhone X, this particular setup uses an infrared camera, a depth sensor and a dot projector to map out 30,000 points on your face and create an artificial 3D scan. 

Samsung, please fix this.

Scott Stein/CNET

It's a faster and more secure way to recognize your face (something many phones do, though not using the same method), which means Apple can use its system for digital payments and smoother animated emojis -- compared with Samsung's freaky AR Emojis anyway.

True, if Samsung were to implement this on the Galaxy S10, it would be copying Apple. But haven't we already resigned ourselves to the fact that every phone company copies every other company these days? Plus, Android maker Xiaomi already jumped on the infrared-mapping tech bandwagon with its Mi 8 Explorer Edition. It's only a matter of time until Samsung joins the fray too.

A remappable Bixby button

With the Note 9, Samsung's digital voice and search assistant Bixby is extra accessible from a physical quick-launch button on the left edge. Unfortunately, just like the Galaxy S9 and the iterations before it, you can't remap this button to open anything else. All it does is launch Bixby and Bixby alone.

With the handful of apps and guides available online (including CNET's own) that teach users a workaround to reprogram the button, hopefully Samsung will get the hint soon that people want more options when it comes to this button. Especially since it's physically easy to hit accidentally, resulting in numerous unwanted Bixby launches throughout the day. 

Galaxy Note 9's 5G dilemma: Upgrade now or wait for 2019's mobile revolution?

Originally published on Aug. 10.
Update, Aug. 21: Added new information.