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Roundup Phones

Samsung Galaxy S9: 2018 launch date, specs, price and everything else we know

Word on the street is that Samsung has the iPhone X dead in its sights.

We're about 10 days away from answering one of the year's biggest smartphone questions: will Samsung blow us away with one of 2018's best phones or deliver an incremental upgrade that drives customers into the arms of Apple, Google, LG or OnePlus? 

Samsung Galaxy S9 render

Could this be the Galaxy 9... in Lilac Purple?

Evan Blass

Ahead of the Galaxy S9's Feb. 25 launch at the Mobile World Congress show (MWC) in Barcelona, the rumors paint a picture of a premium phone that could give the iPhone X a serious run for its money. 

We're hearing buzz about a face unlock tool to rival Apple's Face ID and a possible virtual fingerprint reader -- something Apple was not able to pull off with the iPhone X. Plus, everything we've learned about Qualcomm's's Snapdragon 845 processor, which is likely to power the Galaxy S9, is raising our expectations for some serious advancements in camera and security technology.

And it's not all hearsay. Samsung's new series of YouTube ads, one of which is shown below, strengthens the case for suspected camera upgrades that will enable superfast focus, enhanced slow-motion, low-light capture -- and animated emojis, like the ones first seen on the iPhone X. 

Between all of Apple's new phones and the hangover from the Galaxy Note 7, which was recalled twice in 2016 due to exploding batteries, Samsung has a lot to prove with its forthcoming flagship. And with just about 10 days to go until the announcement, the rumor mill is going nuts. What follows is a collection of what we know for sure and what we're hearing about the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S9.

Editors' note, Feb. 14: This post was originally published on Dec. 20, 2017, and will continue to be updated with Samsung Galaxy S9 news and rumors.  

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Apple has made "X" and "10" its own.

CNET

Confirmed: It will be called the Galaxy S9

We've heard all kinds of theories about what Samsung might call this phone, especially in light of Apple boldly skipping over the iPhone 9 for the iPhone X. But Samsung is playing it straight -- and subtle, with only the slightest nod tucked nonchalantly in the 10th paragraph of the company's latest earnings press release: "In the first quarter, the company expects the mobile business to improve its earnings, led by an increase in sales of flagship products with the launch of Galaxy S9." What's in a name, anyway?

Confirmed: We'll see it on Feb. 25 at MWC

It's official: Feb. 25 will be the big day. Earlier in January, the company confirmed to CNET that the Galaxy S9 would indeed be unveiled at Mobile World Congress, which this year runs from Feb. 26 to March 1 in Barcelona. But now we have the invitation, with its large purple "9" on a black background and the words "The camera. Reimagined."  

Read: Follow CNET's coverage of MWC.

Rumor: Preorders on March 1, sale date on March 16

A senior Samsung executive allegedly said that Samsung will begin accepting preorders on March 1 and will sell the phone on March 16, according to Twitter leaker Evan Blass.

Rumor: It could cost $100-plus more than the Galaxy S8

Samsung's new phone may cost £100 more than its predecessor, TechRadar reported. (That converts to roughly $140 or AU$175.) There is a trend here: Apple's $999 base model iPhone X pushed the ceiling for flagship phones and if Samsung delivers on all of the rumored upgrades, a price hike would be expected. By the way, if the report is accurate, we'll see a £789 Galaxy S9 in the UK and an $850 price tag in the US. For context, the Galaxy S8 started at $750, £689 and AU$1,119.

Rumor: Samsung has its own version of Face ID

The Galaxy S9 may feature a new technology that rivals the iPhone X's Face ID, as reported by SamCentral. According to an APK teardown of the latest Android Oreo beta for the Galaxy Note 8, future Samsung phones may have something called "Intelligent Scan." Now, Samsung's existing face unlock software isn't considered secure enough to use Samsung Pay. The iris scanner is. Apparently, Intelligent Scan combines iris scanning and facial recognition. And according to the code, Intelligent Scan can unlock your phone and sign in to websites, and works well in low-light or bright conditions. 

Even before Apple upped the ante with the iPhone X, Samsung had something to prove in the facial-recognition department after hackers fooled the Galaxy S8's iris scanner using a photo and contact lenses. Of course, there's no guarantee that Intelligent Scan will make it into the Galaxy S9.

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Apple's Animojis.

GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET

Rumor: It could feature Samsung's version of Animoji

Giving additional credence to the reports of enhanced camera technology, the Galaxy S9 is also rumored to come equipped with a 3D emoji feature in the vein of Apple's Animoji, according to Korean news outlet ETNews. In fact, it sounds nearly identical. The report coyly suggests that Samsung's version has a distinctive twist but offers no further details. 

Rumor: Two cameras on the back but just one on the front

olixar

Most renders of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are showing dual cameras arranged vertically.

Olixar

Judging by rumor volume, the Galaxy S9 Plus -- and maybe also the Galaxy S9 -- are due for dual cameras on the back. A Reddit user's photo, first published by SamMobile, of a Galaxy S9 retail box lists dual rear-facing 12-megapixel cameras and a single-lens 8-megapixel front cam in addition to a 5.8-inch Quad-HD+ super AMOLED screen.  

The Galaxy S9 could also have the company's new Isocell sensors, which support fast autofocus abilities that help it hone in on fast-moving subjects, even in dim light. This technology allows for super-detailed slow-motion video recording with 1080p resolution at 480 frames per second, meaning the video should be both crisp and buttery smooth. And the Snapdragon 845 may give the Galaxy S9 some other advantages -- including making it the first to record 4K Ultra HD video. 

Rumor: It could have a virtual fingerprint scanner

One of the highlights of CES was the mysterious prototype phone shown by Chinese manufacturer Vivo. We now know it's called the Vivo X20 Plus UD, that it went on sale in China in January and that its virtual home button, which appears only when you need it and then gets out of the way, is awesome. Vivo calls it Clear ID.

Now Playing: Watch this: Razer shows off Project Linda, Vivo scans fingerprints...
1:15

What does this have to do with Samsung? We cling to the hope that the Vivo's embedded scanner finds its way onto the forthcoming Galaxy S9, even though we've been bitten by rumors about an embedded scanner before. We know, we know -- it's a long shot, and we'll likely see a Galaxy S9 that follows in the footsteps of the recently released Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus, which have dedicated hardware-based fingerprint scanners centered below the rear camera. 

Rumor: First with a Snapdragon 845 processor (which is insanely fast)

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

The Galaxy S9 is expected to be one of the first phones in 2018 to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset. (It's expected to run Samsung's own Exynos 9 Series 9810 processor in Asia and perhaps other regions.) 

CNET ran 12 tests on the Snapdragon 845 processor, and it delivered in a big way, performing at least 25 percent faster in the vast majority of them. (See the complete benchmark scores for the Snapdragon "reference phone" vs. the Galaxy Note 8, Google Pixel 2 XL and LG V30.) It has the potential to make the Galaxy S9 a real contender to the iPhone X as processing champ.

Read: What Qualcomm's new Snapdragon chip may mean for the Galaxy S9

Rumor: DeX Pad replaces the DeX Dock

The Samsung DeX Dock connected the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 to a monitor for a desktop-like experience. According to VentureBeat, an upgraded version of the device -- the DeX Pad -- will deliver similar functionality in new form-factor that allows the docked phone to be used as a touchpad or virtual keyboard.

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Samsung's rumored DeX Dock.

@Evleaks

Rumor: A faster wireless charger

samsung-new-fast-wireless-charger-s9

Samsung

Speaking of accessories, here's one that sounds like a pretty safe bet. Samsung's website recently published an online manual for a new wireless charger (model number EP-N5100) that doesn't match any existing charger in the company's catalog. Wireless charging is nothing new for Samsung's phones, of course, and the new model supports incrementally more powerful charging than the Galaxy S8. But we don't know officially whether the Galaxy S9 will be able to charge faster or take advantage of the higher wattage supported by the EP-N5100.

Rumor: Super battery life

According to the latest information, the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are likely to have 3,000 and 3,500mAh batteries, respectively, just like their predecessors. Qualcomm says its Snapdragon 845 chip delivers 30 percent better power efficiency. But there's no telling whether the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus could push beyond the vaunted 20-hour mark. The S8 and S8 Plus both lasted about 16 hours in our tests, and the Note 8 about an hour longer.

Rumor: It will look a whole lot like the Galaxy S8

Twitter leaker Evan Blass has also posted a credible-looking photo of what he says are the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.  Like the other images that we've seen so far -- mostly renders and mock-ups designed by amateurs and enthusiasts -- they show off a design that's more iterative than revolutionary: a larger swath of usable screen space courtesy of narrower bezels, and a case profile that's a bit taller and narrower. What the photo doesn't show is the back, leaving us to hope desperately that Samsung rearranges the camera module on the back, fixing our biggest complaint about the Galaxy S8 (i.e. the fingerprint sensor positioned too closely to the right of the rear camera lens).

Now Playing: Watch this: First peek at the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus renders
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Rumor: Purple!? And also probably silver and gray

Evan Blass has tweeted that the full Galaxy S9 color lineup could include midnight black, lilac purple, titanium gray and coral blue. Though it usually sticks to conventional phone colors, Samsung has been known to occasionally liven things up with a gold or coral blue -- or even a special-edition hue such as the burgundy Galaxy S8 and pink Galaxy S8 Plus

Poetic Cases' protectors for the Galaxy S9 Plus, now available for preorder, show a silver and gray Galaxy S9 Plus, and we've also seen a video of a black Galaxy S9 dummy. Of course, none of these products are official, so we're still holding out hope for a more colorful palette.

Rumor: 512GB of storage built right in

Samsung may dramatically raise the stakes when it comes to internal storage. It's announced the beginning of mass production of a 512GB chip that would give the Galaxy S9 eight times the integrated capacity of the 64GB Galaxy S8.

The specs on the leaked image of the retail box show a 64GB capacity model. But, if we can dream for a moment, a 512GB Galaxy S9 would totally dwarf the competition: The highest-end, late model iPhones top out at 256GB of storage and the Google Pixel 2 XL comes in 64GB or 128GB versions. (It's worth noting that Samsung chips often find their way into non-Samsung phones, including the iPhone.)

Rumor: The Galaxy S9 could have a headphone jack

galaxy-s9-evan-blass-dex-dock-leak

This render of the Samsung Galaxy S9 shows it connected to a new DeX dock and equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Evan Blass (@evleaks)

The newest renders bolster one of the earliest rumors about the Galaxy S9: that it will have the vaunted headphone jack. The once-mundane 3.5mm port has become an increasingly rare, "vintage" feature that could make the Galaxy S9 that much more attractive to people who aren't ready to ditch their collection of wired headphones. Apple walked away from the legacy port with its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and hasn't looked back, and the Google Pixel 2, Moto Z, Essential Phone and others have followed suit.

Rumor: It could be radio-ready

How about some old-school FM radio to go with that retro headphone jack? Tom's Guide reports that Tagstation, maker of the Next Radio app, says Samsung will activate the FM radio chips in some forthcoming phones. This would presumably allow you to listen to the radio on your phone without streaming over an internet or cellular connection. 

Rumor: A foldable Galaxy S9 (probably won't happen)

Samsung has stirred chatter about this one. The company said three times during its latest earnings report that it's developing foldable displays, one of the components that could be used in a phone that folds up. We're not expecting it to show up in the Galaxy S9, but it could appear in a different model later this year or next. 

In 2016, Samsung filed a patent for a foldable phone, and later that year Bloomberg reported that the company was considering releasing two models with bendable screens. Late last year, the president of the company's mobile business told the Associated Press that Samsung would launch such a phone once it resolved "some problems." 

We'll continue to keep an eye on news and rumors in the run-up to the Galaxy S9's official debut on Feb. 25.

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