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Samsung Galaxy Note 8: Everything we know

There's just one week to go until the biggest day of the year for Samsung. 

At 11 a.m. ET on August 23, the company will pull back the curtain on the Note 8, which is likely to be the company's largest and most powerful phone. And the stakes just couldn't be any higher for a flagship followup whose predecessor, the Galaxy Note 7, literally crashed and burned last year.

Although customers won't get their hands on the phone until Samsung sends it to store shelves in September and October (depending on the region), next Wednesday's Unpacked event will give us our first official look at exactly how the company intends to resuscitate the Note brand. We'll keep an eye out for the innovative technologies rumored to be featured on the Note 8, as detailed below, but we'll also see whether the company will extend any sort of olive branch to loyal customers for sticking around after a bona fide public relations catastrophe

We'll be covering the big event live. Until then, here's a recap of what we expect to see.

Hang on, what's the Galaxy Note again?

  • The Note line is Samsung's flagship phone for power users.
  • It comes with a digital pen (or stylus, if you'd rather) called the S Pen.
  • It's been the most advanced, and most expensive, phone that Samsung sells each year.
  • We expect it to be just a hair bigger than Galaxy S8 Plus ($699.95 at Amazon Marketplace), with a 6.4-inch screen. Yeah, big.

OK, thanks. Why's it such a big deal?

The Note 8's signature stylus could come with a whole set of new tricks.

Sarah Tew/CNET
  1. It'll be the real test of the Note family's post-Note 7 recovery, even more so than the Galaxy S8 ($669.88 at Amazon Marketplace), the battery of which has so far been incident-free.

  2. Samsung can course correct on the S8's biggest problem: The placement of the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone, right next to the camera lens. (Hello, awkward.)

    That fingerprint scanner, which is used for unlocking the phone and waving through Samsung Pay and Android Pay, could now go under the glass as rumors suggest.

    Or, if Samsung can't get the puzzle pieces together, the center of the phone's back is another option. That location works well on the Google Pixel, LG G6 ($599.95 at Amazon Marketplace) and Huawei P10 ($679.00 at Amazon Marketplace).

    Since we're talking about design rumors, Samsung is also expected to jump on the dual-camera trend that the S8 passed up.

  3. Each year, the Note and iPhone duke it out for preholiday sales. But this year, Apple is expected to pull out all the stops for its 10th-anniversary iPhone, possibly called the iPhone 8. Competition will likely be fiercer than ever before if the iPhone 8 throws in a killer feature surprise like a facial recognition upgrade for Touch ID.

We always find a Note release exciting, as much for the technology as the phone's history in kicking off the big-screen craze. Back when the first Galaxy Note phone arrived in 2012, the "phablet" (half phone, half tablet) had a 5.3-inch screen and was considered a monster of a device that was too unwieldy to really use (yes, I said this too). But the trend caught on, and here we are anticipating the eighth iteration of a large-screen phone-plus-digital-stylus.

What we 'know' about the Note 8

The Bixby Voice app will work straight out of the box

Samsung hasn't confirmed this, but it has said that its Bixby Voice app is a priority on Samsung phones and other devices, too. Now that Samsung's voice app -- and its challenge to Apple's Siri -- is available on all Galaxy S8 phones, it's almost a given that the Note 8 will have a physical Bixby button of its own.

The electronics giant is hoping to turn Bixby into a full-blown ecosystem robust enough to rival the rest of the field: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri, and yes, you too, Microsoft Cortana.

We believe that the Note 8 will feature a standalone Bixby button like the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Unlike those two phones, Bixby Voice should be sufficiently far along in its development to launch along with the phone.

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The Note 8 will use Samsung's new 8-point battery test

Samsung instituted this enhanced safety checklist as part of a revised testing measure after discovering holes in its battery testing that led to the Note 7 failures. The Galaxy S8 uses it too, as will every other Samsung phone going forward.

At least one phone maker cried foul, saying this is too little too late. Motorola said its existing battery tests would have caught Samsung's mistake.

It will be 'innovative'

That's from Koh, Samsung's mobile chief. "I will bring back a better, safer and very innovative Note 8," Koh said. Whatever that innovation is, it's something Samsung clearly reserved for the Note 8 and left out of the Galaxy S8.

It will sell in September and October

Digging a little more into this, Samsung's Koh promised a September sales date for some regions; the US and South Korea are usually in the first wave. Looks for sales to stagger globally into October.

Every Note phone ever made... so far.

Josh Miller/CNET

It'll cost a lot

The Note 7 came in at about $850, £750 or AU$1,350, so expect the cost to start there. More expensive parts, like a second camera, could hike up the price, maybe even as far as $900.

Top rumors

Let's start with the most intriguing...

It could have two SIM card slots

An eagle-eyed blogger noticed a listing for a dual-SIM Note 8 on Samsung's Austria's support page. The report claims that the Note houses a tray that can accommodate a SIM card and a microSD card -- or two SIM cards -- for expandable storage or alternate SIM purposes.

It could look a lot like the Galaxy S8

VentureBeat's Evan Blass recently tweeted a picture of what he says is the Galaxy Note 8.

The narrow build and minimal bezels looks almost identical to the Galaxy S8. 

It could have two rear cameras

We're not the only ones thinking that Samsung will deliver a major camera upgrade with the Note 8. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the new model may come equipped with dual rear cameras. And Korean news site etnews.com has provided specifics, suggesting that the Note 8 could feature a 12MP optical and 13MP telephoto sensor, which would match up identically with the LG V20's specs.

Evan Blass has tweeted purported pics of the Galaxy Note 8, giving us an idea of what the dual rear camera setup could look like.

It could tell you when you're drunk

File this under long shots. According to patentlyapple.com, Samsung is developing a novel "gas sensor" that works as both microphone and breathalyzer. Who wouldn't want their phone to tell them when it's time to pack it in for the night?

The S Pen could have a built-in speaker

We've been waiting for ages for the S Pen's cap to do something really cool, like erase when you flip it over. The rumor that it will contain a speaker might be even better. A speaker within the S Pen top could shoot audio out of the pen, making it replace the speaker grille.

Does that mean it could also talk to you, or that you could talk to it? We'll find out!

The Note 8 could curve on all sides

Samsung could one-up its own Galaxy S8, which has extremely slim bezels and curves on both sides. The company is reportedly working on a phone with glass that also curves on the top and bottom. The S8 (and Note 7 before it) curved equally on the front and back, making it symmetrical whichever side you held. The Note 8 might do the same.

It might debut a deep blue hue

In addition to black and grey, the new Note 8 might launch in "deep blue," according to one rumor. And why not? The Galaxy S6 came in a similar color as well as a dark green, when it first came out. And the Note 7 looked stunning in coral blue, which you can now find on the Galaxy S8 (though not when it first went on sale).

How about a 6.4-inch screen?

The Note 8 could top the Galaxy S8 Plus' 6.2-inch display with a 6.4-inch screen on a body not much larger than the S8 Plus. The figure comes from Kuo (the analyst mentioned above), Apple Insider reported.

Samsung will most likely keep the screen resolution high. We've heard whispers of a 4K screen resolution, which makes sense if the screen is inches from your face in a VR headset. Otherwise, your eyes probably won't register too much of a difference between the S8's 2,560-by-1,440-pixel resolution and the much higher 4K resolution. (Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium from 2015 had a 4K resolution, which translated into a 3,840-by-2,160-pixel resolution.)

Make that Note 8 screen pressure-sensitive

The Galaxy S8 was widely rumored to have a pressure-sensitive display like Apple's 3D Touch feature that debuted on the iPhone 6S. The rumor also extended to the Note 8, according to "sources" cited by Korean outlet The Investor.

More to come

The rumors are trickling out slowly for now, but the deluge of speculation, leaks and image renders will come as we get closer to August 23. Hold on tight!

Update, August 16, 5 a.m. PT: This article was originally published May 14, 2017, and has been updated with more information.

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