Samsung has tumbled -- exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones precipitated the company's fiery fall from grace -- but its smartphone legacy isn't over. There's still the Galaxy S8 flagship to look forward to.
And a lot will ride on the Korean manufacturing giant's next phone for buyers to believe that more reliable, less fire-prone phones are on the horizon. Samsung desperately needs a hit, too. Its profits plummeted to their lowest in nearly eight years in the wake of recalling and then completely ceasing production on the Note 7. Meanwhile, the company faces lawsuits, as well as exploding appliances that go beyond flammable phones, too.
A next-generation follow-up to the Galaxy S7 that was released last March, the Galaxy S8 will be the first phone to help redirect Samsung's efforts to gain new buyers who don't already have a Samsung phone. And, to be clear: unlike the Note 7, there have been no known claims of fires or explosions with the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, so at least this line's reputation is intact.
The Galaxy S8 gives Samsung a chance to lure gunshy buyers back to the brand with exceptional technology or rock-bottom prices. And Samsung has the power to make a truly great phone. After all, reviewers like me had initially lauded the Note 7 as one of the most impressive phones Samsung had ever made. The question is, will the Galaxy S8 have enough of the goods to refocus shoppers who bolted after the Note 7 debacle? And can Samsung win back buyers' trust?
The Galaxy S8 is still weeks away from making its debut (at the very least), but the leaks and rumors have are getting hot and heavy. We bring you the most important of the bunch.
No early Galaxy S8 launch despite Note 7 drama
At one point, some suggested that the Galaxy S8 would attempt to kickstart Samsung's rebound earlier than its usual late February/early March cycle that's tied to the giant Mobile World Congress event in Spain. Given that the Note 7 issues may have in part been caused by a rush job to get the phone out ahead of schedule, speeding full steam ahead probably isn't the best route, especially if Samsung is still trying to pinpoint what went wrong with two rounds of Note 7 batteries (the initial batch and the replacement phones).
In fact, it could come later than expected
The phone might even be delayed until April, according to another rumor, as Samsung scurries to find and fix for good the error that led to explosions in the first place. Another major blowup could torch what's left of the brand's credibility. Either way, another bit of scuttlebutt says the phone's firmware is already in production.
All screen, all the time
The face of next year's Galaxy S8 could be 90 percent screen, according to one report out of South Korea, up from an average ratio of 80 percent screen-to-bezels. That's supported by another, more recent report that the phone will be all-screen, and a suggestion that the Galaxy S8 could toss out its whole home button -- including the fingerprint reader -- and use an optical sensor that lives beneath the display.
Samsung partner Synaptics just released its own optical fingerprint scanner that fits the bill. It's quite possible that the two are one and the same.
This wouldn't be the first time we'd see a nearly bezel-less screen. Chinese phone maker Xiaomi just released the latest attempt at this tech unicorn, the ceramic-backed Mi Mix.
The Galaxy S8 could lose the headset jack, just like the iPhone
When the Galaxy Note 7 first launched, Samsung told me it was "proud" of its headset jack. That tune might change if the latest rumor is right. SamMobile is saying that the audio jack used to plug in wired headphones will go the way of the iPhone's nonexistent port.
In its place, phone owners would have to use wireless Bluetooth-connected headsets (like these) or headsets that plug into the phone's expected USB-C port (either directly or through an adapter dongle).
Then again, it might keep the headset jack after all
A newer rumor comes from a leak of a case said to belong to the Galaxy S8. The case has familiar button recesses and camera cutouts, but also a small round passthrough just the perfect size for a standard 3.5 millimeter headset jack.
Super-high 4K resolution
It's also expected that Samsung will go ultra-high-def for its next big phone, bumping up the S7's current resolution (2,560x1,440 pixels) to a 4K resolution of 3,840x2,160 pixels.
Sony beat Samsung to the UHD punch last year with its Xperia X Performance. At that time, TV reviewer David Katzmaier and I argued the futility of such a move, but with VR headsets that integrate with phones slowly gaining fans (like Samsung's own Gear VR), there is at least one case for having more pixels on your phone than you might have on your TV.
Or maybe not
A contradictory rumor says this isn't going to happen, and that we'll instead have the same 2K screen resolution as the Galaxy S7 (2,560x1,440 pixels), but one that's made with a new version of the AMOLED display material. The upshot: Screen quality is still expected to improve.
Galaxy S8 and curved-screen Edge could be one and the same
The Galaxy S8 could have the same curved sides as the S7 Edge, according to another rumor. But that wouldn't mean Samsung would only sell one phone. Keeping up with a recent tradition, the Galaxy S8 could still come in two sizes.
Two rear cameras and better selfies on the way
Samsung's next front-facing camera could also bring auto-focus to the Galaxy S8 using technology that differs from autofocus in the phone's main camera. Don't worry about that camera module sticking out, either. The rumor out of Korea claims this module will remain flush with the phone face.
The Galaxy S8 might have a pressure-sensitive screen
Yeah, yeah, we've heard this rumor before when the Galaxy S7 was supposedly going to have a screen you could press and hold to make submenus pop up (like Apple's 3D Touch for iPhone). It never happened, but maybe this time, one Korean outlet reported, it will.
It could have an AI assistant named Bixby
Filing a patent for a digital assistant named Bixby is a pretty good indicator of Samsung's intentions in this area. The info dovetails nicely with rumors that the Galaxy S8 will include a new digital assistant, and perhaps a dedicated button to launch it. Handily enough, Samsung bought AI startup Viv, which coincidentally spun up Apple's Siri.
We'll update as more rumors and stories surface in the long leadup to the launch. This story was last updated December 13, 2016, at 12:20 p.m. PT.