What the Samsung Galaxy S8 means for the Note 8

Commentary: Curved screens, Bixby AI and support for future-looking LTE -- can the Note 8 bring anything more than the stylus? I think so.

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Jessica Dolcourt
3 min read

If you're thinking about buying the Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus -- two different sizes of promising, very eye-catching flagship specimens -- then you also need to think about the Galaxy Note 8.

We know that despite Samsung 's missteps with the Note 7's battery disaster, mobile chief DJ Koh told CNET that an "innovative" Note 8 is coming -- most likely in August if Samsung sticks to its usual cycle.

But now that the S8 and S8 Plus both have curved screens, the Bixby digital assistant and a Qualcomm or Samsung (Exynos) processor with the power to latch onto superfast LTE (Gigabit-class), it may leave some people wondering if the Note 8 will really have anything more to offer than the ability to write on the screen with its signature S Pen stylus. Won't they basically be the same?

Well, we don't really know, because we're four months away and the rumor mill has been focused on the S8 and S8 Plus for the last few months. But I have a hunch that Samsung will add enough new features in there to lure power users and make some potential S8 or S8 Plus buyers think twice. (And let me say, this is all based completely on speculation.)

And what about the price? Again, I don't have any special information, but the Note phone is typically the costliest of Samsung's handsets; usually $100 more than the "Edge" (now the Plus). But I don't doubt for a minute that Samsung will want to make it worth your while: Samsung popularized the large-screen phone with the first Note, after all, which makes it an important line to develop.

The S Pen does more than write

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The FAA isn't too keen on Samsung's Galaxy Note 7.

Josh Miller/CNET

Each year, the S Pen stylus does more. It becomes more pressure-sensitive, collects new skills and gets easier to navigate around.

You can drag and drop, illustrate, annotate, hover on objects and help keep the screen smudge-free, a benefit of using a pen versus your nasty, greasy finger.

Samsung will almost certainly add more S Pen features this year. Who knows: We could see a Bixby shortcut on the pen, or finally get the top to erase your scrawling when you flip it upside down like you can do with this 4-year-old tablet.

Dual rear cameras in the works?

The S8 didn't get the rumored twin cameras on its back, but Samsung could always be saving that for the Note 8, perhaps with an artistic portrait mode like the iPhone 7 Plus.

Better Bixby (and other extras)

I called the Bixby AI assistant a wild card, and that's because the demo that I saw wasn't fully finished (and it sometimes showed). But we do know that Samsung is committed to its answer to the Siri, Google Now and Amazon Alexa assistants, and will update it all the way up to the S8 launch and well beyond.

I fully expect Bixby to be on the Note 8, and many other Samsung appliances and electronics besides. Four months would give Samsung ample opportunity to fine-tune Bixby, and introduce new changes on the Note 8 before they filter out to the S8 and S8 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Bixby pix: Come and get 'em

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Wait for Note 8?

We still have a week or so to go before the S8 and S8 Plus arrive on April 21, so it's too soon to say how good these phones are, and if I think you should wait for the next Note. The final reviews should shed a little more light on that.

I will say that assuming there are no battery incidents with the S8 and S8 Plus, original Note 7 owners who will have waited a year or more to get a new Note could have plenty of extras waiting for them when the Note 8 does materialize.

But if you're a Samsung fan who's even a bit disappointed by some of the Galaxy S8 's features -- the fingerprint sensor placement, the lack of a dual camera or the beta feel of Bixby -- just hold tight. Samsung still has a second chance to wow you, and it's likely only four months away.

Samsung did not respond to a request for comment.