One of the year’s biggest tech events, Mobile World Congress, is set to begin in Barcelona next week, and Samsung has indicated it plans to launch its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S9, just before the show opens, on Sunday, 25 February, with flagship launches also expected from the likes of Nokia and Sony.
Last week tests indicated a significant performance boost from the S9’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, and more recent leaks have given a better idea of the smartphone’s features and appearance.
According to reports and images from sources including VentureBeat’s Evan Blass and German tech website WinFuture, the S9 and S9+ will be similar to last year’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Note in appearance, with a similar all-screen design.
Blass and Winfuture, among others, released what appear to be official Samsung images indicating the upcoming S9 as an update to the successful S8, rather than a radical redesign. The devices will be available in Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Titanium Gray, and Coral Blue, according to VentureBeat’s Blass.
The displays are to measure 6.22 inches and 5.77 inches, with rounded corners, according to South Korea’s ETNews and leaked images.
The device’s cameras may introduce a variable aperture, which would mean better low-light photography, as well as 960 frames-per-second slow-motion, a feature previously used in Sony devices. The S9 also brings in a feature similar to the iPhone X’s animoji.
The S9 keeps the S8’s rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, but the rear sensors are mounted vertically rather than horizontally, which may make the scanner more easily accessible. The S9 has an improved single camera, with the S9+ using a version of the dual-camera system introduced in the Galaxy Note 8, according to reports.
The new smartphones may use an improved version of Samsung’s face and iris scanner to compete with Apple’s Face ID. The iris scanner found in the S8 and Note 8 works well, but isn’t as easy to use as Face ID.
The new Galaxy devices bring in stereo speakers, a feature found in the iPhone and Google’s Pixel 2, and retain the headphone jack, making them one of the few flagship smartphones to do so.
Alongside the Snapdragon 845, expected to ship in S9 devices in the US and China, the new Galaxy range is said to use Samsung’s latest Exynos 9810 chip in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
The launch is expected to feature a new version of Samsung’s DeX, which allows users to link the smartphone to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse, turning it into an Android-based desktop. An upgrade to the Bixby voice assistant is also probable.
VentureBeat’s Blass and others have said Samsung would begin taking pre-orders on 1 March, with shipments beginning on 16 March. In the UK, retailers including Carphone Warehouse and Mobiles.co.uk are allowing users to sign up to be alerted when pre-orders begin.
Finally, Samsung is expected to charge a premium over the S8, with Techradar reporting the S9 will start around £739 in the UK, and the S9+ around £100 more than that. Samsung hasn’t yet confirmed pricing.
Samsung may be the top Android smartphone maker, but Apple continues to take the lion’s share of smartphone sales worldwide – it accounted for 51 percent of all smartphone revenues in the fourth quarter of 2017, in a global market worth $120bn (£86bn), according to Strategy Analytics.
Not to be forgotten, Nokia is expected to launch a high-end smartphone at MWC powered by the Android One version of Android. Leaked images suggest an all-screen design similar to Samsung’s S8 and S9.
Nokia debuted a new version of its iconic 3310 feature-phone at last year’s MWC, kicking off the relaunch of the Nokia brand with a device complete with the popular game Snake.
Not to be outdone, Sony has indicated it’s planning an announcement of some kind on on MWC’s opening day of Monday, 26 February.
Rumours suggest it may be a new flagship device, possibly something called the Xperia XZ Pro, which reports say features an edge-to-edge 4K display with narrow top and bottom bezels, a dual-lens rear camera and the Snapdragon 845 processor.
It would be the successor to last year’s well-received XZ Premium.
The Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact weren’t expected until the IFA show in Berlin later this year, like their predecessors the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, which launched at IFA 2017 last August, but it’s possible those devices may make an appearance at MWC 2018 as well. That rumour was fed by the appearance of a photo that supposedly shows a prototype XZ2 Compact device with a curved base.
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