One of the big questions of 2017 will be how (or if) Samsung recovers from the double whammy of its disastrous Note 7 release and Google's triumphant Pixel launch this year. The company's answer, it seems, is to push the boundaries of design with the next Galaxy S flagship phone, which Bloomberg today reports will feature an "all-screen" design.
Practically every smartphone nowadays has one contiguous piece of glass covering its front. But underneath that glass there's usually a black frame surrounding the display, which houses essential parts like the earpiece, proximity sensor, front-facing camera, and home button — and it's that bezel that Samsung is said to be removing. An instructive example of what such a Galaxy S8 might look like is provided by Xiaomi's recently introduced Mi Mix smartphone. That device uses ultrasound for proximity sensing, repositions the selfie camera, and has a piezoelectric speaker built into the screen.
Bloomberg's report indicates that Samsung will replace its traditional physical home button with a virtual one that "will be buried in the glass in the lower section." It's not immediately clear whether that means a capacitive key as we've seen on most other Android devices or a pressure-sensitive solution akin to Apple's 3D Touch. Certainly there must be some bezel, most likely at the bottom of the phone, as even the Mi Mix leaves a black strip at its bottom. Bloomberg goes on to say that there'll be more than one S8 device, with the sizes likely being a reprise of this year's 5.1-inch S7 and 5.5-inch S7 Edge. Unlike this year, however, the next generation of Galaxy flagship phones will all have curved, "wraparound" displays.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 is called out in the report as one of the chips that Samsung will use, though it's said to be once again a mix between that and Samsung's own Exynos line. The 835 is especially interesting today as Microsoft just announced support for it in a new program of bringing Windows x86 apps to ARM processors. That doesn't mean the Android-based Galaxy S8 will be running desktop Photoshop, but its hardware will be capable of it.
On the software front, Samsung is already known to be planning a new voice assistant, which the company promises will be "significantly differentiated" from others on the market and will feature some AI enhancements.
Goodbye, home button!
An earlier rumor about the S8 also suggested that Samsung would dispatch the hardware home button it's had on Galaxy S devices since that product family's inception. It additionally indicated that Samsung would remove the headphone jack, add a USB-C port, and keep the resolution unchanged from 2016's models.
The Bloomberg report closes off by noting that Samsung aims for a March release of the Galaxy S8, though that might slip to April, owing to new, more stringent testing procedures in the wake of the QA slip-up with the Galaxy Note. To be fair, every year works to pretty much this cadence from Samsung: announce the new flagship at MWC at the end of February, try to release some time in early March, and deliver full global availability by April. The big thing that will be different in 2017, apparently, is that the screen bezels will be gone.