Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S8
We know the Samsung Galaxy S8 is coming in 2017, and the leaks and rumours are already flooding in. Here's what we know about Samsung's next flagship, including the Galaxy S8 release date, specs, features, and price.
Update (1 December 2016): Samsung may add autofocus to the front-facing camera with the Galaxy S8, in a bid to improve your selfie game. Read on to find out more.
Samsung has had a very mixed year, to say the least. The Galaxy S7 was a huge hit with critics and consumers alike, while the ill-fated Note 7 met an untimely death-by-fire.
So it's no surprise that Galaxy fans and forlorn Note 7 owners are looking forward to the Galaxy S8, which we're expecting to arrive in February or March next year. Fortunately, Samsung has already confirmed the existence of the Galaxy S8, revealing plans for the handset during the messy Note 7 recall.
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Better still, we’re already hearing talk of Galaxy S8 specs, with rumoured features including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 830 chip, a 4K display, an ‘Edge’-style screen, and an improved camera.
Here’s a round-up of what to expect from the Galaxy S8.
Latest Galaxy S8 news:
When does the Galaxy S8 come out? February/March 2017
What’s new about the Galaxy S8? Rumoured: 4K screen, SD830 chip, USB-C
How much will the Galaxy S8 cost? Best guess: £599
Watch Now: Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S8
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Galaxy S8 Release Date UK & US – When will the new Galaxy S8 come out?
The Galaxy S8 release date is likely of fall in either February or March, based on recent history. Here’s a quick look back at previous Galaxy phone launches:
- Galaxy S7 release date – March 11, 2016
- Galaxy S6 release date – April 20, 2015
- Galaxy S5 release date – April 11, 2014
- Galaxy S4 release date – April 27, 2013
- Galaxy S3 release date – May 29, 2012
- Galaxy S2 release date – May 2, 2011
- Galaxy S release date – June 4, 2010
While April seems like the most popular month of launch, we’re more convinced of a February debut. That’s because Samsung has shown a penchant for revealing the Galaxy S- flagships at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress tradeshow. In 2017, MWC is set to run between February 27 and March 2. We reckon the handset will actually debut one day before, on February 26. One leaker certainly agrees:
Analysts seemed mixed on the timing however, with some suggesting Samsung will rush out the device after the Note 7 debacle, while others believing the launch may be delayed in a bid to make sure the handset is right.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung may miss its Mobile World Congress launch window entirely, stating: "At risk is the expected February launch of [Samsung's] next flagship smartphone, likely to be called the Galaxy S8." The report continued:
“Samsung executives have delayed the development of the Galaxy S8 device by two weeks as engineers work to get to the bottom of the Note 7’s overheating problem, according to a member of the Galaxy S8 development team."
And according to a November 2016 report by the Investor, Samsung is still settling on a launch date, but wants suppliers to be coughing up parts within the first four weeks of 2017.
“Key supplies are required to provide an initial batch of their parts for the Galaxy S8 from January,” said one industry source. “Full volume supplies will start in February."
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Galaxy S8 Features – What’s new about the Galaxy S8?
The Galaxy S8 is guaranteed to flaunt some of 2017’s latest and greatest mobile hardware, but Samsung is keeping a tight lid on details.
Here’s what you can expect to see in terms of Galaxy S8 features...
Galaxy S8 Design – Major overhaul?
Samsung might be planning a major design overhaul for next year’s Galaxy S8.
A report from Korea’s ETNews says Samsung wants to ditch the Home button, integrated its functionality into the display instead – just like Apple’s rumoured iPhone 8. Samsung allegedly wants to do this to “fill all of the front of the Galaxy S8 with just screen”. This video from Android blog Techdroid shows a Galaxy S8 render based on such rumours:
We’ve also heard a rumour that the Galaxy S8 may have significantly smaller bezels than the Galaxy S7. Speaking to The Investor, Park Won-sang a Principal Engineer for Samsung Display, said that the company was aiming to introduce an OLED display with a greater-than 90% screen-to-body ratio. He went on to reveal that Samsung hoped to create a handset with a 99% screen-to-body ratio in the next few years. For contrast, most phones currently have an average ratio of around 80%.
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Galaxy S8 and S8 Edge Screen – Will Samsung use a 4K display?
On the matter of displays, we should kick off with the screen sizes for past Samsung flagship phones:
- Galaxy S7 – 5.1-inch
- Galaxy S7 Edge – 5.5-inch
- Galaxy S6 – 5.1-inch
- Galaxy S6 Edge – 5.1-inch
- Galaxy S5 – 5.1-inch
There’s a clear trend of 5.1-inch panels, which is a decent middle-ground that suits most users. We’d expect the Galaxy S8 to follow suit, although a report from the Korea Herald pointed to two variants: 5.7-inches and 6.2-inches.
We’re also convinced that 2017 might be the year Samsung moves to a 4K display, following on from the Galaxy S6’s introduction of a QHD screen. One report from Weibo suggested that one variant of the Galaxy S8 will use a 4K-resolution screen.
The main argument for introducing a 4K display is the growing popularity of virtual reality. When you use a Gear VR headset today, you’re looking at a Galaxy smartphone’s QHD screen. But because the image display is in stereoscopic mode – split into two, basically – then you’re getting half resolution. Pair that with the fact that your eyes are very close to the screen, and pixel density suddenly becomes very important.
If Samsung moved to a 4K panel, you’d enjoy a significantly enhanced VR experience – visually, anyway. And it’s worth noting that the Snapdragon 820, which powers the Galaxy S7, already supports native 4K displays at 60fps.
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The good news is that it might actually happen. The Korea Herald reported on comments from analysts at UBI Research, who were quoted as follows:
“Samsung Display showcased a 5.5 ultra-high definition 4K display with a pixel density of 806ppi for virtual reality devices at the Society for Information Display, a display trade show, in California in March. Considering various factors including the production yield rate for the next-generation display expected to improve in the coming months, the 5.5-inch AMOLED will be deployed in the next Galaxy smartphone, presumably, named the S8.”
There’s also a rumour that the Galaxy S8 will only be available with a curved-edge display, after a Samsung executive recently hinted that flat screens might be going away for good. Speaking to the Korea Herald, Samsung Mobile boss DJ Koh said:
"Samsung has considered that it would make the edge display as the identity of the Galaxy S smartphone line-up if the company can provide consumers differentiated user experience through software and user-friendly functions (for the curved screen)."
The Herald published a follow-up report that said Samsung was considering whether to ditch flat screens on the Galaxy S- series going forward. That’s reportedly down to the fact that the curved Galaxy S7 Edge outpaced the flat Galaxy S7 in terms of sales. The Herald believes Samsung is procuring curved displays in 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch variants from its own Samsung Display division.
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Galaxy S8 Specs – How powerful will it be?
New 10nm processor? – Next year’s mobile chips haven’t been announced yet, but they’re pretty easy to predict.
The Galaxy S7 featured either a Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890, depending on where you bought your phone. The former is built by US chip maker Qualcomm, while the later is a custom-built Samsung chip. We’re expecting that the Galaxy S8 be sold with Qualcomm and Samsung chips, depending on your market.
Samsung has already confirmed that it is working on producing chips with a highly efficient 10nm manufacturing process. This means the transistors are far smaller than those built on the 14nm and 16nm chips used in the Galaxy S7. As such, we’d expect a 10nm chip to be much less power-hungry, and potentially more powerful.
According to Samsung, the new transistor design will mean transistors can be placed on a chip with 30% greater area efficiency, resulting in 27% higher performance or 40% lower power consumption. Manufacturing has already started, with chips expected to land in smartphones in 2017. In fact, Samsung has already vowed to produce a second-gen version of its 10nm chips in the second half of 2017.
Samsung’s chip-making division hasn’t announced any partners, but South Korea’s Electronic Times believes Samsung will be the sole manufacturer of the Snapdragon 830, Qualcomm’s next flagship chip. Samsung rival TSMC is also working on 10nm chips, and wants to complete development before the end of the year.
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Mali, Adreno, or Nvidia GPU? – According to specialist blog Sammobile, Samsung is courting both Nvidia and AMD to license their GPU technologies for its own Exynos chips. Nvidia and AMD have both seen success with their new Pascal and Polaris architectures respectively.
Unfortunately, we’re not convinced that Samsung will be able to turn around a new mobile GPU with Nvidia tech inside in time for next year’s launch. Far more likely is the rumour that Samsung will use ARM’s new Mali G71 GPU in the Galaxy S8. That’s ARM’s new top-end mobile GPU built on the British firm’s new Bifrost architecture. It’s a 16nm chip clocked at 850MHz, and offers 40% improved performance and 20% better efficiency than the Mali-T880 – that’s the Galaxy S7’s GPU. Here's what ARM says about its latest GPU:
“The Mali family enables stunning visuals for UHD content and the superior power and scalability of the Mali-G71 makes it the perfect GPU for next generation, high-end use cases like premium gaming and mobile VR.”
It’s also worth noting that the Mali-G71 was developed to meet the needs of Vulkan, which is the powerful, cross-platform API built by Khronos. Samsung already added support for Vulkan in the Galaxy S7, so it’d be surprising if the same wasn’t true for the Galaxy S8.
Super-fast modem – What’s also probable is that the Snapdragon 830 – and the Galaxy S8, by extension – will come with a Snapdragon X16 built-in.
The Snapdragon X16 is Qualcomm’s latest modem built on a 14nm manufacturing process, and supports “fibre-like” LTE Cat. 16 download speeds. That’s significantly superior to the X12 modem built into the Snapdragon 820 chip – as used on the Galaxy S7 and LG G5.
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The Snapdragon X12 modem supports 600Mbps download speeds. But the Snapdragon X16 can handle incredible downlink speeds of up to 1Gbps. That means a 4K movie – estimated at 100GB average file size – could be downloaded in just over 13 minutes. And a Blu-ray movie, which averages at around 20GB, could arrive in a quarter of that time.
Qualcomm has already revealed that manufacturers are currently sampling the Snapdragon X16, and the first products that feature the chip are expected in the second half of this year. As such, it would be very surprising if the Galaxy S8 didn’t use the Snapdragon X16.
Unfortunately, while the Snapdragon X16 can support high-speed connections, it doesn’t guarantee them. Fast speeds also depend on your phone network, and no cellular networks in the UK currently offer 1Gbps speeds. Qualcomm predicts that 1Gbps speeds may be offered in the UK within two years, however.
USB-C, finally? – The Galaxy S7 was rumoured to feature a USB-C port, but that didn’t happen. Now the Galaxy S8 is expected to debut the technology instead.
USB Type-C is a USB specification that should eventually replace the Micro USB ports that you’ll find on the majority of smartphones today. It’s already been used on plenty of devices in 2016, perhaps most prominently with Apple’s 12-inch MacBook.
USB Type-C is a reversible connection – you can stick it in upside down, basically – just like the Apple Lightning port. It also supports different “protocols”. That’s a fancy way of saying that you can have adapters that can output other types of connections – HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, etc. – from a single USB-C port. That’s why Apple’s 12-inch MacBook only needs one port.
USB-C is also capable of supplying much more power (up to 100W) compared to a conventional USB 2.0 connection (2.5W).
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All this means that USB-C is a worthy upgrade over Micro USB, and it would seem very curious if that Galaxy S8 didn’t make the switch. Perhaps the only downside to upgrading would be that the Galaxy S8 wouldn’t be compatible with existing Gear VR headsets, which use Micro USB connections.
Perhaps the best evidence of a USB-C Galaxy S8 is that the Galaxy Note 7 featured the technology. What's more, Samsung also built a new Gear VR that supports USB-C for the Note 7, so it makes sense that the Galaxy S8 would follow suit.
More storage, more RAM? – A leak in late November suggested that we'd see significant upgrades to the storage and memory inside the Galaxy S8, as compared to the Galaxy S7. Sources on Chinese social media site Weibo – a hotbed for tech leaks – claimed that the S8 will feature a generous 6GB of RAM, as well as 256GB of storage as standard.
We're in two minds about this one, however. Firstly, although Weibo regularly turns out reliable leaks, we have no way of verifying the information that shows up on the site. It's a bit like Twitter, which makes it tough to authenticate sources. Secondly, those specs seem very generous, and would outclass most of this year's handsets by a long way.
That said, Samsung has a lot to prove with the Galaxy S8. What's more, Apple introduced a 256GB iPhone in late 2016, so Samsung following a similar approach wouldn't be too farfetched – though we're not convinced by Samsung adopting the high storage as default. And don't forget that OnePlus built 6GB of RAM into both the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, so that level of memory isn't unprecedented for Android smartphones either. Still, takes this leak with due caution.
Galaxy S8 Camera – Even better than the S7 camera?
Samsung’s flagship phones have impressed in the camera department in recent years. The Galaxy S7, for instance, debuted ‘Dual Pixel’ technology. Every pixel on the Galaxy S7’s image sensor has two photodiodes instead of one. One of the biggest advantages of this increased pixel count is faster focus. When you’re taking a photo with an iPhone, between 5% and 10% of the pixels are used for focusing. But with the Galaxy S7, every single pixel is able to take part. More of the same with the Galaxy S8, perhaps?
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But it gets better. The Galaxy S7 also features a large f/1.7 lens aperture and a 1/2.6-inch sensor. We already know that Samsung is hard at work developing a 1/1.7-inch sensor fit for use in smartphones, and there are rumours that there’s also a lens with a faster f/1.4 aperture in the works too. Both could feature in the Galaxy S8.
Unfortunately, recent reports seem to suggest that neither innovation will be ready for the Galaxy S8 launch, for that matter. Instead, it seems more likely that the Galaxy S8 will tout a very similar camera module to the Galaxy S7, at least until we hear otherwise.
One key upgrade could come in the form of a dual-lens camera module. Huawei used the technology in its recently launched Huawei P9, and Apple followed suit with the iPhone 7 Plus. A smattering of such rumours regarding the Galaxy S8 have been posted to Chinese social media site Weibo – most recently by tipster I Ice Universe – but it’s too early to believe such reports.
Perhaps the best evidence of a camera upgrade so far is a recent Samsung patent filing in South Korea. The patent describes a newly improved zoom function for smartphones. This had led to speculation that Samsung plans to mimic the iPhone 7 Plus, and add a dual-camera module with a telephoto zoom lens.
In any case, we’d be very surprised if Samsung didn’t follow Apple with a dual-lens camera.
But it's not just the rear-facing camera that is poised for a performance boost. In November 2016, a report from Korea's ETNews claimed that Samsung will be adding autofocus on the S8's front-facing camera. It's less common to find autofocus on secondary cameras than primary ones, as front-facing cameras are typically only used for selfies or video calling. But there's no real reason why Samsung couldn't introduce such an upgrade for the Galaxy S8.
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Galaxy S8 Battery Life – Will it have a bigger battery?
The matter of Galaxy S8 battery life is tricky, because how long a phone lasts on a single charge depends on so many factors. The first is the size of the actual cell. Here’s a brief history of battery capacities for recent Samsung flagships:
- Galaxy S7 – 3,000mAh
- Galaxy S7 Edge – 3,600mAh
- Galaxy S6 – 2,550mAh
- Galaxy S6 Edge – 2,600mAh
As you can see, the Edge variants tend to have slightly bigger batteries. But the screens tend on those phones are a little bigger – moreso on the S7 Edge than the S6 Edge – which explains the added capacity. If there are two variants of the Galaxy S8, we’d expect this trend to continue.
But cell size isn’t the only factor that affects battery life. Google’s Android N – the software expected to feature on the Galaxy S8 – offers battery life improvements. Then there’s the likely 10nm processor, which will be less power-hungry than the current 14nm processor on the Galaxy S7. However, if Samsung does finally move to a 4K display with the Galaxy S8, you can count on that putting a serious damper on battery life too.
In any case, battery life is hugely important to phone buyers these days, so we’d be surprised if Samsung was willing to ship the Galaxy S8 if it could manage less than a single day’s use.
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Galaxy S8 Waterproof – Will it be IP68 certified?
One of the best features of the Samsung Galaxy S7 was its waterproof chassis. So we’re hoping the Galaxy S8 follows suit with an IP68-certified body – but what does that actually mean?
IP stands for ‘Ingress Protection’, and it’s a rating system put forward by the International Electrotechnical Commission to let consumers know how (1) waterproof, and (2) dustproof, a device is. If a handset is IP68-certified, it can be submerged in water at a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. By contrast, an IP67-certified phone – like the Samsung Galaxy S5 – is only rated to depths of one metre.
So how likely is it that the Galaxy S8 will be waterproof? Well, while the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S7 were aqua-friendly, the Galaxy S6 was not, which shows Samsung is willing to skip over water-proofing for design purposes. However, the waterproof Galaxy S8 was extremely well-received, so it seems unlikely that Samsung will tamper with its winning formula too much.
- Samsung Galaxy S7 – IP68
- Samsung Galaxy S6 – N/A
- Samsung Galaxy S5 – IP67
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Active – IP67
- Samsung Galaxy S4 – N/A
- Samsung Galaxy S3 – N/A
Unfortunately, there haven’t been any rumours specifically regarding a waterproof Samsung Galaxy S8 just yet, so stay tuned.
Galaxy S8 Headphone Jack – No more 3.5mm audio port?
Samsung could also follow Apple’s suit and ditch the headphone jack on the Galaxy S8 – à la the iPhone 7. The USB Implementers Forum recently published its Audio Device Class 3.0 specification, which details a standard for phone makers that allows audio to be transmitted via USB-C. The new standard is a clear bid to incentivise Android phone manufacturers to abandon the age-old 3.5mm audio jack for greener, USB-C shaped pastures.
“USB is the simplest and most pervasive connector available today, making USB Type-C the logical choice for the future of digital audio,” said Jeff Ravencraft, President of the USB-IF. “We encourage companies interested in adopting USB specifications to take advantage of USB-IF resources to reduce time-to-market and deliver reliable USB products.”
The organisation’s new specification talks about how OEMs should remove the 3.5mm jack to shave “up to a millimetre off product designs and [reduce] the number of connectors”. It adds: “Fewer connectors will open the door for innovation in countless ways and make it easier to design waterproof or water-resistant devices."
Now that Apple has paved the way (with great controversy), it's much easier for other phone makers like Samsung to make a similar move.
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Galaxy S8 Software – Android Nougat or Android...Oreo?
Samsung’s Galaxy S8 will probably launch before the next version of Android (Oreo, maybe?) is announced. Instead, we’re far likelier to see Android 7.0 Nougat on board.
Nougat is Google’s flagship mobile OS for 2016, and is the debut software for the new Google Pixel smartphone. Probably the biggest improvement with the software is the addition of split-screen mode. However, Samsung already offers this feature with its own TouchWiz skin – the software Samsung overlays onto Google’s Android OS. But there are other new perks, like notification stacking, a flatter ‘material design’ aesthetic, and battery life improvements.
And given the support for Android Pay, it seems very likely that the Galaxy S8 will retain NFC for contactless payments.
You can read all about the entire update in our Android Nougat review.
Android N's new split-screen feature
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Samsung Galaxy S8 Accessories – Cases, cameras, and more?
Samsung is plotting a new 360-degree camera to launch alongside the Galaxy S8 next year, apparently.
A new report by specialist blog Sammobile says that Samsung is currently developing a ‘Gear 360 Pro’, a 360-degree camera that will succeed this year’s Gear 360. It’s supposedly set to launch at the same time as the Galaxy S8, which we’re currently expecting to arrive between February and April next year.
Samsung announced its first consumer-grade 360-degree camera – the Gear 360 – at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress earlier this year. It launched alongside the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, but has only been shipped in a limited number of markets. We’re guessing Samsung was simply testing the waters with this device.
Samsung's Gear 360, pictured alongside a Galaxy S7 Edge and a Gear VR
But if the ‘Gear 360 Pro’ does launch next year, it will be a sign that Samsung had reasonable success with the Gear 360. Here’s what we can expect, according to today’s report:
“The Gear 360 could bring improved image and video quality as well as more features, but we are not sure about its aspects as of now. The South Korean smartphone giant is also working on the Gear 360 Manager app for the iOS platform, bringing iOS support for its 360-degree cameras. However, we don’t think iOS support will be released any time soon.”
Samsung is currently beta-testing the Gear Manager app for iPhones, which adds iOS support for Samsung’s smartwatches and fitness trackers. So it’s no surprise that company may be hoping to extend this support to its Gear 360 camera too.
Samsung Patents – The future for Galaxy S8?
Samsung has a huge (and ever-growing) patent portfolio, which makes for excellent future-gazing. Will any of these features make it to the Galaxy S8?
New home button
Samsung could be preparing to swap out its signature lozenge-shaped home button for something a little more iPhone-like. A recently published Samsung patent depicts a handset with circular home button sensors, just like the iPhone. And another patent positioned the sensor on the back of the phone, just like the LG G5.
It was recently reported that Samsung was planning to introduce a new alternative to Android's notification light, dubbed 'Smart Glow'. Since then, tech blog Sammobile released what it claims is accurate information about the feature.
According to the report, Smart Glow is an illuminated ring around the camera lens on the back of Samsung Galaxy smartphones. This ring lights up for notifications, and will be customisable, i.e. users can change the colour depending on the type of alert.
The report also notes that Smart Glow won't just be used for replacing the notification LED, however. It might also help impprove your selfie game significantly:
"It's also going to help users take pictures of themselves with the rear camera. Since that can prove to be a bit tricky as opposed to taking a selfie with a front camera, the Smart Glow ring will illuminate when it detects the face and the photo will then be taken in a few seconds."
Samsung is expected to show off Smart Glow initially with the upcoming Galaxy J2, rumoured for an imminent Indian launch. If the feature is a hit, there's a good chance the Galaxy S8 will also boast Smart Glow.
Smartphone makers have struggled to innovate in recent years, but a recent patent filing from Samsung shows one of the ways in which handsets, such as the Galaxy S8, could get a lot more interesting in the future. The company has submitted designs for a new high-end that features two screens on either side of a 'built-in cover'.
This latest submission seems to be a developed version of a previously submitted patent application for a smartphone with a very small seam between two screens. It now seems Samsung has ditched the idea of having the dual-screen setup make one larger display in favour of a new design which, as Patently Mobile reports, looks like "a professional notebook aimed at executives, sales pros and students".
The new design consists of a cover that folds open to reveal two screens, one of which will be a 'functional unit' containing input devices, sensors, antenna devices, and charging pads. Also revealed in the patent filing are pen and ultrasonic input, a projector and biometric scanner, and sensors to track grip, gestures, and UV.
Patently Mobile notes the removal of a traditional hinge design, which has allowed Samsung to reduce the weight and thickness of the phone itself. Also highlighted in the report is a passage from the patent submission itself, which mentions a "processing device (e.g., a GPU) for supporting a mobile TV".
Samsung submitted the patent application in November 2015 in the US but, as always, there's no guarantee we'll ever see the design put into production.
Galaxy S8 Price – How much will it cost?
We can only guess at the Galaxy S8 price at this stage. To help, here’s a look-back at recent Galaxy phone mark-ups:
- Galaxy S7 – £569
- Galaxy S6 – £599
- Galaxy S7 Edge – £639
- Galaxy S6 Edge – £695
Unsurprisingly, the Edge-variant Galaxy phones tend to cost between 5% and 10% more than their more traditional counterparts. If we take the average price of the S7 and S6, and assume that the Galaxy S8 will cost about £599, then the Galaxy S8 Edge would probably retail at about £639.
However, we’ll have to wait for some leaks nearer to the Galaxy S8 release date before we can put our finger on the price with any degree of certainty.
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Should I wait for the Galaxy S8?
The Galaxy S8 is a long way off, so it may be unwise to batten down the hatches and wait for the 2017 flagship.
There are plenty of great phones on the market right now, not least the Galaxy S7, and Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL. But you’ll also find good value from the HTC 10 and, to a lesser extent, the LG G5. And if you’re not a die-hard Android nut, the iPhone 7 is a formidable handset.
But by the time the Galaxy S8 handset comes out, there’ll be even more phones available. We’d expect to see the LG G6 vying for your hard-earned cash, for instance.
And looking beyond that, you’ll have the HTC 11 (probably, anyway) shortly following the Galaxy S8, with the iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8 assuredly in tow.
What phone are you most excited for in the coming year? Let us know in the comments.
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What would you like to see from the Galaxy S8? Tell us your thoughts below.