More hints arrive every day about Samsung’s next big phone.

Ice universe

Officially, the Galaxy S10 doesn’t exist, and we’re just speculating on the name of Samsung’s next flagship Galaxy phone. Unlike the upcoming foldable phone that it flashed on stage in November, Samsung hasn’t acknowledged the Galaxy S10 on its roadmap. But after nine years of Galaxy S phones fueling Samsung’s rise to the top, the Korean tech giant would be crazy to stop before its 10th anniversary Galaxy S.

More rumors and hints converge each day, including some fresh details of the Snapdragon 855 chip that will likely power the Galaxy S10 and other flagship Galaxy phones this year — perhaps the Note 10 and foldable phone, too.

More than ever, Samsung’s position as the world’s top phone-maker is in peril. Slow phone sales are troublesome enough, but increased pressure from China’s Huawei, which ousted Apple to take the No. 2 slot, should cause alarm within Samsung’s ranks. Although Huawei phones are no longer sold in the US amid the government’s security concerns, the phone-maker has increased global sales without America’s help, and has released state-of-the-art phones like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Samsung needs to counter Huawei’s advance with everything it’s got.

Rumors paint a picture of the Galaxy S10 as a series of three phones packed to the gills with the biggest mobile trends. Here’s what we think we know about the upcoming S10.

The Galaxy S10 is not the foldable Galaxy X

The Galaxy X is one rumored name for Samsung’s foldable phone, and as far as we know, it and the Galaxy S10 are separate devices. This makes perfect sense. The Galaxy S is a tried and true phone series, and Samsung wouldn’t miss an enormous opportunity to crow about a special 10th anniversary edition.

Meanwhile, a foldable phone is an untested concept that’s just getting its footing. As of today, there’s one foldable phone on the market, the Royole FlexPai, and a lot of intentions from HuaweiLG and others. Samsung and other phone-makers will want to tread cautiously to see how buyers respond before bringing a foldable design into the mainstream Galaxy S lineup.

Plus, if you believe the rumors, the Galaxy S10 code name is “Beyond.” The Galaxy X reportedly has the moniker of “Winner.”

Fingerprint sensor should be in-screen and ‘ultrasonic’

Who needs rumors? Qualcomm announced last week that that its Snapdragon 855 chipset will support an unltrasonic, in-screen fingerprint reader that verifies your identity using soundwaves. Samsung was at the show as a partner talking up 5G phones. While the world’s largest phonemaker didn’t breathe a word about in-screen readers, there’s little doubt at this point that this is the solution Samsung’s been waiting for.

In-screen fingerprint sensors are ramping up as a must-have feature in high-end phones. The OnePlus 6T beat Samsung to become the first US carrier phone to have one. But rumors reaching as far back as the Galaxy S9 have pegged the feature for a Galaxy.

Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors promise to accurately and securely read your print through water and grime. We’ve seen this technology under development for years — the video below shows it in action.

Galaxy S10 might come in 5G, Plus, budget models

The Galaxy S10 is rumored to come in three configurations:

  • A standard model about the same size as today’s Galaxy S9, but with even slimmer bezels.
  • A larger Plus variant like the Galaxy S9 Plus.
  • A budget version modeled on the iPhone XR that has fewer hardware embellishments, like straight edges instead of the two curved sides, and no fancy in-screen fingerprint reader (more on that below). There’s also a suggestion the budget Galaxy S10 could lose the headphone jack.

The rumors suggest that the Plus version (said to be code-named Beyond X) will have 5G capabilities, most likely as a way to differentiate the device other than its size. The current Galaxy S9 Plus, for example, has two rear cameras while the standard S9 has one.

While Samsung did commit to four 5G phones in 2019 (two for AT&T and one each for Verizon and Sprint), don’t expect the Galaxy S10 to be Samsung’s first 5G phone. Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told Korean reporters in November that a separate device launching in March on Korean carriers will be its first 5G phone instead. (Here are six things you need to know about 5G on phones.)

Six cameras for the Galaxy S10?

samsung-5g-prototype-phone
Samsung’s prototype for its 5G phone. Could this be a model for the Galaxy S10?

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Fours cameras will adorn the back of the Galaxy S10, according to one report, and two will sit up front. Multiple rear cameras have the ability to offer more zoom options, more fine detail (especially if one camera is monochrome), and depth mapping for portrait mode (the “bokeh effect”) and AR.

The rumor is further bolstered by the existence of the Galaxy A9, a phone with four rear cameras that Samsung announced in October for Asian markets. Samsung could be using the A9 as a testbed for the design and software, before implementing refinements in the all-important Galaxy S10. However, frequent Twitter leaker Evan Blass has suggested there will be three rear cameras on the Galaxy S10, not four.

Will the Galaxy S10 bring portrait mode to video?

Qualcomm put support for portrait mode videos into its Snapdragon 855 chip for 2019 phones and beyond, but that’s no guarantee that Samsung will take advantage of the technology.

If it does, you might be applying a depth-sensing bokeh effect to subjects in video as well as photos. Qualcomm said that you’d be able to swap out the blurred backgrounds in these 4K films for other scenes from a library of choices.

Galaxy S10 Plus could have a 6.7-inch screen… and what about a notch?

We could see the larger S10 Plus sized with a 6.7-inch screen, according to one rumor. To achieve such a large screen, Samsung could shrink the bezels further could potentially expand the usable screen space without increasing the size of the phone.

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Samsung Display announced new notched screens.

Angela Lang/CNET

At this point, a screen notch — where the screen divots to make room for a front-facing camera and other sensors — seems inevitable. Samsung even showed off notched screen styles for its Infinity Display at its developer conference in November, the Infinity-U (a U-shaped notch), Infinity V (you guessed it, a V-shaped notch) and Infinity-O (like someone took a hole punch to the corner of the screen).

Samsung is clearly ready to embrace the design in the name of screen edges that stretch clear to the phone’s shoulders.

The selfie camera could peer out of a punch-hole screen design

So which notch would the Galaxy S10 use? Evidence is mounting that it’ll be the Infinity-O, with a hole punched out of it for at least one camera lens. Samsung has made the design official in the newly-announced Galaxy A8S, a phone for China. Twitter leaker Evan Blass suggests that the same screen will come to the Galaxy S10.

Evan Blass

@evleaks

Few preliminary Galaxy S10 details:

– “Punch hole” style selfie cam cutout (sounds like Infinity-O display).
– Ultrasonic, in-display FPS
– Three rear cameras (standard/wide/tele)
– One UI over Android Pie

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Will the Galaxy S10 toss out the iris scanner and finally get 3D ‘Face ID’?

When the Galaxy S9 first arrived, we were disappointed it didn’t use secure 3D depth-mapping technology to unlock the phone like the iPhone’s Face ID. 2017’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip inside the S9 supports mapping with 50,000 infrared dots, compared to Apple’s 30,000 infrared dots. Instead, the Galaxy S9 retained Samsung’s secure iris unlocking and unsecure face unlock, the latter a staple on Android phones.

Now might be the time for Samsung to step up its face unlocking game. Rumors point to both the Galaxy S10 losing the iris scanner and gaining a rival to Face ID. Qualcomm’s newest chip supports another kind of face-mapping technology that’s also secure enough for mobile payments, called Sense ID 3D Face Authentication. Perhaps it’s this sensor that could power Samsung’s take on Face ID.

In addition to unlocking the phone securely with a face scan, a depth mapping selfie cam could enable better AR apps and effects, like the disastrously creepy AR Emoji, a rival that predated Apple’s much more skillfully executed Memoji.

The Galaxy S10 will run Samsung’s One UI interface on top of Android 9

Samsung confirmed to CNET that all future phones, including the foldable phone, will use the new One UI interface that Samsung unveiled at its November Developer Conference. The One UI interface design declutters the current Samsung Experience and tries to group icons for easier one-handed use. It’ll work with Android Pie, version 9 of Google’s mobile software, but not with earlier versions of Android.

Possible February launch and a March release date?

Samsung typically announces Galaxy S phones in the last days of February at the annual Mobile World Congress, or within the weeks following. However, the foldable Galaxy X is also rumored to appear in March.

I’m skeptical of Samsung announcing both phones at the same time. A foldable phone would quickly overshadow the Galaxy S10. Based on Samsung’s release patterns, an MWC reveal of the Galaxy S10 makes sense, with a teaser video for a Galaxy X launch event held later in March in New York. Samsung could have a busy spring.

This story originally posted Nov. 29, 2018 and updated most recently on Dec. 10.

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