Now that we know the Galaxy Note 9 has an official Aug. 9 launch date: Aug. 9, we can really dig into the rumors of how Samsung’s next big phone could wow us …or disappoint. Let the real speculation can begin.
The Galaxy Note, which is designated by its trademark digital stylus, represents the culmination of Samsung’s technology for the year. The Note is usually the phone that Samsung usually saves as its “best for last” to battle the iPhone and Pixels, and thrust in front of buyers when the holidays roll around.
Rumors are still a jumble at this point — will the Note 9 have an underscreen fingerprint reader or won’t it?! — but what is certain is that the Galaxy Note 9 will need to progress beyond the already excellent Galaxy S9 andif it’s going to.
The juiciest rumor by far points straight at the Note’s signature detail, the thing that makes it different and more powerful than any Galaxy S phone: the S Pen stylus. One leaker claims that theNote 9’s S Pen is going to finally learn some skills that go beyond writing, drawing and navigation.
Keep reading for my thoughts, plus the best rumors that are building ahead of the official Note 9 launch. Check back often! This list updates as quality new rumors emerge.
Confirmed: Samsung’s announcement is set for Aug. 9
The rumors were spot on.. I’d say there’s a 99.99 percent chance that the device in question will be the Note 9 that launches Aug. 9. Nice symmetry, eh?
9/9 at 9 a.m. would have been even better, but with the iPhone launch typically around the same date in September, playing chicken with Apple is risky business. Samsung wouldn’t dare put itself in a position to lose that popularity contest. Typically, Samsung likes its Note phones to go on preorder well before Apple even announces its next round of iPhones.
Aug. 9 is early for a Note launch, which usually happens at the end of the month rather than the beginning. Last year’s Note 8 was announced Aug. 23. But, there is some precedent for an early unveiling. The Note 7 unveiling took place Aug. 2, 2016. Critics pointed fingers at the rush job as one reason that.
We’ll try not to draw too many parallels about the early Note 9 launch.
Unfortunately, the invitation doesn’t provide a heck of a lot of clues about what we’ll see inside the phone. It focuses on a button, rendered in a yellowy gold color. This could be a button on the side of the phone, or it could show a close-up of the S Pen stylus itself. Mysterious, indeed…
It will almost surely be called the Galaxy Note 9
That the Note 9 will be called the Note 9 isn’t necessarily a given.
Just because the last phone in this series was the Note 8 and the one before was thedoesn’t mean Samsung wouldn’t skip a number to rename its phone. Samsung did skip 2016’s Galaxy Note 6 in favor of the Note 7 name; some suspected it was to match up numerically to the iPhone 7.
But one indication that Samsung’s sticking with the classic progression comes from frequent gadget leaker Evan Blass, who tweeted that the Note 9’s model number is SM-N960U and its internal name is Crown.
Note 9’s S Pen might help you take photos and control music
The Galaxy Note’s built-in stylus draws and writes with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. It also helps keep your screen clean by navigating you around. The S Pen is already a smart pen that’s rumored to get smarter with the Note 9, but not just because it’s a pen.
According to Twitter leaker Ice Universe, the Note 9’s S Pen will be a Bluetooth-connected device that will be able to serve as a remote control for other functions that have nothing to do with writing. For example, maybe you’d be able to click the pen to take a photo when your phone’s on a tripod, or advance your musical track.
I’d be happy if Samsung made the top of the S Pen pressure-sensitive enough to erase mistakes, like you would with an analog pencil. (Cue the “back in my day” diatribe.)
Whatever Samsung does with the S Pen, it will be critical that the action isn’t easy to accidentally trigger. Because that truly would be annoying.
The Note 9 could turn its dual cameras on their side
Dual cameras on the Note 9 are pretty much a sure bet. The Note 8 was Samsung’s first phone to add portrait mode, and the Galaxy S9 Plus has the setup, too. Samsung’s moving forward here, not backwards.
An image from OnLeaks and @91Mobiles shows a Galaxy Note 9 with side-by-side cameras instead of a vertical stack as we see on the S9 Plus. (For more on cameras, scroll to the wish list below.)
Will the Note 9 have a notch? Doubt it
Google has embraced the trend of Android notches, but that doesn’t mean Samsung will. The cut-out screen design gives you a “larger” screen to work with by extending the sides of the screen up around the cut-out where the camera lens, speaker and other sensors live.
But there’s an extremely high chance that Samsung will keep the Note 9 notch-free and instead use the Note as a way to mock the iPhone X and other notched Android phones.
After all, the notch was an important part of a recent Samsung ad that slammed iPhone speed, and Apple’s flock in general.
That said, a patent application does exist for a Samsung phone with a notch design. Then again, so does a notch-less one, with holes cut into the display instead of a screen cut-out.
It’ll probably have a headphone jack
The Galaxy Note and Galaxy S phones have been safe so far, and Samsung execs have publicly stated that they’re proud of the headphone jack. Samsung also typically ships its AKG wired earbuds along with the Galaxy phones inside the box.
It could come in these five colors
One rumor from German site All About Samsung suggests that the Galaxy Note 9 could come in black, grey, lavender (similar to the Galaxy S9’s “lilac purple”), bright blue and brown. Some of these shades could have iridescent qualities like the Galaxy S9 phones and other Samsung models.
Based on past Galaxy phones, I think it’s a pretty good guess that the Note 9 will maintain the glossy finish Samsung seems to savor, one that can alter the phone’s color when you turn it in the light.
The Note 9’s rumored in-screen fingerprint reader isn’t looking good
Many rumors (like this one from Korea’s The Investor and this one from leak tweeter Ice Universe) suggest that the Galaxy Note 9 would have a fingerprint reader baked into the display, much like the Vivo X20 Plus UD (worst phone name ever) and the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS (wait, I take that back).
I really, really want this to happen.
However, the current word is that Samsung’s pulled the feature for now, and will save the in-screen fingerprint sensor for the Galaxy S10. That would be a shame, since the Note series typically leads the way with Samsung’s new features.
On the flipside, Samsung can’t afford the embarrassment of a mistake if the in-display sensor isn’t secure enough for reliable enough for daily use. Ultimately, having this feature work well is better than being among the first.
Instead, a fingerprint reader on the back
Rumors back up the physical fingerprint sensor living below the camera. The prolific Ice Universe tweeted that the Note 9 and Note 8 will look almost indistinguishable, and also posted a leaked case that’ll allegedly fit the Galaxy Note 9 that features a cut-out for a rectangular fingerprint reader, Samsung’s preferred shape. Keep in mind that a case maker could easily create renders based on rumors and speculation; this isn’t necessarily the real deal.
Still, centralizing the fingerprint reader would be a good decision, and one that would overwrite the Note 8’s most annoying and unnecessary design flaw.
Will the Note 9 have a foldable display? Not bloody likely
The other feature guaranteed to put the Note 9 up in lights is also the least likely by far.
We know that Samsung’s working on a foldable phone, and has gone far enough to apply for a patent on a few design scenarios. I’d be stunned speechless if that were to actually happen (for the record, rumors suggest we won’t see a foldable phone from Samsung until 2019).
In a nutshell, it isn’t Samsung’s style to take such a huge risk on its Note phone. The tech giant is far more likely to launch a separate foldable phone to test the waters and gather feedback for working out kinks.
Samsung has long cited Galaxy Note users as among its most loyal, and any issue with a foldable Note could permanently alienate buyers who have already been burned by the Note 7 fiasco.
Galaxy Note 9 could mimic the Note 8
So what could the Note 9 look like? The Note 8. Speculation points to a Galaxy Note update that’s got similar dimensions and design to last year’s model, but again, with a fingerprint reader that sits below the dual camera array, not off to the side as it does in the Note 8.
A possible render of the Galaxy Note 9 shared by mobile tipster Ice Universe suggests that the Note 8 and Note 9 are virtually indistinguishable, adding that the new Note could be 2mm shorter than the Note 8.
Bixby AI software lives on
Samsung’s Bixby software is now a fixture on the company’s high end Galaxy phones, which means its presence is a foregone conclusion even if the head of Samsung Research’s AI Center hadn’t said we’d see an upgraded version on the next flagship phone, whether you wind up disabling Bixby or not.
Bixby could pick up better natural-language processing, improved noise cancelling and faster response times.
Remember that Bixby 2.0, the current version, isn’t just for Samsung phones. This is Samsung’s vision for its entire ecosystem of devices, similar to the way that Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa AI sidekicks push into the home through smart speakers and other devices.
I’d expect to see the Bixby button return to the left side of the Galaxy Note 9, and I’d be overjoyed if Samsung let you program this key to do something other than open Bixby, though I seriously doubt this will happen.
What about a Samsung version of Apple’s FaceID?
By the time we think the Note 9 will launch, it’ll have been almost a year since the iPhone X debuted with FaceID, and still no direct competitor to challenge Apple’s secure level of face unlock. The Note 9 would be Samsung’s chance to respond.
The Galaxy S8 phones and newer give you a few options for unlocking your phone with your face, but only one of them, iris scanning, is secure enough for mobile payments. That’s a pretty good bar as these things go.
Iris scanning harnesses a different technology than Apple’s FaceID, which uses a 3D front-facing camera and 50,000 infrared dots to map your face and verify that you are you.
The Galaxy Note 9 represents an opportunity for Samsung to pop in a 3D camera, too, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor that I expect Samsung to use (the Galaxy S9 already does) supports Applelike technology.
There’s little doubt that Samsung and others will want to use a 3D camera, but after losing a lawsuit and being forced to pay Apple $539 million for patent infringements, I can’t blame Samsung for wanting to tread carefully.
Will Samsung fix AR Emoji to take on Apple’s Memoji for iOS 12?
Gawd, I hope so. Samsung made 3D avatars first, through its AR Emoji feature in the Galaxy S9 camera. But the unsettling images creeped us out and Apple’s new Memoji avatars in iOS 12 are already better at some important things.
Samsung can work to fix AR Emoji in two ways. The first is through software fixes that add more customizations. The second is if that Note 9 gets a 3D camera, which would give Samsung’s emoji-creating engine more data to grab on to when it scans your face to make your avatar.
The Note 9 won’t launch with Android P
Sorry, but it’s a given. Google’s Android P software update doesn’t even have a name yet — it’ll becomeor Pudding or something by the time it arrives on its first phone later this year, most likely in fall around the time that the Google Pixel 3’s announced.
But the Galaxy Note 9, and a heap of other Galaxy phones, including the S9 and S9 Plus, are sure to get the final Android P software in the following months. Unfortunately, Samsung isn’t known for particularly timely Android updates.
Note 9 camera wish list
Samsung’s industry-first dual-aperture lens on the Galaxy S9 will surely come to the Note 9 as well, but I think the company could take the technology a step further by bringing dual-aperture to the front-facing camera as well.
The aperture helps determine how much light your photo gets, and generally speaking, the more light you get in, the better. A dual aperture front-facing camera could help automatically make selfies brighter, even without a flash blinding your eyes.
Hopefully Samsung will also fix the Galaxy S9’s camera app, which too easily switches between camera modes when you don’t intend it to.
Samsung plans to upgrade the Note 9’s camera, according to Bloomberg.