New Samsung Galaxy Note 9 leaks have good news and bad news, and we're likely in for an updated smartphone with a larger screen and handy S Pen, but one without an in-screen fingerprint sensor, sadly.
Update: Samsung has confirmed that Bixby 2.0 is coming to the Note 9, while new rumors suggest an late July launch and early August release date, one month sooner than expected. We're seeing how an in-screen fingerprint sensor could work, with no guarantees it'll make it into the final design. It's the biggest mystery in phones right now.
We’re only three months - at most - away from knowing everything for sure, which means you might as well hold out for Samsung's extra-big Android phone. It’s very close to the expected launch event and release date.
Today, we're sorting through the rumors and leaks (there are a lot of them), and to do that we've gotten out our trusty S Pen stylus ready to declare which are plausible, and which are just wishful thinking.
The Note 9 is poised to be a big deal because it'll be a massively sized update to the Galaxy Note 8, and slightly bigger and better than the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, which launched around the world in March.
Of course, that's not to say it'll be a massive update to last year's phone with a 6.3-inch screen. No, we're expecting iterative, but important changes, mostly to the internal specs, rather than a complete redesign on the outside.
That said, Samsung has to roll out a new Note that's still attention-grabbing enough to outlast the iPhone X2 phones that Apple is likely to unveil in late August or early September. If you're keen on big phones with a handy stylus, this is the one to read up on.
Here are all of the Note 9 rumors so far and the features we want to see from Samsung's next two-handed handset.
Cut to the chase
- What is Note 9? Samsung's next flagship phablet
- When is Note 9 out? Possibly end of August 2018
- What will Note 9 cost? Probably at least $929 / £869 / AU$1,499
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 release date and price
- Last year's phone launched on August 23, and we expect similar timing in 2018
- Likely to ship to stores and first customers in September
- Some sources reckon it could be announced in late July
Samsung is readying the Galaxy Note 9 right now, according to new reports, though we still expect the release date to be close to August 23, which was last year's launch date.
We haven't heard many Samsung Galaxy Note 9 release date rumors yet, but we did see last year's phone announced on August 23 and ship to stores in September. The short-lived Samsung Galaxy Note 7 followed a similar schedule two years ago.
So there’s a good chance that the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will be announced in late August 2018, before hitting stores possibly in mid to late September.
The Note 9 appears to have been trademarked by Samsung in mid-March, so it's possible that the release target is being set in stone.
There's always someone saying the Note phones will come earlier than ever though. This year, it's the The Investor that cites market watchers who believe it could be unveiled in early to mid August instead. And the same site claims that Samsung has codenamed the phone 'Crown' and planned to have a prototype of it ready during the first quarter of 2018.
We've also heard reports that Samsung is testing firmware for the phone and that it started doing so two weeks earlier than for the Note 8, which somewhat suggests an earlier launch is possible - especially as the Galaxy S9 also had its firmware tested earlier than the S8, and went on to launch earlier.
Plus, 'industry sources' are now saying that screen panels were being built for it two months earlier than normal and that it could be announced as soon as late July, then hit stores in early August. For now though a late August announcement still seems most likely.
Whenever the Note 9 does arrive it’s sure to be expensive. The Galaxy Note 8 retailed for $929 / £869 / AU$1,499 at launch and we can’t see Samsung lowering the price for the Note 9, especially now Apple has pushed smartphone prices even higher with its iPhone X.
In fact, the S9 and S9 Plus saw a price increase in most countries, so it only makes sense for Samsung to push its top-tier phone higher, unfortunately.
For now, you'll have to be satisfied with the Note 9's predecessor. Check out today's best Galaxy Note 8 deals.
Watch the video below to see our Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review.
Note 9 in-screen fingerprint sensor
The biggest Samsung Galaxy Note 9 rumor relates to its fingerprint scanner, which could be built directly into the screen. It's the long-awaited feature we're still waiting to see in a mainstream smartphone, and not in demo form or just in China.
A recent rumor suggests Samsung is testing multiple in-screen solutions and will probably use one of them, a move which could also apparently allow room for a larger battery in the Note 9.
That tallies with a source who's said the Note 9 will have both an in-screen scanner and a big 3,850mAh battery.
However, a slightly earlier rumor points to the in-screen fingerprint sensor skipping the Note 9, just like it did on the S9 and S9 Plus, Note 8 and S8 and S8 Plus before. There's reason to believe it'll show up on the Galaxy X (Galaxy 10 next year, however).
Both Samsung and Apple have been rumored to be working on this but failed to achieve it in time for their most recent handsets, pushing Samsung to move the scanner to a sub-optimal position on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, while Apple ditched it altogether from the iPhone X.
There's hopeful news on the subject in the form of a Samsung patent, showing a handset with a scanner built into the screen. Supposedly it would digitally show where users need to place their finger, and could potentially provide vibrations as feedback.
Huawei and Vivo have demonstrated this tech in a phone this year, but Samsung is said to be using an ultrasonic-based in-screen fingerprint sensor for the Note 9, whereas the Huawei and Vivo use light-based optical under-glass fingerprint sensors.
But we've seen many sources in the supply chain claim Samsung has settled on placing the scanner on the back, just like its current flagship phones, so right now we'd say an in-screen scanner is looking unlikely.
Other Note 9 leaks and rumors
As noted above one source has said the Note 9 could have a 3,850mAh battery, which would be a lot bigger than the 3,300mAh one in the Note 8, but only slightly larger than the 3,500mAh one in the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, so it's believable.
But the newest rumor about the Note 9 battery is that it could climb to a 4,000mAh capacity, a new high for a Samsung flagship device. The same rumor has the screen at 6.4 inches, so we're unsure if the source just likes big numbers or if this is true. We're taking this leak with a grain of salt.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has also seemingly been benchmarked with predictably high scores, revealing in the process that it has a Snapdragon 845 chipset, 6GB of RAM and runs Android 8.1 - the same specs in other words as the US version of the Galaxy S9 Plus.
In more unlikely news, there's a chance that Samsung will go even further than an in-screen scanner with the Note 9, as it's patented a smartphone concept that has not just the fingerprint scanner but also the front-facing camera and sensors embedded in the display, for a truly bezel-free design. This might be too ambitious for a 2018 launch though.
That said, an even more ambitious goal for the Galaxy Note 9 could be for it to have a bendable display. This is something Samsung’s been working on for even longer, and there's suggestion that the tech could land in a phone late this year.
However, it might still arrive too late for it to be used in the Note 9, and Samsung might not want to debut such an experimental tech on a major flagship.
Elsewhere, another patent may have given us a glimpse at what the Note 9 will look like, as Samsung has published a phone design with a screen that curves at the right edge, but oddly not at the left.
It’s an unusual look for a phone, and quite different to the Note 8, so we’re skeptical that it will be used for the Note 9, but you never know.
However the Note 9 looks, there's a chance that it will be made from a new material, as Samsung has trademarked 'Metal 12' - a material that's both strong and light.
And moving from the outside to in, The Korea Herald reports that Samsung might equip the Galaxy Note 9 with an NPU (neural processing unit). That's essentially an AI chip like Apple and Huawei have begun using in their flagships.
It's unclear what Samsung would use the chip for, but it could potentially speed up certain functions of the phone.
It’s almost certainly going to have a large curved Super AMOLED display, an S Pen stylus and at least 6GB of RAM. The internal storage should start at 128GB given that Samsung bills this as an enterprise class smartphone. The S8 Plus has 128GB of space in most countries, but just 64GB in the US.
The Note 9 is also likely to sport the top-end Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 chipset, exactly like we see in the S9 and S9 Plus.
However, there are rumors that Samsung is working on an Exynos 9820 chipset. That could bring about faster speeds or, more likely in our minds, HDR video recording. This feature is already supported by the Snapdragon 845, but noticeably absent from all S9 devices across the board, likely because the Exynos 9810 doesn't support it. With new Android phones, like the Sony Xperia XZ2 having HDR video recording, Samsung needs to play catchup.
What we want to see
There are only a few Samsung Galaxy Note 9 rumors so far, but we have a good idea of the sorts of things we want to see from it, such as the following.
1. An in-screen scanner
This has been rumored and it would be a great headline feature for the phone. Having the scanner on the back is awkward, but building it into the screen would both be convenient and the sort of high-tech, futuristic thing that could see the Galaxy Note 9 stand out among other handsets.
We’re pretty sure Samsung is working on it, it’s just a question of whether it’s ready in time for the Note 9’s 2018 launch.
2. Room-filling sound
There are plenty of great things about the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but its speakers aren’t among them.
It has just a single bottom-firing speaker, so for the Note 9 we want at least two speakers, and ideally for them to be positioned on the front of the phone, for sound that travels towards you when you’re looking at the screen.
Given how large the Note 9 is likely to be though, it could maybe even manage four speakers, for truly big sound.
3. Better Bixby
Bixby is one of the key new features of this year’s crop of Samsung flagships, but in its current form it leaves something to be desired, especially when it comes to understanding what you’re saying.
By the time of the Note 8’s launch we want it to be a true Google Assistant and Siri rival.
But however good it ends up being we also want to be able to remap the inevitable Bixby button, because not everyone is going to want to use it.
4. Two-day battery life
Samsung’s been conservative with the size of the battery in the Galaxy Note 8, understandably given what happened with the Note 7, but it’s meant that while the Note 8 should last you a day you’ll probably be plugging it in at night.
And it doesn’t charge as fast as earlier fast charging Samsung phones either.
That may have been a safety precaution as well, but if Samsung can find a way to deliver two-day life and truly fast charging with the Note 9, without risking an inferno, we’d be very happy.
5. Improved face scanning
Although the iPhone X’s Face ID is perhaps its headline feature, it’s not the first phone to sport face scanning. Nor is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but it does have it, it’s just not very secure, to the point where a still image can fool it.
So for the Galaxy Note 9 we want face scanning to return, but only if it’s a lot better. If it can prove more reliable than even Face ID then Samsung could be on to a real winner.
6. A similar price
Given that it’s likely to be one of the most high-tech phones of 2018 we don’t really expect Samsung to launch the Galaxy Note 9 at a lower price than the $929 / £869 / AU$1,499 Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
But if it can keep it around the same that would be something, and would see it undercut Apple’s top-end phones, given that the new iPhone X starts at $999 / £999 / AU$1,579.
7. Even less bezel
The front of the Galaxy Note 8 is almost all screen, but there’s still a sliver of bezel at the top and bottom.
We’d like to see Samsung reduce or remove that for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, perhaps along the lines of the Essential Phone or the iPhone X. Doing so would allow what’s always going to be a very big phone to be a bit more manageable, without having to shrink the screen.
- We might also see the HTC U12 in 2018