This is the phone that’ll go head-to-head with the 2018 iPhone.
When I think of August, I think of the Galaxy Note. That’s the month that Samsung typically introduces its latest phone for power users, with its trademark digital stylus. The Note represents the culmination of Samsung’s technology for the year; 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.
I fully expect the Galaxy Note 9 to move a step beyond the already excellent Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus — whether that’s a shuffle or a stride is up in the air. I have my own hunches on what the Note 9 could have, what I think it should have, and what I think it absolutely won’t include.
Keep reading for my thoughts, plus the best rumors that are already starting to build ahead of the official Note 9 launch. And keep checking back, too: I’ll continue to update this list as new rumors emerge.
Read: Six things the Galaxy Note 9 should have
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 the Galaxy Note 7 doesn’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.”
Rumor has it that the Galaxy Note 9 will launch on Aug. 9 in New York. 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 would be 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 in 2016. Critics pointed fingers at the rush job as one reason that Note 7 units literally burst into flames.
So, yeah, Aug. 9 makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s hard not to draw parallels. Is Samsung willing to play with fire?
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.
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.
Many rumors (like this one from Korea’s The Investor) 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.
Rumors back up the physical fingerprint sensor living below the camera. Twitter leaker 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.
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.
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 with a fingerprint reader that sits below the dual camera array, not off to the side as it does in the Note 8.
That would be a good decision, and one that would overwrite the Note 8’s most annoying and unnecessary design flaw .
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 .
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.
Read: 10 Bixby tricks you need to know
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.
This is the phone that’ll go head-to-head with the 2018 iPhone.