Although there’s nothing official yet, some tweets by David Ruddock from Android Police have suggested a number of changes to the Samsung Galaxy S8 that will change the device. Namely, the company will:
1 – Remove the physical navigation keys
2 – Add 3D Touch style functionality to the on-screen navigation buttons
3 – Move the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone
I’ll tackle these rumors one by one, but remember that this is all fairly unsubstantiated, I’m writing about it here because I have some insights that might be interesting – but you’ll be the judge of that.
Firstly, removing the physical buttons is nothing new as an idea. It’s really how Google likes Android to be driven – via the on-screen keys. You can see this on a lot of Android devices, but Samsung has kept physical keys for ages. So why get rid of them?
It sounds like Samsung is going to aim for a much larger screen that covers the whole phone. Imagine this as being like the Edge devices we already have, with the rolling edge. But also the display will extend more to the top and bottom of the device.
Bear in mind that there is also a rumor that Samsung is ditching the headphone jack too. This would fit with a screen that extends further down to the bottom of the screen, because you’d need to remove the jack to achieve this.
Adding 3D Touch functionality is a no-brainer too because it gives you a lot more functionality on the buttons which would allow you to navigate around the device with greater ease. Quite how Apple responds to this remains to be seen, but “context sensitive” menus are nothing new, and this is an extension of that really.
Now, moving the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone, this is a different issue and a weird decision. Now of course the move to extend the screen means that it makes sense in theory, but there’s already technology about that would enable Samsung to implement a fingerprint scanner beneath the screen without any physical home button.
Some time ago I saw a Qualcomm prototype for something called SenseID. It’s an evolution of something I saw demoed even before the Snapdragon 820 was launched. It uses ultrasonic waves to scan your fingerprint. As such it doesn’t need direct contact with your finger to work, it can operate through glass too. This would certainly be a good solution for Samsung – and expect it in the iPhone 8 too.
Qualcomm told me that it’s also a lot more secure than traditional fingerprint scanners, it can “see” more detail and is also produces live scans which should mean it can unlock the phone really quickly as you adjust your finger placement.
The key is that Qualcomm has made the technology necessary for this work. Samsung, of course, likes to use its own Exynos chip phones these days, only certain markets (one of which is the US) Qualcomm chip devices. Samsung is happy to produce sku different hardware, but it will never provide a different hardware-based user experience.
I believe Samsung can license SenseID system from Qualcomm in any case, after all this is a professional company to make money, but maybe it’s 2017 technical challenge too.
I do not mind using a rear fingerprint scanner as a rule, but some people despise them. I think it would be a shame at S8 because Samsung’s existing system works.