Samsung’s Galaxy S8 was a near-perfect smartphone, offering an impressive blend of design, software, and hardware. Now, with the Galaxy S9’s imminent release, Samsung has the opportunity to set the tone for 2018 and take an early lead for best smartphone of the year. To do that, the company will need to do a few things, which we’ll lay out below.
The first thing Samsung needs to do is find a new spot for the fingerprint sensor. When the Galaxy S8 hit, Samsung made the bone-headed decision to put the fingerprint sensor right beside the camera, an awkward location that resulted in a lot of fingerprints on the camera’s lens.
It wasn’t a dealbreaker by any means. And, to be fair, owners of the device reported they got used to the fingerprint sensor’s location thanks to muscle memory. It was more of a nuisance than a fatal flaw. Nevertheless, Samsung needs to rethink its strategy, which will in turn make the device friendlier to use.
Based on the rumors we’ve heard, it sounds like Samsung will do just that. Several renders and reports claim the Galaxy S9’s fingerprint sensor will live below the camera lens, making it infinitely easier to reach and friendly to both righties and lefties.
Moving the fingerprint sensor will only make the Galaxy S9 better, so it’s nice to hear Samsung has listened to customer feedback. That’s one more step toward perfection.
The second thing Samsung needs to change is more pressing, but sadly not something I expect the company to actually follow through with.
Last year, Samsung debuted its brand new artificial intelligence platform, known as Bixby, which promised to be a combination of Google Assistant and Google Lens. It was yet another option in the growing market of digital assistants, filing it beside Alexa, Cortana, Assistant, and Siri.
The problem was Samsung designed the Galaxy S8 with a dedicated Bixby button, which a lot of people took issue with. Not to mention, Bixby was a bit of a mess at launch, exacerbating the issue even more. Samsung’s software has grown a lot over the last several months, but that doesn’t change the fact that a dedicated Bixby button is a bad idea.
It’s a foregone conclusion the Galaxy S9 will launch with a dedicated Bixby button. But, at the very least, Samsung should make that button programmable. Again, it would make the device friendlier to use and make it feel less rigid and uncompromising.
Soon after the Galaxy S8 launched, a number of intrepid developers tried giving that button a higher purpose, making it so users could remap the button to launch whatever they wanted. Then Samsung fought back, breaking this ability in a subsequent update.
It’s understandable why Samsung would make the button launch Bixby and fight to keep it that way; plenty of hours went into developing the platform, which has admittedly become a competent, powerful artificial intelligence. But that’s not the point.
A device like the HTC U11 is a great example of why user-friendliness is important. The device’s squeezable edges can be configured by users to launch whatever app they want. I don’t need to explain why that’s such a big deal. Samsung would make a lot of people happy if it pulled a similar move.
I’m sure Samsung has hundreds of reasons why it won’t do that, but one can still hope.
We know quite a bit about the Galaxy S9 already, including its specs and what it might look like. Now, just imagine if Samsung makes these changes. The Galaxy S8 got agonizingly close to being the perfect Android phone. Let’s hope the Galaxy S9 becomes the preeminent device we’ve been waiting for.