Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and LG’s G6 are two new flagships that will steer Android in a new direction; we unpack what each phone will bring!
While the Bandwidth Blog team have previously reckoned that smartphones – as a concept – seem to have settled on the ideal design, Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S8 and LG’s G6 have invoked design changes that could steer Android in new directions.
We’ve largely become accustomed to a set of premises around Android smartphones; typically, larger displays dominate the market while smaller screens are adopted by budget or specialty handsets. Subsequently, we’ve grown to expect flat 16:9 displays, a mix of front or rear fingerprint readers, and the presence of the best of Google in the form of Now.
Android, as an operating system, has typically been lead from the front by market players such as Samsung while Google has endeavoured to catch up with its own Nexus and later Pixel devices. With the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 leading the charge, could Android be ready for a new wave of iterative features? Without further ado, let’s dive in and see what trends we expect both handsets to usher in!
16:9 is so 2016
Here’s a buzzword we feel everyone will have to get to grips with in 2017; Univisium. All jargon aside, that term refers to the aspect ration of 18:9 (or 2:1, as our Editor Theunis prefers). If you’ve digested some of Netflix’s finer binge material such as Stranger Things, you’ve unwittingly watched media in the Univisium format, which is being touted as the method to standardize all mediums of visual broadcast.
While an exciting prospect to have emerged from leaked Galaxy S8 and LG G6 renders is the fact that bezels will generally go on a diet, a more important revelation is arguably the fact that such design decisions have been made to accommodate an 18:9 aspect ratio on each device’s display.
What does that mean? A few things – firstly, content consumption is about to become a whole lot juicier, and platforms such as Netflix, thanks to the adoption of the Univisium format, will be the first to benefit in the hearts and minds of consumers.
Secondly, there’s the premise of having more screen real-estate to grapple with. An aspect ratio of 18:9 demands a revised form factor, which both LG and Samsung have opted to reduce side bezels in an effort to accommodate. Subsequently, we might not only be able to expect handsets to become slinkier and sexier in the future, but we could further see larger displays on smaller physical devices. One such rumoured proponent of the latter is Apple, which is alleged to be developing 4.7″ and 5.2″ iPhone 8 models that would respectively feature a 5.15″ and 5.8″ physical display.
Finally, there’s the advent of the second screen. While companies such as LG and HTC have made strides in second screen functionality on models such as the V10, V20, and U Ultra, the introduction of an aspect ratio of 18:9 might well put the final nail in the coffin for the feature considering its reliance on a tall top chin, which neither the flagship G6 or the Galaxy S8 are expected to have.
Mercifully, rear-facing fingerprint scanners win out
One of Android manufacturers’ most reactive steps was to begin the mass introduction of fingerprint scanning modules aboard the front of their devices when Apple began the process of introducing Touch ID aboard the iPhone 5s. While many Android handsets actually supported the feature long before Apple cottoned on, Touch ID was responsible for the visual metaphor of a front-facing fingerprint scanner.
On iOS, this arguably makes more sense; the classic Home button has been a staple of navigation since the very first iPhone was unveiled, and remains the centrepiece of navigating throughout the system. Integrating a fingerprint reader hence cements the flow of the operating system and reduces the confusion of, let’s say, having two physical buttons.
On Android the situation is far less clear-cut; some manufacturers use soft-touch buttons, others – such as Samsung – use a physical home button, and varying approaches have been taken as disparate as Sony’s side-mounted fingerprint scanner (see the Z5 series) or Huawei’s long advocacy for rear-mounted units.
Thing is, rear-mounted units generally make more sense on Android. As a whole, Android handsets are typically larger than rival counterparts, use navigational buttons best found on a device’s front panel, and can be clumsy to hold when a fingerprint scanner is found on its lower front panel.
The Bandwidth Blog team have long appreciated Huawei’s efforts in driving a fingerprint scanner that sits directly where one’s index finger would, and now with the LG G6 and Galaxy S8, we can expect to see even the Android big leagues make the switch.
Granted, we’re not entirely thrilled about the news that the Galaxy S8’s fingerprint scanner might sit next to its primary camera, but we’re prepared to take LG’s continued support for rear-facing fingerprint scanners as an overwhelming positive. With both companies leading the charge, we might finally be able to enjoy rear-facing modules on some of the best-selling Android smartphones.
We’re definitely in an AI-first world
One of the key claims Google CEO Sundar Pichai made while touting the introduction of Google Assistant is proving to be the prophecy that’s fuelling much excitement in the Android world in 2016; that the smartphone race is over, and we now live in an AI first, and not a mobile-first, world.
There’ve been many rumblings to this extent already; Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL handsets, of course, debuted with Google Assistant as one of their major selling points, while HTC recently debuted Sense Assistant as an intelligent companion aboard the U Ultra.
Samsung is widely anticipated to be a major player to watch, having purchased Viv – the AI from the hands behind Apple’s Siri – for the reported development of its own AI dubbed either Bixby or Kestra.
Similarly, LG’s G6 is expected to introduce its own AI assistant – and, perhaps more tantalizingly, the South Korean company is expected to be the first to get its hands on Google Assistant outside of the shackles of the Pixel or Pixel XL.
The trend here is quite clear; get on board with Assistant, or get on with making your own AI. With the likes of Nokia reportedly producing Viki – a dedicated AI assistant for Nokia-branded Android phones – and considering that both Microsoft and Apple are marching on with Cortana and Siri respectively, we expect one of the primary drivers of Android in the near future will be the rollout of AI assistants – Google-made or otherwise.
Have your say!
With the reveal of both the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 rapidly approaching, there’s much we can expect to see that will have a long-term impact on not only the continued development of Android, but the choices Android manufacturers make when designing new handsets.
What are your thoughts? What do you think the LG G6 or Galaxy S8 could help to introduce as new standards on the platform in 2017 and beyond? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!