The under-panel sensors Samsung refers to here are NOT under-display camera

Galaxy S11 specs, leaks and release preview, a new features’ wishlist

The Galaxy S10 family may have introduced a new punch-hole display design and a new basic S10e member to the dynamic S10/S10+ duo, but apart from those, there weren’t as many performance upgrades compared to its predecessors, the S9 pair. Granted, Samsung managed to differentiate the three phones by the number and features of their cameras but even the Galaxy S10 5G with its six cameras and 5G modem may not do the upcoming Galaxy S11’s merits justice. 

How so? Well, from the few things that have trickled down about Samsung’s 11th installment of the high-end Galaxy S line, we can already paint the phone(s) in broad strokes, and the resulting picture may turn into a masterpiece.

Galaxy S11 specs and design

Given the pains Samsung went through to achieve the OLED display piercing that returned the front camera(s) punch hole of the Galaxy S10 and Note 10, it’s unlikely to drastically change this design. Crazy soapy-shaped concept renders with wraparound displays aside, these things have to be produced in the tens of millions, so Samsung usually leaves the experiments for the midrange A-series now. Will we see a rotating camera on the S11 then, like on the Galaxy A80? Most probably not, but you can have fun with the concept below.
What Samsung might add, though, is its Sound on Display (SoD) technology that will reverberate through the top bezel negating the top speaker and thus free some useful areas to enlarge the display. Samsung already demonstrated the technology last year, and you can preview in the video below, running on a Galaxy S9+. The presentation shown in the booth cites three major advantages of such a design:
  • Eliminating the need for an earpiece hole, hence shrinking the top bezel further
  • Better frequency response bringing about more distinct voice timbers during calls
  • Easier waterproofing, as there will be no hole in the bezel to work around 
We already explained why Samsung is unlikely to go with popping and sliding mechanisms for the front-facing camera on the Galaxy S11 due to the flagship phone conservatism factor, but what about one last option – a camera hidden under the screen? Well, Oppo teased one, and will probably unveil the phone containing it as soon as this week, but the technology has not been proven yet, and might churn out inferior snaps, even by today’s low selfie standards. 

The under-panel sensors Samsung refers to here are NOT under-display camera

Moreover, we don’t even know if Samsung is considering this path in the labs. That famous keynote slideshow grab you see above does not refer to under-display cameras, contrary to how it was bandied about, but rather under-display sensor technology – think the proximity and light sensors that are behind the screen in the Galaxy S10 family, as you can see in JerryRig’s video below. 

Even if Samsung is making strides in under-screen front cameras, risking a cameo on its bread-and-butter S11? Not very probable. So, what are we left with as the most probable design then. Look no further than the S10 vs Note 10 design. We’d love to see the hole filled but may have to wait a bit more for that.
The Galaxy S11 design? Think more Note 10 than S10...

The Galaxy S11 design? Think more Note 10 than S10…

Still, next year there will be a brand new iPhone design by Apple, and Samsung might decide to do something crazy to counter whatever the team from Cupertino is cooking. Samsung has held out on a notch for its flagships pretty heroically, though, so we doubt it will be guided by Apple’s eventual design musings. In that case, the Galaxy S11 may look like this concept image of ours.

PhoneArena imagines what an all-screen Galaxy S11 could look like

PhoneArena imagines what an all-screen Galaxy S11 could look like

Galaxy S11, 5G, and the Snapdragon 865 processor

Samsung’s processor foundries missed one production cycle of the flagship Snapdragon 8-series processor but their new and superior extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography has won the hearts of Qualcomm’s management for the production of Snapdragon 865. Next year, we are going to see a real competition in the world of mobile processing units, it seems, as both the next Exynos and Snapdragon 865 chipset lines will be done at Samsung’s second-gen 7nm production facilities. Currently, Snapdragon 855 that is in the Galaxy S10 for the US is done at the first-gen 7nm production node, while Exynos 9820 for the global versions is on 8nm.
What we were wondering most about, however, is whether Qualcomm and Samsung’s venerable 5G modems will be soldered together with their processors, in a true system-on-a-chip fashion, or will they be separate entities like this year. The need for two separate components to tack on Snapdragon 855 forced many a phone maker to do “5G” versions of their flagships (think S10 5G, 7 Pro 5G, LG V50, Oppo Reno 5G, etc.), often with bulkier bodies and larger batteries, and we hope that this tendency won’t stick around next year as well.
Samsung's 5G modem supports all legacy standards in a single chip

Samsung’s 5G modem supports all legacy standards in a single chip

The 7nm EUV Snapdragon 865 will still be produced in two versions – one with a 5G modem, and one without – which most likely means that Qualcomm’s X55 modem still won’t be integrated. Snapdragon 855 that is in current flagship phones needs two extra components tacked on to form a phone with 5G connectivity, and, even if Snapdragon 865 needs only one – the X55 modem – if it is separate from the processor, we still can’t call it a true 5G-capable chipset.

Samsung recently tipped that it is planning to integrate a 5G modem into a chipset (presumably of its own Exynos making) faster than anyone, and we’d expect to hear about it before the end of the year, with the inevitable end goal to see it make a cameo in the S11 alongside the Snapdragon 865. While Samsung skipped the first 7nm generation that TSMC built Apple’s A12 and the Snapdragon 855 chipset with, Samsung has reportedly been betting on the new production process and the bet will apparently be paying off fully in the S11.

Galaxy S11 camera sensors and samples

The camera set on the Galaxy S11 may opt for higher resolutions, more variable aperture steps, extra time-of-flight sensors and higher zoom levels, and that’s just what we’ve heard so far. Starting with the multistep variable aperture as the freshest rumor, Samsung is reportedly planning to increase the f/1.5 and f/2.4 points of its current flagship camera with one more but it’s anyone’s guess what it would be. The triple-aperture lens may arrive as soon as the Note 10 in August, so not much left to wait before we know.
The new 64MP sensor from Samsung which outputs a 16MP photo in a pixel-binning mode could be used as the main camera as well. More pixels don’t equate a better picture per se, as they are usually made tinier to fit the count, and collect less light, all other things being equal. With the magic of pixel-binning, or combining information from several pixels into one, however, not only is the resulting photo file smaller in size, but also the snap itself is usually able to overcome the smallish pixel size with some algorithmic trickery.

Besides high-res photos, Samsung’s 64MP GW1 sensor with Tetracell technology offers improved low-light performance, better highlights exposure for bright elements, even faster autofocus and improved HDR photography, nearing the perception of the human eye. The proof is in the pudding, i.e. the actual photos, though, and the first sample seems to be doing a good job with tricky components like clouds and reflections. Everything else is on paper still.

First sample from Samsung's new 64MP camera sensor

First sample from Samsung’s new 64MP camera sensor

Last but not least, a Samsung supplier is reportedly building a dedicated factory for time-of-flight (ToF) sensors, like the one on the Galaxy S10 5G, as analysts forecast a surge in demand. The Galaxy Note 10 itself is supposed to arrive with two ToF sensors – one on the back, and one for the selfie camera – for better spatial perception, superior face recognition, and improved portrait-style shots. Samsung’s ToF onslaught is expected to invade even its midrangers, so the rising time-of-flight tide is likely to lift the Galaxy S11 boat as well.

Galaxy S11 release and price

Samsung has been scheduling its Unpacked events around the Galaxy S and Note families like clockwork lately, so we can reasonably assume when the S11 will launch in earnest. If we follow this year’s Wednesday-Friday schedule, the S11 family should be announced on February 19 next year, and unleashed on our unsuspecting heads on Friday, March 6.

Since a drastic design rework is not expected, we’d wager to bet on prices ranging from $749-$999 depending on the model and the 5G connectivity situation. The cheapest S11 may not ship with a 5G modem at all, though.

Galaxy S11 new features wishlist

Here comes the fun part. We are so far removed from the Galaxy S11 announcement, that the rumorverse, the leakster world, and probably even Samsung itself don’t know how exactly the phone will shape up. 

There are some educated guesses like the Snapdragon 865 processor with 5G modem and Sound on Display technology that will make the top bezel barely existent but other than that we can indulge in some wishful thinking. The faster chipset, smaller bezels and upgraded camera prowess seem to be a given, yet what else would you like to see in the S11?

Daniel Petrov

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