Samsung is the world’s largest smartphone vendor, and it cannot afford to get left behind. Apple has added a dedicated neural engine in the iPhone X to enhance its AI capabilities and speed up the Face ID facial recognition process. Google’s Pixel 2 phones come with an imaging chip called Pixel Visual Core that enhances photography and allows third-party apps to capture HDR+ images. Samsung’s next-gen Galaxy S9 would also feature a neural engine to support advanced AI capabilities, hints a new report. Only time will tell precise what features the Galaxy S9 neural engine would support.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Neural Engine
Image Source: Benjamin Geskin / Twitter (screenshot)

Galaxy S9 neural engine: Samsung trying to keep up with competition

The neural engines or specialized co-processors handle specific tasks to reduce the load on the main processor cores. The dedicated chipset performs the task much faster without consuming a lot of battery. Samsung’s Galaxy S phones run either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or Samsung’s in-house Exynos processor depending on the market. Qualcomm has already shown off the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine that would come with the next-generation Snapdragon 845 chipset, which is expected to run the US version of Galaxy S9.

Samsung is interested in developing its own neural engine for the Exynos 9810 chipset, which would power the EMEA variant of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. Citing industry sources, Korean publication The Investor reports that Samsung has made a “significant investment” in Chinese AI startup DeePhi Tech. The report does not mention the Galaxy S9 or Exynos 9810 processor, but the timing of the investment suggest that we would see a Galaxy S9 neural engine early next year.

DeePhi Tech has already developed a Deep Neural Network Developer Kit that could support several AI tasks such as neural language processing and voice recognition on the Galaxy S9. The Chinese startup already boasts of high-profile clients such as MediaTek, Amazon, and Samsung. DeePhi Tech’s expertise lies in developing deep learning algorithms for its unique neural network chipset architecture.

DeePhi Tech’s Deep Neural Network Development Kit can be used to streamline and accelerate deep learning applications. Samsung is said to use the Galaxy S9 neural engine for neural language processing, speech recognition, and other similar features. The Galaxy S9 is also rumored to feature an iPhone X-like 3D infrared sensor for facial recognition. But this rumor is unlikely to be true.

Rival phones have advanced AI capabilities

The Galaxy S9 neural engine will probably be Samsung’s response to Apple’s A11 Bionic chipset and Google’s Pixel Visual Core. Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor, has also added a neural co-processor in its latest Mate 10 Pro smartphones. Huawei’s Neural Processing Unit helps in advanced scene detection when shooting photos, live translation through the camera, and computational photography.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro’s Neural Processing Unit is capable of learning your usage patterns over time. It allows the phone to open the most frequently used apps faster and put the unused apps on the backburner to save battery life. Huawei claims all the AI activities happen on the device itself rather than in the cloud. It means the phone can perform AI tasks faster than before without compromising on your privacy.

Other Galaxy S9 features

Separately, a patent recently awarded to Samsung in its home country has sparked speculations that the Galaxy S9 would have a front-facing fingerprint sensor. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and noted Twitter tipster Ice Universe have both confirmed that the Galaxy S9 would not get the in-display fingerprint solution. The patent describes a small notch at the bottom of the display to accommodate the fingerprint reader.

Samsung had originally filed the patent in April 2016. A patent is no guarantee that the technology would be implemented on the Galaxy S9. But if implemented, the bottom notch would be a stop-gap measure until the Korean behemoth develops an in-display fingerprint scanner or an iPhone X-like 3D facial recognition system. The bottom notch would only ruin the beauty of the S9’s Infinity display.

Another Twitter leaker Benjamin Geskin has revealed that the Galaxy S9 would offer 6GB RAM and 128GB of built-in storage. Samsung will also add a microSD card slot for users who want to expand the memory further. The upcoming phones are said to retain the 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch Super AMOLED Infinity displays of their predecessors.

Samsung has already secured the initial supply of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset, which would power the US and Chinese versions of the Galaxy S9. Securing the initial supply of the most powerful processor gives Samsung an advantage over its rivals. Other Android vendors would have to delay their flagship phones or launch them with older processors. The Galaxy S9 is also expected to feature an enhanced version of Bixby AI assistant, an improved battery life, and better water-resistance.