Whilst leaks may have slightly ruined the show, including one from Samsung themselves, it won’t stop the huge interest in what is arguably one of the most anticipated Smartphones of 2018, this, the Galaxy S9.
On the surface, it’s clear that the Galaxy S9 is going to be yet another iterative update to the Galaxy line, though that won’t stop it from being the best Smartphone you can get on the Android platform right now. Whether it’s the impressive spec-sheet, the incredible ISO hardware adjusting Camera, the Animoji inspired AR Camera features, to almost dual-Speakers, oh and that Fingerprint scanner in the right place, Samsung have hit the seriously made a win with the Galaxy S9!
Where do you even start with a device like the Galaxy S9, well, you might as well get the specs out of the way! The Galaxy S9 is the first Smartphone to use the Snapdragon 845, however as always that will be a US things, whilst the rest of us get the more interesting Exynos 9 processor, regardless of which version you’re getting, you are guaranteed the fastest Android experience you can hope for, they still won’t out bench the iPhone 8 or iPhone X’s A11 processor, but who cares, in real world use, you’ve a super fast and more importantly battery resilient processor.
What stayed the same
That battery resilience is important as Samsung, disappointingly are still being very conservative with their batteries, the same exact batteries from the Galaxy S8 and S8+, live in the S9 and S9+, which is a shame considering the mediocre at best Battery life the majority have being seeing from the S8 line.
The displays, for the most part, are the same as well, the same 5.8 or 6.2 inch 2960 x 1440 Super AMOLED displays, still look the best in the industry, and whilst they have minor improvements, now more brighter at up to 700-nits, it’s basically the S line playing catch up with the Note 8. Though we challenge you to ever complain about Samsung’s display technology.
Further hardware specs have stayed the same as well, it STILL HAS A HEADPHONE JACK, the same IP68 water and dust resistance, microSD Card expansion, you get the idea. Nothing is removed from the Galaxy S8 line, if anything, they’ve just added to it, which we’ll get to now.
Whilst the Snapdragon 845, or Exynos 9, processors are going to make the device feel fresh, based on performance alone, Samsung have also made some, in some cases, subtle, changes to the Galaxy S9, which you’re always going to appreciate. For starters, they’re slightly smaller, the display edge gap from the top and bottom has decreased even further, creating a more immersive experience. Sure, it’s not iPhone X level, but that means Samsung don’t need to provide a Notch to accommodate.
The biggest refined change comes in the build. The glass is thicker, the metal is thicker and harder, and the metal is no longer a glossy finish, which means the device should be more grippy to hold, and combining the two, the device should be more resilient to any scratches, or dare we say, shatters, going forward. We can hope.
The Galaxy S9 line also has “Stereo Speakers“, we use slightly. The speakers aren’t in any way the best sounding we’ve ever heard, they sound more in line with the Pixel 2 speakers, meaning you’ve two of them, which is great, but you won’t be blown away by the quality. Samsung have taken the Apple approach in terms of placement, sadly not in terms of quality, by placing one speaker on the front top, and the second in the same usual place as the normally single speaker, next to the USB-C port.
Fingerprint scanner, all you need to know, you can now reach it, hallelujah! Samsung have placed the fingerprint scanner below, not next to, the Camera set up at the back. They’ve also made it concave, so you’ll also be able to feel where it is. Though, we have to judge how we got to this stage, multiple revisions later.
Iris Scanning and Facial Unlock, combined
It’s been no secret that Samsung’s past experience with Facial unlocking has been, well, mediocre at best, and, if you wear Glasses, useless. But the company is hoping to change that with the S9 line, by basically combining the two. Whilst they’re have been hardware improvements, upon set-up you will do both, and the device will unlock upon the first method successfully authenticating you. This should mean, simply glancing at the Galaxy S9 will result in it unlocking.
It’s ironic, Samsung create a reason to not need the Fingerprint scanner, on the same revision where they finally fix it’s placement, logic eh?!
Software and …yeah, Gimmicks!
The Galaxy S9 naturally comes running Android Oreo out of the box, with Samsung’s Experience 9 software, or TouchWiz for the old-folks, however the software experience hasn’t seen much updates this year, which is a bit disappointing and then on top of that they’ve just released Android Oreo for the Galaxy S8 line, and it’s more or less identical, so hardware is going to be the selling point for S8 users to upgrade, though naturally if you’ve an S6 or S7, this is a killer upgrade already.
Yeah, they went there. With the success, if you’d even call it that, of Apple’s Animoji on the iPhone X, Samsung have an answer in AR Emoji. Whilst Android Central claim it’s better than Apple’s Animoji, when it comes to tracking, we’ve noticed a lot of inaccuracies, so we’re going to be real and tell you the tracking isn’t as close and seamless, plus the experience is more akin to Snapchat filters than general AR. This makes sense, as the Galaxy S9 features no major AR hardware at the front at all, but it’s there and as you’d expect it’s just as useless of a feature as Animoji.
The one area, Samsung did outdo Apple, was in the ability to create an animated version of your own face, similar to what Nintendo do with Nintendo Mii. Plus, Samsung put the experience where it belongs, within the Camera app, and not hidden inside a Messaging app its exclusive to like Apple.
Camera, and Cameras improvements
When it comes to Camera tech, Samsung have created something pretty impressive that really deserves note, no pun intended. Speaking of the Note, the S9+ has dual Cameras, and yes that secondary Camera is the same one found on the Galaxy Note 8, but that’s not what we’re impressed with, it’s the main sensor on the Galaxy S9!
Typically, any Smartphone Camera features a set aperture, you’ll typically hear manufacturers claim an f/1.5 aperture, for example, in their Camera. The aperture of the Camera is what allows the lens to bring in more light, or more sharpness, software is typically what allows the choice made to be evened out. However, one thing which is really impressive with the Galaxy S9, something we’ve not seen in a Smartphone Camera before, is a single lens with a ‘variable aperture’, this is insane! What’s also pretty awesome, is you can actually see the Camera switching aperture at the back through the lens.
The Galaxy S9 Camera can switch between EITHER a f/1.5 or an f/2.4 aperture. Sure, variable as a term isn’t fully accurate as it’s just one or the other, but the fact that you even have the option to cycle between two given apertures on a lens as small as a Smartphone Camera is really impressive, and should made a collection of Photographers really interested! If this is going to be the big trend for Smartphones in 2018, sign us up!
The Camera itself is a revised 12MP Camera, but has a lot more tricks up its sleeve, even after these aperture changes. The Camera shoots Photos similar to the Pixel 2’s HDR+, in that it shoots 12 photos at the same time, groups them in to 4, then creates the best choice for the image so you always get the best result. Samsung claims this will reduce in over 30% reduction in Photo noise as well as a sharper photo overall, as we mentioned earlier, software to even everything out. As we mentioned, the secondary Camera, found in the S9+, is the same Camera from the Note 8, which incorporates the same 2x optical zoom setup.
The Galaxy S9 also plays catch up with some other phones in terms of video capabilities, allowing ~720p at a massive 960fps, something we saw previously from Sony, however you can only capture a mere 0.2 second clip which will come out at 6 seconds. Video recording can finally allow shooting 4K at 60fps, something the iPhone could do last year, though that was a limitation on Qualcomm’s chipset from last year.
Overall though, the Galaxy S9 has an incredible Camera set-up, and for the first time, users who don’t purchase the dual-Camera Plus model, won’t actually be missing out on much, thanks to the variable aperture of the main lens! Pretty smart stuff Samsung!
So, where does that leave us with the Galaxy S9. Well, in short, it’s everything wrong from the Galaxy S8, fixed, any short comings, sorted, add on top of that some unique and innovative Camera features, the latest in performance thanks to the new chipsets, you’d be hard pressed to claim this won’t be a contender of “The Smartphone of 2018″!