Samsung has sent us their newest flagship smartphone-- the Samsung Galaxy S9+. The biggest difference between this model and last year’s model is the premium price since this is a new flagship smartphone. The S9+ is around $150 more than the S8+, give or take, but it features an improved camera sensor and upgraded internal specifications packed inside of a pretty familiar build.
If we lift off the top of the press edition Galaxy S9+ box, we’ll find the sleek, new Samsung smartphone cradled up front and center. If we slide it out of the cradle, we’ll see Samsung also gave us their new, fast wireless charging convertible stand that can hold the phone upright or flat on its back. It provides up to 9 watts of inductive charging power that should help it charge your wireless charging-enabled devices (it doesn’t have to be just the Galaxy S9) nearly 1.5 times faster than any other charging pads. In a separate compartment fastened under the top lid of the box, we’ll find a fast-charging wall wart, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and some paperwork for the fast-charger.
In the center of the box, we’ll find the retail packaging for the Galaxy S9+. Inside of that, we’ll find the SIM card ejector tool bundled together with some Get Started paperwork and warranty information. The accessories are going to be very similar to that of the wireless charging pad. There’s a female USB-A to male USB-C adapter that’ll be used to transfer files between your new S9+ and old smartphone. We have a fast-charging wall wart, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and a pair of AKG earphones. These earphones are some of the nicest earphones that I have ever seen included with a smartphone. They feature a braided cable, different sized ear tips, music playback controls, and a 3.5mm headphone jack that will natively support the Galaxy S9 and S9+.
The S9+ that was sent to me is the coral blue variant that looks absolutely stunning. The front panel is black but the aluminum frame and rear glass panel are blue in color. However, the shades of blue change depending on how much light is around. In direct sunlight, it appears light blue. Indoors or in non-ideal lighting conditions, it’s more of a dark blue. A couple hardware changes that I do want to point out include the relocated rear-facing fingerprint scanner. It has been moved below the dual camera sensors to allow you to more easily locate it with your finger. One of the biggest complaints with the S8 was with its hard to reach fingerprint scanner so I’m really glad to see this moved further down the back of the phone. For what it’s worth, the bottom-facing speaker grill also has one big cutout as opposed to several small circle cutouts.
The 6.2-inch Super AMOLED QHD display is largely the same as its predecessors but the curves are slightly less pronounced and the bottom chin is slightly smaller thus increasing the screen-to-body ratio. Color accuracy and brightness have also been improved to better match the Galaxy Note 8’s display. Upon first impressions, it’s a big, beautiful Samsung display. The well-respected site DisplayMate, which reviews smartphone displays, has awarded the Samsung Galaxy S9 display with an A+ rating, the best of any mobile smartphone.
We are looking at TouchWiz running on top of Android Oreo out of the box. But as of making this video, Android Oreo is being pushed out to the Galaxy S8 and S8+. So if you have one of these older devices, you will be able to run the latest and greatest version of Android. I made a video highlighting the new features. If you’re interested, you can view it here. One feature that Samsung added that I noticed when setting up the phone is called Intelligent Scan. It combines iris scanning and facial recognition to unlock your phone. It’s a less secure way to unlock your phone than a passcode or fingerprint scanner but it’s quick and easy and it might appeal to you.
The S9 is the first smartphone to launch with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor that offers somewhere in the ballpark of 10-20% of performance improvements over the 835 chipset. Meanwhile, the Adreno 630 GPU offers around 30% in performance and efficiency gains. It’s also being paired with 6GB of RAM, which is more RAM than the S9, Galaxy S8, and S8+. It is a brand new device so it is to be expected that it’ll perform well out of the box. But man, this phone flies! There can be some herky jerky moments but the S9+ is extremely snappy and responsive. I’m thinking it’s going to be able to keep up with just about everything I throw at it.
A lot of the big changes are found in the camera app. Bixby Vision will detect what you are looking at to give you information that you might need. It can find products online, search for similar images, show notable locations nearby, translate text, and read QR codes. The text translation is especially useful and I really like the UI that is going on here. It’s pretty intuitive.
There’s an AR emoji feature that’s similar to Apple’s Animojis but it’s more personal. You can create your own emoji with a face and body that’s supposed to look like you. It can track your face, movements, and you can take pictures and whatnot. It’s definitely a little gimmicky but hey, it could be a little bit fun. The camera also supports Super Slow Motion. It can record 720p video at 960 frames per second that looks great.
The biggest update is the dual aperture camera. The Galaxy S9 camera can switch between an f/1.5 aperture and f/2.4 aperture, depending on the lighting conditions. If there’s not a lot of light, you can switch to the f/1.5 aperture lens, which is super wide to allow more light in while sacrificing sharpness. I obviously haven’t tested this feature in detail yet because I just got the phone but it’s really cool on paper. You can actually see the lenses changing when you switch apertures. From a hardware standpoint, it’s just really neat.
Images and videos appear to be some of the best in the market. I’m a big fan of the Pixel 2 and how incredible that camera sensor is. I’m not going to say the S9 outperforms that sensor but the images do look very appealing upon first impressions. Lots of detail and dynamic range is impressive with the little time I’ve had to test it.
Samsung has added dual stereo speakers further rounding out this phone. It’s one of the most feature-packed smartphones on the market. The call speaker doubles as a loudspeaker and it works along with the bottom-facing speaker to create that stereo experience.
Aside from those new features, everything else is just about the same as last year’s Galaxy S8 and S8+. We have an IP68 water and dust-resistance rating, a non-removable 3500mAh battery, wireless charging, and Bluetooth 5.0. Even though this isn’t a big upgrade over last year’s model, the stereo speakers, improved performance, and added camera features really helped make this one very well-rounded smartphone. I think it’s safe to say that this is the most feature-packed and well-rounded smartphone we’ve seen yet.