Samsung Galaxy S9+: Beautiful, Not Revolutionary

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ continue the aesthetically pleasing designs that Samsung has become known for since the introduction of the Galaxy S7 Edge. The all-glass back and curved screens that flow from edge to edge which provides a viewing experience that is unrivaled by anything on the market today (sorry, iPhone X notch). The S9+, the model being reviewed in this post, looks incredible and feels amazing in the hand. However, is it truly different in form and features from its immediate predecessor, the Galaxy S8/8+? Let’s find out.

Specs & Features

There are some minor differences between the S9 models and its predecessor. The S9 has Android Oreo 8.0 right out of the box, a faster chipset (Snapdragon 845 in the U.S), and stereo speakers. One notable change is the placement of the fingerprint sensor under the camera rather than beside it, as found on the S8/8+ and the Note 8. We, the users, called Samsung out on this and they listened. Even still, I found the Intelligent Scanner much more fun to use. The Intelligent Scanner works every bit as well as the iPhone X’s Face ID, but has been said to be slightly less secure. Samsung retains multiple options for unlocking the phone such as the Fingerprint Scanner, Iris Recognition, as well as password, PIN, or pattern.

The design did not change much from the Galaxy S8 to the S9. I guess Samsung figured, “Why mess with a good thing?”. The body is still glass (which supports wireless charging), the screen is still curved with thin bezels providing more real estate for apps that support larger screens. As with the S8, the S9 and S9+ are IP68 water and dust resistant, so they can be submerged in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes without worry.

The S9/S9+ come in several color choices; Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Lilac Purple. While I use the Coral Blue as a daily driver, the Lilac Purple is simply gorgeous. The last time I was this excited about a color was when Apple released the Rose Gold. The Midnight Black isn’t a bad call either for a more traditional color.

Camera

As good as the Galaxy S8 was overall, it fell behind the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2 when it came to photo quality. This is where Samsung’s new Super Speed Dual Pixel camera changed the game. Although it has the same 12-megapixel resolution as the Galaxy S8, the S9 camera has a variable aperture that’s mechanical, capable of switching on the fly from f/1.5 to f/2.4.

The Galaxy S9+ will be the phone to get if you want a 2x optical zoom, and to leverage features like Live Focus for taking portraits, as only the S9+ offers a second telephoto lens. This improvement has led the S9+ to the pinnacle of smartphone cameras for the time being. The main camera on both the S9 and the S9+ can let in up to 28 percent more light overall, compared with the Galaxy S8, and much closer to the human eye. I have taken many shots in low light settings and have been very pleased with the results.

The hottest new feature of the S9’s camera is Super Slow-Mo. Once you select this camera mode, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ will automatically sense motion and slow things all the way  down to 960 frames per second (fps) at 720p resolution. This was fun to play with while watching someone dive off of a ledge into the pool or recording the 8-Ball going into the corner pocket for the win.

There are multiple effects including Loop, Swing, and Reverse which are a ton of fun to experiment with. These modes are built for sharing on social media and are guaranteed to impress your friends and followers. The slow-mo video looked fairly smooth and sharp, but it can be tricky capturing the action at the right moment, even in Auto mode. Fortunately, you can switch to Manual mode if you know the exact moment you want to get that slow-mo shot.

Bixby

Bixby was released on the Galaxy S8 to mixed reviews (mostly hate) and people were quickly trying to figure out ways to repurpose the button by attaching it to Google Assistant or killing it altogether. However, Bixby continues to improve and the integration with the S9 has become very practical. For example, if you are traveling abroad and don’t know what a particular foreign street sign says, Bixby can translate the text to your native language directly on the sign.

Also, you can’t say that Bixby doesn’t like the ladies. Samsung has partnered with companies like Sephora to allow you to try different make-up styles and colors using augmented reality. Much like Snapchat filters and baked into the camera app, Bixby lets you try different looks and apply them onto your virtual face. No clean-up necessary and it can be done anywhere. Once you have found the perfect look, Bixby makes it easy for you to order the products on the spot.

Although Bixby 2.1 comes with other features like place recognition and estimated calorie consumption, Samsung makes no claims that Bixby is intended to operate like Google Assistant or Siri. Instead, Samsung envisions Bixby to allow users to use their smartphones more smoothly and efficiently.

Pricing and Availability

Samsung did manage to keep both the Galaxy S9 and the S9+ reasonably priced for a top-end smartphone. This is great considering the current trend of the $1000+ devices that we have seen over the last year. Right now, you can get the new generation Samsung DeX for free when you purchase either of these devices directly from Samsung.  Additionally, you can get up to $300 for trading in your old phone. If you don’t want to come off of that kind of money all at once, then you can finance for around $30 USD per month. That makes it a lot easier to get your hands on Samsung’s latest offering.

Wrap Up

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are the best devices available on the market right now. The significantly improved camera on the S9+ and the many other upgrades make this a device worth getting. However, Samsung know that Apple and Google will be releasing their latest sooner rather than later. So rather than simply refine the S8 into into the S9, Samsung needs to continue to focus on innovation to make their next smartphone truly revolutionary,

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