To unofficially kick off MWC 2018, Samsung has unveiled the all-new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus smartphones. The handsets come after being thoroughly leaked over the past few months from various sources, revealing their design, specifications, and feature sets.
Leaks aside, we now know everything about the devices. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus sport similar glass designs to their predecessors, the S8 and S8 Plus, and identical displays with 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch Quad HD+ 18.5:9 Super AMOLED panels, respectively. Samsung is once again using a glass IP68-certified build that looks absolutely gorgeous. Speaking of which, the glass on the fronts of both phones is a bit less curved this year to give users more usable screen real estate. I didn’t really have a problem with the curvature on the S8, but whatever makes people happy, amirite?
As for specs, you’re getting a standard array of 2018 internals: Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM in the S9 and 6GB of RAM in the S9 Plus, 64GB of storage, and 3,000mAh & 3,500mAh batteries. To charge up, you get fast charging and Qi wireless charging.
Yes, the Galaxy S9 sounds a bit boring on the inside, but it’s actually pretty interesting when you consider every other aspect of the phone.
For starters, the cameras have received major upgrades. On both the S9 and S9 Plus, Samsung includes a 12MP camera sensor with a variable aperture, allowing users to switch between f/2.4 and a staggering f/1.5 when in brighter or darker environments. This is typically how normal handheld cameras work, so it’ll be interesting to see how the technology performs on a smartphone.
Exclusively on the S9 Plus, Samsung also includes an additional 12MP camera sensor with a fixed f/2.4 aperture. It’s meant to provide users with the same portrait mode photography features as the Galaxy Note 8 did last year. You can adjust how much background blur you want during and after taking a picture, zoom in on subjects without losing any quality, and record depth information for things like AR.
Speaking of which, Samsung appears to also be making a push in the augmented reality segment. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus include a dedicated section in the camera app that you can load downloaded AR experiences in. This could be useful for corporations who need to use AR in their work environment. Or, ya know, it could also be used to put 3D masks on your friends like in Snapchat.
Which is exactly what Samsung did. Called AR Emoji, Samsung’s alternative to the iPhone X’s Animoji claim to be more advanced than Apple’s. The company analyzes a 2D image of a user and maps out more than 100 facial features to create a 3D model that mocks their facial movements in the form of animated characters that look like you. You can even send them in third-party messengers since they’re stored in a standard AGIF file format.
Advanced technology on a consumer level is funny sometimes.
Also a part of the S9’s cameras are 4K video recording at 30 frames per second, OIS, phase detection autofocus, and an LED flash. You can also record videos at 960 frames per second with these phones which, I imagine, will prove to be a bunch of fun to mess with. An 8MP selfie camera with an f/1.6 aperture and autofocus sits on the front of both devices.
Speaking of the front, Samsung has included stereo speakers on the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus that use the earpiece and bottom-firing grille to deliver 3D sound tuned by AKG. The speakers also support Dolby Atmos. It’s a huge step for the better from the Galaxy S8’s single downward-firing speaker which, mind you, isn’t all that great.
Of course, you also get AKG headphones in the box.
For security, Samsung includes its Knox security software to keep you and your data safe. Three forms of unlocking your phone are present alongside the usual array of on-screen options: fingerprint, iris, and face. The fingerprint sensor, this time around, has been placed below the camera sensor for ease of access; the iris scanner is unchanged from last year; and facial recognition is now Intelligent Scan which uses last year’s facial recognition technology and iris scanning to further record your face and keep out people who look like you. It’s unknown how much better this method of unlocking your phone is or if it’s any more secure than last time, but we’ll let you know when we get our hands on the devices.
In terms of software, Samsung includes Android 8.0 Oreo with its Experience 9.0 UI on top. This brings forth features like App Pairing to create a shortcut to launch two apps side-by-side instantly, the Edge panel, a super clean home screen that I’m a big fan of, and, of course, Bixby.
Bixby still gets its own button on both the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. And guess what? Samsung is further updating the assistant with Live Translation. Basically, it’s like Google Translate where you can hold your phone’s camera up to something that says a phrase in a language you can’t understand and translates it into a language you speak, right in the viewfinder. Honestly, I’ll just have to try it before I make any judgments. But if my previous experience with Bixby is any indication, I don’t have high hopes.
Samsung is also bringing a new DeX dock to the market with the launch of the S9. Called the DeX Pad, this new docking station lets you plug your phone in while it’s lying down to use it as a trackpad and keyboard easier with the desktop environment presented on your monitor. If you’ve been eyeing up Samsung’s Microsoft Continuum alternative for a while, you’ll probably like the Pad a whole lot more than the original Dock.
Samsung says the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will launch on March 16 and will be available from carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Xfinity Mobile. It’ll also be available from retailers including Best Buy stores and BestBuy.com, Amazon, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart. Preorders start March 2. They’ll ship in Lilac Purple, Midnight Black, and Coral Blue.
For an unlocked Galaxy S9, Samsung will charge $719.99, or $30/month for 24 months. The S9 Plus will cost $839.99, or $35/month for 24 months. The company will sell them through Samsung.com.
If you trade in a qualifying smartphone when purchasing an S9 or S9 Plus through Samsung, you could save up to $350. Click here to learn more.
Are you pumped for the S9?