Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands-on: This camera could be a big deal
Samsung had the best phone of 2017 with the Galaxy S8, but will the Galaxy S9 follow in its footsteps and recreate that magic again?
Samsung Galaxy S9 release date and price
Pre-orders for the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are now open.
Those who pre-order before March 7 will receive their shiny new Galaxy phone ahead of schedule on March 9. Otherwise, the Galaxy S9 will begin to hit shelves on March 16.
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/reviews/samsung-galaxy-s9#vcrAfdEZmhjY5Cld.99
Pricing starts as follows.
- Galaxy S9 – £739/$719
- Galaxy S9+ – £869/ $839
The Galaxy S9 that’s just been announced at MWC 2018 is a tweaked and tuned S8, with Dolby Atmos-enhanced front-facing speakers and a camera that has the potential to beat the excellent Google Pixel 2.
This is an evolution, yes, but one that could still be the best phone of 2018.
With the Galaxy S8, Samsung started a shift that saw phone design change drastically last year. A big bezel was out, replaced by a larger screen that’s pushed right to the edges.
The Galaxy S9 retains this overall look – hardly something to complain about, considering a year on it’s still one of slickest phones around. However, it further reduces the bezel thickness above and below the display, and moves the fingerprint to a more suitable location.
The scanner now sits beneath the camera, rather than being tucked tightly beside it; but its surface still feels a tad on the small side. There’s iris scanning and facial recognition, too.
The metal and glass body retains its curved display, IP68 water-resistance rating and microSD card slot. There’s even a headphone jack, which is almost a novelty in 2018. Basically, if it was on the S8 then it’s present on the S9.
For years, my biggest complaint levelled at Samsung phones has been their terrible speakers. The tinny, down-firing mono speaker that sat on the bottom of the Galaxy S8 was awful – but that’s all changed here. The audio has been tuned by AKG and supports a form of Dolby Atmos. It’s loud, surprisingly detailed and a big step forward. The speaker at the bottom remains, but there’s now one at the top too.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
The other big area of improvement is to the camera. It’s the only feature of the Galaxy S9 that genuinely feels new and unique. Considering how important this part of a phone is, though, it could make all the difference.
Instead of having a fixed aperture on the lens, the S9 can shift between f/2.4 and f/1.5, providing ideal optics for both day and night photography. If it’s bright outside, it will shoot at f/2.4; but when there’s less light available then the lens will widen and utilise f/1.5 to let in more light.
The camera itself still has a 12-megapixel sensor with OIS, fast autofocus and is accompanied by an app that’s easy to use. Video can now be recorded at 4k 60fps – as is possible on the iPhone X – or at 960fps for a short burst.
There’s also a new AR Emoji feature that appears to be in response to Apple’s Animoji. These AR faces look a little more like Bitmoji than typical emoji, with a human touch, but like Apple’s variant they map your face with the 5-megapixel selfie camera and replicate your movements on-screen. I spent a bit of time creating an AR Emoji, and while it’s fun, it feels like a gimmicky software addition from Samsung’s bloated past.
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The one slight disappointment about the camera is that the Galaxy S9+ is the only one of the duo to receive the secondary telephoto lens first seen on the Note 8. It would have been nice to see this, along with the Live Focus capabilities and portrait modes it brings, on the smaller device too.
I can see the thinking here, however: Apple restricted its dual sensors to the Plus versions of the iPhone. But that changed with the iPhone X, and the Galaxy S9 needs to compete with that.
Like all of Samsung’s recent flagships, the S9’s display instantly draws you in with its rich colours and fantastic contrast. It’s still a 5.7-inch OLED, quad-HD+ panel with support for HDR10, but even though little has changed, it’s still one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Keeping the phone going is either a Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 (which will change depending on your region; us Brits getting the latter) alongside 4GB of RAM. You can choose between 64GB or 256GB of storage, both expandable via microSD, and there’s a 3000mAh battery inside that can be charged wirelessly or via the USB-C port.
Not upping the RAM to 6GB seems a bit odd, especially since my Galaxy S8 has suffered severe slow-down barely a year after launch. Hopefully, the extra power in the new processors will avoid such a situation this time round.
There might also be updates to the Samsung skin sitting atop Android 8, although very little seems to have visibly changed in this area. It’s still unmistakably Samsung’s take on Android, and requires some adjustment if you’re used to cleaner skins of the OS.
Related: Best Samsung Galaxy S9 deals
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is a gorgeous device, with a camera that could seriously take mobile photography to the next level. It also fixes some of the biggest issues I had with the S8 – namely, the fingerprint scanner’s position and the poor speaker. In reality, this should be the ultimate Android phone.
The changes appear minor in some areas, but maybe it’s just that we’ve come to expect too much from annual updates to these super-powerful phones. Is there anything else Samsung could have added? A 4K screen would have been nice, if unnecessary, and proper 10-bit HDR video recording could have added another skill to the camera. I’m probably most surprised that Samsung didn’t try to take on Face ID with an updated iris scanner or improved facial recognition – both of which I’ve found very hit-and-miss in the past.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 was the best phone of 2017, and I’m confident that the S9 will follow up as one of the most desirable and exciting phones of 2018.