With the launch of the Galaxy S9 and S9+, Samsung is looking to continue its reign at the top of the Android smartphone world. Samsung is hoping to take some of the attention of rival Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iPhone X. Read on for our Galaxy S9 review and the final word on whether Samsung succeeded in its goals.
Galaxy S9 Review: Familiar Design
Compared to last year's Galaxy S8, Samsung didn't rock the boat with the Galaxy S9 . This is definitely an iterative update - similar to Apple's approach with the iPhone 8.
It's definitely an improvement over last year's model, with a speedier CPU and the fingerprint sensor moved away from the camera lens. Despite early benchmark results that showed the Galaxy S9 was slower than iPhones , its performance is zippy.
There are just enough little tweaks that protective cases from last year won't fit. But looking at the two, you'd be hard pressed to visually tell the difference between the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S8.
That familiar design is a good one, though. The iPhone X may have gone further in terms of immersive displays by adopting OLED (from Samsung) and eliminating bezels, but Samsung isn't playing the notch game. So the Galaxy S9 Infinity display still has small horizontal bezels and doesn't stand out from the pack quite the way the Galaxy S8's did last year.
Topping off the familiar design is the 3.5mm headphone jack. Ditched by Apple several years ago and now endangered in smartphones - period - Samsung chose to keep it. So if you have a good set of wired headphones or earbuds, the Galaxy S9 is worth considering just for the fact that you won't have to deal with dongles.
Bixby is still on board with a dedicated Bixby button, but that can be easily disabled now. And in one misfire, Samsung tried a take on the iPhone X Animoji, with its own AR Emoji Stickers. Lacking Apple's TrueDepth camera capability, the Samsung versions haven't fared well in Galaxy S9 review posts, with The Vergedescribing the feature as "kind of horrifying."
Galaxy S9 Review: "The Camera. Reimagined"
The big deal with the Galaxy S9 is its new dual-aperture camera.
For many people, their smartphone is now their only camera. And many of their photos are taken in low light conditions. In a first, Samsung introduced a dual-aperture camera. This system uses one aperture for bright conditions, and mechanically switches to a second that lets in more light for shooting photos in darker conditions.
It also does a great job at super slow motion video.
In addition, the Galaxy S9+ has a dual-camera system, with the second camera handing telephoto duties.
And with the new camera, Samsung seems to have beaten out everyone, including the iPhone X and Alphabet Inc's (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) Google Pixel 2. In its Galaxy S9 review, DxOMark declared the Samsung Galaxy S9+ now has the best smartphone camera ever tested .
Galaxy S9 Review: Key Specs
- 5.8-inch QuadHD+ Super AMOLED Infinity display (6.2-inch on Galaxy S9+)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU
- 64GB storage, with expansion via MicroSD card
- 8MP front camera
- 12MP dual aperture rear camera (Galaxy S9+ has a dual-rear camera with telephoto)
- Intelligent Scan facial recognition
- IP 68 water resistant
- 3,000mAh battery (3,500mAh for Galaxy S9+)
- Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
- USB-C, supports wireless charging
- Stereo speakers
- Includes Pure Sound earbuds tuned by AKG
- Runs Android 8.0 (Oreo)
- MSRP (unlock from Samsung) $719.99 ($839.99 for Galaxy S9+)
Galaxy S9 Review: The Best Smartphone?
"Best" is a very subjective word. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are very good smartphones. There is no doubt they will once again take top honors when it comes to Android. Compared to the iPhone 8, the Galaxy S9 is a solid choice, with a better display - it largely comes down to platform preference for which of these two you'd choose.
And if you buy a smartphone for its camera, there is currently nothing on the market that can top the Galaxy S9+ for shooting photos.
However, despite trying to add some iPhone X features like face unlocking and AR Emoji Stickers, this isn't the smartphone that's going to take down the iPhone X. Overall, Apple's flagship remains on top. That being said, Apple charges a premium of nearly $280 over the Galaxy S9, so it's hardly a fair fight.
So let's just say that if you're looking for a flagship smartphone that doesn't cost $999 and up, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is now the one to beat.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securitie s.
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