Samsung Galaxy S9+ Unlocked Smartphone Review
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is the best phone on the market right now. It isn’t a fresh rendition of last year’s model, the Galaxy S8+ – they look very, very similar in design. There no reason to cast aside your year-old smartphone for the newest S9+, but if you’re in town for a new phone, this is the best phone to get.
Last year Galaxy S8+ was an excellent handset, which is more reason Samsung opted to stick with the design a year later, and instead focus on making the phone sturdier, beefier and better for day to day use. It’s easily tops the list as the most powerful phone around, with singular features including AR Emojis that are inspired by your own image, and three of the best camera available.
The Galaxy S9+ runs on Android 8.0 Oreo on the first ever Snapdragon 845 processor to surface in the US. Our review unit has 6GB of RAM, while its smaller sibling the S9 has 4GB. The Snapdragon 845 platform has four cores running at 2.8GHz and four at 1.7GHz. While it doesn’t appear to yield more CPU power than its predecessors, improvements on graphics, LTE, Wi-Fi, design and Camera are very noticeable.
Samsung has also been very active to sanitize the biometric issues that bogged the Galaxy S8. All it takes is using the phone for a few hours to realize how easy it is to unlock it securely. Even with all this plus points, the Samsung S9 (its 5.8-inch version) is highly priced, and the Samsung S9+ is even pricier with its 6.2-inch screen. Let’s face it, the S9+ isn’t as expensive as the iPhone X, but it’s among the more expensive options you can buy.
That said, if you’re looking to replace an older phone with a new one that has all the right features and a sleek design, the cheaper S9 is a good choice, but the Galaxy S9+ is an even better upgrade, and our Editors’ Choice.
Your Very Own AR Emoji…
We all get excited with new features in gadgets, but soon or later, get bored once we get around them. The S9+ boasts of a new feature in the AR Emoji, that lets you create your very own little avatar by simply looking and smiling into the front-facing camera. The phone then creates a digital clone of you.
This isn’t a new feature per se. When the iPhone X launched last year, it had a feature that Apple called Animoji, that did gain lots of popularity, by using the TrueDepth camera on the front of Apple’s iPhone X. Now, Samsung’s AR Emoji seems like a watered version of whatever Apple was offering as early as last year.
Moving on, once you create your avatar, you can easily change its hair and skin color, choose an outfit – and nothing more. We expected to have more customization options, but for the time being, you’ll do with the limited outfits and available hair colors.
It may seem like a tiny omission, but seriously, if you can’t make your AR Emoji look like you –then, you and your friends will not easily engage with it. Even with that, the GIFs are just about the best thing on this phone, though you’ll get bored with them really quick.
For now, you can have all the fun with the AR Emojis while it lasts, but that shouldn’t be reason to buy this phone.
Bixby is Back, Bigger and Better
If you used the Galaxy S8 from last year, you must be among the disgruntled users who were disappointed by Bixby. Before launch, Samsung hyped it as the best, and most accurate digital assistant of our time. Sadly, it wasn’t.
It wouldn’t cope with the speed of life for most users, wouldn’t work out whatever most of us wanted it to do, and everything else. In fact, it was a lesser creature than Google Assistant that was already on the phone.
Now, the folks at Samsung have revamped it on the Galaxy S9, with a conveniently placed button on the phone’s side for easier integration with the assistant. With the button in place, you just press it to launch Bixby and release it once you’ve deployed your command. It isn’t very accurate in picking commands, but its far better that last year’s rendition.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 had biometric unlocking features that almost made it scandalous. The fingerprint was simply unreachable, iris scanner implausible and facial recognition vacillating. The new features didn’t work as expected.
Samsung had to get back to the drawing board, and they did. On the Galaxy S9+, all three feature synchronize well. Samsung’s Intelligent Scan blends well with the Iris scanner and facial recognition feature to make facial unlock as perfect and easy as possible.
The fingerprint scanner is now easy to access. Intelligent Scan is now speedy than last year, where both the scanner and facial recognition were between 30 and 50 percent accurate, something the S9+ scores well.
Iris scanner isn’t very responsive in low-light, something it lags behind the Apple iPhone X’s Face ID, that’s very accurate and easy to use. But by placing the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone, they gained a mileage. Simply flick your finger and you’re good to go.
Simply said, the Samsung GalaxyS9+ is a bigger, refreshed Galaxy S8+…with a few more features. The look a lot like each other, you’ll be hard pressed to tell them apart. Like the S8+, the new S9+ is sleek phone, with curved edges and a bright screen spouting down each side of the curved glass. It gets a little bezel at the top and bottom, but not as pronounced as it was on last year’s model.
There’s a dedicated Bixby button on the left for easy launch to the secondary screen. Once you switch it on, you get the difference: two cameras instead of one, and a fingerprint scanner just below the cameras. In last year’s S8+, the scanner was next to the cameras.
Both, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are bigger and better. They measure 5.8 by 2.7 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.8 ounces; and, 6.2 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches and weighs 6.7 ounces, respectively. This is fairly shorter, wider and heavier than their predecessors –Galaxy S8 and S8+– respectively. Last year’s Galaxy S8 measures 5.9 by 2.7 by 0.3 and weighs 5.5 ounces, while the Galaxy S8+ measures 6.3 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches and weighs 6.1 ounces.
While the Galaxy S9+ has a larger body than the S9, it’s a smidge narrower than the iPhone 8 Plus (3.1 inches), making it easier to hold on one hand. The phone comes in a choice of three colors: black, blue, and purple.
Samsung haven’t opted to drop the traditional 3.5mm headphone. You’ll find it at the bottom, alongside a traditional USB-C port. For storage, there’s a choice of 64, 128, and 256GB versions, expandable via microSD slot to a maximum of 400GB.
Charging options haven’t changed much over last year’s phone. Both fast and wireless charging are supported, and the phone is IP68-certified water resistant.
Overall, everything else looks fine, starting with the 6.2-inch screen on the S9+ 5.8 on the S9. The screens are brighter, with automatic settings and deliver vivid colors than their predecessors. Just about the only new feature here is a white point, that can be selected by the user, which tones down too much blue, if needed.
Yet another improvement in the Galaxy S9 and S9+ is the speaker system. It’s a paradigm shift in the business, since you now have the top earpiece blasting out sounds towards your face, like the bottom speakers do.
These speakers are tuned to support Dolby Atmos sound, which gives a blink of space from the audio coming from your phone. Noticeably, the speakers are louder and more full than the S8+, with up to 90db of pink noise measured at a six-inch distance, against the Galaxy S8+’s 83db.
All these improvements aren’t limited to media playback; they apply to the speakerphone as well. The phone supports both voice-over-LTE and Wi-Fi calling, though you might need to subscribe to a particular carrier to get these benefits. Otherwise, the unlocked models support Wi-Fi calling as it should.
If there’s a phone screen that has been criticized, analyzed and clobbered to the very best of the market, it must be the Galaxy S9 AND Galaxy S9+ screen. Being the only flagship release at this time of the year, it has received all the attention it needed, of which it has emerged to have: the best color reproduction, vivid brightness, class-leading accuracy and handsomely sharp.
But most of those tests have been done in labs, the lingering question is whether the 6.2-inch screen on the S9+ is equally awesome in real life as it is on paper. For those looking to buy this phone, the answer is a solid YES. Its color reproduction and clarity are beyond reproach in our eyes.
Samsung managed to tweak the Super AMOLED technology used for the display to deliver vibrant and more true colors. Unlike previous Samsung phones that suffered from uneven or over saturated colors, the Galaxy S9+ has an option for choosing different color modes, and even adjust the white balanced by yourself.
As for Apple, they are never going to let you alter anything on their perfect screens, but Samsung are extending that favor…just in case you want to get better color balance down the road. While it’s a welcome gesture, the display’s auto brightness still has a lot to be desired. It just feels too bright, which is what we often feel about Samsung phones.
There are two primary 12MP cameras on the Galaxy S9+, stacked on top of each other on the back. The new set of cameras are available on both the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, with dual-aperture lenses that shoot from f/2.4 or f/1.5 depending on the prevailing lighting conditions. For instance, with lighting level of less 100 lux (mostly indoors), they will snap using the f/1.5, to let more light in. In the camera’s Pro mode, you can control the changes manually. If look at the iris closely, you can see it open up.
For the front-facing f/1.7, 8MP camera, nothing has changed from what you have on the Galaxy S8. However, it gets a new wide selfie mode that pairs selfies with mini panorama, and a software-controlled selfie bokeh mode.
On hardware, the S9+ is much better, thanks to a set of bright lens and sensor that deliver images, better than other smartphones in dim lighting. It gets even better with on-sensor autofocus that grasps objects very quickly. That said, the software does offer very robust sharpening that may be complicated for regular fans.
Moving on, the dual-aperture sits at the top, while the bottom one is an f/2.4 lens with 2X zoom. Both have optical image stabilization. So far, the camera UI is pretty fluid, but we’re sure it will get sorted in a firmware update. For instance, when scrolling across the different modes (Pro, Auto, Slow…), it jerks ahead and feels slightly off, which isn’t fine.
For serious smartphone photographers, this is one camera choice that you can easily get around with. You can shoot your images in Raw and instantly process them using a smartphone or desktop app. Alternatively, you can set the JPG output in Pro camera mode to one of the presets: Breezy, Vivid, Nostalgic. Soft and Serene. The Breezy mode is closer to whatever Samsung did with the S8 and Note 8 in color tone, but it’s a bit sharpened now.
Video stabilization is excellent for a phone, both at 1X and 2X, for 4K at 60frames per second. Sadly, it doesn’t capture 4K HDR, but, 4K60 capture is limited to an acceptable five minutes per video.
Battery: Samsung Galaxy S9+
Battery life is something we can (or not) be excited about on the galaxy S9+. The 3,500mAh cell survives 10 hours of YouTube video streaming, and still had some five percent life to spare, which warms to good battery life. The Galaxy S9 gets a 3000mAh cell, which isn’t different from last year’s Galaxy S8…we expected it to get better.
Still, am not convinced with the battery choice for both phones. Android phones are always slippery with battery life, there’s always that creepy app slithering in the background and sipping more juice than necessary. For both the S9 and S9+, it seems like it’s just the screen –if so–, then it’s a brighter year for us.
As a plus, wireless charging is available once again, and Samsung remains the only brand with both Qi ad PMA standards compatibility. That means your S9 or S9+ will charge on and standard wireless pad. Fast charging is also available wirelessly, but I prefer it over wires.
The Bottom Line
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is many things; but two are top in the list: First it is a very brilliant phone that can easily be the best for 2018. Secondly, it’s not the best you can have for your Samsung Galaxy S8+ from last year.
Let’s face it, if you’re upgrading from a 2015 phone, this is the best phone you can have on the market right now. It has its credentials in order, with the best camera and gorgeous design among other features. It brings you dual cameras, a bigger than life battery, and tons of memory at a very reasonable price. I think the price is just right than what you pay for the Galaxy Note 8 or even the iPhone X.
On the other hand, the Galaxy S8+ from last year was a gorgeous phone, despite the few shortcomings on bio-metrics and secure unlocking. In the new flagship handset, Samsung has corrected those issues, but above that, there isn’t anything to be excited on the S9+.
That does matter. The Galaxy S8+ is still going on sale, probably at a lower price than it did before, thus becoming a very tempting alternative. With the S9+ sporting the same design and screen as before, with a few upgrades, here and there, Samsung will have to really convince me why I should grab the new model.
And, when all is said and done, the Galaxy S9+ an excellent phone, that sets the bar for smartphone quality. It is our Editor’s Choice for steadfast agility, in everything it does as compared to other Android phones. Or simply said, the best above the rest. If yours eyes aren’t set on an iPhone X, then this one is for you.