Samsung Galaxy S9 Review: A Great Smartphone?
So where do the Galaxy S9 stand? Does it ticks all the right boxes and sets a benchmark for other smartphones? Or is it Samsung’s lack of intent to bring an amazing phone?
Last year, with the launch of S8 and Note 8, Samsung gained huge popularity among smartphone users in India. This year too, the company is committed to provide the best to its consumers with the introduction of Samsung Galaxy S9 in the country.
Samsung took the covers off from Galaxy S9 in India, soon after unveiling it at the MWC 2018 in Barcelona. Galaxy S9 price in India starts from Rs 57,900 (64GB), Rs 61,900 (128GB), and Rs 65,900 (256GB).
The Indian smartphone market is quite a competitive industry with manufacturers launching either a complete fresh product or a new variant of an existing phone almost every day.
So where does Galaxy S9 stand? Does it ticks all the right boxes and sets a benchmark for other smartphones? Or is it Samsung’s lack of intent to bring an amazing phone?
Design and Display
Galaxy S9 begins right from where last year’s S8 left; Samsung has upgraded a lot in the new phone.
In terms of design, S9 looks almost the same as Galaxy S8, which is certainly not a bad thing as S8 is a gorgeous device. Galaxy S9 is a more refined version of S8. To whomever the Galaxy S9 has been shown they were impressed by its stunning design.
Its body is a combination of glass and metal which looks stunning. The handset has curved glass on both front and back which makes it comfortable to hold but a little slippery too.
Just like other smartphones with a glass body, this new Samsung model is also prone to fingerprints and smudges. However, you don’t need to worry about this as Samsung is offering Galaxy S9 with a transparent body cover.
Till now, 2018 has been the year for displays with a notch. Thankfully, Samsung has gone against the herd and is offering a very impressive curved display on the Galaxy S9.
It features a 5.8-inch QHD+ (2960x1440) Super AMOLED edge-to-edge display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio and Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Honestly speaking, this is by far one of the best display on a smartphone we have seen.
The display offers perfect viewing angles, vibrant colours, it has very narrow bezels and looks like you are just holding a screen.
The screen is too bright and the content on the display is easily visible even in direct sunlight but you can also lower the brightness, as per convenience specially while using the phone before bed time.
Watching videos on this phone is a treat and its display is undoubtedly the best among its competitors.
There is also Samsung’s Always-On Display feature which tells you date, time, notifications and also consumes a huge chunk of the handset’s battery.
As the display is bezel-less, there are no physical buttons. The top bezel houses the front camera, earpiece, iris scanner, LED notification light and proximity sensor.
The primary camera sits at the back of the phone with fingerprint sensor below it. Unlike last year’s S8, Samsung has changed the location of fingerprint sensor which was disliked by many users.
In S9, fingerprint sensor is ergonomically placed below the rear camera which is a much better for the sensor. It is also very fast and accurate.
At the right side of the camera are LED flash and Heart rate sensor.
At the bottom of the device are the 3.5mm headphone jack (yes you heard it right, Samsung is not ditching it), USB Type-C port, and bottom firing speakers.
Volume rockers are placed on left side and the dedicated Bixby button is still present below them. On the right side is the power button. The SIM/MicroSD card tray is at the top of the handset.
The dual-SIM handset is IP68 rated water and dust resistant, so no need to worry if you accidently drop it in your tub. S9 is available in three colours- midnight black, lilac purple, and coral blue. The 256GB variant of is available only in black colour option.
Samsung Galaxy S9 features a 12- megapixel rear camera with two f-stop modes i.e. f/1.5 and f/2.4. With dual aperture technology, you can click good pictures in the low lighting conditions with large aperture (f/1.5) which captures more light and during the bright scenes like an outdoor sunny day the smaller aperture (f/2.4) comes into play by avoiding overexposure.
The camera app automatically switches between apertures depending on the exposure however it can be changed manually.
Thanks to f/1.5 large aperture which intakes large amount of light, Samsung Galaxy S9 performs astonishingly in low-light conditions. Also, Optical Image Stabilisation reduces blurring of images due lower shutter speed during low-light conditions. However this feature is gimmicky and you will find difference between pictures when you discern them side by side.
The rear camera has a feature called Selective Focus which tries to mimic Pixel 2’s Portrait mode using software prowess. Selective Focus on Galaxy S9 is hit or miss just like the front camera’s selfie focus.
No doubt, the photos are great but Samsung’s cameras have a tendency to smooth out details and miss on sharpness.
Click on the images below for enlarged view
The S9 is capable of shooting slow motion videos with up to 960 frames per second which is jaw-dropping but this phone does that for 0.2 seconds that too at 720p resolution which stretches to six seconds during playback.
Also, if you are shooting slow-mo videos with default settings, you will find it hard to get the perfect shot. This feature requires good lighting conditions to work and you’ll see a lot of image noise.
On the front, S9 has an 8-megapixel selfie camera with Auto Focus. The front camera also comes with a Portrait Mode like feature called Selfie Focus which focuses on the subject and blurs the background. Portrait selfies clicked from this camera looks good but not as great as Pixel 2 or iPhone X.
To take on Apple’s Animojis, Samsung has added a new feature called AR emojis. These are 3D Bitmoji like avatar of yours which Samsung creates after scanning your face. There are eighteen pre created GIF formats of different emotions and expressions which you can share through keyboard.
These avatars rarely look like you, in fact they are creepy.
This feature seems fun for a few hours and you also try to use them as much as you can but truly speaking, this feature needs to be improved and it would have done no harm to anyone if Samsung wouldn’t have included it in the first place.
Software and Performance
Samsung Galaxy S9 runs on Samsung’s Experience 9.0 which is based on Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the-box. The handset is powered by 10nm Octa-core processor which vary from region to region. In India, the devices have Exynos 9810 processor and variants in USA will get Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor.
The unit I used S9 is powered by an Octa-core Exynos 9810 processor coupled with 4GB RAM. The processor is based on ARM Cortex-A configuration with four 1.7GHz and four high-speed 2.7GHz custom cores.
There wasn’t any lag while using the phone. Multitasking, switching between apps or playing games, everything runs smoothly without lagging.
It has 64GB internal storage which is expandable up to 400GB through a MicroSD card.
To compete with Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri, Samsung is being very aggressive about Bixby. Galaxy S9 has a dedicated Bixby button which launches Bixby once you press it. At the beginning I stayed assertive and tried using Samsung’s virtual assistant as much as I can but Bixby is still Bixby, in the end I turned it off. Bixby has a long way to go to compete with Google Assistant and Siri.
Also what Bixby does isn’t something new, there are plenty of apps available on Play Store which can perform the same tasks in a better way.
We all know that Samsung is very lazy in terms of latest software updates. Galaxy S8 users in India hasn’t started receiving Android Oreo update yet even Google launched Android Oreo a long time ago.
For some reason Samsung continues to include duplicate apps like Browser, Gallery, Email, and App store which I found useless with the presence of Google’s apps.
Apart from duplicate apps, Samsung Pay is a very useful addition which comes in handy for making payments.
Samsung Galaxy S9 is backed by 3,000mAh which is capable of wireless charging. It would have been great if Samsung had increased the battery size this year but it is powered by same battery like S8’s. To reach from zero to hundred percent, S9 takes 1 hour and 40 minutes
S9’s battery takes 1 hour 40 minutes to reach from zero to hundred percent. Galaxy S9 is clearly not a smartphone with best battery backup but you will easily squeeze out a day after single charge.
It comes with a feature called Intelligent Scan which uses either iris scanning or facial recognition to unlock the phone. If you are in low light conditions or your face is not aligned with the front camera, iris scanner will automatically come into play and search for your eyes.
Iris scanner is slow and takes time but works in the dark too. Thankfully we can always rely on the fingerprint sensor which is faster, secure and also placed at a right spot.
This year, Samsung has improved the sound experience of their flagship device by adding stereo speakers. It uses down firing speaker and its earpiece also doubles as a speaker when you play music or watch videos. The dual speakers are tuned by AKG which gives immersive audio experience.
Connectivity options include- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, 4G VoLTE, 3.5mm audio-jack, USB Type-C, and NFC. What’s nice is that Galaxy S9 comes with AKG earphones.
No brand can launch a smartphone with revolutionary design every year and knowing that Galaxy S8 was one of the best phone from last year, Galaxy S9 is also an all-rounder and definitely sets a benchmark for other smartphone manufacturers to compete with.
Samsung Galaxy S9 is an amazing phone with head turning design, speedy performance, great camera and one of the best display to feature in any smartphone. Many users might find Bixby, AR emojis and other duplicate apps a big turnoff but you can always disable or avoid using these features. Also, Galaxy S9 is now part of Android’s Project treble which means it will get updates faster.
Unlike other smartphone manufacturers, with Samsung not ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack in Galaxy S9, the device can also become one of the most sought after phone by users. Also, Samsung offers a lot of security options to unlock the phone - iris scanning, face unlock and fingerprint sensor.
With price of smartphones shooting the stars, it is good to know that Samsung launched S9 at the same price as last year’s Galaxy S8.
In my opinion Galaxy S8 users, who all are planning to upgrade to S9, should probably wait as the difference among these devices are very few. This phone is definitely not for S8 users but if you use any other older handset and planning to buy a flagship smartphone than Galaxy S9 will make you a happy user.