Samsung Galaxy S9+
£869 inc VAT from fave.co/2sXJKXV
The Galaxy S9+ might not be the biggest upgrade compared to the Galaxy S8+, but it’s perhaps better than having to wait longer for a new device. Overall, you might struggle to tell the new Galaxy S9+ apart from its predecessor, apart from the new purple colour, but there are improvements namely in the camera department, which Samsung says it has “reimagined”.
Since the Galaxy S9+ is an incremental upgrade from last year’s smartphone, there’s not a huge amount to say when it comes to design and build.
Samsung hasn’t changed much about the handset at all. In fact, you might struggle to figure out which one is the new model in a side-by-side test unless you’re looking at the new Lilac Purple colour.
There’s also Midnight Black and Blue Coral to choose from and we’ve spotted what looks like a silver/grey colour in some Samsung demo videos, which we assume will arrive later this year.
At the front, the phone looks near enough identical to the S8+. It’s really no surprise Samsung is sticking to the gorgeous design that features the Infinity display. The firm has made the bezels a tiny bit smaller, but it’s not something noticeable.
The main giveaway that this phone is the Galaxy S9+ and not an old model is at the back. First, there are dual cameras, something that was previously a feature only available on the Note 8. We’ll talk about the camera tech later on.
The other tweak is the placement for the fingerprint scanner, which is now below the camera array rather than to the side. This was a bugbear on the S8 phones, especially the S8+ where the sensor was quite a stretch to reach.
So with a near identical design, Samsung is sticking to an aluminium band with glass front and back. The Galaxy S9+ still offers top-end IP68 waterproofing and gladly hasn’t ditched the headphone jack. We don’t even mind that the device is a bit thicker at 8.5mm.
Although the S9+ has more tech to offer, it’s worth noting that it is still a bit unwieldy, especially for those with smaller hands and weighs in at 189g so isn’t exactly a featherweight.
If you can deal with, or even actively want, the larger size of the Galaxy S9+, then you do gain various advantages over the smaller S9 model. Yes it costs more, but it’s easily the more technically advanced and exciting device.
The screen remains the same as last year so opting for the Galaxy S9+ gets you a 6.2in screen over the 5.8in display on the regular S9. It’s Samsung’s now trademark Infinity Display so you get an 18.5:9 aspect ratio and curved edges on both sides.
A Quad HD+ resolution means everything is once again as crisp as you like and it’s no surprise Samsung sticks to its bright and colourful Super AMOLED technology.
As usual the screen is always on, so displays useful information without consuming much battery while the screen is ‘off’. You also get the edge panels, which bring shortcuts to apps, contacts and far more by swiping in from the side.
Processor, memory and storage
Like the regular S9, the Galaxy S9+ is powered by the new Exynos 8910 processor. It’s still octa-core, but gets a bump in clock speed to 2.7GHz for the faster four cores. This is the model we’ll get in the UK, but other markets such as the US and China will get the S9+ with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.
Either way these are brand-new processors, where rivals like the Nokia 8 Sirocco ( page 44) are using the older Snapdragon 835. Power users will be pleased to hear that the S9+ has more memory and storage compared to the S9 with 6- and 128GB respectively. That’s an extra 50 percent in RAM and double the storage. We have seen a spec sheet with a 128GB S9 but assume it will be hard to find.
So performance on paper is better and there’s less need to use the microSD card slot, which now accepts up to 400GB.
Fingerprint and Iris sensors
As mentioned earlier, the fingerprint scanner has been moved to a much more sensible location below
the camera. It’s a lot easier to find with your finger without stretching too much, although there’s still a risk of smudging the lens.
Samsung has also made it easier to add fingerprints as you only need to swipe three times per finger.
There’s still an iris scanner), something, which we’ve not been a fan of on previous Samsung phones. However, Intelligent Scan means you can use it in combination with facial scanning.
We’ve yet to try this out but hopefully it improves the situation and we’ll have plenty of time once we get a final review sample.
Connectivity and Audio
Top-level connectivity means the S9+ is packed with the tech you’d expect, including dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and GPS.
There are also plenty of sensors, including the pressure sensor in the screen that is used a sort of physical home button. The S9+ still comes with features like a barometer and heart-rate monitor.
The change comes in the audio department as the smartphone now has stereo speakers. They’re still tuned by AKG and Samsung has also teamed up with Dolby to offer Atmos, a feature you can toggle to provide a bigger, more spacious sound.
As teased with its ‘The Camera. Reimagined’ campaign ahead of the launch, it’s the camera on the Galaxy S9 phones that’s had the biggest upgrade.
The rear Super Speed Dual Pixel camera is still 12Mp, but has an innovative mechanical aperture akin to a dedicated DSLR. This can automatically adjust between f/2.4 down to f/1.5 depending on the lighting conditions you’re shooting in.
The Galaxy S8 was an already impressive f/1.7, so this is a nice step up. Samsung says it means 28 percent more light. The phone can also now use information from 12 photos shot at once to reduce noise by 30 percent.
After some hands-on time with the camera it seems excellent, and the S9+ has the added bonus of a second lens not available on the regular model. It’s 13Mp telephoto with an f/2.4 aperture. Both cameras have optical image stabilisation so there’s a lot of scope for different kinds of photograph and video.
Speaking of video, the Galaxy S9+ can now match Sony for super slow motion at 960fps (at 720p),
which means you can watch 0.2 seconds of footage over six seconds.
Such a short period of time can be hard to capture, as we found on the Xperia phones, but Samsung has a clever motion detect, which automatically starts the super slow motion when it, er, detects motion in a user selected area of the frame.
Selfie fans will still get decent photos from the front-facing 8Mp f/1.7 camera which now has a feature to rival the iPhone X’s Animoji. Samsung’s version is called AR Emoji and created a character based on you. It instantly creates 18 preset gifs, but you can customize your own with the front camera, winking and frowning to your hearts content. You also don’t need to worry about who you’re sending them to as they don’t need an S9 too.
Bixby Vision is an existing feature, but it’s now improved with things such as live translation, better
recognition for places and food features like calories and recipe suggestions. It all seems good, but we need to test it in the real world.
Another advantage over the regular Galaxy S9 is that you get a larger battery here, so carrying around the extra weight might be well worth it. While the S9 has a 3,000mAh battery, the S9+ offers 3,500mAh.
We’ll need to spend time with both phones to test how much difference this makes. Once again you have the option to charge over USB-C or with wireless charging – both offer fast charging.
Moving onto software and the Galaxy S9+ comes preloaded with Android 8 Oreo, the latest version of Google’s mobile OS. That’s no surprise and nor is the fact that Samsung uses its own interface.
Things are pretty much they same as last year with only small tweaks, the main things come inside the camera app which we’ve already detailed.
Samsung has preloaded the Galaxy S9+ with plenty of apps, but nothing too annoying or intrusive – they are the usual selections from Google and Microsoft, so you’ll likely use most of them regularly.
Tweaks come in the form of a new landscape mode so you can carry on using the interface lengthways to browse your home screen panels or your apps. A notification system means you’ll still see what’s going on but in a subtle way at the top.
A new SmartThings app is a nifty way, similar to Google and Apple Home apps, to combine multiple apps into one. It means you have one place to handle all the connections to and features of other Samsung devices like TVs.
Those wanting to use the Galaxy S9+ for productivity can make use of the new DeX dock, which means the phone can be easily plugged into a monitor for a desktop-like experience.
The docking station is now flat, so the screen can be used as a trackpad or keyboard and it will be around two-thirds the price of the original.
The Galaxy S9+ is certainly more attractive overall compared to the regular model, and will no doubt be one of the best phones this year. That said, there’s not a huge amount different compared to last year.
This phone offers gorgeous design, dual cameras with adjustable aperture, more memory and storage
plus a bigger battery too. It’s all great if you can stomach the price and it’s physical size. Chris Martin
• 6.2in (2960x1440, 529ppi) Super AMOLED capacitive display
• Android 8.0 Oreo
• Exynos 9810 Octa processor
• Octa-core 4x 2.8GHz Mongoose M3 and 4x 1.7GHz
• Mali-G72 MP18 GPU
• 6GB RAM
• 64/128/256GB storage, microSD up to 256GB
• Iris/fingerprint scanner
• Dual rear-facing cameras: 12Mp (f/1.5-2.4, 26mm, 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, Dual Pixel PDAF) and 12Mp (f/2.4, 52mm, 1/3.6in, 1μm, AF), OIS, phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, LED flash
• 8Mp front-facing camera: f/1.7, autofocus, 1440p, dual video call, Auto HDR
• 802.11ac Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 5.0
• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO
• Micro-USB 3.1 Type-C
• Non-removable lithium-ion 3,500mAh battery
The improved battery means you’ll be able to play your favourite games without worrying about running out of power
AR Emoji creates a character based on you
The S9+ has the same screen as the S8+