Slow-mo, and AR Emoji—are equal parts gimmick and catch-up to competing models. And because Samsung is limiting the dual camera and Live Portrait mode to the larger Plus model, the S9 (the phone I’m reviewing here) feels less like a new phone than a mid-cycle refresh. As such, the S9 is a perfectly fine entry for the first new premium phone of 2018, but there’s nothing here that breaks exciting new ground for other phones to follow.
Dual aperture? We actually found it’s not that necessary. Super Slow-mo? It works beautifully, but it’s not a feature people will use all that often. AR emoji? It’s fun and it works as advertised, but it also feels like a response to Apple, not a trailblazing feature.
In short: When we look back on 2018 and pick a defining handset, the S9 probably won’t be it. But it’s still a great phone.
A CLASSIC (YET UPGRADED) DESIGN
Lots of Galaxy S9s are going to be mistaken for Galaxy S8s once they start appearing in the wild, given their extremely similar size and shape. However, there are physical differences between the phones—subtle tweaks that change the new model just enough so last year’s cases won’t fit: Galaxy S8: 155g Galaxy S9: 163g
The Galaxy S9 is a touch shorter than the S8 due to an ever-so-slightly smaller bottom bezel that upsets the symmetry just enough to annoy my eyes. It’s also thicker and heavier than its predecessor for two reasons: The front glass is thicker (0.6T vs. 0.5T), and the aluminum on the sides has been strengthened (AL 7003 vs AL 6013). While these changes are imperceptible, they should bring more durability and drop protection—always a plus for a phone that’s nearly all glass.
The Galaxy S9 is a touch shorter than the S8 due to an ever-soslightly smaller bottom bezel that upsets the symmetry just enough to annoy my eyes.
You’ll still find the selfie camera and other sensors around the receiver along the top strip of bezel, but they’re not as distracting as they were on the S8. Among the other small changes to the S9 are the look of the speaker grille on the bottom edge, which is now a 1.5mm open slit rather than five small openings. This change brings stereo sound, but could conceivably attract more dust and lint. Otherwise, the buttons and ports are exactly the same, meaning Samsung has once