HER REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S9+ Proves Real Beauty Comes From Within
The moment you lay eyes on Samsung’s S9+, one thing is blatantly clear - It looks a hell of a lot like the former S8. When it comes to the exterior of Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone, the South Korean giant has taken the approach of “don’t fix what’s not broken”. Whilst most of the S9’s improvements are found under the hood, it hasn’t stopped Samsung from demonstrating why its phones consistently rank among the industry’s best. Coupled with its new “re-imagined camera” the new Galaxy S9+ (A$1,349) could well be one of the best smartphones on the market today.
To celebrate the S9’s launch, Samsung has debuted a new ‘Lavender’ hue, which is both beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of the LG V30+. The S9+ measures 6.2-inches, and retains a 18.5:9 Quad HD+ ‘Infinity Display’, for edge-to-edge display. The AMOLED display is crisp, clear and consistent with what Samsung phones are known for. Compared to the S8, the Galaxy S9+ features slightly thinner bezels. Samsung states it has increased the ‘blackness’ of the screen, to better blend in with external bezels when switched off. Once again, a reflection of the acute attention to detail Samsung is known for. These little tweaks make ‘Edge
apps such as health and access to my Samsung watch via the Gear app. With this new the sleek design of the Samsung 8 has been retained despite slightly shorter upper and lower bezels, result in vivid near edge-to-edge 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch curved displays equal to last year’s sizes and screen resolution. The OLED screen which is made by Samsung is crystal sharp which is why Apple has no alternative but to buy Samsung display screens for their top end iPhone X. What Samsung delivers with the S9 and S9+ are solid, if hardly gamechanging, new handsets that keep the company’s flagships at the top of the Android heap. If you spent your money on last year’s Galaxy phones, you have every reason to stand pat this time around. If you own an older device, the investment in these pricey phones makes more sense. Samsung features include fast wireless charging but you do need to buy an optional charging pad, the device is also water and dust resistance, and, they have included an excellent pair of AKG plug in headphones, which deliver an exceptional sound experience especially when watching a movie on an aircraft or train.
It also appears that Samsung has improved the speed of their wireless charging, ironically the $1,500 Google Pixel 2 has no wireless charging especially as wireless charging is now being built into bedside clock radios and there is an abundance of sub $100 chargers now on the market.
The inclusion of a standard sized headphone jack, means you won’t need a special adapter to plug in corded headphones. If only someone would tell Apple and Google. One of the new features are new stereo speakers that support for Dolby Atmos which delivers frightenly real surround effects. Because smartphones are increasingly becoming our go-to platforms for entertainment, a top-flight display alone won’t quite cut it anymore. It’s a lot like Samsung top end TV’s which while delivering a great 4K Ultra High Definition display you do need a really good sound bar to get the best experience. In order to enjoy a truly cinematic mobile viewing experience Samsung needed to deliver a premium sound system to complement the display – one that makes it easy for you to immerse ourselves in whatever content we’re consuming. To enable users to experience true auditory immersion, Samsung redesigned the S9 by incorporating new AKG-tuned stereo speakers at the bottom and in the earpiece of the Galaxy S9. Together, the speakers pump out audio that’s not only loud, but also rich and balanced, no matter the volume. Located at the bottom and earpiece of the device, the Galaxy S9’s AKGtuned stereo speakers offer highquality audio, no matter the volume. The Galaxy S9 also features a Dolby Atmos effect, which transforms audio into immersive, 360-degree surround sound. The new AKG earphones that come in the box, have a new, more stylish
Lighting’ look even more striking. New notifications cause the device’s perimeter to light up, and the minimalist bezels add to aesthetics. Ensconced in semi-matte metallic lavender, Samsung states the S9’s edges have also been reinforced for better scratch resistance - a great addition for devices with thin bezels. The larger S9+ also debuts a dual rear camera set-up. At the bottom of the device is a USB-C port, and to the delight of many consumers Samsung has retained the headphone jack. For enhanced durability, the Galaxy S9+ features an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance.
Turning the device around reveals a welcome makeover. The S9+ has responded to previous feedback, and moved its fingerprint reader to a more ergonomic location. Even with my petite hands, I have no trouble accessing the scanner for super swift unlocking. Now placed at the bottom of the camera, users are less likely to accidentally smudge the camera when unlocking - a gripe of previous devices. In a bid to take on Apple’s iPhone X, the S9+ features an iris and facial recognition scanner. For glasses wearers this is especially beneficial, as the device utilises iris recognition when Face ID is stifled. Both features work adequately, however, fingerprint recognition remains my go-to.
With its dual rear camera setup and wide-angle dual aperture lens, Samsung is touting the S9’s “Reimagined Camera” a hero feature. Adding substance to Samsung’s claims, testing authority DxOMark recently awarded the Galaxy S9+ its “highest ever” combined photo and video rating for a smartphone camera. Combing a F2.4 aperture lens with a F1.5, the S9 boasts the brightest smartphone camera lens set-up currently on the market. Its rear camera set-up couples a 12MP with a 12MP zoom lens, whilst the front ‘selfie’ camera delivers 8MP. The S9 Plus’ dual aperture lens claims to automatically adjust to environmental conditions, mimicking the entry of light like a human eye, for crisp, clear images. Heralded a pseudo DLSR lens, the S9 Plus’ variable aperture camera claims to offer instantaneously ‘Instagrammable’ images. [Spoiler alert: It delivers]. Compared to the Galaxy Note 8, the difference in colour vibrancy, tonality and crispness captured by the Galaxy S9+ is instantly evident. Low-light functionality is also significantly much better than other rival smartphones, with notably enhanced clarity. The device does struggle in extremely dark rooms, however, its a stretch to assume it could substitute specialised ‘night cams’. The camera’s ‘Auto’ mode largely delivers images which are striking from the get-go, and closely resembles the quality of usually edited photographs. Since using the S9+, time spent editing images for social media has been considerably reduced. I did, however, enjoy the blurred out background cast by ‘Food’ mode. Great for capturing #coffeeporn. That being said, there is a ‘Pro’ mode for those who want extra customisation. As one photographer friend remarked, “This is making my job redundant”.
design that is befitting of earphones for a flagship device, with a braided cable instead of the regular plastic cable Samsung has been using until this point. This is all part of Samsung’s ambitions to deliver the best in all aspects of their components attachments and design.
Now we come to what Samsung is calling their “reimagined” camera. With S9+ which I used there are two rear cameras, one for telephoto and one wide angle; the S8+ and the new S9 had just one rear camera. Arguably, the most important camera feature is one you won’t immediately notice, a dual aperture (F1.5, F2.4) that automatically widens or retracts according to the lighting conditions around you, much like the human iris does. It’s subtle but it does deliver even when the lighting conditions are poor. You can also change the aperture manually as part of the “pro” settings. With the latest S9 you also get additional special effects which my granddaughters “absolutely lov”. While Low light shooting is always tricky for a smartphone camera, the new S9 delivers images and shots that come to life due to new technology on the chipset. Then there’s the Super Slo-Mo mode. Several brands have had a crack at delivering slow-motion shots at 240 fps, with the S9 you can shoot at 960 fps, due to the introduction of a new DRAM buffer that grabs the image data as it’s being shot. The front-facing camera is that a front facing camera that is similar to those found in several other smartphones.
Then there is the AR Emoji creator and if you have kids they are going to be all over this feature especially when they have friends around. The phone uses software and the front imaging array to create a cartoon doppelgänger. Samsung’s augmented-reality let’s one share an AR Emoji as an animated sticker or GIF through a third-party messaging app such as WhatsApp. On iPhones, you can send Animojis only through the Messages app on the iPhone X.
The Galaxy S9+ has also debuted an impressive super slow motion camera, triggered manually or automatically. Samsung claims to have increased the device’s shutter speed to 960 frames per second - i.e. 0.2 seconds of reallife, converted into a 6 second video. Truth be told, the results are pretty spectacular. No need for third party apps, the S9’s slow motion camera truly delivers.
SELFIES & AR EMOJI
Saying goodbye to bitmojis, the S9+ allows users to create personalised 3D avatars, which mimic a person’s facial expressions. Users can capture images or videos of their avatar, to share as a GIF or meme. Whilst the feature is fun in theory, there are notable restrictions. Like many others, my AR emoji doesn’t closely resemble my appearance - customisation of skin tone, facial features and outfits is somewhat limited. At current, it’s not robust enough for me to reach for often. Concerning selfies, Samsung has integrated several ‘Snapchat-esque’ filters directly into the camera - e.g. kitten ears on your head, or festive frames. It’s fun and practical enough to use frequently. An in-built AR make-up function is also embedded into the selfie-camera, however, compared to third party apps on Google Play, it fairs relatively average.
One of the S9 camera’s most impressive feats, is its integration of artificial intelligence. By triggering ‘Bixby Vision’, users can point the camera at various objects, and display a suite of relevant information For Australian models, Bixby Vision currently offers five modes; Text, Image, Place, Wine and QR Code. I was disappointed to find the Australian S9+ does not offer Bixby Vision’s ‘Makeup’ mode. The feature displays information about makeup worn by others, and directs to purchase links. Using Bixby Vision is fun to use, however does drain a lot of battery. Spending half an hour tinkering with the feature churns a considerable amount of juice. Bixby Vision seems Samsung’s take on Google Lens - which is currently rolling out to Android phones - however doesn’t perform quite as well. There are several instances in ‘Image’ mode when Bixby failed to display information about landmark buildings around me, whereas Google Lens did. In ‘Text’ mode, users can point to a foreign phrase, for the camera to display a translation. This is hitor-miss, and is best used on short phrases. Pointed at food, Bixby Vision displays the amount of calories. However, I’d take results with a grain of salt, as sometimes junk food reads much ‘healthier’ than truth. I enjoyed using the ‘Wine’ mode, which scans a bottle’s label and displays information about its name, brand, user ratings and purchase links. It’s fun to use at a bottle shop, as though your own personal wine assistant. In lieu of the dedicated ‘Makeup’ mode, I opted for scanning faces
With the S9 you can turn your AR Emoji into wallpaper on the Samsung phone or set as an “always on display” image or send it to a friend via email. Samsung, wants you to create a 3D avatar that looks just like you, all based on a selfie. You can customize the avatar by adding (or removing) hair, glasses, clothes and altering the skin tone.
One annoying feature is Bixby inside the camera management console. Bixby is Samsung’s artificial intelligence-infused virtual assistant who debuted a year ago on the S8 and S8+, while it’s an improvement it still has a long way to go. I don’t support proprietary software that is developed by a Company coming from behind two competitors such as Google and Amazon with their Alexa technology. One way, that Samsung is hoping to make its mark with Bixby is through the camera, and what I got was questionable results. On the plus side, you can point the camera at a street sign and have Bixby quickly translate that sign into a foreign language — useful for those of you who travel, but the kind of thing we’ve seen before. I was using it recently in Japan with mu Note 8. You can also point Bixby at food you’re eating, and in some instances — it worked with a blueberry muffin and with tiramisu — Bixby can let you know how many calories the item has. Where Bixby came up short was that it struggled to identify several tourist images around Sydney including Manly beach. According to my granddaughter the surprising killer app is when you tap makeup, and via the “see” inside app you look in different shades and styles of makeup. Move your lips or smile and the lipstick, for example, remains in place. This allows one to find that perfect look. And if you get your makeup from Sephora and CoverGirl you have a better chance of finding what you like due to a commercial relationship between Samsung and these Companies. This makes me wonder how long it will be before Chanel Revlon or brands that these two Companies don’t stock look to cuddle up to Samsung. Because at the end of the day when you find a look you’re satisfied with, you can place an order with these suppliers. In previous years, the Plus model was the same as the Galaxy S, but bigger, with a larger battery, too. This year, the S9 Plus comes with extra feature and is well worth the extra money over the S9. BUSINESS One seriously irritating feature is what happens when you create a new contact on the S9. When you have entered the contact, it asks you where you want to save the contact to, phone Sim Card, Google account or a Samsung account. I use Office 365, and this is where all my contacts are normally stored, I consolidate my contacts this way so that everyone from our CRM to accounting system are in one easily accessible spot. This is a major omission and Samsung
in ‘Image’ mode. Results frequently differed, however, Bixby Vision does bring up information about related makeup looks, tutorial links and potential products. Unfortunately, product suggestions were mostly incorrect. You can, however, scan an image of a makeup item, and Bixby Vision will [sometimes] tell you the product name and shade. When scanning a person’s face, Bixby Vision often brings up images of similar hairstyles - a feature I absolutely love. Again, it’s sometimes tricky to pinpoint results, as they change. Scanning an image of a person wearing glasses generates pictures of similar frames, which is particularly useful for me. Irrespective of mode used, Bixby Vision generates information very quickly, with little lag. It’ll be interesting to see how Samsung increases functionality with time.
PERFORMANCE & USER INTERFACE
To support its breadth of high intensity tasks, Samsung’s Galaxy S9+ runs a 10nm 64-bit octa core processor [Exynox 9810] with 6GB RAM. The base model comes with 64GB, and is expandable with a MicroSD card. Overall, the Galaxy S9+ comes equipped with the internal strength to complete tasks with ease and efficiency. Despite high intensity tasks like Bixby Vision, the smartphone offers seamless operation, and caters to multi-tasking well. With its powerful camera and in-built smarts, there’s no way Samsung’s S9+ could handle the workload if its internal components weren’t up to scratch, and Samsung has met the challenge head on. The device boosts up quickly, and I experienced very few moments of freezing. Concerning user interface, the Galaxy S9 remains close to its predecessing S8. There are a few subtle tweaks - e.g. the Messages app has undergone a makeover. Hallelujah! No more orange message bubble. Unfortunately, the dastardly ‘View All’ remains. I’m always tempted to swap to a thirdparty messaging app, however, the
seriously needs to deliver an update or a lot of Windows 10 and Office 365 customers are going to be seriously pissed off.
The Galaxy S9 is the new benchmark for smartphones not just because of its looks and functionality, it’s because the engines that deliver the software that differentiates this device from its competitors are made by Samsung. It’s also because Samsung has proved that evolution outperforms bells and whistles revolution which brands like Huawei, Oppo and the likes of Sony are into. Samsung believes that that careful and well executed improvements to core functionality are key to delivering a truly top end smartphone that is going to set you back over $1,300. The camera alone is a huge reason to ditch an iPhone or a Chinese top end device. Having the name Leica on a device does not mean it’s a better camera. It means that some Companies are prepared to prostitute their name for a price. Samsung, have got the marriage of processing power, camera sensor coupled with their new software right and this is allowing them to deliver the best camera ever in a smartphone. If you want to get out of an iPhone 7 or even an iPhone 6 you are going to notice a massive difference and I am confident that after a week of experimenting with an Android OS device you will never want to go back to a proprietary smartphone where everything costs you more, even a simple cable to charge or connect an iPhone. Even the battery lasts longer than an iPhone. Plus, unlike the other popular phones, you still get a headphone jack and above all superior access to Google tools and apps. You can easily set up Microsoft to run smoothly on this device. The bottom line is that you can use this device to impress your friends and family with capabilities such as the camera and sound system while also using it as a key business tool on the road because of its super battery life and access to key software from third parties. For $1,300 you get a smartphone on steroids for business and a device that seriously impressive when it comes to core functionality and having fun. RATING: 9/10
S9’s beautiful Edge Lighting doesn’t support that. Edge panel functionality remains, for swift accessibility to favourite contacts, reminders, calendar appointments and more. Contrary to some others, I really enjoy using Bixby Home on the S9+. One swipe left on the home screen reveals a side menu which neatly summarises most of my needs. Bixby Home displays a suite of aspects including; recommended nearby cafes, schedule, news, reminders, suggested songs, Facebook updates, trending YouTube videos, weather forecast, summary of my ‘Health’ [e.g. heart rate and step count] plus more. I’d highly rate the feature. In fact, I’ve been interacting with Samsung’s digital voice assistant, Bixby, a lot. Users can trigger the AI assistant by pressing down the side key under volume controls, or calling her by name. Bixby gets more intuitive with repetitive use, and I’m at the point where I find I use her more than Google Assistant. She’s developed to know me well, and continues to get better. In essence, I’m falling into Samsung’s hands - there is a function which explicitly asks users to choose between Samsung’s Bixby or Google Assistant for text-to-speech functionality.
The S9+ boasts excellent audio quality, reflective of AKG-tuned speakers and Dolby Atmos functionality. Supporting 24-bit audio, the S9 Plus’ stereo speakers are considerably more loud and clear than rival devices, making for immersive watching of YouTube videos, and streaming of Netflix/Stan. The Galaxy S9+ delivers a pseudo surround sound effect - the smartphone seems to generate sound not just from its left and right speaker, but also from its rear and front. Included in the box is a pair of wellcrafted AKG headphones, which perform brilliantly.
The S9+ incorporates a whopping 3,500 mAh battery, and with moderate use lasts about a day and a half. Amidst more intensive tasks - e.g. Dolby Atmos, high precision location settings - I get about a full day. However, Samsung’s in-built ‘Optimizer’ does do a good job of shutting down unnecessary functions when an extra boost is required. An ultra fast charger is also included in the box, which does exactly as it claims. Wireless charging is also supported.
As competition within the premium smartphone market continues to intensify, the Galaxy S9 Plus’ familiar appearance could be perceived as somewhat uninspiring. Instead, Samsung has proved technological evolution is only as good as internal components and the strength of a device’s heart. The Galaxy S9 Plus features robust hardware and a powerhouse engine, which proves capable of supporting its expanding capabilities, and suite of new smarts. Featuring a market-leading camera, outstanding audio and a further streamlined user experience, the new Galaxy S9+ is a pleasure to use, and has raised the bar for what consumers can expect in a top-end smartphone. RATING: 9/10
Stage photos come out well too!