Samsung is finally making its latest Galaxy flagships official. We knew almost everything about the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ before because of all the leaks, but Samsung is making things official today. After the major upgrade that was last year’s Galaxy S8 line, Samsung isn’t doing too much with the new Galaxy S9. At first glance, the Galaxy S9 looks exactly like the S8. But there are some important changes on the new flagship that aren’t easily noticeable — so here’s a handy list of all the new things:
An upgraded camera
Samsung has upgraded the cameras on the Galaxy S9 and S9+ with a lot of new features. The company has built a mechanical aperture system on the regular S9 that enables users to switch from F2.4 to F.15, which is the brightest available on a smartphone right now. The feature is completely mechanical, and you can actually see the lens physically change when you switch between the different apertures. It’s not present on the larger S9+ though, but it includes a dual camera setup similar to the Note 8.
There are a bunch of other improvements on the S9’s cameras — it can now record slow-motion videos at 960fps, has an improved camera app, improved autofocus, and more.
A tweaked design
Samsung has slightly tweaked the design of the new S9 phones to offer a more streamlined look. The displays of the devices are now protected by Gorilla Glass 5, while the screen and bezels now feature a deeper black which gives you the “zero-bezel” feel when the displays are turned off. On the back, Samsung has finally moved the fingerprint scanner to the bottom of the camera so you’ll no longer have trouble finding the scanner everytime you want to unlock it. The new Galaxy S9 phones are a tad bit heavier than last year’s, too.
An Animoji clone
The new Galaxy S9 comes with AR Emoji, a clone of iPhone’s super cool (and silly) Animoji feature. Using the camera of the device, it is capable of mapping your face by leveraging 100 unique points, which generates an animated character that can be used in messaging apps.
These come in form of GIFs that can be shared in a bunch of different apps, and you can even customize your character manually if you’d like. It’s clear Samsung is going after Apple’s Animoji feature here, but this is nowhere close to Apple’s implementation and it feels more like something Snapchat would build for its Bitmoji stickers app.
As expected, the new Galaxy phones have stereo speakers for the first time ever. These speakers are tuned by Samsung-owned AKG, and they also feature Dolby Atoms Effect which will help provide an immersive audio experience. In case, you are wondering, the headphone jack is still here.
Samsung has packed a couple of new Bixby improvements on the S9. The personal assistant now includes some clever real-time features such as the ability to translate things in real-time, and some improved design-related features.
The new S9 includes Intelligent Scan, an Apple Face ID-like feature that’s basically a combination of the existing iris scanning and facial recognition tech built on the S8 and other Galaxy phones. These two features work together to offer a faster and a more reliable unlocking experience, though it’s not clear how well it works when comapred to Face ID on the iPhone X — but I wouldn’t hold my breathe.
Samsung is continuing to push ahead with Samsung DeX, which was initially a Microsoft Continuum clone. This year, the company is launching a new DeX Pad accessory that allows users to use the S9 as a touch keyboard and pad while working on a monitor at the same time.
That’s really about it for the new S9 phones. There aren’t a lot of new things, but the upgraded camera definitely looks promising, and I am honestly quite intrigued by the mechanical aperture system. The device comes in Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Coral Blue, and Lilac Purple. It goes on sale on March 16, and pricing for the regular S9 starts at around $790 while the larger S9+ will sell for around $915.