Here Is What’s Actually New on the Samsung Galaxy S9

Posted on February 25, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Hardware with 23 Comments

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.

Stereo Speakers

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.

DeX Pad

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.

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Here Is What’s Actually New on the Samsung Galaxy S9”

  1. lilmoe

    "An Animoji clone"

    hmm... Doesn't look like a "clone" to me. I thought their answer to animoji was pretty cool, and much better executed. Being yourself is much better than being a poop, at least IMO.

  2. Winner

    Although the fingerprint reader is in a better location, I don't understand why it's orthogonal to the length of your fingertip, and not round like other sensible rear-sensor phones. It's also still close to the camera. Finally, my wife has a Note 8 and a fairly significant fraction of the time the sensor doesn't register her finger. On my Pixel 2 XL she unlocks it with the same finger 100% of the time.

  3. sharpsone

    So more of the same, not worth the asking price and more reason to believe that hardware in the phone industry is as stale as the PC world prior to 2013. These premium price points are no longer justified for the minimal gains.

  4. Davor Radman

    I really don't understand why in gods name are they still differentiating between regular and plus models with a camera? Isn't size enough? Especially here.. Which one is better then, dual camera on the plus or this new "reimagined" camera on the regular model? it's not obvious.

    EDIT: oops, trigger happy a bit, I see dual-aperture is present on both, as it's explained in the comments bellow :)

    But the point still stands, it should be the same camera.

    • arunphilip

      In reply to Markiz von Schnitzel:

      I don't know, but would wonder if they had packaging constraints that prevented them putting in the (second) telephoto camera present in the S9+ in the S9.

      However, if they have done it purely for product differentiation, then that would be a very low blow indeed.

  5. wocowboy

    No thanks, it still has those gi-NORMOUS bezels at the top and bottom, something most flagship phones have given up already, other than the new Sony phone that was also announced yesterday which has enormous top and bottom bezels like the Samsung. I can understand the need for that huge bezel at the top for sensors, but why is it there on the bottom? The "notch" is nothing compared to these. The curved screen is nice but a gimmick for the most part.

  6. Tony Barrett

    I think the Dex Pad should actually be labelled as 'Continuum done right'. By all accounts, when docked on a Dex, Android on the Galaxy 8 works very well indeed as a desktop experience, while Continuum was sort of crippled and never reached it's potential.

    I'm sure the camera is totally amazing on this thing, but Samsung aren't doing themselves any favours when they're seen to 'clone' dumb Apple features like animoji or the face unlock thing. Maybe Samsung can do those things better - I don't know - but cloning them just makes them look like a 'me too' company.

    Would I buy an S9? No, I wouldn't. My wife has an S8, and she loves it, but they're not my thing.

  7. wright_is

    The camera industry welcomes Samsung to the 19th Century.

  8. arunphilip

    A couple of mistakes in the camera and display sections of this article:

    • Unlike what the article states about the variable aperture camera "It’s not present on the larger S9+ though", both the S9 and S9+ have the variable aperture camera. The S9+ is joined by a second camera that the S9 doesn't have.
    • The article states "The displays of the devices are now protected by Gorilla Glass 5" with the word "now" implying this is a new feature. However, the S8 series of phones also had GG5 protection for their displays.
    • Orin

      In reply to arunphilip:

      Thanks for this information. I found it odd that this new camera feature would only exist on the smaller S9. I also thought the way it was worded regarding Gorilla Glass 5 implied that this was an upgrade compared to the S8.

      • arunphilip

        In reply to Orin:

        You're welcome. My corrections above were not intended as criticism to the author, but just to clear up any confusion amongst readers (especially given the focus of the article was on new/changed features), so I'm happy it helped you.

        The confusion around the camera is understandable. Prior to the launch, I first thought that the dual aperture camera on the S9 was a way to work around not being able to fit two cameras in there (and since the S9+ was bigger it could take on two cameras, so no need of variable aperture). So it is indeed interesting (and reassuring) to note that the S9+ still has the dual aperture camera.

        Now I'm eagerly awaiting reviews to see how these actually perform - Samsung have done their big marketing push, but let's see if it actually results in better photos in the real world.

    • PeteB

      In reply to arunphilip:

      This seems a little anal retentive, no offense.

  9. johnh3

    I like those new devices. Cameras seems great. And Samsung avoided bad design choises to add a ”notch” or something spectacular odd stuff.

    But they are also very expensive of course.

    • PeteB

      In reply to johnh3: But they are also very expensive of course.

      Yeah well they're flagships. A top end mercedes is expensive too. These aren't meant for plebs, and fortunately android has plethora lower cost options.

  10. red.radar

    so Essentially the only reason to upgrade is the camera. Can’t wait to see test shots.

    Seems like innovations if the smart phone are getting harder to come by

  11. lilmoe

    "It’s not present on the larger S9+ though"

    It does. Both the S9 and S9+ have a dual aperture main shooter with the same specs. The S9+ has an additional telephoto lens with a fixed aperture of f2.4 for optical zoom and portrait shots.

    I'm REALLY interested in the new 3 stack sensor of the main wide angle shooter. The super fast capture of the pixel array, "12 image stacking" and the wide aperture should make this the best low-light camera on a smartphone, and the sharpest in daylight. The cool part about this is that, unlike Google's Pixel, this is all done before the image leaves the sensor, which should be a massive advantage over Google's software based processing that takes too long to get processed to my liking (making you lose lots of moments, especially if you have kids).

  12. Dryloch

    The video of the aperture opening and closing is of the S9+. It does have dual aperture.

  13. IanYates82

    Good increments over what's in the S8. Not enough to make me spend the $100 (Australian) for a mid-cycle upgrade so I'll probably wait until next year and get whatever it'll be - S10 I suppose.

    I haven't watched the video yet, but the animated person thing looks pretty neat but wouldn't get used much after the first couple of weeks - for me. If my kids were a few years older they'd be absolutely into that. We can scoff at the animoji similarities but it has to be there, built-in, to compete.

    This does seem to be better than the Pixel 2, although I thought the S8 was a better phone than the Pixel 2 already as the camera was great, the phone's stable & getting updated, plus I can see the screen :)

    Also, I *really* don't want to use a dongle for headphones - having one pair work with my PC and phone is nice. Admittedly if they're USB C I can at least use them with my laptop as well as the phone, but that'd still rule out using them with my Surface Pro 3 without a dongle. Progress is hard :D

  14. skane2600

    The DeX Pad reminds me of the joke of using an HP calculator as plotter back in the 70s.

    The focus on cameras at the high end of the smartphone market is just evidence that there's been no significant "killer" features added for several years. Given the modest photography skills of the average person, it's becomeing "a waste of machinery" (with apologies to American Graffiti).

    • arunphilip

      In reply to skane2600:

      Given the modest photography skills of the average person, it's becomeing "a waste of machinery"

      Oh, I have a different take on this, but for the same reasons. I am one of those with average (or slightly worse) photography skills, and the evolution of phone cameras has benefited me - things like OIS, HDR, grids, and so on have helped elevate them to the level of (or even beyond) point-and-shoot cameras.

      Sure, in the hands of a more competent photographer, these cameras might give even better results, but even in my hands itself they put out pretty good photos. So I am grateful for this evolution, and see the camera as an important part of my upgrade decision making.

  15. Rock

    Still no removable battery? Not interested, next!