Samsung Galaxy S9 Preview: The 2018 Flagships Have Arrived

Posted on February 26, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 45 Comments

Samsung Galaxy S9 Preview: The New Flagships

Mehedi previously described what’s new in the Samsung Galaxy S9. Here, I’d like to provide a broader overview of its entire feature-set, with an eye towards a future review of the product.

Note, too, that I earlier applauded Samsung for focusing on its revolutionary new camera system in the recently-announced Galaxy S9. But this new handset family isn’t just about the camera. There’s a lot more going on here.

Here’s what I’m seeing.

Pricing. Many pundits were claiming that Samsung would “pull a Google” by raising prices and mimicking Apple’s $1000 pricing because, well, they can. Well, they didn’t. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are priced at exactly the same levels—$720 and $830, respectively—as their predecessors.

Availability. Unlike Apple, which held off on offering an unlocked version of the iPhone X for a month, Samsung is offering its new phones through carriers and in universal unlocked form immediately. Nicely done.

Headphone jack. ‘Nuff said: The Galaxy S9 still includes a headphone jack for friction-free listening. God bless them for this.

Performance. Apple routinely touts double-digit performance jumps with each generation of the iPhone: The A11 in the iPhone 8/X has two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than those of the A10, while the two efficiency cores are 70 percent faster, allegedly—But Samsung is using the best that the Android world has to offer, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, with its eight cores (four performance and four efficiency). It is 30 percent faster, overall, than its predecessor, the Snapdragon 835.

Storage. Disappointingly, the S9 comes with only 64 GB of storage, just like its predecessor. On a more positive note, however, you can add up to 400 GB of microSD storage to the devices.

Wireless connectivity. The S9 sports gigabit LTE connectivity for speeds of up 1.2 Gbps, depending on carrier. What I’d like to have seen, of course, is Project Fi compatibility. But I’m a dreamer.

Fingerprint reader. The placement of the fingerprint reader on the Galaxy S8 was a crime against humanity. This year, Samsung got it right: Now it’s under the camera, where it belongs, and where your finger naturally falls. It’s tough to applaud this one because it was so screwed up last year. But this is obviously a win.

Design. As I noted previously, Samsung’s tall, bezel-less design is still unmatched by any competitor, thanks to the curved sides of the display on the S8/S8+, Note8, and now the S9/S9+. It’s gorgeous, fits well and feels right in the hand, and has arguably the best OLED display in the market. (Apple may disagree, as the Samsung-made iPhone X display has been judged to be superior.)

Colors. Tied to the design, Samsung offers the Galaxy S9 in three fun colors: Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Lilac Purple. The world isn’t just black and white.

Display. The Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch 18.5:9 display with 570 ppi. The Galaxy S9+ has a 6.2-inch 18.5:9 display at 529 ppi. Have I mentioned the curves yet? Good.

More camera. I focused on the crazy mechanically-adjustable apertures in the Galaxy S9 in my previous write-up, but there’s more going on with the cameras than that. Samsung has also added a hardware-assistant slow-mo (960 fps!) capture mode, and AR Emojis, which, yes, mimic the Animoji feature in Apple’s iPhone X. I’m no fan of this kind of nonsense, obviously. But you know it’s going to sell some phones.

Stereo. Like the fingerprint reader, it’s hard to applaud something that should have been fixed years ago. But with the S9 finally offering stereo speakers, we can chop another complaint off the list. And they provide surround sound that is “enhanced by AKG” with Dolby Atmos. Oh, and Samsung even includes headphones in the box.

Water and dust resistant. While we’re checking off things, let’s add an IP68 rating for water resistance (good for submersion in up to 5 feet of freshwater for up to 30 minutes). Plus dust resistance too.

Wireless charging. Samsung has supported wireless charging for years. So yes, the S9 features this technology too.

DeX. Innovating where Google won’t, Samsung last year created a technology called DeX that lets its S8 and newer flagships dock and use a PC display, mouse, and keyboard. This year, DeX is expanding with a new DeX Pad that lets customers use their S9 display as a trackpad and even a keyboard while docked. I’m firmly of the opinion that this kind of technology needs to come from the platform maker, not from one phone maker. But with Google busy trying to bring Android apps to Chrome OS and ignoring the other possibility, Samsung has stepped in to fill that role. And viewed in the broader context of Samsung perhaps trying to eliminate Google from the equation as much as possible, DeX is rightfully seen as a platform play. I’m interested to see how this plays out.

Security. This doesn’t get a lot of attention, but one area in which Samsung has innovated is security: The S9 is protected by Samsung’s Know technologies, which helps protect against intrusion, malware, and other malicious threats. And in addition to that fingerprint reader, the S9 provides iris and facial scanning too.

Bixby. I’ve described Bixby as being a crime against humanity. But it, and its stupid dedicated hardware button, are apparently here to stay. Sorry, anyone who has to use this phone. Any other digital assistant would be a better choice.

Accessories. Samsung is, perhaps, the only Android phone maker who provides such an exhaustive set of accessories for its devices. The firm is already selling flip covers, LED wallet covers, premium Alcantara covers, rugged protective covers, silicon covers, and more for the S9, plus the DeX Pad dock, two wireless charging stands, portable batteries, and more.

Again, there’s a lot going on here. I’m looking forward to reviewing the S9+.


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