- Review Price: £739
- 5.8-inch OLED quad HD+ Infinity Display
- Snapdragon 845/Exynos 9810
- 4GB RAM & 64GB/256GB storage + microSD up to 400GB
- 12 megapixel single rear camera with mechanical variable aperture of both f/2.4 and f/1.5
- 8MP front camera with f/1.7
- 3000 mAh battery, wireless fast charge
Samsung Galaxy S9 first look: A seriously impressive phone, or in need of more upgrades?
Samsung has been the king of the Android phone market for a long time now. But is this set to change in 2018 with the release of its latest Galaxy handset; does the S9 have enough to beat the Google Pixel 2, iPhone X and iPhone 8?
Offering up a beautiful design, top specs and one of the most interesting camera setups around, on paper at least the S9 has the capabilities to be 2018’s phone of the year. Scroll down to find out everything you need to know about Samsung’s latest flagship.
Samsung Galaxy S9 release date and price
Pre-orders for the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are now open. Those who pre-order before March 7 will receive their shiny new Galaxy phone ahead of schedule on March 9. Otherwise, the Galaxy S9 will begin to hit shelves on March 16.
Pricing starts as follows.
- Galaxy S9 – £739/$719
- Galaxy S9+ – £869/ $839
What is the Samsung Galaxy S9?
The Galaxy S9 is a tweaked and tuned S8, with Dolby Atmos-enhanced front-facing speakers and a camera that has the potential to beat the excellent Google Pixel 2.
This is an evolution, yes, but one that could still result in the device being the best phone of 2018.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – Design
With the Galaxy S8, Samsung introduced a shift in phone design that followed through market-wide last year. A big bezel was out, to be replaced by a larger screen that pushed right to the edges. It was a much-needed change in a market where phones
had started to feel a bit stale.
The Galaxy S9 retains this familiar overall look, which is hardly something to complain about when you consider that, a year on, it’s still one of slickest phones around. The S9 sees the bezel thickness above and below the display reduce further. In addition, the fingerprint scanner has been moved to a more suitable location beneath the camera, rather than being tucked tightly beside it. However, it still feels a tad on the small side, and there’s noticeable lag as it jumps you to the homescreen.
The metal and glass body retains its curved display, IP68 water-resistance rating and microSD card slot. The aluminium rim has been strengthened and the Gorilla Glass 5 that coats the screen has been thickened. Hopefully, this will help to reduce instances of cracked screens.
The S9 even includes a headphone jack – which is almost a novelty in 2018.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – Screen
Like all of Samsung’s recent flagships, the S9’s display draws you in instantly with its rich colours and fantastic contrast. It’s still a 5.8-inch AMOLED quad-HD+ panel, and even though little has changed aside from a slight bump in brightness, it’s still one of the best displays I’ve seen.
What impresses most about the screen is the customisation options it offers. In its default ‘Adaptive’ mode colours are saturated and rich, with a dominant blue hue – personally, I find this slightly too much. Switch to DCI-P3 colour gamut covering ‘AMOLED cinema’ mode and everything feels easier on the eyes. It’s even possible to customise the colours, reducing the amount of blue, green and red you see.
There’s full support for HDR10 and the S9 can stream HDR content from sources such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. This provides movies and TV shows with better contrast and enables them to use a wider gamut of colours. Watch a programme that features numerous dark scenes, such as Altered Carbon, and you’ll notice the difference right away.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – Camera
The biggest area of proposed improvement for the Samsung Galaxy S9 is to the camera. It’s the only feature of the Galaxy S9 that genuinely feels new and unique.
Instead of having a fixed aperture lens, the S9 can shift between f/2.4 and f/1.5, providing ideal optics for both day and night photography. If it’s bright outside, it will shoot at f/2.4; when there’s less light available, the lens will widen and utilise f/1.5 to let in more light.
If you stick to the default ‘Auto’ mode then you’ll likely never notice the aperture shift (aside from in the results, hopefully), but you’ll have more granular control if you switch to ‘Pro’. Here you can manually change between the two apertures, while also being able to tinker with exposure and white balance.
Software-based variable apertures have featured on phones such as Huawei and Honor before, but they’ve essentially been ‘bokeh’ filters that give an artificial look to photos.
Images I’ve captured so far with the S9 Plus do look very good. As is typical with Samsung phones, exposure and white balance are cranked up and colours have a tendency to look more saturated than they should be, but the results are pleasing to the eye and look great on Instagram.
Low-light shots taken with the f/1.5 option are certainly bright, and it’s possible to get superb shots in situations that phone cameras would normally struggle. However, I did find that on occasion a scene would be far too bright, giving a rather unrealistic feel.
The camera itself has a 12-megapixel sensor with OIS, fast autofocus and is accompanied by an app that’s easy to use. Video can now be recorded at 4k 60fps – as is possible on the iPhone X – or at 960fps for a short burst.
A new AR Emoji feature appears to be Samsung’s response to Apple’s Animoji. These AR faces look a little more like Bitmoji with a human touch than typical emoji, but like Apple’s feature they map your face with the 8-megapixel selfie camera and replicate your movements on-screen. In my opinion this is nothing but a gimmick, which produces pretty creepy-looking results.
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is a gorgeous device, and it fixes some of the biggest issues I had with the S8 – namely, the fingerprint scanner’s position and the poor speaker. In reality, this should be the ultimate Android phone.
The changes appear minor in some areas, but maybe it’s just that we’ve come to expect too much from annual updates to these super-powerful phones. Are there any extras Samsung could have included?
A 4K screen would have been nice – if unnecessary – and proper 10-bit HDR video recording could have added another skill to the camera. I’m probably most surprised that Samsung didn’t try to take on Face ID with an updated iris scanner or improved facial recognition – both of which I’ve found very hit-and-miss in the past.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 was the best phone of 2017, and I’m confident that the S9 will follow up as one of the most desirable and exciting phones of 2018.