It has got everything double to add to the plus-sized appeal.
Unlike last year, this plus-sized brother makes its presence felt by adding more power and dual camera prowess over the regular S9. Did we mention the goodness of the dual aperture?
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is a brilliant smartphone that fixes almost everything that irked us about the S8+. If you’re not even slightly excited for the S9+ then chances are you’re already a proud owner of the S8+ which was a great smartphone in itself.
To sum it up, this year’s Galaxies are more of a rectification over revolution with the usual cutting edge tech updates while keeping the best bits still intact (read as headphone jack).
Samsung S9+ Camera: Dual lust
Let's cut to the chase. Everyone's asking the main question - What sorcery is this dual aperture? It’s literally a physical mechanism squeezed inside a smartphone camera. It’s impressively tiny and if you put your ear to it, you can even hear that faint bit of sound it makes when it switches between the two apertures. Mind = blown. I totally had a nerdgasm there but does that mean it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the competition? It’s a fine line - between the Pixel 2 and the Samsung S9+ it clearly boils down to personal preferences.
If you don’t know anything about aperture settings, here’s a lil Stuff India schooling -- the f/1.5 and f/2.4 correspond to the size of the aperture opening in a camera to allow light. Lower that number, more light that comes in and vice versa. So f/1.5 is actually quite an achievement by Samsung because it can take some really stellar low light images. It even uses the same trick as the Google Pixel 2 by stacking up multiple shots to reduce noise by 30%. Basically you’ll be the captain of sending reunion pictures on WhatsApp groups after a night of heavy drinking in a dimly lit bar.
What about f/2.4? Well, when the sun is out and about, the f/2.4 aperture kicks in. Samsung says that it’s to reduce overexposure in bright conditions but honestly, smartphones have an electronic shutter that is blistering fast, so overexposure is never an issue. I can already sense Pixel 2 users smirking with their less-hardware-dependant-more-software-clever camera.
Don’t get me wrong, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ has a brilliant camera. The photos come out crisp and colours are more natural than its predecessor. It is, in all its essence, a very Samsung photo and I am totally fine with it because I can sense Samsung shifting slightly towards a more natural colour approach. Maybe they’ve started noticing their toddler-like interest in overprocessed and vivid picture contrast? Who knows. I love the picture quality.
The 12MP dual snapper on this one carries many of Note 8’s party tricks. Want 2x zoom? You got it. Optical image stabilization (OIS)? It's here too. Talk slow motion videos and this one ups the Note 8, Pixel 2 and iPhone X with an astonishing 960fps super slo-mo recording.
The only other phone which could accomplish this is the Sony Xperia XZ Premium of last year but then you'd need reflexes of a scaredy cat to shoot slo-mo videos on that thing. Samsung improves on that by cleverly adding a motion detection box in the frame. The second it detects movement in the square, slo-mo magic kicks in. Easy peasy. But it can only do this at 720p, so you need to feed it as much as light possible for it to look good on your Instagram. You can record at 240fps with 1080p resolution as well, but that’s too fast for the city life, ain’t it?
There’s clearly no denying the S9+’s point-and-shoot capabilities. The auto mode does all the heavy lifting with HDR kicking in faster than ever before. The 2x zoom takes advantage of the dual lens camera and thus is really satisfying to shoot on. Got an interesting subject to shoot from the melancholy comfort of a Kaali Peeli? Switch to sports mode and it can capture fast moving objects in a jiffy.
The OIS really helps when recording 4K videos at 30fps but bump it up to an eye pleasing 60fps and the OIS backs out. You can kickstart your YouTube career with just this smartphone and bring a tripod along if you have wobbly hands that do shame to those buttery smooth 60fps at 4k videos.
Selfie pros get an 8MP snapper in the front, same as the S8+. It’s good enough but the billboard-hugging iPhone X does a better job, if not exactly as advertised 'cos it’s still in beta (good move to avoid scrutiny).
Samsung S9+ AR Emoji: A Bitmoji that actually looks like me?
Samsung has always been the one to give you more options than you can manage. The AR Emoji uses the front facing camera and turns you into something like Snapchat’s Bitmoji with your face on it. It works better when creating template emojis to send friends rather than mimicking the Animoji’s talking unicorn approach. That’s also because since it uses only the front facing camera as opposed to iPhone X’s high-tech facial recognition camera. Don't expect any Animoji fidelity from this in real time. Can you flirt by sending short videos of talking poo? Nope. How about a creepy cat to animate your intentions? Go ahead, she’ll block you anyway.
I am not the sort of audience for this but if you want something like an Animoji, here it is. Even my interest in Animoji was short-lived but hey, at least you can send out these AR Emojis to friends on any platform. They get saved in your gallery as GIFs. Better yet, if you don’t want to see it at all then you can uncheck it in the camera setting to not show up as an option. Can’t see, don’t care.
Samsung S9+ Display: Still same, still awesome!
When you make giant TVs that are literally called ‘The Wall’, plucking out 6.2in of QHD goodness is as easy as pie. From the front you really can't tell a Samsung S8+ from an S9+. It's got the same gorgeous 6.2in display with 1440 x 2960 resolution that curves around the edges. Those skinny bezels will also compliment your Netflix marathon and we wouldn't be surprised if you switch to binging Netflix during commutes over listening to music and contemplating on life.
Thinking this display is your run-of-the-mill screen that’s available with all premium devices? Think again. The Samsung Galaxy S9+ screen has a very soft and inviting feel to it. This might sound a bit weird, but you have to touch it to believe it. The only other smartphone with such a good quality screen is the iPhone X and guess what, Samsung made that too.
Fine, that sounds a bit airy but that’s just how I feel.
Feelings aside, the screen has an amazing contrast and pin sharp brightness with 529 pixels per inch (take note nerds). The 18:9 aspect ratio industry trend did well for slightly shorter people like me to get a better hold of plus-sized smartphones. To add to that, Samsung’s repositioning of the fingerprint scanner and the ability to pull down the notification tray just by swiping down might convince most (including me) to buy this over the regular S9. But only if you really want a big screen and those dual lens cameras. It will be inevitably too big for someone with small hands and that’s where the little brother of Samsung Galaxy S9+ comes in. The S9 is the most perfectly sized smartphone you could buy.
The Galaxy S9+ is such a beautiful sandwich of glass and metal, it’ll be a shame if you drop it right? Kudos to Samsung for including a silicone case in the box. The fear of that 6.2in display kissing the pavement is relentless enough to stick to the S9 if you’re not confident enough to grip the S9+. Proceed with caution.
Samsung S9+ Design: Dr. Fixed it
Turn it around and you'll find the answer to your angry tweets about the fingerprint scanner. Like most Android smartphones, it's now placed below the camera. It's in a comfortable-to-reach position and better yet, no more accidental smudges on the camera this time. Samsung is sticking with the glass back finish like the S8 which might bother some with sweaty palms.
The aluminium frame gets a matte finish this time, which feels better to grip the phone. Aside from the lock button and volume rocker, the questionable Bixby button is still there. Not as exciting as discovering a headphone jack. Strangely that’s a thing to talk about in reviews now. Thanks Apple for the revolution. Did I already mention the bundled silicone cover? You also get a pair of AKG headphones in the box and honestly, it’s one of the best bundled in-ears we’ve reviewed. Deep dive into the sound and quality in the settings menu and you can get more out of them by tuning them to your ears with Adapt Sound. There’s even Dolby Atmos and UHQ upscaling but if you aren’t a grumpy and unsatisfied audiophile, you can stick to Adapt Sound. The AKG-tuned speakers are now better too. They are 1.4x louder than before and now use the earpiece to create stereo sound like the iPhone.
One of the best things about a Samsung Galaxy smartphone is that you’ll be whipping out your device to capture those colourful Holi pictures. Meanwhile your buddies will be squabbling over the community-based IP rating of a plastic bag and a cling wrap. I used a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to capture some really good Portrait shots of my friends this Holi. Damn sure the Samsung Galaxy S9+ will let you do the same thanks to IP68 water-resistance.
Samsung S9+ Battery and power: Plus is better
Seeing how this is Samsung's latest flagship right now, it's no surprise that it's brimming with power from the inside. You get 6GB RAM with the latest Exynos 9810 processor running the show. That’s more than enough to breeze through Android Oreo and might come in handy to dive into the Samsung DeX station as well. Which is not available in India at the time of writing.
It's got a 3500mAh battery, which is the same as the S8+, and lasts a good full day even on QHD resolution. Keep in mind, a freshly unboxed S9+ is set to FHD by default, so you’ll need to jump inside settings and change it to QHD to enjoy the full goodness of the screen. Playing games and switching between apps is child's play for the S9+ even if your needs include just uploading your regular Starbucks selfies on social media stories.
Is it a bit overpowered? Firstly, is that even a question? Secondly, it’s called future-proofing. The S9+ should keep you away from upgrading in the next few years. It comes in 64GB and 256GB storage options. The 256GB variant will set you back ₹72,900 but weirdly is only available with the Midnight Black colour. Coral Blue and Lilac Purple are only selling with 64GB at the time of writing this review but you can always plonk in an SD card.
Samsung S9+: software and UI
Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has been getting better with each iteration of flagships. This time it's cleaner, but there are a bunch of Samsung apps preloaded. Dual cameras and dual apertures aren’t the only two things Samsung has put in here. Wait till you see two browsers, two AIs, two app stores, two music apps and even two new notes apps. All of this is Samsung’s confliction with Google’s stock apps and it may sound bad but you can dump all of it in a folder and forget it even exists. It doesn’t remotely hinder your regular day experience and you can move on with your life.
Samsung’s battery and app optimisations are noteworthy. It has great benefits and works inconspicuously. The settings menu also gives you a host of options to fiddle with and tweak the phone to your liking and use. Don’t like something? There’ll be an option to get it out of your sight. My way or the highway is no longer the motto for Samsung’s TouchWiz.
Bixby is back and Samsung's persistent nourishment by giving it a dedicated button still seems to elude us. Take note, Bixby will now understand an Indian accent and we were more than ready to give it a second chance. Personally, I don’t really find the need to use AI Assistance on smartphones. Be it Google Assistant, Siri or Bixby - it still feels time-consuming. However, if you insist, Bixby will not only launch third party apps like Twitter, it'll even push out a dictated tweet for you in one simple command. Thus, going a step further than Google and Apple's digital assistant. However, if you're not into it, you can avoid it but Samsung will still not let you remap the Bixby button to do something else.
Coming to smart home devices, Bixby is now available in the new Samsung QLED tellys. I am ready to bet that Samsung’s cooking a fresh Bixby infused smart speaker after acquiring Harman but don’t take my word for it. It might never happen 'cos Samsung is not competitive at all (wink).
The iPhone X, Google’s Pixel 2 XL and the Samsung S9+ are all amazing smartphones in their own league. So if you’re planning to spend more than half a lakh on a smartphone then it better deserve that spot in your pocket.
With the Pixel 2 XL you get the cleanest version of Android there is, and a brilliant camera. Though the OLED screen has a cooler colour temperature at slightly off-axis viewing angles. The iPhone X has an amazing screen but that the phone cost you around a lakh.
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is what we call a complete all-rounder. It has a brilliant camera, fast and powerful innards, a beautiful screen and best of all, a headphone jack. In terms of pricing, it’s priced lower than both its competitors and gives the option of adding an SD card too.
Samsung Galaxy S9+ Verdict
Between the two Galaxies, my pick would be the plus-sized one. Not only do you get dual camera smarts but also 6GB RAM over the 4GB RAM Galaxy S9. We’ve reviewed both in terms of performance and there’s barely any difference, but personally, I like big-sized smartphones. Which honestly is not suitable for most people.
Samsung has fixed the placement of the fingerprint scanner this time and sandwiched one of the best smartphone cameras between a stunning display and a great design.
That said, the S9+ won't be a deal-breaker for S8+ owners but people planning to make the jump to the next best plus-sized smartphone should definitely go for the Samsung S9+.