Consider it or not, the high-end Android smartphone market is not tremendous aggressive. LG’s cellular unit is usually the corporate’s worst-performing division, a lot in order that the corporate is backing away from a yearly launch cycle and delaying its flagship smartphone. HTC’s January 2018 was the corporate’s worst month in over a decade—till even worse numbers had been reported in February. Google makes the all-around greatest Android telephone, however it’s both tired of creating or unable to create a aggressive distribution and advertising and marketing chain, leaving many individuals unable to purchase the telephone.

We hear speak about new manufacturers from China, however Huawei was basically banned by the US authorities from meaningfully competing right here, Xiaomi retains pushing again a US launch, and LeEco’s US arrival was a crash touchdown with no survivors.

On the opposite aspect of the cellular aisle, Apple makes a compelling smartphone, with worldwide distribution and advertising and marketing to again it up, however customers are largely unwilling to leap between ecosystems; partisanship has taken over the smartphone market.

So Android customers on the lookout for a high-end machine are left with Samsung, which has good-enough smartphones and a advertising and marketing/distribution operation that may put them in each retailer, on each TV business, and in each advert field. The corporate’s new flagship, the Galaxy S9, has arrived in a market that hasn’t given Samsung a lot purpose to push itself, and the S9 is extra uncontested victory lap than envelope-pushing smartphone launch.

Samsung must be counseled for fixing the Galaxy S8’s greatest flaw, the situation of the fingerprint reader; in any other case, it is a spec bump launch; it is mainly a Galaxy S8 with a brand new SoC, extra RAM, and a brand new digicam. Nonetheless, now we have loads of attention-grabbing bits to go over—this is without doubt one of the first smartphones with a variable aperture digicam and the primary that includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the SoC that can dominate the high-end Android market in 2018.

Design and construct high quality

The Galaxy S8 was a serious design revolution for Samsung. The corporate dumped the navigation buttons and entrance fingerprint reader of the Galaxy S7 in favor of a slim bezel design with on-screen navigation buttons and a rear fingerprint reader. For the Galaxy S9, Samsung is protecting this fundamental design. (We’re reviewing the bigger S9+, however most of this is applicable to the smaller S9, too. The one variations on the S9 are the display screen measurement and the S9’s lack of a secondary telephoto lens.)

SPECS AT A GLANCE

Galaxy S9
Galaxy S9+

SCREEN
2960×1440 5.eight” (570ppi) AMOLED
2960×1440 6.2″ (529ppi) AMOLED

OS
Android eight.zero with Samsung Expertise 9.zero

CPU
US: Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (4 2.7GHz Kyro 385 Gold cores and 4 1.8GHz Kyro 385 Silver cores)

Intl: Eight-core Samsung Exynos 9810 Octa (4 2.7 GHz Mongoose M3 cores and 4 1.eight GHz Cortex-A55 cores)

RAM
6GB

GPU
US: Adreno 630Intl: Mali-G72 MP18

STORAGE
64GB, Micro SD slot

NETWORKING
802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.zero, GPS, NFC

PORTS
USB three.1 Kind-C, three.5mm headphone jack

CAMERA
12MP rear digicam, 8MP entrance digicam
Twin 12MP rear cameras, 8MP entrance digicam

SIZE
147.7 x 68.7 x eight.5 mm (5.81 x 2.70 x zero.33 in)
158.1 x 73.eight x eight.5 mm (6.22 x 2.91 x zero.33 in)

WEIGHT
163 g (5.75 oz)
189 g (6.67 oz)

BATTERY
3000mAh
3500mAh

STARTING PRICE
$720
$840

OTHER PERKS
fast charging, wi-fi charging, fingerprint sensor, notification LED, Samsung Pay, iris scanner, Bixby button, IP68 water and dirt resistance

The telephone stays principally glass. The entrance Gorilla Glass 5 panel stretches over the extra-tall 6.2-inch show and curves across the left and proper edges to satisfy the aluminum sides. This design is mirrored on the again, which additionally options glass that curves across the lengthy edges of the telephone. The glass is a fingerprint magnet; the again glass particularly feels greasy after only a mild dealing with. The delicate all-glass physique remains to be a disappointment. Whereas the business is clearly shifting in direction of glass, firms like Google and OnePlus nonetheless make investments the additional effort to make aluminum work, and their extra sturdy, fingerprint-free backs nonetheless really feel far superior to those glass telephones. (The one draw back with aluminum is that you do not get wi-fi charging.)

If you have not dealt with a contemporary slim-bezel telephone, do not let the spec sheet’s “6.2-inch” show intimidate you. The 18.5:9 side ratio means the telephone display screen is taller than the outdated 16:9 shows, which tremendously inflates the diagonal display screen measurement. In actuality, the telephone physique is similar measurement as an outdated 5.5-inch 16:9 telephone—simply with much more display screen.

Samsung is the king of OLED manufacturing, so after all the 2960×1440 show on the S9+ seems nice. After coping with the grainy LG OLED shows on the Pixel 2 XL and LG V30, that is refreshing. The show is not simply crystal clear, it is also one of many brightest screens available on the market, although the massive brightness vary signifies that, if you’re at nighttime, it may be one of many dimmest shows available on the market, too.

A small tweaks to the Galaxy S8 physique have been made. Surprisingly, our S9+ assessment unit is a bit thicker and heavier than final yr, rising from eight.1mm thick to eight.5mm and the load leaping from 173g to 189g. The burden does bounce out at you if you first decide up the S9+; it weighs greater than most different telephones available on the market (aside from the iPhone eight Plus). The S9 sadly is not packing extra battery capability than the Galaxy S8, so there isn’t any single merchandise that clearly accounts for the additional weight and thickness.

New for the S9 is a stereo speaker setup, which has the earpiece carry out double responsibility as a quiet name speaker and a louder media speaker, together with the standard bottom-firing speaker. This actually is a major enchancment over the outdated mono speaker; it makes video and recreation audio louder, larger high quality, and extra immersive. The earpiece/backside speaker combo is likewise an ideal design choice, since two front-facing audio system (as on the Google Pixel 2 line) take up an excessive amount of house on the entrance of the telephone.

Samsung’s pile of gimmicks stays. The show remains to be curved for no purpose, distorting the edges of apps. There’s nonetheless the Bixby voice assistant with a bodily button on the left aspect of the telephone. Bixby hasn’t modified a lot since our full assessment in August—it is gradual and never notably helpful, and it would not work with plenty of apps. The Bixby button cannot be remapped by way of a easy OS setting, and it is simple to press unintentionally. A number of “Bixby remapper” apps exist on the Play Retailer, they usually appear to work, however with no official assist from Samsung, these are often janky accessibility hacks which might be breakable or laggy. By way of the OS, you possibly can disable the single-press motion, which opens Bixby’s Google Now clone, however you possibly can’t disable the long-press motion, which begins up Bixby voice.

The again of the telephone nonetheless sports activities a coronary heart charge monitor, which is not very helpful. The monitor nonetheless requires you maintain completely nonetheless for 10-20 seconds whereas it reads your coronary heart charge, making it annoying to make use of throughout a exercise. The ergonomics are horrible, too. The sensor is excessive up on the again of the telephone (giving it the identical issues because the S8’s fingerprint sensor). It is robust to place your hand so to maintain the telephone, press a finger towards the guts charge sensor, and not unintentionally press the Bixby or energy buttons. There’s additionally no define or groove that will hold your finger lined up with the sensor or enable you discover it with out trying. Maybe Samsung thinks eradicating the sensor would look unhealthy, however I can not think about anybody usually utilizing it.

You may as well add AR Emoji, the variable aperture digicam, and the iris scanner to the gimmick checklist, however we’ll handle these later.

Two Samsung-specific options that positively do not belong within the gimmick class are Samsung Pay and the always-on dwelling button. Samsung Pay remains to be the perfect, most suitable tap-and-pay system on the market. It has NFC for NFC terminals, which covers the identical compatibility as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Samsung Pay additionally has MST (Magnetic Safe Transmission) for older terminals, which may beam bank card information on to a strip reader utilizing a magnetic subject.

The always-on dwelling button is my nonetheless my favourite Samsung-specific function. Even when the display screen is off, you possibly can “exhausting press” on the display screen to wake the telephone up. That is extra dependable than the janky double-tap-to-wake methods that some Android OEMs implement, and I want everybody would copy the thought.

Extra good selections embody the survival of the headphone jack and MicroSD slot for one more yr. It will have been simple for Samsung to justify eradicating these options utilizing the “everybody else is doing it!” excuse, however protecting them round provides the corporate some significant differentiation over a lot of the different flagships.

As a design used for 2 years in a row, the Galaxy S9 remains to be “positive.” It is no higher or worse than competing glass telephones just like the LG V30, and the S9 lets Samsung delay the inevitable change to a notched design, which is able to permit it to eke out much more display screen actual property. With slim bezel designs persevering with to evolve and in-screen fingerprint readers on the horizon, we’re at some extent the place smartphone design is altering quickly; it’s kind of disappointing to see Samsung stand nonetheless this yr.

Itemizing picture by Ron Amadeo

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