Samsung has announced and demoed its upcoming Galaxy S9 for Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona. While it’s not a huge leap forward from the Galaxy S8, it’s an evolutionary improvement that should satisfy anyone in the Androidverse looking for an upgrade this year.
PCMag notes that the Galaxy S9 is nearly indistinguishable from the Galaxy S8, save for a slightly-harder-to-see iris scanner and a slightly larger and heavier phone. By “slightly” however, we mean slightly. The new S9 and S9+ are a whopping 0.3 ounces and 0.6 ounces heavier than the S8 and S8+, respectively. That’s not a difference you’re likely to feel. The new phones are also louder than than the S8 family; Samsung claims at peak volume the S9 is 40 percent louder than previous models. The same storage capacities (64GB/128GB/256GB) and IP68 water resistance are both included.
On the technical side, things have advanced a bit more. These devices use a Snapdragon 845 instead of the 835, with four cores clocked at up to 2.8GHz and four at up to 1.7GHz, and the device runs Android 8.0 (Oreo) out of the box. The modem inside the Galaxy S9 is an X20-class, meaning it supports download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps — assuming you live in a country other than the United States, which doesn’t offer speeds that fast.
So Why Buy a Galaxy S9?
So far, most of what we’ve covered has been incremental. The Galaxy S9 gets a slightly faster SoC and a modem that won’t benefit US customers until carriers upgrade their infrastructure. There are, however, a few additional improvements to the Galaxy S9+ over the S8+. The S9+ has dual main cameras instead of one, with the second dedicated to providing 2x zoom. It has 6GB of RAM compared with 4GB and a somewhat larger battery, at 3,500mAh versus 3,000mAh for the Galaxy S8+.
The real improvements are supposed to be on the camera side of the equation. Samsung has brought the Galaxy Note S8’s dual camera over to the Galaxy S9 and S9+, and it now includes dual aperture lenses that will snap at f/2.4 or f/1.5 depending on ambient lighting conditions. If the light in a room is detected at <100 lux (indoor lighting), the aperture will drop to f/1.5 and gather more light. Samsung is also claiming the S9 and S9+ will reduce noise levels by 30 percent compared with the S8 and 60 percent compared to the S7. The camera also now includes a super slow motion mode (hit PCMag if you want the complete info on that one).
It’s not surprising to see most of the difference between last year’s S8 and today’s S9 showing up in the camera design. For the past few years, smartphone technology in other areas has moved at a pace one might describe as “sedate.” It’s become increasingly difficult to squeeze top-end performance out of chips, and the way mobile CPU and GPU clocks are reported often list their “up to” frequencies as top-line guaranteed frequencies. Typically these clock speeds can only be maintained for relatively short periods of time, though there’s also a good deal of OEM customization on this issue and different phones have different capabilities, even when they use the same SoC.
The only significant ding against the Galaxy S9 is its Animoji, which virtually everyone is panning as terrible. Even Bixby has been reworked into something more palatable. On the whole, the Galaxy S9 is a moderate evolution of the S8 family. If you’re hungry for the latest camera technology, it may be a potent upgrade; others should wait until they’re unsatisfied with their current device. The S9 starts at $719 unlocked while the S9+ is $839 unlocked, and both will be available starting March 16.
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