The annual ritual of smartphone launching by Apple and Samsung, the arch rivals in this kind of products, seems to be as predictable as day and night.
Moreover, if you consider that Samsung itself has two lines of smartphone products – the “Galaxy S” and the “Galaxy Note” – whose launches are usually staggered within the year, your options become tripled in the course of a year. To put things in perspective, Apple launched iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus on 12 September 2017 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of iPhone, while Samsung made Galaxy Note 8 and 8 Plus available for purchase in the stores on 15 September 2017.
Well, Samsung launched Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus penultimate Sunday; 25 February 2018, at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. These newly launched products may have been intended to match those of iPhone X, though this objective might not have been realized. Note that I have not gotten my hands on one of these S9s, since they will only be available in the stores on 16 March 2018. Therefore, this review is based entirely on information that is publicly available in the media, including information from the vendors.
Here is a snapshot of the features of S9 Plus. There has been some improvement to the camera relative the 8 series, such as the ability of the aperture to physically change from the regular size to an expanded size to let in more light, thereby enabling the ability to take good pictures in low light. There is also the super slow-motion video running at 720 to 960 frames per second, allowing you to capture great moments accurately in really slow motion. There are two lenses: a regular one and a telephoto zoom that allows you to zoom into the action without having to crop the image. Each of the lenses has 12-megapixel resolution capabilities.
There is also the new placement on the back of the phone of the fingerprint sensor relative to the Galaxy 8 series. It is now centrally placed as in all competing phones, rather than the skewed location in the Galaxy 8 phones. The overall shape of the phone looks pretty much like that of the 8 series, though the S9s come in different colors.
By way of augmented reality (AR), you can take pictures of your face and the phone will create a cartoon image (emoji) of yourself, which animates as you talk. Some reviewers don’t like this capability in Galaxy S9/S9+, as they find it to be of low quality and incapable of tracking your face well, so much so that you may not even recognize your own face. One reviewer considers this a “me-too” feature in S9, and to be profoundly inferior to a parallel capability (animojis) in iPhone X. The poor AR capability is believed to be due to the relatively low quality of the camera in S9, relative to that on the iPhone. That is, a regular 2D camera, versus iPhone X’s 3D tracking camera. S9’s emojis do not capture your smile, which is quite creepy. Moreover, when you record a video message of yourself as a human avatar, the avatar does not match your skin or hair color, also doesn’t smile.
S9 has brought back the headphone jack – which is otherwise extinct in other high-end phones – with enhanced stereo surround sound to boot. S9’s answer to iPhone’s Face ID, dubbed Intelligent Scan, is no match for Face ID. In S9, you can unlock your phone with facial recognition, iris scanning, or a combination of both, both techniques being derived from separate capabilities in S8, but are now both supported in S9. The resulting unlock mechanism is still quite inferior to the Face ID tool in iPhone X. In the words Jessica Dolcourt of cnet.com, Samsung’s technology is not yet able to, “map your face with tens of thousands of infrared dots like iPhone X does.”
Here are the main differences between S9 (and S9 plus): Display: 5.8 inch (6.2 inch); weight: 163g (189g); camera: single 12-megapixel (dual 12-megapixel); random access memory (RAM): 4GB (6GB); storage: 64GB (128GB); and battery: 3,000 mAh (3,500 mAh).
What about the price of the S9 phones? It seems as if Samsung has cut its U.S. customers some slack on the prices, while the rest of the world pays more, relative to S8. The unlocked phones direct from Samsung cost $720 (S9) and $840 (S9 Plus). Different carriers in the U.S. (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon) offer these phones at higher prices, except T-Mobile, who sells them at the vendor prices.
This is what I feel about switching to S9 (S9 Plus) from iPhone: you probably wouldn’t want to switch if you have iPhone X, 8 or 8 Plus. Coming from Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, you also may not need to upgrade. However, if you have an older Samsung phone, you could consider upgrading. However, the glitches regarding the unlocking tools and the AR may need to be fixed in subsequent models of these Samsung products.