Superior cameras and speakers headline the functions of Samsung’s feature-packed flagships, the Galaxy S9 and S9+.
From the time our cavemen ancestors took a stab at graffiti – parietal art if you want to get technical – we have loved leaving messages with pictures.
Maybe it’s because a picture is worth a thousand words or typing still feels tedious on the phone, pictures have fascinated us, especially the young.
So today more than ever, everyone is resorting to using some sort of image – stickers, photos, emojis, GIFs.
And the mobile phone sector is embracing it because this June we will be getting an additional 157 emoji, including superheroes and villains, just in case there weren’t enough ways to express yourself with them already.
See the light
So it isn’t surprising that Samsung’s focus with its next-gen smartphones – the Galaxy S9 and S9+ – is on the camera and related features like AR emoji.
They are the first Galaxy smartphones to feature cameras with dual apertures – while this might seem minor, light is almost everything when it comes to taking better pictures.
By having two apertures – one big (f/1.5) and one small (f/2.4) – the camera has finer control over the amount of light so the image is not over or under exposed.
I had a week to test the Galaxy S9+ – it had no trouble taking pictures in low light environments as the bigger aperture resulted in brighter images. Though there was still some softening, it’s much less compared to most other smartphones.
The other highlight is slow motion video recording – this is not new but the S9/S9+ is capable of slowing down action much more as it can record at 960fps (frames per second).
Want to see a fidget spinner spin in slow motion or a balloon bursting? With this smartphone you can. And you don’t have to be quick on the trigger as the camera will automatically detect motion and initiate the slow-mo capture for you.
Though we are getting more emoji later this year, it’s nothing like being able to turn yourself into a digital avatar.
AR Emoji is exactly that. Point the front camera at yourself and select AR Emoji and it’ll create a cartoon avatar of you.
It’s more of a caricature than an accurate portrait but it’s all fun because you get to change elements like hairstyle, skin tone, spectacles and clothes.
If you are bored of your face, like me, you can just pick an animal skin for your avatar and create an animated emoji that you can safe as GIF (short looping video).
As GIF is supported on most messaging platforms, including WhatsApp, you can share it with just about everyone.
With the Galaxy S9/S9+, it’s not all about seeing the difference but hearing it too, as it has stereo speakers tuned by popular Austrian acoustic company AKG.
It’s supposed to be 40% louder – and though I didn’t have a meter to measure it, the Galaxy S9+ is much louder than the S8+, and, more importantly, the sound doesn’t break at max volume.
And as there are speakers on both ends, listening to audio while holding it vertically or in an other orientation doesn’t muffle the sound as much, as I generally tend to cup the bottom.
The icing on the cake is Dolby Atmos which is easily turned on/off from the shortcut menu. With it on, you’ll get a more robust sound – notes that were hidden before come to the fore – especially when listening to music. I tested it out with tunes ranging from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to Panic At The Disco’s cover of Bohemian Rhapsody and Pentatonix’s Hallelujah, and I was impressed with how it handled everything from orchestral to a cappella.
However, where it falls short shouldn’t surprise – the bass is still lacking and for that you need external Bluetooth speakers.
While we didn’t get to test this, it sounds exciting nonetheless – the Galaxy S9/9+ is able to stream audio to two Bluetooth speakers simultaneously.
So which model do you get? It’s largely dependent on the size of your hand – or in my case, wallet.
The two main differences are obvious – the Galaxy S9 has a 5.8in Infinity Display while the S9+ has a 6.2in, and the S9 has a 3,000mAh battery while the S9+ gets a 3,500mAh.
These differences are nothing new as their predecessors too were differentiated this way but with the Galaxy S9 and S9+ there is one other major distinction.
Only the S9+ gets an additional camera on the back for a dual camera setup, making it possible to shoot photos with the Bokeh effect – Samsung calls it Live Focus – which blurs out the background to make the subject standout. The effect is adjustable before or after the image is taken.
The additional camera too is 12 megapixels but it’s telephoto so you get 2x optical zoom which comes in handy more often than you think.
The Galaxy S9+ also has more memory – 6GB RAM vs 4GB RAM on the S9 – but we have not seen an instance yet where the extra memory is needed. However, it does make the phone more future proof.
Also, if you can’t tell apart a Galaxy S9/S9+ from an S8/S8+, you are not alone – Samsung has made the bezels thinner and the screen brighter but it’s not obvious unless you put them side by side.
Other than that, the front remains almost unchanged which is not a bad thing because the snazzy look still stands the test of time, putting to shame some of the newer models.
The back, however, is where most of the change happened. The biggest being the fingerprint scanner, which is now below the camera and centred, making it much easier to reach to unlock your phone, even if you have dainty hands.
Or you can just use Intelligent Scan, which combines facial recognition and iris scan so it can recognise you in a variety of conditions.
Like its predecessors, the smartphones meet the IP68 standard for dust and water resistance so you don’t have to worry about going rough and tumble with the smartphones.
Whole nine yards
If cash is no issue then the Galaxy S9/S9+ is the best money can buy at the moment if you are in the market for an Android.
While in the past you were stuck with one storage option, the Galaxy S9+ is available in three sizes so you can pick one that suits your budget. You don’t really have to splurge on the 256GB model as you can always buy an MicroSD card later for your photos and videos, as the smartphones support a whopping 400GB of external memory.
All in all, if you are looking for a smartphone with one of the best cameras and speakers, check out the Galaxy S9 or S9+.
Pros: Excellent main camera; superior sound; feature-packed; streams to two Bluetooth speakers simultaneously; water and dust resistant.
Cons: Only minor change in design.
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OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 8 Oreo
DISPLAY: 6.2in QHD+ Super Amoled (1,440 x 2,960 pixels)
CAMERA: Dual 12-megapixel main cameras (wide-angle camera with dual apertures + telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom); 8-megapixel front camera
CONNECTIVITY: USB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.0 with dual audio, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
PROCESSOR: Exynos 9810 octa-core
MEMORY: 64GB/128GB/256GB internal memory, 6GB RAM
OTHER FEATURES: Bixby AI assistant; face recognition, iris scanner, fingerprint sensor; heart rate monitor, water and dust resistant (IP68), fast wired/wireless charging
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 73.8 x 8.5 x 158mm
PRICE: Samsung S9+ 64GB (RM3,799), 128GB (RM3,999), 256GB (RM4,399); Samsung S9 64GB (RM3,299)
RATING: 4.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics, 1-800-88-9999
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