With the Galaxy S9 & S9+, Samsung is building upon what it has learned with previous Galaxy S phones but just making improvements. And it seems to be working for them but it also produces a slightly boring device that had the same wow factor as years past.
I’ve been using the Galaxy S9+ for a few weeks now and it is one of the best Android smartphones you can buy right now.
Editor’s Note: Even though I tested the Galaxy S9+, it is virtually identical to the standard S9 apart from the dual camera, screen size, RAM and battery capacity.
Design & Hardware
The Galaxy S9+ has a similar design to previous flagship Samsung smartphones with a metal and glass design. Just like the S8 last year, the Galaxy S9+ has an Infinity Display that has very minimal bezels.
The Galaxy S9+ has a 6.2-inch Quad HD+ curved Super AMOLED display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. The device is IP68 water and dust resistant just like previous models. On the top of the device is where you’ll find the microSD card slot and SIM tray. The right side has the power button. The left side of the Galaxy S9+ has the volume rocker and Bixby button and the bottom of the device retains the 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C port.
The fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S9+ is still on the back of the device but it is now more centred along with the dual-cameras. The back of the device is a fingerprint magnet so I would recommend getting a case or decal/skin. The device is slightly slippery but not as slippery as the Galaxy S8 last year.
The Galaxy S9+ has a 3,500 mAh battery and has Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 (which is a bit strange since QC 3.0 is out), USB-PD for USB-C rapid charging and Fast Wireless Charging.
The Galaxy S9+ is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM. The phone could easily keep up and I experience no issues when using it, especially when playing games. There’s also 64GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot that supports up to 400GB.
The Galaxy S9+ is available in two colours in Canada, Titanium Grey (which I tested) and Lilac Purple. Both colours come with a black front, for better immersion when using Gear VR or Google Daydream. The Galaxy S9+ costs $1,100 CAD off-contract.
The Galaxy S9+ runs Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Experience software. The skin is still not my favourite to use but I can make due with it. You can always install your own launcher to make your Galaxy S9+ look like stock Android.
The Samsung Experience skin on top of Android can be frustrating at times. Like if you wanted to remove an app from the home screen, instead of just holding and dragging to where is says remove, on the S9+, you’ll have to hold and press the app and a small menu will pop up.
That’s so much more of an annoyance than clicking and dragging. And even in the Samsung Experience’s app drawer, if you want to add an app to the homescreen, it takes much more effort than a simple click and drag. You first need to hold the app you want to add, then drag it to the bottom of the screen then choose what home screen page you want it on.
With Android 8.0 (and previous versions), you can get access to the Google Assistant, so you can ask Google questions or control your smart home devices. There’s also improved battery, memory management and more.
Just like the Galaxy S9+, the device comes with a dedicated Bixby button. Bixby is not anywhere near as close to the same level that the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are at but it’s slowly working its way there.
If you do want to take Bixby for a spin, all you have to do is hold the Bixby button and you’ll be able to ask Bixby a question or control a specific aspect of your Galaxy S9+.
In addition, Samsung also introduced AR Emojis on the Galaxy S9+. They’re Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Animoji on the iPhone X. With AR Emoji, you can create your own 3D avatar that uses a scan of your face and you can play around with it and send pictures and videos and send them to your friends and family.
Alongside the Galaxy S9+’s launch, Samsung also introduced a partnership with Disney to release Mickey Mouse & Friend AR Emoji. It allows you to send photos and videos you as Mickey or Minnie mimic to your facial movements.
Samsung and Disney will be releasing more Disney character to AR Emoji including, The Incredibles, Zootopia and Frozen later this year. But as of right now, you can only play around with Mickey and Minnie.
AR Emojis does seem to work but there are a few issues with tracking since the Galaxy S9+ doesn’t have the same camera tracking and depth sensors that the iPhone X has but otherwise, it’s a good start of what’s to come.
The Galaxy S9+ had a dual-camera setup with one 12-megapixel wide-angle lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens.
The Galaxy S9+ can take some great looking photos and videos that show a lot of detail and works well in low-light situations, it’s up there with the Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL.
The camera app on the Galaxy S9+ is fairly simple, with access to basic functions like flash, video mode etc. There are few modes to choose from including a Pro mode to let you change the camera’s manual exposure settings, and ability to capture in the RAW format. There’s also a hyperlapse, food, panorama and sports modes.
The Galaxy S9+ also comes with a live focus mode that is similar to the one that was included on the Galaxy Note8. It allows you to create photos with a Bokeh effect and just like on the Note8, I did have some issues using the mode where the live focus wasn’t applied because of the lighting conditions or because of the distance between the phone and the subject in view.
Videos taken on the Galaxy S9+ look great and the device is capable of taking 4K video at 60 or 30fps, 1080p video at 30 or 60 fps and slow-motion video as well as super slow-mo video that records at 720p at 960fps in 6-second increments.
I didn’t find myself using the super slow-mo mode that often but it was fairly simple to use with an auto or manual option to choose from.
Overall, the Galaxy S9+ is a great device and can be considered more of a refinement than a dramatic change over the Galaxy S8 & S8+. It improvements upon previous models but also doesn’t bring a lot new to the table.
It’s still one of the best Android smartphones you can get if you want the closest equivalent to the iPhone for Android.
- Beautiful display
- Premium design and build
- Great camera, especially in low-light
- Expandable storage
- IP68 water and dust resistance
- Super Slow-Mo is fun to use
- Not a huge improvement over previous models
- Back of the device is a fingerprint magnet
- Samsung Experience can be frustrating
- Bixby is still somewhat useless
- AR Emoji is fun but can be somewhat limited