After countless leaks, they are finally here. Samsung’s first flagship for 2018 is here, and the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are essentially what we expected them to be. With a new variable aperture camera, Samsung is positioning the two devices as the best smartphone cameras in the market.
Like the Galaxy S8 before it, Samsung is offering the Galaxy S9 in two variants: the Galaxy S9, and the larger Galaxy S9+. Both are largely similar, but there are some key differences. The Galaxy S9 sports a 5.8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display, while the Galaxy S9+ packs a larger 6.2-inch panel with the same resolution. The Galaxy S9+ has 6GB of RAM, 2GB more than the Galaxy S9. It also has a larger 3500mAh battery compared to the S9’s 3000mAh unit.
And, more importantly, the Galaxy S9+ has two rear cameras, both with optical image stabilisation. This allows for Live Focus support on the larger Galaxy S9+, while the Galaxy S9 makes do with just one rear camera sensor.
Both devices, however, have one similar outstanding new feature: variable aperture. This is the first on a flagship smartphone (besides the Samsung W2018 clamshell phone available only in China) with this feature. Depending on lightning conditions, the camera automatically switches between f/1.5 and f/2.4.
The results, on paper at least, certainly sounds astounding: Samsung says the new sensor can capture 28% more light compared to the Galaxy S8’s fixed f/1.7 aperture, which already performs very well in low light.
Besides that, Samsung is also introducing a new Super Slow Motion mode, which captures 960fps footage at 720p; the previous slow motion mode was only capable of 240fps.
In terms of hardware, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are naturally very powerful. They both pack the new Samsung Exynos 9810 chipset (or the Snapdragon 845 in the North American market), 4GB (Galaxy S9) or 6GB (Galaxy S9+) of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage (up to 400GB), stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support, gigabit LTE support, fast wireless charging, and have IP68 ratings for dust and water resistance. The headphone jack is still here, too.
The front camera also sees an upgrade. Both the S9 and S9+ feature 8MP f/1.7 front cameras with new selfie modes that debuted in the Galaxy A8 (2018). There is Selfie Focus, which adds a bokeh effect to selfies, and Wide Selfie, which is designed for group selfies. Like the S8, the S9’s front camera also has autofocus, which isn’t actually a common thing for front facing cameras.
Samsung is also offering a new method of unlocking your phone. Called Intelligent Scan, it combines both facial recognition and iris scanning into one unlocking mode. Samsung says this is both more secure and more efficient than before, since iris scanning works even in the dark (and facial recognition struggles in low light).
There’s also AR Emoji, Samsung’s take on Apple’s Animoji. Enabling AR Emoji requires a simple face scan, mapping over 100 distinct facial features from that single 2D image, before the software generates an avatar of your likeness. From there, using AR Emoji on the camera lets you put your avatar on any real-world environment in front of you.
AR Emoji also automatically generates up to 18 different expressions and turning them into personalised animated sticker packs that you can use on *any* messaging platform. These stickers are sent as GIFs, and are integrated into the Samsung keyboard, allowing it to be used across any messaging platform.
Finally, Samsung is introducing a new colourway for the Galaxy S9 series. Lilac Purple replaces Maple Gold, joining the other three colour options: Midnight Black, Titanium Grey, and Coral Blue. Purple (or its more accurate hue, Ultra Violet), is Pantone’s Colour Of The Year 2018, and this is Samsung’s way of keeping the Galaxy S9 trendy with the style-conscious. At least it didn’t have to cater to Pantone’s 2017 Colour Of The Year.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ will be available globally from March 2018, with staggered launches across various markets. Samsung Malaysia will be announcing local availability very soon – keep a look out for our upcoming report.