Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ were officially unveiled ahead of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona on Sunday. As expected, the biggest improvements are in the camera department, with a variable aperture sensor on the primary rear camera on both phones, and a dual rear camera setup on the bigger Galaxy S9+. The phones are being launched in Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple, and Titanium Grey colours, and will be available from March 16 in select markets. Samsung Galaxy S9 starts at $719.99 (roughly Rs. 46,600) in the US, while the Samsung Galaxy S9+ will be available at $839.99 (roughly Rs. 54,400). The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ will go up for pre-orders in the US starting March 2, with pre-bookings already open in India.
The highlight of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ is the dual aperture setup on the primary rear camera sensor, which is capable of shooting at f/2.4 when there's ample light, but can switch to f/1.5 when the phone detects low-light conditions. Samsung says this enables the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ to capture 28 percent more light compared to the Galaxy S8, adding that a new multi-frame noise reduction feature results in up to 30 percent less noise compared to the previous flagship.
The other headline feature of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ camera is the super slow-mo camera that works similar to what we've seen on Sony's recent flagships. The phones are capable of recording 960 frames per second, which means 0.2 seconds of footage is stretched out to 6 seconds when you are playing it back. You can export this footage as a GIF or use it as an animated wallpaper on the phone.
As leaked ahead of Sunday's launch, Samsung is also introducing AR Emoji, its answer to Apple's Animoji with a few key changes. Unlike Animoji, which maps your facial expressions onto regular emojis, Samsung's AR Emoji is meant to be a virtual avatar of sorts that lets you click a 3D picture of yourself and turn it into customised emoji. You get 18 different expressions/ emojis that can then be used via the keyboard app on the Galaxy S9/ Galaxy S9+ in any app and be shared with other users irrespective of the phone they are using.
The final camera-related improvement on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ is the introduction of Bixby Vision in the camera app that will now offer live translation features, the ability to recognise the buildings and other places in a frame, and even look at the food in your frame and provide information like the amount of calories in the item, a feature that will be available only in select regions.
Another upgrade is the presence of dual speakers on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ (tuned by AKG Acoustics) with one downwards firing speaker, and the earpiece doubling up as the other channel. This setup, Samsung says, results in sound that's 1.4 times louder than the Galaxy S8. All this is backed by Dolby Atmos for surround sound, with a toggle in Quick Settings enabling this enhancement for any kind of audio content, according to Samsung.
Though the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ look virtually identical to their predecessors, they do pack some important changes. Arguably the most important one is the decision to shift the fingerprint scanner from the side of rear camera sensor - a decision that caused plenty of problems while using the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ - to below the camera module, which fixes what was probably our biggest complaint with the previous generation Samsung flagships.
Samsung says it has reduced the size of the bezels at the top as well as bottom, done a better job of hiding the iris scanner at the top of the display, and made the screen darker, which means it blends in better with the rest of the body. What's more, the iris scanner and the face recognition now work together, which means you should have better luck authenticating yourself - at least in theory - when your face is partially covered.
The Galaxy S9 duo is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC in US and other select markets, while in other regions (including India), it will be powered by the Samsung Exynos 9810 SoC. The phones will be available in 64/ 128/ 256GB storage options with support for up to 400GB microSD cards. You get the Android 8 Oreo experience out of the box and IP68 water + dust resistance as well. Connectivity options include Gigabit LTE, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.0, and, yes, the 3.5mm headphone jack. Both phones have an identical 8-megapixel autofocus front camera f/1.7 sensor.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 features a 5.8-inch QHD+ Curved Super AMOLED 18.5:9 display, 4GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, and a Super Speed Dual Pixel 12-megapixel autofocus f/1.5-f/2.4 sensor with OIS. It measures 147.7x68.7x8.5mm and weighs 163 grams.
Meanwhile the Samsung Galaxy S9+ packs a 6.2-inch QHD+ Curved Super AMOLED 18.5:9 display, 6GB of RAM, a 3500mAh battery, a dual rear camera setup with dual OIS, specifically a wide-angle lens with Super Speed Dual Pixel 12-megapixel autofocus f/1.5-f/2.4 sensor and a telephoto lens with 12-megapixel autofocus f/2.4 sensor. It measures 158.1x73.8x8.5mm and weighs 189 grams.
Samsung also announced the launch of DeX Pad, a fresh take on the DeX docking system that launched last year alongside the Galaxy S8. This lets users connect the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ to a larger monitor, keyboard ,and mouse to get a desktop-like experience, with the new Galaxy S9 duo capable of functioning as a touch pad when docked. The DeX Pad comes with HDMI cable, wall charger, and data cable.
Disclosure: Samsung sponsored the correspondent's flights and hotel for the launch event in Barcelona.