Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ at the Galaxy Unpacked 2018 event in Barcelona on Sunday, grabbing headlines a day before the Mobile World Congress (MWC) kicks off. While the smartphones look virtually identical to their predecessors, they do pack in some significant upgrades in the camera department. We managed to spend some time with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ ahead of the launch event and here are some things that caught our eye.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it - that clearly seems to the principle behind Samsung’s design decisions for its newest flagships. From the front, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ look no different than the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, though Samsung claims to have further reduced the size of the bezels at the top and bottom. We really liked what Samsung had done with the previous Galaxy S flagships in terms of design, and Samsung has gone and fixed the one complaint we had with them in terms of design/ ergonomics - the placement of the fingerprint scanner.
The quest for edge-to-edge displays has relegated the fingerprint scanner to the back of many smartphones, but instead of placing it below the camera module near the middle where it’s easily reachable, Samsung made the strange decision of putting it besides the rear camera module and flash on its previous generation flagships. This made the fingerprint scanner much harder to reach for most people and, often, indistinguishable from the camera module since you are reaching for it blind. With the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, the fingerprint scanner is back where it should’ve been all along.
With no real upgrades in terms of the looks, Samsung designed to mix things up by introducing a brand new colour with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ - Lilac Purple. The colour will certainly grab attention and our initial impression is that Samsung has done a decent job executing a finish that will grab eyeballs without feeling over the top. The smartphones will also be available in Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and Titanium Grey colours, though at launch, not all colours may be available in all markets.
Another small but potentially significant change is the addition of stereo speakers. In addition to the downwards-firing speaker, the earpiece will now double up as an additional channel to offer you stereo experience while listening to music, watching movies, or listening to your favourite podcasts. What’s more, Samsung has thrown in Dolby Atmos on the new Galaxy S9 as well as Galaxy S9+ and in the limited time that we spent with the devices, it seemed they were able to do a decent job of replicating the surround effect, given the obvious limitations of a smartphone. Of course this was as part of a controlled demo, so we will reserve further judgement on the feature until we have a chance to test out the smartphones in detail as part of our review process.
Like we said earlier, potentially the most significant upgrades the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ bring are in the camera department - super-slow mo recording at 960fps, dual aperture capability on the rear camera sensor, which is capable of shooting at f/2.4 when there’s plenty of light, but can switch to f/1.5 when the phone detects low-light conditions. This is supplemented by a secondary 12-megapixel sensor on the Galaxy S9+ for a dual rear camera setup. Needless to say, the time we spent with the Galaxy S9 duo on Sunday wasn’t enough to make any definite comments on their camera capability, and we look forward to testing them out in detail soon.
Stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for a detailed review of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ very soon.
Disclosure: Samsung sponsored the correspondent’s flights and hotel for the launch event in Barcelona.
We spoke about all the big launches of MWC 2018 on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.