Last night at an absolutely huge event in Barcelona, Samsung revealed what we already knew – the two new Galaxy S9 products, the £739 S9 and the £869 S9+. Let’s hope your credit cards aren’t already maxed out, for they soon will be!
We knew, for example, that each of the two new phones were more or less identical in design to the S8 and S8+, but this time Samsung has stepped up with stereo speakers, tuned by AKG, and moving the fingerprint sensor to underneath the camera.
Samsung even made a joke about this, but more at the expense of Apple for even having a fingerprint sensor still. Oh, and the fact there’s no notch (but, let’s remember that there are bezels top and bottom).
Talking of Samsung vs Apple, there was also the mention that the headphone socket has survived for another year. Yay!
Slowing things down
The new things ‘brought to the table’ come in the form of new camera techonology to offer a Sony-like 960fps Super Slow Motion feature (at 720p, whereas today Sony unveiled two new phones with 1080p super slow motion), and dual-aperture lenses to get the best images in light and dark conditions, supposedly without compromise.
The dual-aperture lens has an actual physical movement to open and close to let in more light, and on the S9+ with a normal and telephoto lens, both get the treatment – along with Optical Image Stabilisation.
And then there was the obligatory staged and somewhat awkward demonstration of Samsung’s answer to Apple’s animated emojis – the AR Emoji.
Take a photo of yourself and the phone will map out over 100 facial features to allow you to create a 3D model that imitates your movements, with the option to change yourself into other characters for additional entertainment.
A totally pointless gimmick for some, and the best thing ever for others. The problem I had was that the effects didn’t seem that good, although I have no doubt it will improve over time.
Like it or not, just like selfies became a thing, we can be sure animated emojis are going nowhere soon.
Beyond the new camera functions, and improved audio playback, Samsung spoke very little about the rest of the phone. But these days that’s par for the course as there is only so much you can do these days. Processors are already at the top of their game, far exceeding the needs of most consumers.
Samsung did launch a new DeX ‘Pad’, a nicer solution than last year’s setup, and talked a bit about business applications and security, but few were likely listening – more keen to get out and try the AR Emojis.
There will also be a bunch of other accessories for the phones, which always outshines the competition that really struggle to produce cases and covers on their own, let alone getting third parties behind them.
I was pleased to hear that the dual-SIM phones would be dual 4G with VoLTE and VoWiFi, and data speeds of 1.2Gbps/200Mbps that will – I pray – make it into the UK retail chain without, for reasons unknown, being crippled down to a much lower speed presumably on demand of the phone networks.
All in all, many people with early access were quick to point out how little had changed on the new phones, and I originally thought the same until having had a chance to take pause and think before posting my write up.
Has very little changed? Yes. But what has changed does make a big difference, like the improved audio that has always been a bugbear of mine on Samsung phones. An awful mono speaker always let the team down, and finally it has been addressed on the flagship product.
The camera in the S8 series was great, but there are enough improvements to make a difference, even if the slow motion mode is not something you’re likely to use or care about much, despite the results always looking lush.
It’s a feature you show off once to friends as a ‘does your phone do this?’ only to be never used again.
But people want this sort of thing. For a few moments, these cool features are going to impress others. And the animated emojis will fit well with a large demographic.
The screen is still as gorgeous as ever, assuming you like edge displays, and it still comes with water resistance, wireless charging and all the things you expect. Security is top-notch too, with iris, fingerprint and facial recognition options.
If there’s any complaint, it’s the price.
Samsung has nudged pricing up in the UK, even though Stateside the prices have actually fallen. No doubt this will be blamed on exchange rates, but the profit margins on this are high. They have to be, but there is also a fear that since Apple hit the £1000 barrier, others are all desperate to reach that level too.
Consequently the pricing on networks for the phone on a 24-month contract are as eye watering as usual, often with an upfront fee for further punishment.
But at the end of the day, with Samsung’s huge marketing budget and support for the retailers to ‘promote’ the phone, it’s unlikely that the pricing will put many off.
And for now the S8 and S8+ models aren’t going anywhere, so they can become the second choice for those who can’t, or won’t, shell out the big bucks.
Pre-ordering is already open for the S9 and S9+ and early adopters can expect early delivery in some cases (March 9th instead of March 16th).
It’s clear that there are still plenty of things that can and will still be done in the future. Samsung can continue to work on the screen with the aim to banishing the bezels for good, and with the onset of 5G there’s work that can be done there. Tweaks to the audio are likely and there’s still a lot that can be done on the imaging side.
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other connectivity functions will always improve too, with more efficient codecs and improved range, while chipset makers will work to reduce power consumption to make the devices last long.
This post doesn’t literally suggest everyone has reached the point where all R&D can stop and the same phone can be sold forever more, but it does show that it is increasingly hard to find ways to sell new devices to a consumer that has had for many years a phone they can consider ample.
Only the loss of that phone, the battery giving up, or bumps and scrapes making the phone look tired and worn, are likely going to trigger people to shell out £50-80 a month on a new contract.
It’s little wonder that people are signing up to SIM-only contracts in ever increasing numbers to hold on to their current phone, and Samsung and others are desperate to find out how to do so. In the S9 it may well the AR emojis that do it.
Samsung clearly knows better than anyone how things are going and decided to work on improving in key areas rather than being too radical.
Whether this continues with the next Note device remains to be seen, but rumours are that when that is revealed in the second half of the year, there could be some major design changes. But beyond that, how much else will really change? A few more pressure points for the S-Pen?
It will be interesting to see how things go this year, but ultimately the S9 and S9+ are sure to become huge successes whatever anyone says to the contrary.
And, having had a play, I can’t see any reason why they don’t deserve that success.
Official Press Release
Built for the Way We Communicate Today: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ fuel new discoveries with Super Slow-mo video, best-in-class low light camera and AR Emoji for a more personalised way to express yourself
LONDON, UK – Feb. 25, 2018 – Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. introduces the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, the smartphones that reimagines the way we communicate, share and experience the world. Made for the way we increasingly communicate and express ourselves more with images, videos and emojis, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ drive innovation with Samsung’s advanced camera. Redesigned with a new dual aperture lens that powers an innovative low-light camera, Super Slow-mo video capabilities and personalised AR Emoji, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ ensure users do not miss a moment and make their everyday epic.
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ deliver an enhanced entertainment experience with powerful stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround effect supported by Dolby Atmos and a refined edge-to-edge Infinity Display – a key staple in Samsung’s design heritage. In addition, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ will come with the new SmartThings app, which unites Samsung’s existing IoT services into one single, smart experience.
“The way we use our smartphones has changed as communication and self-expression has evolved,” said DJ Koh, president and Head of IT & Mobile Communications Division, Samsung Electronics. “With the Galaxy S9 and S9+, we have reimagined the smartphone camera. Not only does the Galaxy S9 and S9+ enable consumers to shoot great photos and videos anywhere, it’s a smartphone that’s designed to help them connect to others and express themselves in a way that’s unique and personal to them.”
Today’s cameras are for more than taking pictures – they’re for connecting and communicating. Consumers want a smartphone camera with state-of-the-art technology so they can express themselves with high-quality images and tools to tell their own, unique story. The Galaxy S9 and S9+’s cameras are built with these consumers in mind, with a Super Speed Dual Pixel sensor with dedicated processing power and memory to take amazing shots with high photo quality. The Galaxy S9 and S9+’s camera features include:
- Super Slow-mo: Make every day moments epic with dynamic, slow-motion video that captures 960 frames per second. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ also offers automatic Motion Detection, an intelligent feature that detects movement in the frame and automatically begins to record – all users have to do is set up the shot. After capturing the Super Slow-mo video, users can select background music from 35 different options or add a tune from their favourite playlist. Users can also easily create, edit and share GIF files with a simple tap in three playful styles of looping to watch the action over and over again.
- Low Light Camera: Good lighting is the secret to any great photo. But often, photos are taken in less-than-ideal lighting conditions and most smartphone cameras have a fixed aperture that can’t adjust to low or bright lighting environments resulting in grainy or washed out pictures. Similar to the way the iris of a human eye expands and contracts, Samsung’s Dual Aperture[i] (F1.5/ F2.4) automatically lets in more light when it’s dark and less light when it’s too bright, taking photos that are crisp and clear.
- AR Emoji: Samsung lets users create an emoji that looks, sounds and acts like them. AR Emoji uses a data-based machine learning algorithm, which analyses a 2D image of the user and maps out more than 100 facial features to create a 3D model that reflects and imitates expressions, like winks and nods, for true personalisation. AR Emoji shares your real-life feelings not only in video but also with a range of stickers in uses a standard AGIF file format so users can share their emojis across most third-party messaging platforms.
- Bixby: Samsung’s intelligence platform, integrated into the camera, uses augmented reality and deep learning technologies to provide helpful information about a user’s surroundings.[ii] With real-time object detection and recognition, Bixby instantly generates information directly on top of the image that the camera is pointing at. Users can translate foreign languages and currency in real time with Live Translation, learn about their surroundings, purchase products seen in the real world and track calories throughout the day.[iii]
Smartphones are often our go-to choice for entertainment, which is why Samsung created a device that offers premium sound experiences with stereo speakers tuned by AKG. Whether users are watching their favourite movie or streaming their favourite artist’s latest album, sounds are clear, crisp and rich in quality. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ also support Dolby Atmos, giving the effect of 360-degree sound.
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ audio experience is complemented by Samsung’s revolutionary Infinity Display. First introduced on the Galaxy S8, the bold, bright Super AMOLED Infinity Display blends right into the phone with virtually no distracting notches. With adaptive contrast enhancement, users can use their device even in direct sunlight.
A Device that Fits with the Connected Lifestyle
As the first smartphone to support the new SmartThings app, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are the central hub to manage every facet of the connected lifestyle at home, at the office or on the go. The SmartThings app will be introduced with S9 and S9+, and will connect to other Samsung and non-Samsung devices.
For those constantly on the move, the next-generation Samsung DeX empowers a mobile lifestyle by bringing a large, full-screen experience to the mobile handset. With DeX Pad, a new docking system, users can easily connect the Galaxy S9 and S9+ to a larger monitor, keyboard and mouse to expand the mobile experience with enhanced document editing or even full-screen gaming.[iv] Users can also transform the Galaxy S9 and S9+ into a Touch Pad with the DeX Pad[v].
The Best Comes Standard with the Galaxy Foundation
Samsung sets the gold standard for smartphones including IP68 water and dust resistance, and wireless charging. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ go a step beyond. The devices now support expandable memory of up to 400GB[vi] with a Micro SD Card and are equipped with the latest premium application processors offering powerful performance and sophisticated image processing.
In addition, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ give users the peace of mind knowing that their phone is protected by Knox 3.1, Samsung’s latest defence-grade security platform. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ support three different biometric authentication options – iris, fingerprint, and facial recognition – so users can choose the way they want to protect their device and applications. The devices support Intelligent Scan, a new verification that intelligently uses the collective strength of iris scanning and facial recognition technology to quickly and conveniently unlock a user’s phone in various situations. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ also introduce Dedicated Fingerprint, giving users the option to use a different fingerprint to access Secure Folder than the one used to unlock the phone.
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ takes health to the next level with an improved optical sensor built directly into the device, providing richer, more accurate information on user’s health status[vii]. This sensor allows the Galaxy S9 and S9+ to keep track of users’ Heart Load Factor, a new measurement of the real-time demand placed on your heart.
UK pre-order and launch details
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ will be available starting 16th March in the UK from Samsung.com and select retailers. It will launch with colours: Midnight Black, Coral Blue and a new hue, Lilac Purple.
- Pre-order will open on 25th February 2018 at 18.00 GMT
- Customers who pre-order before 7 March 23:59 GMT will receive their devices 7 days early on the 9th of March
o S9 – £739
o S9+ – £869
- Samsung and selected retailers are also offering various trade-in deals for customers when buying the S9 or S9+
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Product Specifications (from Samsung)
|Galaxy S9||Galaxy S9+|
|OS||Android 8 (Oreo)|
|Display||5.8-inch Quad HD + Curved Super AMOLED, 18.5:9[viii],[ix] (570ppi)||6.2-inch Quad HD + Curved Super AMOLED, 18.5:910, 11 (529ppi)
|Body||147.7mm x 68.7mm x 8.5mm, 163g, IP68[x]||158.1mm x 73.8mm x 8.5mm, 189g, IP6814|
|Camera||Rear: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor with OIS (F1.5/F2.4)
Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)
|Rear: Dual Camera with Dual OIS
– Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12MP AF sensor (F1.5/F2.4)
– Telephoto: 12MP AF sensor (F2.4)
– Front: 8MP AF (F1.7)
|AP||10nm, 64-bit, Octa-core processor (2.7 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad)[xi]
10nm, 64-bit, Octa-core processor (2.8 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad)
64GB + Micro SD Slot (upto 400 GB)
128GB + Micro SD Slot (upto 400GB)
|SIM Card||Single SIM: Nano SIM
Dual SIM (Hybrid SIM): Nano SIM + Nano SIM or MicroSD slot
|Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
|Network||Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Bluetooth® v 5.0 (LE up to 2Mbps), ANT+, USB type-C, NFC, Location (GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou)[xii]|
|Sensors||Iris sensor, Pressure sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint sensor, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor, HR sensor, Proximity sensor, RGB Light sensor|
|Authentication||Lock type: pattern, PIN, password
Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan: multimodal biometric authentication with iris scanning and face recognition
|Audio||Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology,
Audio playback format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF
|Video||MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM|