Discovery , Insights
Like most other people, I’ve seen lots chatter online about what to expect from the Galaxy S9 and S9+ (some facts, some, sadly, fiction). To clear things up, I’m going to run through all the new stuff that’s actually been revealed.
Their standout feature is a ‘variable aperture’, which Samsung claim works just like the human eye. The aperture on the camera is the bit that opens to let light in, and the size of it can make a big difference to how well pictures come out. Just like how your pupil will get bigger or smaller when you move from a dark room to a light one, the S9's aperture will change depending on the lighting conditions you're in. If you're taking pictures in the dark, the camera should be able to soak up a lot more light, so your pictures will still look great. It also means that pictures taken on a bright sunny day won't be completely blown out.
Samsung has also added a bunch of new features to the Image processor - that's the bit that decides the best settings for whatever you're pointing the camera at. You'll find better Noise detection that will make sure night-time photos don't look grainy or blurred, and a new 'multi-frame' processing feature will be able to combine multiple snaps to create pictures that have great light and dark tones.
The other big feature I’ve seen shown off is Super Slow Motion video recording, which can record footage at a staggering 960fps. That's about 4x slower than what the iPhone X can do, and about 40x slower than your average movie or TV show. Once you've got your slow-mo footage, Samsung has also made it super-easy to turn it into a movie by adding some background music, and then sharing straight to your favourite social media accounts.
There’s some extra camera hardware too - but only if you get the S9+. The bigger model comes with an extra lens that’s capable of zooming in, which, like the Galaxy Note 8 or iPhone X, can be used together with the other lenses to provide clear pictures when it’s zoomed in. The S9+ also comes with Optical Image Stabilisation for your videos, which helps get rid of shaking.
Samsung made a big design change with Galaxy S8 last year, giving it a taller screen but keeping the overall size quite compact. Not much has changed on the S9 this year - side by side with an S8 you'd find it hard to tell which is which. It's the same slick 5.8" or 6.2" Infinity Display which stretches edge to edge, gently curving into the casing at the sides. There's small bezels (that edge that goes round the screen) at the top and bottom, and no opinion-splitting notche in sight.
You can get the phone in Black or Titanium Grey, or go for the more adventurous Coral Blue, or my favourite, Lilac purple - very fabulous. Samsung has also released a new range of cases to match, so if you're worried about dropping it or scuffing it, you can still flash your glam colours without worrying.
The biggest change in design you'll spot is the location of the fingerprint sensor. On the S8 this was on the back, right next to the camera sensor. It seems people kept getting them confused with the camera and swiping. And that's only if you could reach it - the tall design of the phone and the sensor being off-set meant you'd have to stretch your fingers just to even get near it. Samsung took that feedback on-board and now offer an 'ergonomically placed' fingerprint sensor with the S9. It's now centre aligned, and underneath the camera - pretty much the same as the Google Pixel. It's a win for tiny hands everywhere.
While the new camera is the main hardware change that's taking centre stage, there was some other new stuff shown off too. First, we'll run through the boring bits:
The other big news is that Samsung is still bucking the trend by keeping the trusty headphone jack. You won't have to worry about keeping Bluetooth headphones charged up, or any nonsense with dongles - just pop in your favourite pair of headphones knowing they'll just work - and be compatible with all your other kit too.
The Galaxy S9 will come out of the box running Android 8.0 Oreo, with Samsung's usual twist on top. Some new things coming are app-pairs, where you can pair two apps that you use together a lot, and easily have both at once on your screen. If you like to share photos you could have Snapchat and Instagram both paired together, and a quick shortcut on your Homescreen will open both apps.
Samsung is also borrowing one of the iPhone X flagship features - Animoji - only they're called AR emoji, and they're not as good. With AR Emoji, your S9 will use its front camera to take your likeness and you turn into an emoji avatar that's like a Bitmoji or Mii. Once you've made your emoji-self, you can use it messaging and other apps to strut your cute virtual stuff. As the S9 hasn't got quite as many sensors on the front, the results won't track as well as the iPhone's Animoji, but I expect people will use this feature just as much.
Bixby is also sticking around and has got itself some new capabilities too. You'll be able to use live translation to instantly show you what it is you're reading - this'll come in very handy if you're abroad and need to understand the street signs or menus - no one wants to order chicken (pollo) and end up with a can of polish (pulo).
You can also use Bixby Place to identify where you are just by pointing your phone at buildings or scenes around you - again it could come in handy if you're lost in the city. You can also point it at food, drinks and other stuff - Bixby will try and bring you some information about whatever it is you're looking at. Want to know how many calories are in your salad dressing? Give it a go.
You can order the S9 or S9+ at Carphone Warehouse. The release date is 16th March, but right now if you order you can get it 7 days early and have it as soon as the 9th. If you want to be the envy of all your friends, this is how you do it.
Samsung hasn't gone too wild with their pricing - the Galaxy S9 is £739, while the S9+ will cost £869. Contract prices have a big range - if you don't want to pay much up front you'll be looking at a monthly cost of over £60, or you can go as low as £3.99 a month if you can stomach the £729 upfront cost.
Hopefully, you now know all you need to about Samsung's latest, and most fabulous phone.