Samsung's latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S9 and S9+, were unveiled Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Those hoping for a radical departure from last year's Galaxy S8 and S8+ will find an evolution instead.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Outwardly, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ improve on a premium-feeling handset with eye-catching design. Their curved Super AMOLED screens are largely carried over from their predecessors, meaning they provide a rich and vibrant canvas for apps, media streaming and pictures.
Measuring 5.8 inches on the Galaxy S9 and 6.2 inches on the S9+, and each packing 2,960 by 1,440 pixels, the screens are surrounded by slightly smaller bezels this time around. Additionally, the top bezel does a better job of concealing the front-facing camera and other sensors for a more polished look.
The new phones also feature sharper shooters. A 12-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and 8-megapixel front camera are included with the Galaxy S9. The larger S9+ has 12-megapixel wide angle and telephoto cameras, both with optical image stabilization, and an 8-megapixel front camera.
Dual aperture functionality (f/1.5 – f/2.4) provides improved picture-taking in bright and low-light situations. Upgraded image sensors can now capture motion at 960 frames per second, enabling the phones' new Super Slow-mo feature that stretches 0.2 seconds of footage into six seconds of time-bending video.
Also getting an upgrade are the phones' speakers. They are now louder and capable of stereo and Dolby Atmos surround sound delivered through either the earpiece or the speaker located at the bottom of the device. And audiophiles needn't worry, the 3.5 mm headphone jack lives on in the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+.
Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+ get down to work
In the U.S., the phones are powered by Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 845 processor for brisk application performance, and 4 GB of RAM in the S9 and 6 GB in the S9+. The Snapdragon 845 is an eight-core chip with four cores running at 2.8 GHz and the other four at 1.7 GHz. Android 8 "Oreo" is the included mobile operating system.
Built-in storage tops out at 64 GB on each of the new models, although it can be expanded with a microSD card of up to 400 GB.
Why 400 GB? Because it's the largest-capacity microSD card available on the market, according to Samsung executives during an in-person demonstration. (Integral Memory recently announced a 512GB microSD card, but you can't yet pick one up at Amazon.)
Also new is the DeX Pad, a compact docking alternative to last year's DeX station that connects the phones to an external monitor, essentially allowing them to double as Android desktops with keyboard and mouse support. While in this mode, the phones can function as a touchpad or on-screen keyboard for added versatility.
To keep the devices and the data they hold safe, Samsung offers three biometric authentication options. Users can use the repositioned fingerprint scanner, which is now centered along with the back camera, or the devices' iris and face recognition capabilities. The new Intelligent Scan verification mode uses both iris scanning and facial recognition to unlock the phones quickly and securely.
For added security, the phones include Samsung's security platform, Knox 3.1. The business-friendly Galaxy S9 Enterprise Edition supports more customization features and mobile management capabilities, including Enterprise Firmware Over-the-Air (E-FOTA), allowing organizations to exert more control over the phone's settings, app usage and security policies.
Bixby, Samsung's virtual assistant, has been upgraded with real-time translation and currency conversion features for jetsetters. Using deep learning and augmented reality capabilities, Bixby keeps users more engaged with the world around them by displaying helpful information right atop images captured by the camera.
Galaxy S9 ($719.99, unlocked) and Galaxy S9+ ($839.99, unlocked) will be available in three colors, Lilac Purple, Midnight Black and Coral Blue, when they ship on March 16 in the U.S. Preorders kick off March 2.