Samsung has just introduced their newest flagship devices – the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus – to compete with the newest iPhones, and the soon to be released models from LG, Motorola, and other competitors. We are doing a comparison of these new Samsung models versus their predecessors, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, and the Galaxy Note 8 to see just how these new flagships stack up to their current ones. We need to answer the question of whether or not it's time to upgrade. Did Samsung do enough with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus to make it a viable competitor in the crowded smartphone market?
The new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will be formidable devices to compete against in today’s market. The new devices look similar to their predecessors, but if you look closely on the front, you will notice subtle changes and if you flip it over you will notice a new positioning of the camera and fingerprint sensor. Flip over a Galaxy S9 Plus and you will see a new dual camera affair, much like the Note 8. Another nice addition is AKG stereo speakers which support Dolby Atmos that will make a huge difference in sound and, once again, Samsung will be shipping a pair of AKG headphones – yes, Samsung kept the 3.5mm headphone jack. There are improvements to the cameras and a dual camera on the Galaxy S9 Plus and a new camera app that is much easier to use than previous versions. Pricing is on par with the Galaxy S8 models - $720 for the S9 and $840 for the Galaxy S9 Plus.
Please take a thoughtful look at the detailed specifications comparison chart below and here you will see just how these five great devices stack up against one another. After that, we will look at the devices in greater depth and point out some of its pros and cons.
Where it comes to the overall design on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, not much has changed since Samsung did a more radical makeover when it introduced the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus. The physical size of the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are not much different from their predecessors. The height of the Galaxy S9 is actually a little less than the Galaxy S8 – 147.6mm versus 148.9mm, respectively. The width is a little closer with the Galaxy S9 coming in at 68.7mm versus the S8’s 68.1mm. The Galaxy S9 is slightly thicker at 8.4mm versus 8.0mm for the S8. When it comes to the weight, the Galaxy S9 is 163g versus 155g for the Galaxy S8. The dimensions of the Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy S8 Plus are similarly close – the height of the Galaxy S9 is 157.7mm versus 159.5mm for the Galaxy S8 Plus, while the width is close as well with the Galaxy S9 Plus coming in a 73.8mm versus 73.4mm and a thickness of 8.5mm for the Galaxy S9 Plus versus 8.1mm for the Galaxy S8 Plus. The Galaxy S9 Plus weighs in at 189g and the Galaxy S8 Plus tips the scales at 173g. The Galaxy Note 8 exceeds all measurements of the Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy S8 Plus, and weighs in at a hefty 195g.
All five of these devices use the Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and the back with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus getting a few new colors. The top and bottom bezels will be a fraction smaller, although the bezels on the sides look somewhat larger. The dual curves on the display on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are slightly smaller and merge into the side bezel earlier. This helps to eliminate an accidental touching of the display while holding the device and it also makes it easier to pick up the device without activating any app. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will have an improved Super AMOLED display, albeit the same size as the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus.
The camera was moved to the center of the device, along with the flash. The placement of the fingerprint sensor is now moved below the camera lens – hopefully, this will prevent smudges from getting on the camera lens, but it would be nicer to see them lower the sensor even more. Many were hoping for an on-screen fingerprint sensor, but that will have to wait until a future device from Samsung it seems. An improved single camera remains on the Galaxy S9, but a dual-camera arrangement, similar to the Galaxy Note 8, is on the Galaxy S9 Plus, along with a few improvements. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus cameras are almost flush to its chassis with only a small protective metal camera ring protruding ever so slightly.
The Samsung Bixby button is still there, and we hope that Samsung will work to improve Bixby through software updates. A few great moves on Samsung's part - they retained the 3.5mm headphone jack in the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus as well as the expandable memory. Samsung has finally upped the sound quality by including AKG stereo speakers on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will ship with Android 8.0 Oreo and a revised Samsung Experience 9.0 (UI) and offer up four colors: Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Coral Blue, and the all-new Lilac Purple, though the Titanium Gray option won't be available in the U.S.
The screens on the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are basically the same Infinity Displays found on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, although Samsung improved them in some areas. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S8 are a 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display, sporting a resolution of 2960 x 1440 pixels. Both the Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy S9 Plus have a slightly larger display of 6.2-inches. The Galaxy Note 8 sports a tad larger display at 6.3-inches while keeping the same resolution. Following the Galaxy S8 series and the Note 8, the Galaxy S9’s will use the 18.5:9 aspect ratio – giving users a slightly narrower view, but one that enhances their entertainment experience for both gaming and watching videos or movies – not to mention allowing the display to form two perfect squares for multi-window tasking.
All of the displays in this comparison are HDR10 (High Definition Range) Compliant, which means that the displays are able to produce a wider range of colors, offering better brightness and contrast in the display – in other words, they will give the display a greater authenticity. The displays in this group all offer the ‘Always-On’ technology. This allows the time, date, battery percentage, and notifications to always appear, albeit dimmed and moving around on the display, so the users can wake up their device only if they want to read the notifications in detail. It saves battery life, yet still keeps the user well informed. All displays are protected with Gorilla Glass 5.
The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, while they have the curved display, the display edges merge earlier into the bezel, making the bezels slightly thicker than found on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. This will make the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus easier to grab and hold, without inadvertently touching the side edges, as well as making it easier to apply screen protectors.
The processors for all five US models of the Samsung devices use a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The US models of the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, and the Galaxy Note 8 all use the same processor and GPU – the Snapdragon 835 octa-core clocked at 2.35GHz and an Adreno 540 to handle the graphics. The new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus use the latest Snapdragon 845 octa-core clocked at 2.9GHz and the newest Adreno 630 for outstanding graphics. As far as memory goes, the Galaxy Note 8 was the first Galaxy model to offer 6GB of RAM as standard. Many thought that would be Samsung’s new standard going forward, but Samsung is offering that only for the Galaxy S9 Plus. The base for the Galaxy S9 is 4GB of RAM and 6GB for the Galaxy S9 Plus. All models use 64GB of internal storage as the base, but via a microSD card slot, all versions offer expansion. Samsung has also announced that 128GB and 256GB storage options will be available, although, availability may be determined by region and carrier.
The camera area is a place that Samsung has made some improvements and adjustments. The adjustment is that they moved the camera to the center of the device with the flash to the right and the fingerprint sensor below the camera lens in an effort to have less finger smudges on the camera lens. The Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, and the Galaxy Note 8 all use a 12-megapixel lens with Dual-Pixel technology and Auto-HDR. The real change in the Galaxy S9 Plus is the addition of dual camera lens like those used on the Galaxy Note 8 – this allows the user to add a bokeh effect both while you take the picture or apply the effect after you have taken a picture. The secondary camera uses an f/2.4 wide-angle lens. Besides that change, Samsung has included a faster Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) that many are calling Super Detection Autofocus, upgraded Dual-Pixels, and better software.
Another area of interest is the new ‘Dual Aperture’ feature on the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus – each main camera will be able to deliver an aperture of f/1.5 for extremely low-light conditions and also a smaller aperture of f/2.4 for bright shots – and the user will be able to change the settings to suit the conditions. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will also have a Dual-Tone LED flash which will allow the camera to emit twice as much light, as well as balance the color temperatures for a more life-like photo. The Galaxy S9 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 will also share the 2x Optical Zoom feature.
The front-facing camera (FFC) on all five models has remained the same – an 8-megapixel lens with a large aperture of f/1.6 for great low-light shots, Auto-HDR for more detailed shots, and Autofocus for sharper shots. The Samsung FFCs are more than ample for those all important selfies or a good video chat.
The batteries on the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are identical in size to the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, so there is not much new to see here. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 both use a 3,000mAh battery, while the Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy S9 Plus use a 3,500mAh power source. The Galaxy Note 8 falls directly in the middle by using a 3,300mAh battery. All batteries are non-removable with quick wireless charging for both Qi and PMA technologies, and when it comes to plug-in charging, all models have Samsung's' Fast Charge technology built-in.
All five of these devices share many Samsung features. All come with Bluetooth 5.0 and WiFi connectivity, and a USB Type-C port version 3.1 for charging the device as well as transferring data via a wire. All share a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor; however, the location on new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus is now improved by placing it under the camera lens. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus had their fingerprint sensor directly next to the camera lens, and with the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung moved the flash in between the camera and the fingerprint sensor in an effort to avoid fingerprints on the lens. These were subtle changes from the Galaxy S8 series to the Galaxy Note 8 to the Galaxy S9 series in an effort to improve the user experience.
All models include Samsung's quick charging using a supplied cord and quick wireless charging that supports both Qi and PMA formats. All models include Samsung Pay and can hook up to Samsung’s improved DeX Pad that can help to transform your smartphone into a laptop – you can use a keyboard, mouse, and monitor with your smartphone as the nucleus of the system. IP68 certification comes with all five models, as does a heart rate monitor, SpO2 sensor, Bixby personal assistant, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
All models have Hi-Res audio, but the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus only have a 24bit/192kHz capability, while the Galaxy Note 8 and the new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus increase that to 32bit/384kHz. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus also add AKG-tuned stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support to the mix to give a much better listening experience, as well as a set of AKG headphones.
The five models also include an Iris Scanner and offer Facial Recognition, but the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus take it a step further by introducing ‘Intelligent Scan,’ which is a new biometric authentication feature that is Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Face ID. Intelligent Scan allows the device to use both the iris scanner and facial recognition at the same time to offer even better security, and it will work well in low light or bright conditions – something that hindered previous scanners on the Galaxy S8 series and Galaxy Note 8.
The new Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will arrive with Android’s newest 8.0 Oreo operating system as well as a new version of the Samsung Experience 9.0 (UI). An exciting feature will be the AR Emoji feature where you can take a picture of somebody and turn them into an emoji - adding different bodies and much more. The Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, and Galaxy Note 8 are still using Android 7.1.1, but are destined to soon to get the Oreo upgrade. All models are available on all US networks.
The Final Word
While the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are certainly more exciting than the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, are they exciting enough or revolutionary enough for a user to sell or trade in their Galaxy S8 series device to purchase a new Galaxy S9 series – probably not. The Galaxy S9 series is so much like the Galaxy S8 series it would be difficult to recommend upgrading at this time. Certainly, an owner of a Galaxy S7 series should take advantage of the number of improvements.
The looks of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S8 are very similar, and while you will get a better placement of the fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers, improved camera, and the faster Snapdragon 845, those differences may not mean a whole lot to most people. The Galaxy S8 series is already fast and takes great pictures. It is true that the Galaxy S9 Plus does add a dual camera, but many users may not really take advantage of the new features offered by the dual camera. Another reason to consider upgrading is the pricing – US carriers are pricing the Galaxy S9 around $720 and the Galaxy S9 Plus about $850. These prices are on par with the Galaxy S8 series and should drop after the devices are out a month or so, not to mention that the carriers will most likely offer special incentives.
Those that do opt to pickup the Galaxy S9 or the more exciting Galaxy S9 Plus will not be disappointed. These new Samsung flagships offer looks, power, speed, an improved camera, the new emoji feature, and so much more.