The Samsung S9+ is an amazing handset – I’d recommend it. The thing is though, if you’ve got Samsung S8+ already you can probably skip it. Whilst improvements have been made, there aren’t enough, in my opinion, to warrant an upgrade. So whilst I was sad to return the handset to Three, I wasn’t heartbroken. The Samsung S9+ is an evolution of the Samsung S8+, not a revolution.
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The Samsung S9+ has been a bit of a funny one for me, I always love getting the latest and greatest Samsung shiny. However, with the Samsung S9+, I hesitated. I didn’t stump up an early upgrade fee, I didn’t feel sad that I hadn’t bothered, I was happy to not have one. I think it was partly because I had my head turned by an iPhone, and partly because I was fairly happy with the Samsung S8+ I’ve got. On paper, the Samsung S9+ is the phone for me, it’s got a better camera than the S8+, the fingerprint sensor has been put in a sensible position. It’s got more RAM too, making it a bit nippier. However, side to side – from the front especially – there isn’t much difference!
Thankfully though, the cool kids at Three sent me a Samsung S9+ to use for a month to give it a road test to see if I was right to skip it. So.. I took the SIM out of my S8+ and ran the Samsung S9+ as my daily driver.
How does the Samsung S9+ look?
Honestly, Samsung in recent years are nailing the look of their S and Note series phones. They are bloody gorgeous, the creaky plastics of yesteryear are a distant memory. The front and rear are glass with a metal core. The Samsung S9+ has a 6.2-inch curved Super AMOLED display – the Infinity Display ‘falls off’ the left and right of the screen. When you look at powered up, it looks nothing short of incredible. Crank it up to the full Quad HD+ resolution (2960 x 1440 pixels) the screen is one of the best on the market. The closest I’ve seen is the screen on the iPhone X – that is equally impressive. Above the screen you’ll find the iris scanner and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an aperture of f/1.7 and autofocus.
To the left of the screen is the volume rocker and the Bixby button, to the right is the power / lock button. On the top of the device is the SIM / MicroSD card tray. The Samsung S9+ accepts a Nano SIM and will take up to a 256Gb MicroSD card. On the bottom of the device you’ll find a headphone socket, USB C Socket and microphone and speaker.
On the back there’s the dual camera setup. This is made up of a wide-angle Super Speed Dual Pixel 12-megapixel auto-focus sensor with dual aperture of f/1.5 or f/2.4. This adjusts automatically to suit the lighting conditions. Plus a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with an aperture of f/2.4. It’s also got a 2x optical zoom, which is rare on phone cameras. It can also record in ‘Super Slow Mo’ at 960fps (more on this later). Under the camera is the fingerprint sensor which is MUCH more convenient than on the Samsung S8+ (to the side of the camera)!
The device looks as good as you’d expect for a phone that retails around £800. It’s slim, but with a weight to it that makes it feel nicely balanced.
How does the Samsung S9+ perform
The Samsung S9+ is no slouch on performance, it seems to handle heavy usuage with no problems. There are the occasional slow downs, however it’s usually a rogue app rather than the phone’s software. On older Samsung phones you might see a bit of slowdown, or the launcher crashing regularly – not here – it feels like Samsung have been working hard to iron out bugs. Plus, as ever, a double tap of the power button opens the camera. Again, the camera fires up and is ready to go, to waiting or lag – you can capture the action quickly.
Set up is very quick and easy. If you’re coming from another Android handset you can restore apps etc. from your Google Account. If you’ve got a Samsung handset you can restore stuff from your Samsung Account. Generally I like to go in fresh, thankfully Samsung allow you to pick and choose what ‘Apps’ of theirs you install too – so bloatware is kept to a minimum.
Somewhere the performance of the Samsung S9+ lacks slightly is in the ‘Intelligent Scan’ that is used to unlock the phone. It combines Iris Scanning and Facial Recognition to provide a more secure and (in theory) faster unlock. It works… Mostly. I’d say a good 85%-90% of the time. However those 10-15% of the time, you’re left sorta staring at your phone. Waiting for it to recognise you. It’s not as slick as Apple’s Face ID. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible, by any means. I was actually surprised that even in REALLY low light it happily recognised me – most of the time.
Thankfully the fingerprint sensor is pretty much spot on 99% of the time, so instead of gurning at your screen, a quick tap of it will unlock the phone immediately. I reckon with a few more tweaks the Intelligent Scan could rival Face ID for sure.
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