Tonight, Samsung returned to Mobile World Congress with form, unveiling its new Samsung Galaxy S9 range to a capacity crowd at Fira Montjuic ahead of MWC 2018.
This represents the 9th iteration of Samsung’s successful Galaxy S range, first shown in 2010. What we’ve seen tonight gives us little doubt that Samsung is very much at the top of its game when it comes to smartphone technology. Other brands know this too, because a good many have opted not to launch their 2018 flagship phones at MWC this year, preferring to launch at their own events.
Samsung’s focus in 2018 is on three clear pillars – camera, entertainment and connectivity. My takeout is that Samsung is bringing together existing technology – none of what they’ve announced is brand new by itself – and putting it into an appealing, single product. Why the focus on these three areas? It’s simple – over 1.2 trillion photos were taken in 2017, 5 billion emoji are shared daily, and almost 1 billion GIFs are shared too.
|Samsung Galaxy S9 Range|
|Galaxy S9||Galaxy S9+|
|OS||Android 8 Oreo|
10nm, 64-bit, Octa-core processor (2.7 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad)
10nm, 64-bit, Octa-core processor (2.8 GHz Quad + 1.7 GHz Quad)
|Display||5.8-inch Quad HD Curved Display, Super AMOLED in 18.5 : 9 ratio||6.2-inch Quad HD Curved Display, Super AMOLED in 18.5 : 9 ratio|
|Networking||Enhanced 4x4MIMO Gigabit LTE Cat 18|
|Cameras||Front: 8MP f/1.7 Auto Focus
Rear: 12MP Dual Speed camera with f/2.4 and f/1.5 aperture
|Front: 8MP f/1.7 Auto Focus
|Storage||64/128/256 GB with 400GB MicroSD expansion|
|Battery||3,000 mAh||3,500 mAh|
Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
|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)|
|Sensors||Iris sensor, Pressure sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint sensor, Gyro sensor, Geomagnetic sensor, Hall sensor, HR sensor, Proximity sensor, RGB Light sensor|
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
The Galaxy S9 range comes in four colours – Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple and Titanium Gray, but the precise colour range will vary by market and (likely by) carrier interest.
In most regions, we’ll see the Galaxy S9 range powered by Samsung’s own Exynos processor, and in some limited regions, they’ll use Qualcomm’s top-tier Snapdragon 845 processor. These powerful processor options will be paired with 4 GB RAM in the standard Galaxy S9, and an increased 6 GB RAM in the larger Galaxy S9+.
A focus on incredible photography
Like most smartphones, one of the key features of the Galaxy S9 range is photography, and there’s ample storage to capture your creative talents. The Galaxy S9 starts with 64 GB storage, with options up to 256 GB storage across the range. For those who want to store a bit more, the MicroSD option can give you an extra 400GB storage.
As in past years, Samsung has again taken pole position in camera technology, with an ultra-fast f/1.5 lens on the rear which can capture up to 12 megapixel images. This is coupled with a 8 MP front-facing camera.
These are the specs, but what can the Galaxy S9 cameras do? In short, a lot.
The fast f/1.5 aperture means that these cameras can capture well lit images in almost complete darkness. We viewed a low-light room with a scene barely visible to the naked eye, and viewed that same scene through Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 side-by-side. The incredible f/1.5 aperture meant that the Galaxy S9 could see this scene as if it were daylight, and with significantly less image noise than the Galaxy S8.
Slow motion was another focus area, with a super easy-to-use slow-mo mode which can capture 960fps. We saw an impressive demo where a water balloon was dropped onto a tack, and it burst in the blink of an eye, and yet 6-seconds of video was captured and played back in slow motion. The best part of this feature is that it’s virtually automatic – the Samsung camera detects when this slow-mo mode might be appropriate and offers you one-tap access, and it really is quite clever.
The last camera feature is a bit of a “me too” moment; like Apple’s Animoji which debuted last year, Samsung has animated emoji which you can export to GIFs and use in various messenger programs. It’s not something I’m especially interested in, but it is a cool feature.
Bixby Vision is probably the first useful thing Bixby can do, and in Barcelona where few Aussies speak and can read fluent Spanish or Catalan, it’s a welcome feature. Simply point it at something with foreign language, tap the Bixby button, and it recognises the foreign text and converts it – using AR – into English. We saw a demo of a restaurant menu and a street parking sign, and the translation was both perfect and near instantaneous.
Samsung’s focus doesn’t end at photography, though it’s clearly the headline act. With new stereo speakers tuned by AKG, featuring Dolby Atmos, the Galaxy S9 will turn heads. Fully immersive, 3D sound in the palm of your hand is the promise, and the demo lived up to this name. With volume up to 1.4x louder than the Galaxy S8, you can irritate your fellow commuters so much easier.
Pair these speakers with Samsung’s 18:5 : 9 Infinity display, and you’re in for a media treat. There’s ultra narrow bezels top and bottom, and the curved edge display allows you to receive, read, and reply to notifications without interrupting your Netflix session. It’s quite neat.
Connectivity and Security
For the business minded, there’s a new Samsung DeX dock which has a bunch of USB ports and HDMI out, and it sits flat allowing you to use the Galaxy S9 as a touch keyboard or trackpad. We saw a demo and it looks strikingly similar to Android apps on ChromeOS, and when it launched the Android Microsoft Word, I was less quietly impressed. For productivity on the go, this is a welcome feature-set.
Of course, there’s new Samsung Knox v3.1 as well, which brings IT security policies to the mobile, allowing company IT departments to lock out certain apps when used in DeX mode, while still allowing users to enjoy this on their own time.
The fingerprint scanner is in a more natural position on the rear of the Galaxy S9, and it’s quicker, too. Instead of needing to register a fingerprint with up to 16 touches, the new scanner can register in as little as one to three touches, and it’s just as accurate.
Other laundry-list features include IP68 water resistance, USB-C and wireless fast charging, fingerprint and hybrid facial unlock technology, and Samsung’s proprietary Knox solution which allows its own first-party apps (and third party apps) to leverage a secure platform backed by hardware protection.
When can I get one?
As one of the larger smartphone announcements of 2018, you can expect every major carrier in Australia will carry the Galaxy S9 range, and as we receive pricing and pre-order special information, we’ll share that on Ausdroid for ease of reference.
Samsung will offer the 64GB and 256GB models on sale in Australia, with Lilac Purple and Coral Blue exclusives to Samsung’s online and retail channels, and all channels (including carriers) will sell the Midnight Black variant.
Pricing starts at $1,199 for the S9 64GB and $1,349 for the S9 256GB variant. The S9+ starts at $1,349 for the S9+ 64GB model, and $1,499 for the S9+ 256GB model. Pre order begins on Monday 26 February 2018, with retail availability from 16 March.
Ausdroid traveled to Barcelona to attend Mobile World Congress with sponsorship from Samsung Australia and others.