Samsung's gorgeous new phones S9|S9+

access_time2018-03-01 14:32:16


A bold new camera, cutting-edge processor and a fix to a galling ergonomic pitfall -- all in a body that looks nearly identical to last year's model.

That, in a nutshell, is the Samsung Galaxy S9 (with a 5.8-inch screen) and its larger step-up model, the Galaxy S9 Plus  ($839.99 at Best Buy ), which sports an even bigger 6.2-inch screen. 

You can preorder them March 2 at prices starting from $720 in the US for the standard S9 and $870 for the S9 Plus, depending on your carrier

The phones  are unquestionably beautiful, but what do we get with these slightly curved, all-screen specimens?

On the surface, it looks as if Samsung  has only incrementally refreshed last year's Galaxy S8  ($597.29 at ) and S8 Plus . But the 2018 models sport a serious camera upgrade that includes two lenses for the S9 Plus and a variable aperture for both phones that's designed to capture much better low-light shots. (I'll test the hell out of the cameras in my full review, coming soon.)

The second improvement is more of a fix. Samsung moved the fingerprint reader from the side of the rear camera to the center of the phone's back, fixing what was without a doubt the Galaxy S8's most maddening design flaw. Last year's model made you stretch your finger awkwardly to hit the fingerprint target.

It’s added enhanced stereo surround sound, thanks to a microphone acting as a second speaker. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset  inside promises at least 25 percent faster processing speeds than 2017 Android phones, as well as longer battery life. (Note, as per usual, that depending on your local region, you could have a Samsung Exynos 9810 processor instead.)

The wild-card bursts of color in coral blue and lilac purple on the phone's body, which jolt the Galaxy line from its monochromatic stupor. And the two phones keep tried-and-true high-end phone features such as waterproofing (rated IP68) , wireless charging and support for external microSD storage.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Sizzling photos from every angle

 This rivalry with iPhone features is important because Samsung's marquee handsets stand in direct competition to the iPhone X 8  and 8 Plus . In a landscape where premium phones are more similar than they are different, Samsung has struggled to capture the same cultural zeitgeist as the iPhone, or introduce headline-grabbing innovations like Apple's Face ID and gestural navigation. That nifty in-screen fingerprint reader would've been just the ticket, but it's MIA here.

Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus price and sale date

Preorders begin March 2 and the phones go on sale March 16, for more than last year's S8 and S8 Plus -- that's the dual-aperture camera tech talking. Carriers and retailers will announce local prices. 

For example, the S9 goes for between $720 and $800 in the US, with the S9 Plus ringing in for between $840 and $930.

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will sell in lilac purple, coral blue, midnight black and titanium gray, but not every country will get every color. For example, the phones won't sell in gray in the US, at least not at launch. 

Galaxy S9 versus S9 Plus: What's the difference?

Apart from their size, the biggest difference between the S9 and S9 Plus is the presence of a second lens on the back of the Plus. 

This second lens, a telephoto, is dedicated to creating those depth-of-field portrait shots that blur the background to make people and objects pop. This is Samsung's second phone to catch the trend, after last August's Galaxy Note 8  ($946.93 at ).

Other differences between the S9 and S9 Plus:

  • Size: Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch screen; S9 Plus has a 6.2-inch screen
  • Battery capacity: 3,000 mAh versus 3,500 mAh, respectively
  • Price: S9 Plus will cost more, with the price rising by $100 in the US.

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