MWC 2018: Samsung's Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus boasts dual aperture camera, slow motion capture

Most of the details were revealed in leaks, but we were able to spend a couple of hours with these new phones and Samsung's focus on the camera was clearly evident.

Samsung's Galaxy S line is updated yearly and with the new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus we see an evolution of the Galaxy S8, but clearly in areas that customers have requested after using the Galaxy S8.

Samsung moved the rear fingerprint scanner to the center. It now provides an option for unlocking quicker with a combination of iris and facial scanning, stereo speakers finally make an appearance, and the camera has been enhanced.

Thankfully, the Galaxy foundation remains in the S9 and S9 Plus. These foundational elements include glorious infinity displays, top-of-the line processors, Gigabit LTE, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a high level of dust and water resistance, fast wireless charging, a microSD expansion card slot capable of supporting the highest capacity cards available, and Knox support.

Galaxy S9 specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core (Exynos outside the US)
  • Display: 5.8 inch 2960x1440 pixels resolution Super AMOLED
  • Operating system: Android 8 Oreo
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB internal with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: Super speed dual pixel 12 megapixel with OIS and mechanical dual aperture (f/1.5 and f/2.4). Front 8 megapixel camera, f/1.7.
  • Battery: 3000 mAh with fast wired and wireless charging
  • Water resistance: IP68
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 5, ANT+, NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou, MST
  • Audio: Dual stereo speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos, 3.5mm headset jack
  • Sensors: Iris, pressure, Accelerometer, barometer, fingerprint, gyro, magnet, heart rate, proximity, RGB light
  • Dimensions: 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm and 163 grams

Galaxy S9 Plus specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core (Exynos outside the US)
  • Display: 6.2 inch 2960x1440 pixels resolution Super AMOLED
  • Operating system: Android 8 Oreo
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB internal with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: Super speed dual pixel 12 megapixel with OIS and mechanical dual aperture (f/1.5 and f/2.4) and 12 megapixel f/2.4 telephoto camera. Front 8 megapixel camera, f/1.7.
  • Battery: 3500 mAh with fast wired and wireless charging
  • Water resistance: IP68
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 5, ANT+, NFC, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BeiDou, MST
  • Audio: Dual stereo speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos, 3.5mm headset jack
  • Sensors: Iris, pressure, Accelerometer, barometer, fingerprint, gyro, magnet, heart rate, proximity, RGB light
  • Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm and 189 grams

The new Intelligent Scan option lets the user select to have the iris scan do a first check, but then have lower security facial recognition unlock the phone. Facial recognition cannot be used for secure environments such as banking, but is a convenience option that may help alleviate concerns with the more secure and particular iris scanning.

Hardware impressions

galaxy-s9-1.jpg

Samsung's Galaxy S line hardware has been fantastic for years and the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus continue that tradition with stunning design, fit, and finish. The three colors all look fabulous in person, but I am partial to the darker Coral Blue color and may soon be trading in my iPhone X at T-Mobile to try out a S9 Plus.

The poorly positioned Galaxy S8 and Note 8 fingerprint scanner has been moved to the center underneath the camera and resolves one of the major issues with the 2017 devices.

The Bixby button is still present, but Samsung did add more functionality to Bixby and it is a powerful system if you devote the time to using it.

The excellent Infinity Display remains a staple with the top and bottom bezels actually being smaller than what we see on the Galaxy S8. Stereo speakers, tuned by AKG, are finally here with one speaker firing out the bottom and the other coming through the handset speaker above the display.

The larger S9 Plus has the second rear camera for telephoto and other advanced photography. Both phones have the new mechanical dual aperture camera and you can see the aperture switch between the two levels as you capture photos.

Compared to the Galaxy S8, 28 percent more light is captured with the f/1.5 lens. Samsung also uses a multi-frame method to capture 12 images that result in 30 percent less noise than seen in the Galaxy S8. The side-by-side comparison is amazing and the S9/S9 Plus should end up having one of the best cameras available on a smartphone.

Software impressions

The S9 and S9 Plus launch with Android 8 Oreo with some Samsung tweaks to improve the overall experience. Enhanced multi-tasking lets you quickly reply to messages while video playback is taking place. The great dual apps feature seen in the Note 8 on the Edge panels now comes to the Galaxy S9 with the additional capability to put those dual apps shortcuts right on a home screen panel.

The new camera hardware comes with improvements in the camera software too. One of the more interesting features is the 960 fps slow motion capability combined with automatic motion detection. You can start recording and when the camera senses motion it will start recording and create slow motion content from this movement. After recording, you can then immediately choose from one of three types of shareable clips that even automatically add music to the clips. The processing on the phone that is taking place is impressive.

Augmented reality emojis are also supported with realistic expressions based on your face and these are shareable among family, friends, and the public.

Bixby also sees some improvements, in particular with Bixby Vision. We have seen text, image, and shopping capability before, but now have live translation, location, food (calorie counter with the camera), and make-up (currently supported by Sephora and Cover Girl). These AR improvements should make Bixby Vision more useful. The live translation demonstration was impressive because we saw foreign text translate immediately without having to first take a photo.

In a follow-up to Samsung's CES focus on SmartThings, the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will launch with a SmartThings app preinstalled.

Previous and related coverage

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review: Stunning large display, balanced design, and advanced technology

Samsung needed a compelling device to bounce back from the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco and the Galaxy S8 is sure to appeal.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active review: Buy it for the truly all-day battery life [CNET]

The Galaxy S8 Active is a great phone, but if battery life isn't your top concern, you'll save money buying a regular Galaxy S8 and a case.

Samsung's Note 8: Everything business needs to know about the new device [TechRepublic]

The Galaxy Note8 is loaded with powerful security and productivity features, and represents a big step forward for the consumerization of enterprise products.