Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus: Should you upgrade based on specs, price and camera improvements?
Samsung is betting that camera improvements will spur an upgrade cycle to the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. Here's a look at the enterprise angle, specifications, deals, DeX, and competitive landscape to help you decide.
Samsung launched its Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, outlined a camera-heavy pitch and updated its flagship smartphones. The next big question is whether the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus is worth the upgrade.
Here's a look at the moving parts in the buying decision:
The core pitch
Samsung is looking to redefine the camera experience with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. DJ Koh, head of Samsung's IT and mobile communications division, said technology is changing lives, but it only does so when innovation is in the hands of real people. Koh referred to customers as creators. "The most important function of the phone is not making calls. It's to capture that fleeting moment in a photo and sharing moments in videos. People took 1.2 trillion photos on their smartphones," said Koh, who said the camera upgrade is a breakthrough.
Samsung also said its Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus can manage your connected life, but at the end of the day, the core pitch revolves around the camera and its ability to take pictures in low light. The camera has its own DRAM processor as well as dual apertures to handle all lighting conditions.
And yes, Samsung moved the fingerprint scanner to a better location. New features to Bixby are interesting, but hardly a reason to upgrade. Ditto for Internet of Things hooks into the Smart Things cloud and iris scanner and facial recognition features. In the end, Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will be about camera improvements and a less annoying fingerprint sensor for many folks.
Both devices feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and that chip is one of the primary reasons Samsung can boast camera improvements. The primary thing to note here is that Samsung's Galaxy S9 Plus has dual cameras and the 5.8-inch version doesn't. The Galaxy S9 Plus joins the Galaxy Note 8 as a dual-camera flagship devices. Here's a look at the core specs:
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
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: 3000mAh with fast wired and wireless charging
Samsung is holding the pricing line with its Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. The pricing from Samsung also is less expensive than Apple's iPhone X. As noted in Matthew Miller's roundup, the Galaxy S9 from T-Mobile runs $720 full price and the Galaxy S9 Plus costs $840. There are also trade-in promotions. Deals from AT&T and Verizon are also in that price range, but they are a bit higher. Deals from Best Buy and other retailers are likely to be available. For instance, Xfinity Mobile from Comcast is offering $450 off the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus for a limited time.
IHS Markit analysts Gerrit Schneemann and Wayne Lam noted:
Success in the flagship pricing tier will be critical in 2018 for Samsung. Unless Samsung changes its portfolio strategy, IHS Markit forecasts Samsung's smartphone shipments will decline by 2.6 percent in 2018 compared with overall market growth of 3.9 percent. With the S9 and S9 Plus' iterative designs, Samsung is banking on its successful design language from 2017 to continue to match buyer preferences, while Samsung adds enough new features to justify upgrades.
What's the trade-in value of current phone?
The deals from carriers and retailers for the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus may be sweetened by trade-in offers. Koh even mentioned trade-in promotions during his keynote so Samsung may be revving up the incentives. You can also shop around via various merchants to see what your smartphone is worth and ways to offset the price of a new device.
Many of the features in the Galaxy S9 Plus will wind up via software updates in the Galaxy Note 8. The Galaxy S9 Plus may have better camera technology, but other features aren't enough to spur a replacement. Samsung has set up some serious flagship confusion, though.
Video: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ready for lift off
How does Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus compare to iPhone X, Google Pixel 2, and other less expensive Android phones?
Samsung has dual cameras in the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus and improvements to iris and facial scanning. The price points for Samsung's latest devices will fall below the iPhone X so that's a potential win.
As for the Pixel 2, Google has a single camera, but it has advanced the technology via software and machine learning.
What's also notable is how Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will compete with Android rivals such as Huawei, Nokia, LG, and others. Many smartphone makers have gone with a pure Google Android experience and have been using that as a selling point. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus may compete with phones from the likes of Nokia, too.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus hardware: in pictures
What's the business play?
As an enterprise device, Samsung has used the Galaxy Note 8 as the business flagship. What changed, however, is that the Galaxy S9 now has an enterprise edition. Samsung is using its smaller Galaxy S9 as the enterprise play and adds customization for enterprise specific apps and more control for central IT. Samsung's enterprise edition approach doesn't apply to the Galaxy S9 Plus.
One thing the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus brings to the table is the DeX dock and a desktop experience. Samsung outlined its DeX Pad, which brings a cleaner design to what essentially can be a thin client for enterprises. The core concept here is that you can bring your device, dock it and use all the ports--two USB Type-A ports, an HDMI port, and a USB Type-C port as well as Ethernet -- to replicate a desktop. DeX is a system that's not available for other devices and Samsung is sticking with the approach. If this desktop experience and smartphone docking capability is a win for you, then DeX may sway you to the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus.
Even if DeX isn't a winner yet, Samsung is showing that it will stick with the platform. That doggedness may mean DeX ultimately succeeds.
Your personal buying strategy with Android devices?
Samsung is obviously in the premium device arena, but lower-end phones are catching up in features, cameras and relying on Google to improve the software experience. Do you need Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus or a $399 phone from the likes of Huawei or Nokia? Will the Sony Xperia smartphone work for you? The premium vs. mid-tier pricing battle is only going to continue. We're in the age of smartphone innovation stagnation. Samsung is feeling it to some degree and Apple is too. The real pricing battleground will be in the Android ecosystem.