Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: Android perfection achieved

  • Editors' rating
    9.7 Spectacular
  • $839.99

Pros

  • Stunning display
  • Strong reception and fast wireless network support
  • Multiple security features, including an iris scanner
  • Fast and wireless charging
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • High level water and dust resistance
  • 3.5 mm headset jack

Cons

  • Back is a fingerprint magnet

Each year we look to Samsung's Galaxy S release as the smartphone that will be purchased by the masses and it is clear that the Galaxy S9 Plus will be one of the best smartphones of 2018.

It may be an evolution of the successful Galaxy S8 Plus, but it improves in areas that fans specifically requested, proving that Samsung listens to its customers and is intent on making the best smartphone for everyone.

The S9 Plus has a fingerprint scanner smartly positioned on the center back below the dual cameras, enhanced audio capability with stereo speakers tuned by AKG, a dual camera experience, and an improved facial unlock method.

Galaxy S9 Plus Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 2.8GHz 10nm octa-core
  • Display: 6.2 inch, 2960 x 1440 pixels resolution Super AMOLED (570 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 8.0 Oreo
  • RAM: 6GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 12 megapixel rear f/1.5 and f/2.4 super speed dual pixel OIS camera and 12 megapixel telephoto f/2.4 OIS camera. 8 megapixel f/1.7 front-facing camera
  • Water resistance: IP68 water and dust rating
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Bluetooth 5.0 BLE, ANT+, GPS, NFC
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Heart Rate Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Iris Sensor, Pressure Sensor
  • Battery: 3,500 mAh non-removable with Quick Charge 3.0 and fast wireless charging
  • Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm and 189 grams
  • Colors: Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue, Titanium Gray

This is the first Android smartphone to launch with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor in the US. The processor brings the X20 LTE modem supporting 1.2 Gbps wireless network downloads, an improved Bluetooth 5 radio, and more.

I was sent a Midnight Black S9 Plus to test and plan to spend the next few weeks using it to help decide if I trade in my iPhone X for a Coral Blue S9 Plus at T-Mobile through its Jump On Demand program. Retail box contents include a USB Type-C to USB-A connector, a USB Type-C cable, AKG-branded earbuds with 3.5mm jack, and a SIM/microSD tray ejection pin.

galaxy-s9-plus-2.jpg

Hardware

It's not surprising to pick up the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and quickly confirm that Samsung can create fantastic hardware. It is actually a bit surprising to find such an elegant piece of hardware with the best specifications of any smartphone available on US carriers at the same price as last year's S8 Plus when we have the Apple iPhone X starting at $1,000.

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DisplayMate confirmed that the S9 and S9 Plus has the best smartphone display, even beating out the Apple iPhone X that has a Samsung created and Apple tuned OLED screen.

Thankfully, Samsung continues to include a standard 3.5mm headset jack, along with a solid pair of AKG earbuds in the retail package. The stereo speakers, one through the handset speaker and the other out the bottom, improve the audio experience. In comparison to the Apple iPhone X and Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Galaxy S9 Plus is still in third though. The iPhone X sounds the best out of the three.

The volume button is positioned on the upper left with a new dedicated Bixby hardware button placed just above the middle of the left side. At this time when you press the button the Galaxy S8 Plus will launch Bixby cards. In the near future, pressing this button will launch the voice assistant.

The power button is on the right side and the quick shortcut to launch the camera with a double press is still supported. I was a bit disappointed to still see 64GB of internal storage, but the microSD card accessible via the top tray is a less expensive way to add serious storage capacity. A USB Type-C port is located between the headphone jack and second speaker on the bottom.

galaxy-s9-plus-3.jpg

High end flagships today often employ a dual camera setup. We saw this first with Samsung last year on the Galaxy Note 8 and see it continue with an improved dual camera arrangement on the S Plus. It is a 12 megapixel variant with dual pixels for improved low light performance. The Galaxy S8 camera was one of the best last year and the S9 Plus continues to offer excellent performance. The dual cameras are nearly flush with the back, with just a slight raised edge around the camera lens. The fingerprint scanner is positioned below the two cameras, which is much more useful than the offset fingerprint scanner we saw last year. The flash and heart rate sensor are positioned to the right of the cameras.

The iris scanner is positioned above the display and is a very secure system for a variety of applications. Samsung's new Intelligent Scan system pairs the iris scanner with the facial recognition system in order to help you unlock your phone quicker with a trade-off in the level of security.

The always-on display (AOD) on Samsung Galaxy devices continues to set the standard for these types of displays. There are several available options for the AOD, including different clocks, custom photo selector, use of GIFs on the AOD, and the ability to also customize the lock screen with these same options.

After a week of using the S9 Plus as my primary device while traveling across the country and back, I am able to go a full day with a single charge of the 3,500 mAh battery. It appears that battery life is about the same as the Galaxy Note 8. The fact that the Galaxy S8 Plus has wireless charging support means that my device is topped off most of the time since it is convenient to just set the S9 Plus down on a wireless charging pad while at my desk. While it is not an essential feature, wireless charging works well for me to keep my devices fully charged without touching a cable.

The Bixby button is still present, but this time Samsung gives you the ability to disable it for launching Bixby Home with a single press. You can still swipe over to a Bixby home screen panel or even choose to hide this and never even see Bixby Home if you desire. A press and hold of the Bixby button will still launch the Bixby voice control utility though. I know Bixby isn't popular with most folks, but it is a very powerful assistant if you give it the time needed to fully understand its capabilities.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus runs Android 8.0 Oreo. The eval unit I tested included the 1 February 2018 Android security patch. Samsung has been great at providing regular Android security updates, but don't buy a Samsung Galaxy if you want to always have the latest version of Android. Samsung provides more on Galaxy devices than you will find on stock Android phones so you should buy a phone you know you will be happy with at the time of launch.

You can choose to have your home screen appear with just widgets and selected apps or have all apps appear on a home screen panel, similar to an iPhone. You can also choose to have a 4x5, 4x6, 5x5, or 5x6 grid appear on the home screen panels so that you can fully optimize the space available to you on the large 6.2 inch screen. The apps grid can also be either 4x6 or 5x6.

Similar to the Huawei EMUI and Apple iPhone experiences, swiping down from anywhere on an open area of the home screen panel will take you to the app launcher with a search bar at the top to help you quickly find and launch apps.

You can also press and hold on the virtual home button to launch Google Assistant. Tap on the recent apps button to choose which apps to launch in split screen mode. With 6.2 inches available to work with, you can be productive on the S9 Plus with two apps open side-by-side.

Like the Galaxy Note 8 and other previous Galaxy devices, you can swipe in from the right side to access Edge panel widgets and functions. The Note 8 brought us App Pair in order to have a one button shortcut to launch two apps on the display at once. That is now present on the S9 Plus too.

There are some Samsung apps included on the device, including Galaxy Apps, a web browser, file explorer, Samsung Health, Samsung+, an email client, calendar, contacts, image gallery with editing tools, messages app, SmartThings, Samsung Themes, secure folder, Samsung Notes, and Samsung Pay.

The email client is excellent for keeping my work Exchange account separate from my personal Gmail account. The image gallery is more functional than Google Photos, with advanced editing and creation tools available to the user.

The camera performs well with plenty of modes in the camera software to help you get creative and share your experiences in photos and video. These include food, panorama, pro, live focus, auto, super slow motion, AR Emoji, hyperlapse, food, and more than can be downloaded from Samsung. Samsung improved the user interface in the camera so that now you simply swipe right and left to switch modes. Filters, stickers, and other effects are also available on the bottom row of the viewfinder.

Super slow motion is the newest feature and one that makes the S9 Plus unique when compared to other phones on the market. It supports 960 fps and has the ability to automatically detect motion and capture that motion in a series of up to 20 short clips. Those clips can then be shared as GIFs.

There are a ton of camera settings accessible via the gear icon. These include voice control, floating camera button, motion photo, editing camera modes for the rear and front-facing cameras, photo and video resolution, and more.

Bixby Vision is also present in the camera by pressing the small Bixby Vision icon in the bottom left of the viewfinder. Bixby Vision now supports makeup, text, image, shopping, location, food, wine, and QR code utilities.

Price and competition

Rumors indicated we might see the S9 Plus launch at well over $1,000 as the Apple iPhone X was possibly pushing flagship prices over this psychological level. Thankfully, the S9 Plus is priced at $840 from Samsung and T-Mobile with other US wireless carriers adding on $50 to $80 and bloatware.

The Apple iPhone 8 Plus is priced at $799 and $949 while the iPhone X is priced at $999 and $1,149. The Huawei Mate 1 Pro is priced at $799.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

My T-Mobile SIM has lived in the Galaxy S9 Plus for the past week and it is going to be a difficult decision next week when it hits my local T-Mobile store as there is not a single lacking function or feature in the S9 Plus. The Apple iPhone X also strikes a nearly perfect balance, especially with the iOS app experience. Another week or two of using the S9 Plus will help me make an informed decision.

People often choose the Apple iPhone because of the Apple ecosystem, but its important to also realize there is a competing Samsung ecosystem. The Samsung ecosystem includes devices like the Gear Icon X headset, Gear Sport and Gear S3 Frontier smartwatches, and Samsung DeX.

I tested out the AR Emoji functionality. It's pretty silly and not something very useful for work, but may appeal to the younger crowd. The super slow motion results were interesting, but I need to find more subjects to shoot with it. The GIF sharing functionality is still a bit difficult to use as you have to go into the editor separately from the video viewer and then edit things to share the GIF. I still need to spend more time with super slow motion because I think there are more efficient ways to use this functionality.

Phone calls over the past week were perfect, I regularly maintained a connection while my coworker with an iPhone 7 Plus on T-Mobile lost signal, I took lots of photos on my trip with the S9 Plus, and never once felt something as missing from my mobile experience. The rear fingerprint scanner performed flawlessly and my frustration with the offset fingerprint scanner from last year's models is gone.

Specifications

Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, voice dialing, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity sensor, barometer, gyro sensor, hall sensor, RGB sensor, heart rate, pressure sensor, geomagnetic sensor
Additional Features Multitasking, Face Unlock, Wi-Fi Miracast, Multi Window, MU-MIMO technology, Fast Charging, Samsung KNOX, High AOP Mic, Samsung DeX support, Bixby Vision, Intelligent Scan
Security Devices Fingerprint reader, eye scan, face recognition
Details
SAR Value 1.59 W/kg (hotspot), 1.42 W/kg (body) / 1.14 W/kg (head)
Integrated Components Front-facing camera, voice recorder, stereo speakers, navigation, dual rear-facing camera, digital player
Body Color Midnight black
Cellular
Technology CDMA2000 1X / GSM / WCDMA (UMTS), TD-SCDMA / WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type smartphone (Android OS)
Integrated Components digital player, dual rear-facing camera, heart rate sensor, front-facing camera, navigation, stereo speakers, voice recorder
Navigation BeiDou, GLONASS, GPS, Galileo
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900 / TD-SCDMA 1880/2010
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified, Simple Mobile, Total Wireless
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 8.0 Oreo
Payment Technology Samsung Pay
Intelligent Assistant Bixby
SIM Card Type nano SIM
SIM Card Slot Qty single-SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Miscellaneous
Sensors RGB sensor, accelerometer, barometer, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, hall sensor, heart rate, pressure sensor, proximity sensor
Communications
Data Transmission DC-HSDPA, EDGE, EV-DO, FDD-LTE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, TDD-LTE, VoLTE, VoWiFi
3G UMTS Band Band 2, Band 4, Band 5
Wireless Interface ANT+/ANT, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
Bluetooth Profiles Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), Bluetooth low energy (BLE), HID Over GATT Profile (HOGP), Hands-Free Profile (HFP), Headset Profile (HSP), SIM Access Profile (SAP), Human Interface Device Profile (HID), Message Access Profile (MAP), Object Push Profile (OPP), Personal Area Networking Profile (PAN), Phonebook Access Profile (PBAP)
Processor
Clock Speed 2.8 GHz
Type Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Processor Core Qty 8-core
64-bit Architecture Yes
Display
Type OLED display
Technology Quad HD+ Super AMOLED
Display Resolution 2960 x 1440 pixels
Color Depth 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Pixel Density (ppi) 529
Diagonal Size 6.2 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 15.7 cm, 15.81 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 6.2 in
Aspect Ratio 18.5:9
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 5 (scratch resistant glass)
Color Support color
Features Always-on display, Curved Dual-Edge Screen, Infinity Display
Manufacturer Warranty
Service & Support Limited warranty - parts and labor - 1 year
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MKV, VC-1, FLV, AVC, AVI, MPEG-4, WMV, ASF, 3GP, H.264, H.263, M4V, WebM, HEVC, MP43, 3G2, WMV8, VP8, VP9, H.265, WMV7
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, WMA, AAC, PCM, AMR, MP3, FLAC, AAC-LC, XMF, AAC +, OGG, eAAC+, MIDI, APE (Monkey's Audio), M4A, apt-X, DSF, DSD, MXMF, OGA, 3GA, AWB, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, OPUS, DFF, MID, AMR-WB, AMR-NB, Vorbis, DSD64, DSD128
Memory
RAM 6 GB - LPDDR4 SDRAM
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC - up to 400 GB
Multimedia
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 630
Battery
Run Time Details Standby (AOD off): up to 326 hrs
Standby (AOD on): up to 82 hrs
Talk: up to 2100 min
Playback (music (AOD off)): up to 90 hrs
Playback (music (AOD on)): up to 51 hrs
Playback (video): up to 17 hrs
Active online usage (LTE): up to 16 hrs
Active online usage (Wi-Fi): up to 15 hrs
Standby: up to 96 hrs
Talk: up to 1860 min
Run Time Details Standby (AOD off): up to 326 hrs
Standby (AOD on): up to 82 hrs
Talk: up to 2100 min
Playback (music (AOD off)): up to 90 hrs
Playback (music (AOD on)): up to 51 hrs
Playback (video): up to 17 hrs
Wireless Charging Yes
Digital Camera
Self-Timer Delay Yes
Special Effects Bokeh effect, Grid Line, HDR, Motion Effect, Stamp, Stickers
Header
Brand Samsung
Product Line Samsung Galaxy
Model S9+
Edition SM-G965U1, Unlocked SM-G965U1
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Sensors RGB sensor, accelerometer, barometer, geomagnetic sensor, gyro sensor, hall sensor, heart rate, pressure sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control, voice dialing
Security Devices eye scan, face recognition, fingerprint reader
Additional Features Bixby Vision, Face Unlock, Fast Charging, High AOP Mic, Intelligent Scan, Samsung KNOX 3.1, MU-MIMO technology, Multi Window, Samsung DeX support, Samsung KNOX, Wi-Fi Miracast, multitasking
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards 3GA, AAC, AAC-LC, AMR, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, APE (Monkey's Audio), AWB, DFF, DSD, DSD128, DSD64, DSF, FLAC, IMY, M4A, MID, MIDI, MP3, MXMF, OGA, OGG, OPUS, OTA, PCM, RTTTL, RTX, Vorbis, WAV, WMA, XMF, apt-X, eAAC+
Supported Digital Video Standards 3G2, 3GP, ASF, AVC, AVI, FLV, H.263, H.264, H.265, HEVC, M4V, MKV, MP43, MPEG-4, VC-1, VP8, VP9, WMV, WMV7, WMV8, WebM
Sound Enhancements Dolby Atmos sound technology, Dolby Digital Plus sound, Dolby Digital sound, Surround sound, stereo speakers tuned by AKG
RAM
Installed Size 6 GB
Technology LPDDR4 SDRAM
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 64 GB
Max Supported Size 400 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDXC
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 630
Rear Camera
Sensor Size 1/2.55"
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Service Included parts and labor
Full Contract Period 1 year
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 8 Megapixel
Lens Aperture f/1.7
Focus Adjustment automatic
Features Motion photo, Quick launch, Smart Auto Focus, Stamps, VDIS (Video Digital Image Stabilization), location tags
Front Camera
Sensor Size 1/3.6"
Second Rear Camera
Sensor Size 1/3.4"
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty

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Where To Buy

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (64GB, Midnight Black)

Part Number: 610214656049
Price
$839.99