This morning in Barcelona, just ahead of MWC 2018, Samsung has officially announced the Galaxy S9. After weeks of constant leaks, we’ve finally got all the details on the company’s latest flagships. As always, though, there’s a bit more to learn beyond what sits on surface level, so let’s take a look at a few details you might have missed…
The best gifts for Android users
Pricing isn’t as bad as we thought
The first thing to note about the S9 is the pricing. Rumors and leaks floating around with the S9 had us a little worried about what these phones would cost, but thankfully, it’s identical to the S8. The smaller Galaxy S9 will cost the same $719 unlocked, with the S9+ landing at $839. As expected, both will be available starting on March 16th. Pre-orders open March 2nd.
‘Intelligent Scan’ is actually pretty underwhelming
Facial recognition tech has been on rise for the past couple of years, and Samsung was one of the first to bring it to the mainstream in the failed Galaxy Note 7. In the time since Samsung has evolved the feature by offering both face and iris scanning on the S8 and Note 8. Now, though, Samsung is combining those with “Intelligent Scan.” Originally, we thought this feature would combine the two simultaneously, but it’s actually a bit less exciting than that.
Rather, as pointed out by Android Police, Intelligent Scan is simply a method of using Face Unlock as your primary method, with a fallback to Iris Unlock if Face Unlock can’t be used. It will also swap to Iris Scanning when it requires a more secure method of authentication, such as for Samsung Pay. Of course, fingerprints will also work in any case.
A new DeX dock that turns your phone into a trackpad
Samsung has also launched a new version of the DeX dock which lays the phone out flat. By doing this, the “DeX Pad” allows you to use the phone’s touchscreen as a trackpad, removing the need to carry another mouse with this setup. It’s a cool idea for sure, but I still don’t see it be used much.
As Engadget points out, this new dock gets some upgrades as well, now supporting 1440p output.
‘Super Slow-Mo’ adds background music automatically
As was briefly touched on in the company’s keynote, the Galaxy S9’s slow-motion mode also pulls in a “super slow motion” mode that shoots at 960fps at 720p. Needless to say, that’s impressive and something that could be very fun. However, Samsung may have just soured the experience a bit.
During the keynote, a demo had the phone automatically apply (extremely cheesy) music to a video that had just been shot. Samsung says this feature allows for the music to be customized and it can be muted, but honestly, this just seems super annoying to me. Credit where it’s due, however, being able to set these videos as your wallpaper is kind of fantastic.
The new speakers are 40% louder
One of the biggest things I was personally glad to see on the S9 is the arrival of stereo speakers. The S8’s single mono speaker was unimpressive, but Samsung has finally taken a note from the likes of Huawei and Apple, using the earpiece to create a stereo experience. What’s even better is that Samsung is upping the volume, claiming that this new setup is 40% louder than its predecessor.
Android Oreo out of the box, obviously
Samsung just started rolling out Oreo to the S8 and S8+, so obviously, the S9 and S9+ come with that software pre-loaded. This is good to see, even if not much has changed beyond adding Google’s latest features. As far as we’re aware, this is just Android 8.0 and not 8.1, but better than nothing, right?
This past week, Google finally brought ARCore to version 1.0, and it’s actually running on the S9 immediately. Google mentioned on Twitter that the S9 will be “capable of incredible AR experiences” thanks to ARCore built-in.
It STILL has Quick Charge 2.0
Inexplicably, Samsung also still has Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 on the Galaxy S9, rather than the Quick Charge 4.0 we’ve seen on some other devices which is far quicker. Of course, you still have wireless charging and the like, but it’s disappointing that 2018’s biggest flagship is still years behind in the fast charging department, especially since we’re on the Snapdragon 845 here.
Here’s why the ‘dual-aperture’ option is beneficial
Having a wide aperture has been a pretty big deal on smartphone for the past couple of years, and Samsung just rewrote the record books again by shipping the S9 with an f/1.5 aperture. That’s really impressive, but what’s more notable is that it can be changed on the fly to f/2.5. Why is that beneficial? Android Police explains:
…opening up the aperture quite so wide can have unintended side effects. For one, f/1.5 is a really wide aperture, and that can start to affect the lens optics in unpredictable ways, potentially introducing distortions or other issues. It can also make lens flare especially pronounced. And while most recent smartphones do use lenses with very wide aperture, the Galaxy S9’s “narrow” f/2.4 setting is still quite wide in the larger context of photography – far wider an aperture than you’d need even for fast-shutter action images in broad daylight.
Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8 get an Enterprise Edition
In an effort to pitch to business users, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are already getting an enterprise edition, and so is last year’s Note 8. This new variant ships unlocked, with Knox security in place for configuring the device. It will be sold directly to enterprises according to ZDNet.
The Galaxy S9 does support Gear VR
Strangely, Samsung didn’t mention its Gear VR platform even once while on stage this morning. However, for those interested, the current headsets are still compatible. As Android Central points out, the a Gear VR with the model number SM-R325 or SM-R324 will still work with the Galaxy S9.
The homescreen rotates now
Samsung introduced an excellent new launcher on the Galaxy S8, and that same one is available on the S9. What’s notable, though, is that it can now be rotated. As you may have noticed, both in its keynote and some hands-on videos, the homescreen on the S9 has been seen in landscape orientation a couple of times. That’s a minor change, but one some will no doubt appreciate, especially on the larger phone.
Support for 400GB microSD cards has arrived
For the most part, Samsung has always embraced the microSD card, and on the S9 things are getting an upgrade. Both the S9 and S9+ both support massive 400GB microSD cards now, as SamMobile points out. Of course, you’ll be paying a pretty penny to get one of those…