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Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ : It’s the small things that make a big difference

After months of leaks and anticipation, Samsung has finally announced the Galaxy S9/S9+ on the eve of Mobile World Congress 2018. This is the first major flagship launch of the year and you’ll find the biggest change on the inside.

The Galaxy S9/S9+ retains the same formula as last year’s S series with a smaller 5.8″ model and a larger plus model at 6.2″. Still retained is an Infinity Display that pushes QuadHD resolution that’s encased in a premium glass and metal body. To refine its appearance, Samsung took the trouble to darken the front glass panel so that the entire front is all black when the screen isn’t on. Looking at the front, it is quite hard to distinguish the Galaxy S9/S9+ from its predecessor and the easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the rear.

After much feedback, the fingerprint sensor is now repositioned below its camera module, which makes it less likely for you to accidentally smudge the camera lens with your dirty fingers. The camera module itself has a subtle frame, similar to the Galaxy Note8 and it helps in locating the fingerprint sensor. In terms of biometric security, the fingerprint sensor is now easier to setup and it only takes 3 swipes to register a finger.

Iris scanning is still retained and Samsung has improved it further with an intelligent scan which uses both Iris and Face Unlock to secure your phone. With this combination, it is easier to unlock under bright sunlight and even if your face is partially covered, you can still unlock with your eyes.

Considering that the S9 is a tock upgrade of the S8, you get a newer Exynos 9810 or Snapdragon 845 processor that are based on a 10nm processor. The smaller Galaxy S9 still gets 4GB of RAM, while the bigger plus model now packs 6GB of RAM. Storage wise, both models offer a minimum of 64GB of storage and in some markets, Samsung offer larger capacities at 128GB and 256GB. The microSD slot is still retained, offering an expansion of up to 400GB of storage.

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As highlighted heavily in its marketing materials, the camera on the Galaxy S9 is the star of the show. For the first time on a global smartphone, it will feature a variable aperture camera that switches between f/2.4 for outdoor photography to f/1.5 for better low light performance. The switch is done automatically but you can set this manually in Pro mode.

According to Samsung, this variable aperture feature boasts 28% more light compared to the Galaxy S8. The camera also has a multi-frame noise reduction feature which claims to offer 30% less noise than the Galaxy S8 in low light conditions.

Another neat feature is its Super Slow-mo mode. While Sony was the first to offer 960fps slow motion, it’s quite a challenge to take the shot if you’re not fast with the shutter button. To avoid missing an epic moment, the Galaxy S9’s Super Slow-mo feature has an automated motion detection. All you’ll need to do is to draw a box of where the action will take place and hit record. The moment an object enters the selected area, it will convert that short 0.2-second time frame into a dramatic 6-second footage. The mode captures super slow-mo footage in 720p HD. To make it easy to share, you can add background music, turn it into an animated GIF or use that as your live wallpaper.

The bigger Galaxy S9+ also gets an extra camera trick as well. Like the Galaxy Note8, it will have a secondary 12MP f/2.4 camera for telephoto and depth effects. The secondary lens is also optically stabilised for sharper capture.

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Over at the front, it still gets an 8MP selfie shooter and another new addition to the S9/S9+ is AR emoji. It’s different from Apple’s Animoji as it creates a 3D avatar of yourself which you can use to share with your friends and social networks. On top of that, it can also generate up to 18 expressions of your avatar self.

One of the most wanted features is stereo speakers and finally, Samsung has added stereo audio that utilises both the earpiece and bottom firing loudspeaker that are tuned by AKG. For a more immersive experience, it even gets Dolby Atmos enhancement and Samsung reckons that audio playback is now 40% louder than the Galaxy S8.

As Bixby turns one year old, the Galaxy S9/S9+ brings a couple of new features for Bixby Vision. Using your camera, it can perform live transactions and there’s also places where you can view places of interest in AR. Another nifty feature is food where it can tell you the number of calories in your food.

Like any Samsung flagship, you can expect IP68 water resistance, a headphone jack, Samsung Pay, Wireless Charging and adaptive fast charging via USB-Type C. In terms of battery, Samsung is still retaining the same 3,000mAh capacity for the S9 and a 3,500mAh unit for the S9+. Out of the box, both runs on Android 8.0 Oreo.

The Galaxy S9/S9+ is available in 4 stunning new colours – Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Titanium Grey and Lilac Purple. While the first three colours were available in previous iterations, they are very different on the Galaxy S9/S9+ and you’ll have to see it for yourself.

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UPDATE: Samsung Malaysia has officially revealed the Galaxy S9 and S9+ pricing. The Galaxy S9 is priced at RM3,299 while the Galaxy S9+ starts from RM3,799 for the 64GB version. If you need more storage, the S9+ is also available in 128GB and 256GB storage options in Malaysia. You can pre-order the Galaxy S9 in Malaysia starting this Thursday and you can read the full details here.

Samsung has also introduced a new DeX for the Galaxy S9/S9+. Unlike the first version, this allows you to use your smartphone as a virtual keyboard and mouse. In addition, it allows you to access the headphone jack which isn’t available previously.

Alexander Wong