The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is the latest flagship smartphone from the Korean manufacturer to land in Kenya. This is the successor to the Galaxy S8+ we saw in 2017. The Galaxy S8+ is still a good and relevant phone so when reviewing the Galaxy S9+, I was interested to see what it has to offer and if it something worth buying considering the fact that the Galaxy S8+ and even the Galaxy Note 8 smartphones are still around and are available at reasonable prices right now.
I have been using the Galaxy S9+ for a little over a month and I believe I am in a better position to reveal if it is a worthy upgrade or not. The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is available in Kenya for Ksh 95,000, a little bit high compared to the Galaxy S8 series and almost the same price as the Galaxy Note 8. You can get it from Safaricom and most other Samsung retail shops.
With the Galaxy S9 and S9+, Samsung made it clear that the camera was the main focus. In fact, the Galaxy S9+ has a dual camera setup at the back with one of the cameras having a variable aperture. With this, you can change the aperture size from f/1.5 to f/2.4 depending on the amount of light you want to reach the sensor. This may not be the most appealing thing to everyone but is one of the things that differentiate the cameras on the Galaxy S9+ from those you will find on other devices within its price range.
The camera is not the only unique feature of the Samsung Galaxy S9+, below are some of its other key specifications:
Display Size: 6.2-inch Quad HD + Curved Super AMOLED
Processor: Octa-Core Exynos 9810
RAM: 6 GB
Storage Space: 64/128/256 GB, can be expanded using a microSD card
GPU: Mali-400 MP
Android Version: Android 8.0 Oreo
Camera: Dual 12MP + 12MP8 MP cameras at the back with a 8MP front facing one
Battery: 3500 mAh non-removable battery
Now that we have looked at the specifications, let’s get to the review.
Dual 12MP+12MP, 8MP selfie shooter
As I mentioned above, Samsung made it clear that the camera of the Galaxy S9+ is one of its unique selling points. With that said, I thought it was a good idea to start this video talking about the cameras.
The three cameras on this phone are really good. I used the Galaxy Note 8 a couple of months back and the cameras on the device were amazing but the ones on the Galaxy S9+ are a bit better. Colours are reproduced as you see them in real life. There are a few situations where the saturation is a bit over the top but in most cases it well balanced.
The camera app has a ton of features to cater for almost every user. You have the Auto mode, a live focus mode for all those portrait shots, a pro mode for those who want to manually control features such as white balance, ISO and the likes. Some of the modes you get include a panorama mode, a super slow Mo mode for those really cool slow motion videos, hyperlapse mode, AR Emoji mode if you want to create Augmented reality emojis and a food mode that is there to make sure your food shots are worth sharing on social media.
Even if you do not use all these modes, the auto mode is more than enough for 90% of the shots. It does a good job in capturing the details and tries to blur the background a bit creating dramatic shots. It does this slightly better than the Galaxy Note 8 in my opinion.
Now to the variable aperture, you get it on one of the cameras at the back. Changing the aperture size allows you to control how much light you want to reach the sensor depending on what you want to capture. With the Galaxy S9+, you can change the aperture size from f/1.5 to f/2.4 and vice versa. In this case, the f/2.4 aperture size is smaller than the f/1.5 number and thus you get more light reaching the sensor with the latter. This is the aperture size to go with for low light photography as you want a bigger aperture size for more light to reach the sensor. Thinking of it that way shows you that the variable aperture on the Galaxy S9+ is a useful feature and not just a gimmick.
Below are some of the samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy S9+. Use the scroll arrows to see more photos.
As for the front facing camera, it is not that different from what we saw on the Galaxy Note 8. The 8MP unit takes slightly better shots from what we saw with the Galaxy S8+ but the difference is not so big as the S8+ was good as it was. Shots are clear and detailed as you would expect. The selfie camera also has AR emojis that are not that accurate and I did not get to use them that much. With AR emojis, the point if for you to create a digital cartoon of yourself and use the front facing camera to animate them. You can then send them to your contacts just to spice up your conversations. I am not impressed with their implementation so I did not get to use them at all.
Still on the front facing camera, you also get a wide selfie and selfie focus which is basically portrait mode for the selfie camera. This worked really well for me and blurred everything I wanted it to. The wide selfie mode will allow you to fit more people or objects in your selfie.
Hardware and Design
Curved design, glass on front and back
Now that we are done with the camera, let us look at the design of the Galaxy S9+. This design has not changed much from what we saw with the Galaxy S8/S8+ and the Note 8. This is not a bad thing though as this design is still fresh even though we have seen it before. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
We still got the glass back and front and this feel slippery and fragile. If you are one of those people with fidgety hands, you may want to buy a back cover if you end up buying this phone. I did not have a cover and the phone is still as good as new. I got used to its slippery back cover in just a couple of days. Speaking of the back, that is where we have the fingerprint scanner and the two back cameras. Samsung has finally listened to its customers and moved the fingerprint which is now below the camera and not next to it. If you have used or seen the S8 series and the Note 8, then you know that the fingerprint scanner was next to the cameras and this led to people touching the camera accidentally. Not a big deal but was annoying but the good thing is that this is finally fixed.
At the front we get the 6.2-inch Curved Super AMOLED infinity display. The bezels are thinner compared to the company’s previous devices. On the sides we get the power button on the right and the volume keys and Bixby button on the right. I use Bixby once in a while so I do not mind the button but I wish Samsung made it possible for people to reprogram it. For example, it should let users reprogram it in such a way that it opens the camera when pressed.
At the bottom we get the Micro USB port, headphone jack, microphone and speakers. At the very top we have the SIM and Micro SD card tray and a microphone.
The overall design of the Galaxy S9+ is really good. You just have to see this phone is real life to appreciate this design. I got the S9+ in Lilac purple that in my opinion is the best colour you can get. It is different and will definitely get the attention of people around you.
6.2-inch Quad HD
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ comes with a 6.2-inch display that does not feel too big thank to its 18.5:9 aspect ratio. This display has a maximum resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels. The default resolution is set at 1080 x 2220 pixels to conserve battery but you can crank it up to the maximum resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels if you want. You may not easily tell the difference between the two unless you know what you are really looking for.
This is a Super AMOLED display so you know that colours really pop. If you know anything about smartphones, then you know that Samsung makes some of the best displays out there and the S9+ is not any different. It is good to look at and use in different conditions. This display gets bright enough to even use under direct sunlight.
This display has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection that keeps it safe from scratches, something that is necessary for a high-end device. The display is also HDR10 compliant and has 3D Touch for the home button. Still on this, you get on screen navigation keys that have a cool feature that allows you to auto hide them in some situations such as when scrolling through websites. This ensures you have more screen space for your content.
Just like most recent flagships from Samsung, we get an Always On display on the Galaxy S9+. This feature eats up some of your battery but is useful as it displays some of the important notifications when the phone is in sleep mode. You can disable if it is not something you are going to use or when you activate power saving mode.
With such a huge display, the Galaxy S9+ is one of the best phones for media consumption. If you are into reading or watching videos, this display is the right size for that. I personally found it perfect for movies as it gave me an experience I am yet to get from any other smartphone manufacturer.
Performance and Software
6GB RAM, Exynos 9810 Processor, 64GB storage, Mali-G72 MP18 GPU
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box. The experience is similar to what you get from most Samsung smartphones released within the last year. This has been a good experience with a lighter software and is geared towards performance. The phone comes with some pre-installed applications but not too much to be annoying. This is not stock Android as the software is fine tuned for Samsung devices. I like how Samsung was subtle with the changes and has not affected or changed the overall Android experience with this software.
As for performance, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ is a beast. It has 6GB of RAM paired with the Exynos 9810 processor (octa-core). During my review period, I did not experience any performance issues with this phone. No matter what I threw at it, the Galaxy S9+ handled it very well. From simple day to day tasks to heavy applications and games, the S9+ performed better than I expected. This is the first time I have had a phone that has had not even a single performance issue. With most other phones, you get those isolated cases but this was not the case for the whole month I have had this phone.
Extra: The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is water resistant and is the perfect phone to use during this rainy season. I used it a couple of times outdoors when it was raining and freaked out a few people who thought I was out to damage the phone before I told them it can handle it.
3500 mAh non removable
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ has a 3500 mAh battery that could handle really well but was not the best. I did my research and discovered that the battery was bad with the S9+ units with the Exynos processor. This is the variant we have in Kenya and if you are planning o buy it, expect a not so good battery. The battery draining issues can be fixed with an update but that is yet to happen.
Depending on your usage, you can get up to 5 hours of screen on time which is probably the entire work day for most people.
Note: Screen on time refers to the total number of hours the display was on and not necessarily when the phone was on. It refers to the time when you are actively using the phone during the day and is usually lower than the time the phone was on.
If you are a moderate user, you can get the battery to last longer but for sure it is not the best out there. The good news is that it supports fast charging and you can get a decent amount of charge in just a few minutes. You also have a few power saving modes to get more battery life.
It is worth it!
In the title, in referring to the Samsung Galaxy S9+, I said the beast just got better and I will stand by that, the Samsung Galaxy S9+ is what you get when a beast gets better. Compared to the Galaxy S8 and even the Note 8, I feel like Samsung has improved the features that needed that and maintained those that were already good. The phone offers an experience you expect to find on a flagship smartphone in Kenya at the moment. From the display to design and even performance, Samsung did a really good job. The cameras are also amazing. I liked the cameras of the Galaxy Note 8 but was blown away with those of the Galaxy S9+.
The one thing that disappointed me with this phone is the battery. It just drains so fast and this is not something I expect from a flagship device. I know the issue is profound with the Exynos models so I expect an update that fixes this to be rolled out. Since the Note 7 debacle, Samsung has been not been aggressive with the batteries but I believe there is still room to improve endurance and still have a safe device.