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Nissan begins field tests of its Easy Ride driverless robo-taxi in Japan

Beginning March 5, residents in the Minatomirai district of Yokohama will be able to travel through the city in a driverless robo-taxi called “Easy Ride.” The field test will include pre-registered participants along a set route between Nissan’s global headquarters and a nearby shopping center.

All the Nissan Leaf cars in the test will be remotely monitored for safety. Presumably, a human operator would be able to step in and control the vehicle should something unexpected happen.

The joint venture between Nissan and DeNA will provide an opportunity to test out various services during the ride. Customers can request destinations via voice commands or text messages, and a tablet display in the car will show recommendations for nearly 500 places of interest, such as restaurants in the area. Riders can also download discount coupons from nearby vendors directly to their phones.

Easy Ride is meant to be an upscale service, akin to a concierge on wheels, a Nissan executive told Reuters. “We realize that it’s going to take time to become a service operator, but we want to enter into this segment by partnering with companies which are experts in the field,” said chief executive Hiroto Saikawa.

In partnering with DeNA, Nissan can utilize one of the world’s biggest social gaming networks. The company has experience developing user interfaces as well as payment systems. With 30 million users, DeNA already operates a user-sourced car-sharing app.

The company has also worked on a self-driving taxi system before joining with Nissan, and has been testing self-driving shuttle buses in Japan

In a video showcasing the new technology, Easy Ride is used by a variety of passengers, from bilingual hipster tourists to children on their way home from school. At one point, a customer stops at a bakery, but there’s no parking. He simply sets a timer on his phone and the car cruises the neighborhood while he browses the shop, returning after 10 minutes to pick him up.

Customers will fill out a survey afterwards rating their experience and suggestions for pricing.

Although this first field test only lasts a few weeks, Nissan has been working on the Easy Ride service since last year, and hopes to have its self-driving taxi service fully operational by 2020. That’s when the Summer Olympics come to town, offering a worldwide audience and tourists from all over the globe.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Go ahead, have another! The best ridesharing apps help get you home safely
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  • Ridesharing giant Uber’s rise has been meteoric, anything but trouble-free


Nokia announces €749 Nokia 8 Sirocco, improved Nokia 7 Plus and Android Go-powered Nokia 1


Nokia goes all-in on Android One and looks toward the high-end market.

Last year’s MWC marked a re-launch of the Nokia brand under new parent company HMD Global, so it was only fitting that the company would take to MWC 2018 to launch a few more phones.

We’re getting three brand new Android devices, as well as an awesome throwback feature phone to capture even more of the nostalgia surrounding the Nokia brand.

The most eye-catching launch of the group is the Nokia 8 Sirocco, which is a super-high-end variant of the Nokia 8 from last year. At €749 it’s a full €150 more than the original Nokia 8, and thus the most expensive phone to bare the brand name since HMD Global took over. The Sirocco version basically seems like an excuse for Nokia to flex its design muscle and try something new, while also testing the waters for a true flagship-level priced phone with the Nokia brand.

Nokia went all-out on the Sirocco, testing the waters for this brand in the flagship Android space.

The most stunning part of the Nokia 8 Sirocco is its move to an 18:9 display with small bezels, rounded corners, and curved sides. The display is just 5.5-inches, keeping the phone small (notably smaller than a Galaxy S8) but also great-looking. The 2160×1080 pOLED display curves on the left and right edges, while the Gorilla Glass 5 on the front is dramatically curved on all four sides. Matching Gorilla Glass is on the back, and a metal frame shines through in contrasting colors between.

Inside, Nokia went all out the best it could: Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 3260mAh battery, Quick Charge 4.0, Qi wireless charging and IP67 water resistance. And because this is a flagship-level phone, of course it has no headphone jack — that’s a shame. There’s a pair of Zeiss-branded cameras on the back, with a 12MP 1.4-micron sensor and f/1.75 lens as the primary and a 13MP 1-micron sensor with f/2.6 telephoto lens as the secondary.

Nokia’s commitment to Android One going forward makes this the most expensive phone yet with that brand.

Interestingly the launch of the Nokia 8 Sirocco coincides with Nokia’s commitment to using Android One on all of its phones, meaning this is far and away the most expensive phone with that Google-sanctioned software on board. Nokia’s phones already ran a very simple and clean version of Android, so it really made sense to go with an official Android One certification and take the Google support. It means the Sirocco will be launching on Android 8.0 Oreo, with 8.1 on the way quickly after phones ship, and there will be a guarantee of two years of platform updates in the wings.

Nokia doesn’t have specific markets to announce here at MWC 2018, but I sure hope that it gives this phone a chance in the U.S. We do know that it’s targeting an April launch, so we don’t have to wait too long to see where it’s headed for sure.


Even though the Nokia 8 Sirocco will get headlines, it’s the Nokia 7 Plus that deserves attention for looking like a really solid all-around phone with great specs at an affordable price. The Nokia 7 Plus, as the name implies, builds somewhat on the Nokia 7 — but actually makes many upgrades in screen size, design and internals.

This is a seriously feature-packed phone for just €399.

The biggest external change is the move to a 6-inch 18:9 display, which despite the large diagonal increase doesn’t lead to a dramatically larger phone. The display is 2160×1080 resolution, but is an IPS LCD rated at 500 nits of brightness, which is all great for this price segment. The case is now a metal with a ceramic-like paint coating for better grip, accented by some nice metal finishes that together hide the embedded antennas.

Elsewhere you’ll find an upgrade to a Snapdragon 660 processor, paired with the same 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The extra size let Nokia add in more battery, bringing the capacity up to a sizable 3800mAh — which should pair well with the Snapdragon 660 and 1080p resolution for great battery life. The 7 Plus also moves to dual cameras, a 12MP f/1.75 main and 13MP f/2.6 telephoto secondary, plus a 16MP front-facing camera.

All of that will set you back just €399 — a great price for what’s here. We don’t know specific market availability, but we do know it’ll be on sale from April.


Coming back down to reality where not everyone can buy an expensive phone, Nokia has a brand new low-end entry in the Nokia 1. This is Nokia’s first Android Go phone, coming in at the equivalent of $85.

It isn’t flashy or exciting, but this is exactly what Google wanted from the Android Go program.

For the money, this is a really neat looking phone. It has that bit of Nokia flare with its solid-color polycarbonate shell and bright colors, plus some nice-to-have specs and features. There’s a 4.5-inch display here, but it’s a comfortable 854×480 resolution and is, impressively, an IPS panel. There’s a MediaTek (MT6737M) quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, dual SIM slots and a removable 2150mAh battery. You even get two cameras — 5MP on the rear and 2MP on the front — which still isn’t a given at this price point.

It isn’t flashy or exciting, but getting solid hardware and a familiar name behind a phone at this price is exactly the kind of thing Google was looking for when it announced the Android Go program. It also means that Nokia can get out a super-inexpensive phone and have it launch with Android Oreo software that’s optimized for this low-end hardware. Don’t expect this one in North America or even most of Europe, but it will hit in more emerging markets where price expectations are extremely low.


The ZTE Blade V9 looks like every other phone, but at €269 that’s just fine


A simple dual-camera phone with impressive specs for the price.

ZTE hasn’t put out a traditional flagship since 2016 (no, the Axon M doesn’t count), but the Chinese company’s bread and butter, at least outside of its home country, continues to be the low-end and mid-range of the Android world.

Building on the success line, which came to the U.S. in 2017 with the V8 Pro, comes the Blade V9, an impressive piece of hardware for €269. Its claim to fame is a 5.7-inch 18:9 screen with vivid colors and excellent viewing angles, with an 84% screen-to-body ratio. There’s also a Snapdragon 450, either 3GB/32GB or 4GB/64GB of RAM and storage, a dual camera setup with a 16MP primary sensor that excels in low light, a 3100mAh battery, and Android 8.1 out of the box with a minimal skin.

ZTE isn’t bringing the Blade V9 to the U.S. anytime soon — this particular release is aimed at Spain, Germany, Russia, Mexico, and China. There’s also going to be a smaller Blade V9 Vita with a smaller 5.45-inch screen, a larger 3200mAh battery, and either 2GB/16GB or 3GB/32GB of RAM and storage.

With a design that looks pretty much like every other metal-and-glass phone sandwich these days, the Blade V9 has little going for it but its competitive price and ZTE’s relative trustworthiness when it comes to software quality and updates.

Are you interested? It’s unclear when the Blade V9 will be released, but it shouldn’t be long.


Nokia commits to Android One software on all of its smartphones going forward

This is a stealthily smart move.

Nokia’s making some waves in the Android market, and came out swinging in 2017 with several phones at affordable price points with solid design and really good specs. Its phones have been lauded for offering a very clean and well-performing version of Android, both with its initial Nougat builds and later with Oreo updates.

Now, the company says it’s partnering with Google and committing to using the Android One software on all of its smartphones going forward. That means everything at the Nokia 3 level and above — the Nokia 1 is an Android Go phone, and the featurephone-level devices like the Nokia 8110 aren’t running Android in the first place.


Starting with the new Nokia 8 Sirocco and Nokia 7 Plus, we’re going to see Nokia’s phones ship with the Android One “version” of Android — currently, 8.0 Oreo. I put “version” in quotes because it’s important to understand that Android One isn’t a separate track of Android at all — it’s functionally identical, but simply passes an extra level of scrutiny from Google in terms of performance, functionality and user experience; plus a full suite of Google’s apps and services, of course. In return for playing by Google’s rules, you get help in terms of software updates and support. Win-win, really.

Functionally there isn’t a whole lot different between what Nokia was already doing with software and what Android One promises to offer, but this Google partnership does provide a bit of confidence and credence to the Nokia brand as its reinvents itself.

Having Google’s stamp of approval helps give potential buyers confidence in the Nokia brand.

Having Google’s stamp of approval to make these new phones Android One “certified” (for lack of a better term) helps give potential buyers confidence that the performance and experience will be solid — and of course it also comes with a guarantee of two years of platform updates. The €399 Nokia 7 Plus is precisely the kind of phone the Android One program has started to target recently, with really good specs and interesting hardware at an affordable mid-range price. At the same time, the €749 Nokia 8 Sirocco is immediately the most expensive Android One phone by a wide margin — but even though it has high-end specs it can still benefit from the Google-sanctioned software experience.

We don’t have details on what this means for Nokia’s current handful of phones that shipped in the last year, but my best guess is that they continue on their own software paths as they’re slowly replaced by new models under the Android One software branding.

Press release:

Introducing five new Nokia phones

Pure, secure and up-to-date Android reinforced with smartphone portfolio commitment to Android One programme

Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2018 – HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, today announced four new additions to its award-winning portfolio of Android smartphones – Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus, new Nokia 6 and Nokia 1. Delivering all the craftsmanship you expect from a Nokia phone, each new smartphone offers durability and reliability as standard, with the range setting new benchmarks in materials and design.

Furthering its promise to a pure, smart, secure and up-to-date Android experience, HMD Global also announced it is to become the first global partner to have a full suite of devices selected into the Android One programme by Google. The unwavering commitment to deliver a pure, secure and up-to-date Android experience has ensured Nokia smartphones were a natural fit for the global programme.

In addition to these stunning new Android smartphones, the iconic Nokia 8110 is reloaded, delivering 4G connectivity, apps including Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Search, Facebook and Twitter, and the return of the slider phone.

Pure, secure and up-to-date reinforced with Android One commitment

Three new Nokia smartphones – the Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus and the new Nokia 6 – join the Android One family, offering a high quality software experience designed by Google. Each phone will stay fresh over time with the latest AI powered innovations to the highest grade of security from Google. With a pure Android installation, Nokia smartphones come with no unnecessary UI changes or hidden processes that would eat up battery life or slow them down so you can enjoy your new phone for longer. Each of the new phones comes with a limited number of pre-installed apps so that you’ll get more storage space, as well as the latest innovations that help you stay ahead of the game every day.

By shipping with Android Oreo™ out of the box, you’ll be able to enjoy the latest features, including Picture-in-Picture for multitasking, Android Instant Apps to discover and run apps with minimal friction, 60 fantastic new emojis and battery-maximising features like limiting background app use.

Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer of HMD Global, said:

“We pride ourselves on making smartphones that address real-world needs. Our commitment to pure, secure and up-to-date Android is core to our strategy and is loved by consumers. Today, we take that commitment to a deeper level by becoming the lead partner for the Android One programme globally, delivering an experience that is endorsed by Google.”

Pekka Rantala, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer of HMD Global, said:

“A smartphone is an everyday partner and something people need to know they can rely on. Last year we promised that we would deliver on all the hallmarks of a true Nokia phone experience and that we would live up to the trust people have in the Nokia brand. This year, we are delighted to join the Android One programme that reinforces our commitment to pure, secure and up-to-date Android and makes us a natural choice. Today, with our expanded portfolio, we feel every consumer can pick a Nokia phone they can truly rely on.”

Jamie Rosenberg, VP, Business & Operations, Android & Google Play:

“Android One is our flagship partner programme, and this comprehensive line-up of new Nokia smartphones represents our biggest partnership to date. Now, users around the world can find the perfect device to fit their needs and know they’re getting a high-quality hardware and software experience that’s smart, secure, and simply amazing.”


What Galaxy S9 color should I buy: Black, purple, blue, or gray?

Now, this is a big decision.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ have very subtle design differences compared to the Galaxy S8 and S8+, but one clear way to recognize them at a glance are their new colors. Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue and Titanium Gray are the color options, and aside from black they’re all fresh hues we haven’t seen before.

Here’s a good look at all four colors, and some information on what you can expect from each one so you can make an informed decision when you go to order.

Galaxy S9 in Midnight Black

Samsung’s been doing Midnight Black phones for a few years now, and the Galaxy S9’s version is no different. This is a solid black color with no real extra shine or glimmer to it. The metal frame is now more of a gray color on account of its texturing, which differs from the high-gloss black finish on the Galaxy S8. It’s very similar to the black Galaxy S7, in fact.

Who is it for?

If you want to play it safe, go for the Midnight Black color. It hides scratches better than the other lighter colors, and you won’t be attracting any unwanted attention to your phone. If you plan on just putting a case on your phone anyway, black is probably the easiest color to re-sell later on when you’re done with the phone.

Galaxy S9 in Lilac Purple

Lilac Purple is a brand new color for Samsung, and it kind of picks up where Orchid Gray left off in the Galaxy S8. It’s far more reflective and has a deeper color to it that’s more susceptible to changing its look in various lighting conditions, which means it will range from a deep purple (in dark lighting) to almost a grayish pink color (in bright light). The metal frame is a dull purple or pink, depending on the light. Of all four colors, Lilac Purple stands out the most — partially because there just aren’t many purple phones out there, but also on account of its reflectivity and pink accents.

Who is it for?

If you’re looking for a stand-out phone that’ll get noticed and never be confused for anyone else’s at the dinner table, Lilac Purple is the color for you. It’s a good bet that even among Galaxy S9 and S9+ owners that Lilac Purple will be the lowest-selling variety, so you have the best shot at staying unique for a while when you choose it.

Galaxy S9 in Coral Blue

Having a name like Coral Blue is a bit of a misnomer — this isn’t anything like Samsung’s previous blues, but more of a powder blue instead. I’d consider it a gray-based phone with some blue to it when you get it in bright lighting. When it’s in darker areas, you can’t tell it apart from the Titanium Gray model. The metal frame is a little bit of a giveaway with its soft blue shade, but even then it still doesn’t substantially stand out. It still has some of that reflectivity that Lilac Purple does, and that’s really the only time that it shows off a lot of its blue tendencies.

Who is it for?

Coral Blue is a great balance between the simple Midnight Black and the overtly bright Lilac Purple. Most of the time it’s quite simple and sleek looking, but in the right light it can show off its reflections and look far more blue. Coral Blue is a handsome, sophisticated color that you can’t go wrong with.

Galaxy S9 in Titanium Gray

Titanium Gray is a simple color, without much of the color-shifting tendencies seen in Lilac Purple and Coral Blue. It’s just gray, and when you get it in brighter or darker lighting, it just looks a bit closer to white and a bit closer to black. In the right lighting, it’ll look identical to Coral Blue. The metal frame is just a pure gray that looks like the most natural metal color, giving it more of an industrial look than the other three.

Who is it for?

Titanium Gray won’t be available in the U.S., so strike it off of your list if you’re buying it there. But if you have the choice, give it a look if you don’t want Midnight Black but aren’t interested in the shimmering color-changing feature of Lilac Purple or Coral Blue. Gray will always be gray no matter what, and if that sounds like a safe bet then you should go for it.

Regional differences matter (a little less this time)


As ever, not all regions are getting the same colors of the Galaxy S9 and S9+. In the U.S., we have access to three colors: black, purple and blue. As far as individual U.S. carriers go, historically they’re only each willing to take on two colors — so we don’t yet know which (if any) will go for all three.

Unfortunately, Titanium Gray is limited to international markets. In those worldwide markets, you can expect two or three colors offered depending on the individual country (and carrier) you’re buying in. And of course this can change over time as exclusivity deals run out and new ones are made — and there’s a good chance Samsung will end up changing its color strategy over the course of the year.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums


Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?

Samsung’s market leader versus Google’s idealistic view of a smartphone.

Samsung’s flagships may outsell Google’s in massive numbers, but that definitely doesn’t stop many of us from thinking that the Pixel phones are the absolute best expression of Android on a smartphone. The Google Pixel 2 launched into a world where the Galaxy S8 was already over six months old, and now the roles are reversed: we have the brand-new Galaxy S9 to compare to.

The Galaxy S9 shares a lot with its predecessor, but there are strategic improvements that help it match the Pixel 2 — and in some areas it continues to best Google’s little flagship. Here’s how the new Galaxy S9 compares to the Pixel 2 in hardware, software and value.

What’s the same

Despite dramatic differences in initial appearances, there’s a lot shared between these phones. Sure the materials and designs differ, but they’re actually nearly the same overall size. The Pixel 2 is a tad shorter and lighter, but both phones are pretty compact and easy enough to manage in one hand — especially compared to the ever-growing competition in the 6-inch (and-above) smartphone space.

Samsung Galaxy S9 specs

Throughout the hardware you’ll find matching spec and features. The Galaxy S9’s new fingerprint sensor placement on the back matches the Pixel 2, as does the IP68 water resistance, stereo speakers, 64GB base storage and relatively small battery capacity — though the Galaxy S9 does edge out the Pixel 2 by 300mAh there, real-world use of the Pixel 2 shows it can do great things with what it has.

The phones are almost the same size, and filled with the same core specs and features.

For all of the design similarities between the Galaxy S8 and S9, one thing that took a big upgrade was the camera — and it’s exciting enough to have it up here in the “same” section to be mentioned alongside the Pixel 2. The Galaxy S9’s new camera sensor is doing a lot of the same multi-frame advanced processing of images that we hear Google talk about with HDR+ on the Pixel 2. And while I don’t have enough experience with the Galaxy S9’s camera to know for sure, early signs are the phone has what it takes to take much better photos than before — and potentially challenge the best in the industry.

Add in its adjustable aperture up to f/1.5 and we could see low-light performance that takes a considerable jump up to challenge the Pixel 2 as well. Right now this is still the Pixel 2’s crown, but I’m glad the Galaxy S9 didn’t stick with an iterative setup from the Galaxy S8. At the same time, the Galaxy S9 adds in 4K 60 fps video, as well as 960 fps slow-motion — both of which best the Pixel 2’s video capabilities.

What’s different

Remember our comparison of the Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2? Well, for the most part, you can just press replay on that. It only takes a glance to tell these phones have completely different identities, with the Galaxy S9’s primarily glass build and glistening curves contrasting with the Pixel 2’s monolithic metal and subtlety. Both execute their designs well, but it’s easy to see why so many people prefer the flashy head-turning design of modern Samsung phones — even if the glass back is a bit more fragile. Not everyone is attracted to the subtle approach of the Pixel 2, even if its metal body may age better.

Polar opposites in design, all surrounding a startling difference in usable screen space for the size.

Then, of course, there’s the difference in usable screen space for the size of the phone. In the same overall hardware package, the Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch 18.5:9 display, versus the Pixel 2’s 5-inch 16:9 display. Put another way, over 83% of the front of the Galaxy S9 is screen, whereas under 70% of the Pixel 2 is screen. That’s a startling difference in usable screen space for the same size of phone. Sure the immediate sides of the Galaxy S9 are curved and therefore not all that usable, and full-screen content doesn’t always utilize the space, but it’s tough to shake the feeling that the Pixel 2 “wastes” space on the front of the phone.

What’s inarguable is the difference in screen quality. The Galaxy S9 took the Galaxy S8’s display and made it 15% brighter, adding more brightness to what was already a bright, vibrant and just generally wonderful display. The Pixel 2 also has an OLED panel, but it’s just on a lower level in terms of colors and brightness, not to mention its 1920×1080 resolution is a bit lower as well. The Pixel 2’s display is certainly good enough, but it’s not an industry leader like the Galaxy S9.

Samsung wins on the ‘number of features’ game, but loses by the same account in software.

Samsung is always going to win the “number of features” game, and that’s clear again here with its inclusion of extras like a headphone jack, wireless charging, and an SD card slot. You can argue that having an option of 128GB internal storage on the Pixel 2 negates some of the SD card value, and you could also say the wireless charging is more of a niche feature. But you can’t say that having a headphone jack isn’t a huge benefit — particularly when you don’t have to give up anything else in the hardware to get it. Samsung even adds a really nice pair of earbuds in the box; Google gives you a USB-C headphone dongle.

Now, here’s where things swing in the other direction: the Pixel 2’s software experience. This is a place where Samsung’s approach of “more features” can get in the way of having enjoyable and useful software for many people. Android 8.1 Oreo on the Pixel 2 is smooth, clean, consistent, and great to use. The Galaxy S9 has far more features, but so many of them are set up to be left unused and just sit in your way when you’re trying to do other things. Convoluted processes for doing so many things just seem unnecessary when you see how simple it all is on the Pixel 2. It’s a difference in philosophy and perhaps Samsung’s approach doesn’t bother you, but people who use Pixels know what I’m talking about here — using Google’s take on Android is fantastic, and it stays that way over time with three years of guaranteed software updates.

Bottom line: Which should you buy?

There’s a lot to digest in this comparison. Much of the core experience and features are shared between the Galaxy S9 and Pixel 2, but the exterior designs, screen and additional features differ widely. There are two clearly different approaches to a high-end smartphone at play here.

There are two clearly different approaches to a high-end smartphone at play here.

The Galaxy S9 is the features king, with hardware that bests the Pixel 2 with extras like wireless charging, a headphone jack, newer processor, bigger battery, and a larger (and nicer) display. The hardware is flashy, which is appealing to many people, even if it’s a bit more fragile. The Pixel 2 is much more subtle in its hardware and simple to use in its software. It has the core features you need, and little extra. There aren’t many headline-grabbing things you can point to, but just use one for a few days, and you’ll see what all the talk is about. It also has a proven great camera, and the track record of software support direct from Google.

Finally, we have to remember pricing. As high-end smartphone prices continue to rise, the Pixel 2 held its ground down at a relatively affordable $649. The Galaxy S9, on the other hand, has upped its price to about $800 — which I think is now enough of a gap to matter to people when they’re cross-shopping these two phones. If you’re really keeping the budget tight, the Google Pixel 2 is obviously a better choice. If you’re willing to pay more money for more features, regardless of whether the overall experience may be better, you’re likely to go with the Galaxy S9.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

  • Pixel 2 FAQ: Everything you need to know!
  • Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
  • Google Pixel 2 specs
  • Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What’s the difference?
  • Join our Pixel 2 forums

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ hands-on preview: The biggest gets better


This will be your default flagship choice in 2018.

People who are “in the know” with technology often refer to companies as having a “tick-tock” release cycle — in which a product receives a very large improvement one year, followed by a subtle refresh the next. I can never remember which one is the “tick” and which is a “tock,” and I don’t think many other people keep it straight, either. Not to mention all of the normal people who don’t care either way. Regardless, looking back at Samsung’s recent Galaxy S releases, it follows this pattern pretty well.

The Galaxy S6 marked a massive change from the Galaxy S5. Its successor, the Galaxy S7, didn’t really change the design much — but made many subtle improvements to the likes of battery life, expandable storage and the cameras. The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, was a big departure with a new form factor, commitment to curved displays and a change in overall philosophy — dropping the physical home button, moving to a new 18.5:9 aspect ratio and trying some bold moves with biometrics. So now, the Galaxy S9 is once again one of those light-touch iterations like the GS7: focused on ironing out the small issues and improving on what was Samsung’s best-selling phone yet.

That’s not to say that the Galaxy S8 and S8+ were perfect and just needed a coat of paint — there were some legitimate complaints with 2017’s flagships. The Galaxy S8 wasn’t known for great battery life. The larger Galaxy S8+ had a very tough-to-use fingerprint sensor. After a few years of leading the smartphone camera world, Samsung started to fall behind in imaging prowess. Both phones under-delivered with iris scanning. Bixby hasn’t taken the world by storm. Yup, there’s room for improvement here — this is how Samsung made it happen for 2018.

Moving picture version

Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands-on video

For the quick take on the Galaxy S9 and S9+, be sure to watch our hands-on preview video above. To get deeper into the specifics and see my full impressions, read on!


Don’t hate, iterate

Samsung Galaxy S9 Hardware and specs

The Galaxy S9 and S9+, at a glance, look identical to the Galaxy S8 and S8+. The average person wouldn’t know which of the two generations was newer even when picking up and twirling them around for a minute. This definitely isn’t an iPhone 6 to iPhone 6s situation where the hardware was entirely unchanged, but it leans that way. The design principles haven’t shifted, but the process and details have. For the astute observers, there are things to take note of — and every single one is an improvement over the Galaxy S8.

The looks haven’t changed much, but the materials and execution have.

If there was one complaint to be had with the Galaxy S8’s design, it was its fragility — or, at the very least, perceived fragility. In pursuit of those sleek lines and glossy simplicity, the Galaxy S8 in particular felt a little too light — and in my time using it over the last year, the back glass was well-worn. Even though the dimensions and design of the Galaxy S9 haven’t really changed, the materials certainly have. The entire metal frame is thicker and immediately feels more robust. The rear glass, too, is thicker — not something that will necessarily stop scratches, but could in theory reduce cracking. The metal now has a textured feel to it, more along the lines of the Galaxy S7 (or perhaps a bit more textured), which I far prefer to the Galaxy S8’s glossy coating. In short, the metal feels more like metal. And that’s a great thing.

The material changes lead to phones that feel dramatically more solid. Denser. Less flimsy. And that makes sense when you look at the numbers: weights are up just slightly — 8 grams for the GS9, 12 for the GS9+ — and both phones are slightly shorter — 1.2 and 1.4 mm, respectively — than their predecessors. More weight in less space gives you a more solid-feeling phone, without making either one unwieldy — though the GS9+ is pushing the envelope at 189 grams, nearing the Galaxy Note 8’s 195.

A more solid-feeling phone, and one with an even brighter display.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ keep the same screen sizes, 5.8- and 6.2-inches, as well as striking screen curves and 2960×1440 resolutions. The only improvement here is a big, useful one: a 15% bump in brightness, up to 700 nits — and that’s before the Adaptive Display cranks things up in direct sunlight. We’re looking at a display with roughly the same capabilities as the Galaxy Note 8, which is often lauded as having an industry-leading panel by both subjective opinions and objective measurements. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ sure looked fantastic to my eyes, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Samsung.

With slightly shorter overall heights that means that the top and bottom bezels have shrunk ever-so-slightly — an imperceptible amount, really. Samsung managed this subtle shrinkage without removing anything from the phones — they have the same battery capacities and hardware features as before, including wireless charging, a microSD card slot, IP68 water resistance, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and all of the latest radios.

Complete Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs


Then it made some improvements. The down-firing loudspeaker is now accompanied by a top-of-screen earpiece that acts as a second speaker for stereo separation. The combination is 1.4 times louder than before and will sound even better in certain circumstances with Dolby Atmos support. And in a segment where so many companies cheap out, AKG earbuds still come in the box. Elsewhere the Galaxy S9+ bumped up to 6GB of RAM to match last year’s Note 8, though the standard GS9 oddly still has 4GB. Nerds will also appreciate gigabit LTE inside, though it’s more futureproofing than anything at this point.

Now you get stereo speakers, more RAM, new processors and a fingerprint sensor you can reach.

You may have noticed I also glossed over the battery size situation here when mentioning specs. Yes, Samsung stuck to the same 3000 and 3500mAh capacities this year. Unless Samsung engineered in some big-time battery efficiency with its software, I don’t think adding the more frugal Snapdragon 845 (or Exynos 9) processor is going to bring enough power savings to make the Galaxy S9 last much longer than the outgoing Galaxy S8 — and that’s potentially an issue. Samsung’s messaging here is “all-day battery,” but at the same time it’s always happy to remind you it’s super easy to charge up with its Fast Wireless Chargers — a final judgement will have to wait for the review.

And I somehow managed to bury the lead: Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to a … sensible position. In “response to customer feedback,” Samsung managed to move the fingerprint sensor below the camera(s) on the back of the phones — something that has been a thorn in the side of every Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8 owner. It’s still a little high on the back of the phone as it still shares the glass cutout with the camera assembly, so time will tell just how easy it is to reach — as a point of comparison, it’s placed a few millimeters higher on the back than on a Google Pixel 2. It’s also still oval-shaped rather than circular like so many others. You’ll have to forgive me for being skeptical, but those worries aside my initial response to feeling it was, “THEY DID IT!”


Oreo we know

Samsung Galaxy S9 Software and features

Samsung once again revealed its hand by releasing its Android 8.0 Oreo update to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earlier this year, bringing both Google’s improvements and interface changes as part of Samsung Experience 9.0. Though that update has been put on hold for many regions, it’s been out long enough to compare it to what I saw on the Galaxy S9 — and well, it’s nearly identical.

Oreo brings lots of subtle improvements, but no single feature you’ll want to write home about.

Naturally you get the core Oreo features like better notification management, in-app auto-fill for passwords, picture-in-picture mode for some apps, background limits and other battery improvements, and smarter text management. Welcome additions, all — but you won’t be ecstatic about any one of those changes, but the group is a nice improvement over Android 7.0. And because Samsung has improved the overall speed and fluidity of the Galaxy S8 with its Oreo update, we can only hope that the S9 series escapes any of that long-term slowdown notorious to Galaxy devices.

Regarding the interface and core features, you’ll find everything where you left it on Nougat, with a few tweaks to the launcher, settings and some of the bundled apps. Some of the “new” features were those introduced on the Note 8, like App Pair on the edge screen, while others, like proper long-press shortcuts in the launcher, are altogether new — in both cases, useful but not groundbreaking.


One entirely new feature is Samsung’s attempt to fix its other biometric blunder, the iris scanner — but it isn’t in the way you’d think. Samsung isn’t claiming any improved iris scanner performance, which is interesting, but it’s making a substantial change to your interactions with it with a new feature called “Intelligent Scan.” Now rather than choosing iris scanning or face unlock, you can use both simultaneously to unlock your phone. Enroll your irises and your face, and the phone will unlock with whatever one it can identify first as the screen comes on. In practice, as we’ve seen with the Google Pixel 2 and OnePlus 5T, face unlocking is extremely quick — and for this reason, I’d expect the Galaxy S9 and S9+ will be unlocking with that method a majority of the time. But this way you’ll have your irises enrolled as well, so when an app requires that higher level of security it can choose to only use an iris scan.

This doesn’t entirely fix Samsung’s muddy authentication options or take on Apple’s Face ID in terms of security, but in practice, it’ll work dramatically better than the old system. And with the fingerprint sensor that is now moved back to a reasonable location, you can easily reach, the entire fingerprint/iris/face combination is a formidable one that can make me forget about the Galaxy S8’s stumbles.


Bixby is still alive and well on the Galaxy S9 and S9+, complete with Bixby Home enabled by default and the Bixby button sitting below the volume rocker on the left side ready to take you there or enable voice actions with a long press. Bixby Home continues to evolve, and if you’ve had it turned off for the past six months you probably owe it to yourself to turn it on and see how it’s improved since your first interaction with it. The same goes for Bixby Voice, which has its own narrow set of useful features if you’re into voice-as-an-interface to start with. Samsung says over half of its customers who have Bixby use it — though I assume that’s through a loose definition of “use.”

The big changes with Bixby on the Galaxy S9 are all related to Bixby Vision, the portion of the AI assistant that’s baked right into your camera interface. Tap the Bixby Vision button in the viewfinder and you’ll see new options for live translation of text (powered by Google Translate), improved image recognition and support for identification of calories in food. These are the sorts of things we’ve seen attempted plenty of times, including with Google Lens, and even in ideal conditions, they are hit-or-miss on the Galaxy S9. While I completely agree that the main camera interface is the right place for these functions, I just don’t see the utility in them until the recognition is amazingly accurate and fast — and right now it just isn’t.


Early teasers of the Galaxy S9 hinted at an Apple Animoji competitor, and now we know what it’s all about. It’s called AR Emoji, and it isn’t really similar to Animoji at all. To kick it off, you scan your face — not unlike the process of setting up face unlock — and create a cartoon version of yourself. Best way I can describe the cartoon selfie of yourself is a cross between a Bitmoji and a Nintendo Mii character — humans, but not realistic. I thought they looked pretty accurate, but as is always the case with these things, unique features of your face and hair are kind of marginalized.

Samsung outdid Apple with AR Emoji — but this is one feature you’ll likely forget about.

Once saved, you can select that character while in selfie mode in the camera and apply dozens of masks and funny filters all in real-time responding to what you’re doing using the front-facing camera. Most feel like they’re just lifted from Snapchat and Instagram, but nobody cares — they’re fun to mess around with, and help lower the barrier for some people to take and share selfies. The tracking and animations aren’t fantastic, but they’re pretty good — and there’s a good variety of filters that respond well to changes in your expressions.

Because this is all happening in the main camera app, you can take photos and video of yourself in this character version or with all of these wacky filters and share them anywhere you’d share a regular selfie photo or video. Given that AR Emoji is wide-open and not limited in any way, from my point of view Samsung absolutely beat Apple at its own game here — even if the face tracking and character rendering aren’t quite as good as Apple. Being able to save and send these things anywhere trumps the rendering every day of the week.

But I’d also argue this isn’t a game that matters and will be a feature so many people ignore after the first week with their new Galaxy S9 or S9+. And no matter how many commercials Apple may run to promote Animoji, nobody’s really using it over there, either.


A fresh approach

Samsung Galaxy S9 Cameras

Samsung was leading the smartphone industry with the camera experience on the Galaxy S7. It has since been passed by Google’s Pixel lineup and challenged further by the likes of HTC and Huawei. I feared it was destined to sit on the same basic camera setup for yet another generation and was pleasantly surprised — this is a new take on the camera.

Camera improvements may be the biggest story of the Galaxy S9 and S9+.

The only thing that stays the same year-over-year is the resolution: 12MP. The rest has been improved, and though I haven’t used the phones long enough (or in real-world conditions) to know how much has been improved, it all looks fantastic on paper. It all starts with a new sensor, which Samsung is branding “Super Speed Dual Pixel” but (understandably) isn’t disclosing which company makes it. That branding coincides with an important improvement: DRAM embedded in the sensor, which is used to dramatically enhance the capture and processing capabilities of the camera.

With this new sensor, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ do what’s called batch photo capture, in which each photo actually captures 12 frames — those 12 are bunched into groups of 4, and those 3 resulting images are then processed into 1 final image. It’s the sort of computational photography that’s all the rage right now, and something Google has done with fantastic results in HDR+ on the Pixel and Pixel 2.


Functionally, Samsung is claiming this processing offers a reduction in noise — that grainy and blotchy stuff you see in photos — of up to 30% compared to even the Galaxy S8. That means flat surfaces in photos will look flat and not rough, and edges will be sharper and more defined. Now processing to remove grain is a fine line that can easily be crossed to the point of over-sharpening, which looks bad in an entirely different way, but on the surface this is a fantastic change. Some of the sample images Samsung offered showed a dramatic improvement in fine detail.

On-sensor DRAM also enabled Samsung to step up its slow-motion video capture game, pushing to 960 fps — the camera can capture 0.2-second bursts at this super-high frame rate, which when played back normally come out to 6-second clips. The way Samsung does this in the interface is quite useful, though, because it can trigger that slowmotion capture automatically when it detects motion in a certain area defined in the viewfinder. It’ll then bookend that slow motion clip with a bit of recording at 30 fps on either end, and package it all up for you. The camera will even automatically generate looping and boomerang-style .gifs so you can share them anywhere or set them as your lock screen image.

Going a step further, that new sensor sits behind quite a technical marvel: a lens with a physically adjusting aperture. Yes, in a smartphone. Unlike nearly every other smartphone that has a fixed aperture or some sort of software-simulated changing aperture, this one actually physically changes in size from f/1.5 to f/2.4. Now it doesn’t offer you a full range of apertures between, just those two, but it’s still impressive regardless.

Galaxy S9 buyer aren’t missing much by not having the secondary camera.

Shooting by default at f/2.4 gives the Galaxy S9 and S9+ less opportunity for distortion and a more fundamentally sound setup — at least when shooting in good lighting. When things get a bit dimmer (under 100 lux, like a dim room), the camera automatically changes to f/1.5 (brighter than the GS8’s f/1.7) to let in nearly 30% more light with just the lens alone, saving the camera from having to crank up the ISO or slow the shutter speed. If you hop over to the “Pro” mode you can choose your aperture manually, along with every other adjustment imaginable, to get exactly the shot you want with the depth of field you desire. Add this new wider aperture to the new sensor’s ability to combine multiple images for reduced noise, and we could be looking at another great low-light camera from Samsung.

As every leak for the past two months indicated, the Galaxy S9+ also packs a secondary camera just like the Galaxy Note 8. There are no claims about the secondary sensor being the Super Speed type, and it has a fixed f/2.4 aperture — so from that standpoint, it isn’t a massive addition. The second camera is used for “lossless” zooming on account of its ~2x focal length, and also enables Samsung’s Live Focus portrait mode.

Considering the real star of the show here is the new main camera, I don’t feel potential Galaxy S9 buyers are missing much by not getting the secondary camera.


Ready to win

Samsung Galaxy S9 Hands-on preview

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are … not that exciting. They aren’t substantially different from their predecessors, they don’t add any massive new feature or make any sweeping design leaps that push the industry forward. But once again Samsung knows its market. It knows it has a massive loyal customer base upgrading from the Galaxy S6 and S7, and those people will be thrilled with the Galaxy S9 or S9+, even if someone harshly dubs it a “refreshed Galaxy S8.” Anyone with either of those older phones will be ecstatic to get a Galaxy S8 that has nearly all of its flaws fixed. A Galaxy S8 with a fingerprint sensor they can reach, and a metal body that feels better and is more robust. A Galaxy S8 with improved performance, new software and a camera that makes a big leap over the last generation.

Samsung didn’t need to bring out an all-new design to make a pair of great phones for 2018.

Samsung didn’t attempt to blow up all of the advancements it made in the Galaxy S8 and S8+ just because the phone had some issues. It would be silly to throw everything out just because the Galaxy S8 wasn’t a “perfect” phone. Samsung instead took the parts that clearly worked, leading to record sales in 2017, and improved on that base by fixing the core flaws and adding in some new features and specs in the process.

We’ve all come to expect that Samsung will lead by example and push the industry in every way, but with its current market position it doesn’t need to — it is rightly far more calculated about its approach. The fact that these new phones are very similar to the last generation doesn’t matter at all to most people, so long as the Galaxy S9 and S9+ themselves are great phones on their own — and every indication from my early look at them is that they are indeed great.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums


Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs

Everything powering Samsung’s flagships.

Unlike 2017’s Galaxy S8 and S8+, there’s a bit more differentiation between the Galaxy S9 and S9+. You’ll see a secondary camera on the back, plus more RAM, and of course that larger screen and battery. That gives the Galaxy S9+ a bit better value proposition at its higher price, but may leave some who want the more compact Galaxy S9 feeling hard done.

Here are the complete spec sheets for the two phones.

Operating system Android 8.0 OreoSamsung Experience 9.0 Android 8.0 OreoSamsung Experience 9.0
Display 5.8-inch AMOLED, 2960×1440 (18.5:9) 6.2-inch AMOLED, 2960×1440 (18.5:9)
Processor Snapdragon 845or 10nm 64-bit Samsung Exynos Snapdragon 845or 10nm 64-bit Samsung Exynos
Storage 64GB 64GB
Expandable microSD up to 400GB microSD up to 400GB
Primary rear camera 12MP Super Speed Dual Pixel, OIS, f/1.5 or f/2.4 12MP Super Speed Dual Pixel, OIS, f/1.5 or f/2.4
Secondary rear camera n/a 12MP, f/2.4
Front camera 8MP, f/1.7, auto focus 8MP, f/1.7, auto focus
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO, 1.2Gbps (Cat-18) LTE, Bluetooth 5.0 LEANT+, NFC, GPS, Glonass Wi-Fi 802.11ac MIMO, 1.2 Gbps (Cat-18) LTE, Bluetooth 5.0 LEANT+, NFC, GPS, Glonass
Audio Stereo speakersDolby Atmos3.5mm headphone Stereo speakersDolby Atmos3.5mm headphone
Battery 3000mAh 3500mAh
Charging USB-CFast Wireless Charging USB-CFast Wireless Charging
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Security Fingerprint sensorIris scanningFace unlock Fingerprint sensorIris scanningFace unlock
Dimensions 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm163 g 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm189 g
Colors Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue (U.S.)Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue, Slate Grey (intl) Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue (U.S.)Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Coral Blue, Slate Grey (intl)

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums


Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: The best of metal and glass

It’s a battle nearly 10 years in the making: Galaxy vs. iPhone.

We’ve seen it play out year after year. Samsung vs. Apple, Galaxy vs. iPhone. The latest iteration of this comparison is the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X. They’re both primarily comprised of metal sandwiched between glass, but we all know there’s more to it than that.

Here’s what you can expect if you’re cross-shopping these two smartphone titans, or at the very least looking over the fence at how green the grass really is.

What’s the same

Whether by careful calculation or pure market forces, Samsung and Apple have ended up making very similarly designed high-end phones. This metal-and-glass sandwich design has propagated across the industry, but you could argue Samsung and Apple are doing it best. The Galaxy S9’s combination is a bit more sleek and curvy, with curved glass on both sides and a narrower overall footprint. Apple’s is a bit more monolithic, and its glossy coating even on the metal sets it off from the Galaxy S9’s metal that has switched back to more of a natural textured finish.

Samsung and Apple have ended up making very similarly designed phones.

The overall size and shape, though, is very similar. The Galaxy S9 is a tad taller and narrower, which with its curves makes it a bit easier to manage in one hand. The iPhone X has a luxurious density and amazing build quality to it that is a cut above Samsung’s phone if you’re really into that sort of thing, but honestly most people wouldn’t perceive a difference unless they spent a lot of time with both phones together.

Samsung Galaxy S9 specs

In terms of hardware features, Samsung and Apple have also converged. The iPhone X added water resistance and wireless charging, and also switched to an OLED screen (and a great one at that) — all hallmarks of Samsung’s flagships, including the Galaxy S9. Samsung hopped on the dual speaker train, which is something Apple’s talked up on its latest devices. Both phones have super-powerful internals and plenty of storage, plus batteries that are good for a day of average use — but either one is likely to need charging before the end of the day if you hit it hard.

What’s different

There is obviously a massive difference in the software and company ecosystem at play here, and that’s not really the goal of this comparison. There are plenty of other places to discuss (and argue about) that elsewhere. Let’s cover the hardware, feature and capability differences.

Apple gets the attention for its notch, but Samsung offers a full screen and better screen-to-body ratio.

Both phones have the same 5.8-inch diagonal screen size, but it’s interesting to see how Samsung and Apple take different approaches to reducing screen bezels — or at least, the perception of bezels. Samsung chooses to go with asymmetrical bezels, thicker on the top than on the sides, and then goes a step further by curving the display in a way that the side bezels seem even smaller. As noted above this makes the Galaxy S9 a bit narrower, which is a clear win unless you happen to have troubles with accidental touches on those curved sides.

The iPhone X has a consistent border around the screen, which arguably makes the bezels seem smaller overall even though the screen-to-body ratio of the iPhone X is slightly lower than the Galaxy S9 — about 82.9% versus 83.5%. That’s because of “the notch,” as it’s affectionately called. Differences between iOS and Android mean Apple can take up that top center of the screen and not have it affect users most of the time, but it does rob you of lots of usable screen real estate when viewing full-screen apps. Samsung almost goes too far the other way, with its 18.5:9 aspect ratio often being filled out with black bars to make full-screen apps work — though I think I’d rather have that situation than be forced to a smaller view by a physical border.

The iPhone X’s dual rear cameras are a clear differentiator.

The Galaxy S9 still has a headphone jack, which is a huge bonus for most people and a nice-to-have feature for the rest — I don’t think anyone prefers not having a headphone jack available on their phone. Samsung’s in-box AKG headphones are a big improvement over those EarPods you get with an iPhone X, too. The same goes for comparisons of a fingerprint sensor versus Face ID: sure, Apple’s security system works well, but there’s a certain simplicity of knowing the fingerprint sensor works every time in all situations. Not to mention that Samsung, too, improved its own facial recognition system in the Galaxy S9, combining face unlock and iris scan into a single system called Intelligent Scan.

The iPhone X’s big win in this comparison is its dual cameras, as the smaller Galaxy S9 doesn’t have them like the GS9+. You can argue that the portrait mode shooting and lossless 2x zoom isn’t as important as the photo quality from the main camera, but it’s something the iPhone X can do the Galaxy S9 just doesn’t match. The Galaxy S9’s new dual-aperture main camera and 12MP sensor have what it takes to produce fantastic photos on par with the iPhone X, but we’ll have to see how that plays out when the Galaxy S9 is released.

Bottom line


Here’s the thing: this comparison is top-of-mind for so many people, but I question whether it’s really a comparison many people should be making considering the price differential at play. The iPhone X famously starts at $999, while the Galaxy S9 comes in considerably less, about $800. For someone buying on a carrier payment plan or even a lease deal, it’s not a huge difference — but buying at full retail or paying any attention to your full price paid over two years will make some hesitate to make that price jump.

This comparison favors the GS9 in an ideal setting — but outside influences get in the way.

But if you take that price differential as a secondary factor, well below the choice between Android and iOS even, you see two phones that have so much in common. Build quality, materials and hardware features line up extremely well, with each getting their small victories down the line. Samsung has a headphone jack, a simple fingerprint sensor and expandable storage; Apple can point to slightly nicer build quality, dual rear cameras and exclusive Face ID authentication.

Which one is right for you? The Galaxy S9 will be a go-to for anyone who already uses Android, as well as someone who wants a high-end phone for less money with much of the same features — plus some extras — as the iPhone X. Obviously if you’re upgrading from an iPhone currently, the iPhone X has to be on your list, but also if you want that nicer overall hardware and some of those Apple-exclusive features.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums


Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?

This one is a tough sell — but a sell Samsung isn’t really trying to make in the first place.

It doesn’t take long to realize the Galaxy S9 is very similar to its predecessor. Hand the two phones to an average person, and they wouldn’t likely know which one is the “newer” device. They have extremely similar designs, the software is near-identical and the insides haven’t dramatically changed either.

Nevertheless, people who love their Galaxy S8 are likely to be interested in anything Samsung has to offer, and will want to know whether the next flagship is worth their time and money. Here’s what you can expect when looking to upgrade from the Galaxy S8 to the Galaxy S9.

What’s the same

Samsung seems happy with its current design language because it kept things nearly identical for its 2018 flagship. The Galaxy S9 is almost the exact same physically as the outgoing Galaxy S8, with only a 1.2 mm reduction in height and 8-gram increase in weight separating the two. The metal and glass are both thicker, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell if someone didn’t let you in on the secret. You may notice the subtle change from a glossy to lightly textured finish on the metal — but the actual feel of it isn’t much different.

Physically, these two phones are nearly identical.

That means that the screen size remains the same at 5.8-inches in the Samsung standard 18.5:9 aspect ratio, with the same resolution, curved sides, rounded corners, and Gorilla Glass covering. The buttons all remain in near-identical positions, including the Bixby button on that left side underneath the volume rocker. Inside you have the same 64GB storage (plus SD card slot), 4GB of RAM, wireless charging, fast charging and all of the other Samsung standards. It also notably did not improve charging speeds, leaving things at Quick Charge 2.0 levels.

The important thing to note here is that nothing has gotten worse or less capable for 2018 — Samsung only built upon and improved from the Galaxy S8. In a way that’s a feature of this release, as so many times we see companies try to push the envelope year-over-year in a way that ends up leaving behind well-liked features from previous versions. So, look on the bright side.

What’s different

The most substantial change in the Galaxy S9 is an all-new camera setup, comprised of a new “Super Speed” Dual Pixel sensor and a lens with a physically variable aperture. The sensor promises to dramatically reduce grain and improve fine edge processing, which was a sore spot of the Galaxy S8 in low-light scenes. Speaking of, the move to an f/1.5 aperture will also let in more light in badly lit scenes, giving that improved sensor even more to work with. The new sensor also gives the Galaxy S9 a 960 fps super slow-motion mode, going well beyond the Galaxy S8 for a super dramatic effect.

Lots of subtle improvements, and absolutely no downside.

Even though the battery hasn’t gotten any larger, there’s a decent chance the Galaxy S9 could offer improved battery life over the Galaxy S8 on account of its more efficient processor. Whether you get the Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9 version, both processors are more frugal with power for normal tasks, which in the end will save you battery. Just how much remains to be seen, though — and other changes to the efficiency of the software could have an even larger effect.

Samsung’s only claimed improvement with the 5.8-inch display for 2018 is a bump in brightness, but at a 15% increase that’s pretty substantial. That puts the GS9’s display roughly on par with the Galaxy Note 8 in overall brightness, and that’s noticeable over the Galaxy S8. The Galaxy S9 bests the S8 and the Note 8 with audio, though, firing up a second speaker above the screen for stereo sound that’s louder and has crucial stereo separation.

And it’s a relatively small thing, but the one real change to the usability of the Galaxy S9 is its fingerprint sensor, which is far easier to reach and use than on the Galaxy S8. It makes the swipe-down gesture for the notification shade more useful, and generally reduces frustration when you’re trying to unlock your phone — something you do hundreds of times a day.

Should you upgrade?


I’ll say it right away: most people who have a Galaxy S8 shouldn’t expect to upgrade to a Galaxy S9. And with all of Samsung’s product decisions and messaging around the Galaxy S9 launch, it doesn’t expect many people to make the one-year upgrade either. There’s a massive base of Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 owners out there that are being targeted here, getting a refreshed and improved Galaxy S8 that’ll still look fantastic compared to those older phones.

If you bought your Galaxy S8 on day one last year and are coming up on one year of ownership, you may be willing to sell off your phone to a third party and pay up the difference, but even in that case you’re looking at hundreds of dollars of outlay to get this newer phone that isn’t that much better. The one thing you could say for upgrading is that the Galaxy S9 does everything the S8 does, plus more — you don’t lose anything in the upgrade process. That being said, it’s tough to argue that a new camera system, moved fingerprint sensor, slightly faster processor and brighter screen is worth the hundreds of dollars it’ll cost to make the jump.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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