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21
Jun

Google Assistant’s ‘Continued Conversations’ Rolling Out to Reduce Need for ‘OK Google’ Commands


Siri rival Google Assistant received a major update today across the Google Home speaker ecosystem with a feature Google revealed at I/O in May, called “Continued Conversation.” Now, when you speak to Google Assistant and wake it up with a “Hey Google” or “OK Google” phrase, you don’t need to repeat the phrase again for a follow-up request.

For example, you can ask “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?”, and then follow up with “And what about tomorrow?” or “Can you remind me to bring an umbrella tomorrow morning?” When your thread of requests is finished, Google explains that you can say “thank you” or “stop” to end the conversation, but Google Assistant will also do this automatically if it detects you’re no longer talking to it.

Continued Conversations will need to be turned on in the Google Assistant app’s Settings > Preferences > Continued Conversation. When starting up a new conversation you’ll still need to say “OK Google” or activate a physical trigger every time, but the company hopes that reducing the instances you need to speak a wake-up phrase will result in more fluid and natural interactions with Google Assistant.

In comparison, Apple’s Siri still requires you to say “Hey Siri” every time a command is given, or by activating the AI assistant manually on iPhone or HomePod. Later this year, Apple will debut improvements to Siri in iOS 12 in the form of a new “Siri Shortcuts” feature, allowing iPhone owners to build customizable workflows and connect a variety of third-party apps and services under one voice command.

Siri remains one of the downsides for Apple’s products for some users, with a recent survey finding that iPhone X early adopters were very satisfied with all features of the smartphone except Siri. Around the time of that survey, The Information reported that Siri has become a “major problem” within Apple and that the assistant remains “limited compared to the competition,” including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Tags: Google, Google Assistant
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21
Jun

MoviePass Will Introduce Surge Pricing for Popular Films Beginning in a Few Weeks


Movie subscription service MoviePass today confirmed that it will soon introduce surge pricing into its business model, charging customers from $2 and up for films that the company deems popular. The news comes from MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe, who confirmed to Business Insider that surge pricing will affect monthly subscribers while annual subscribers will be exempt from what he describes as “high-demand” pricing.

The change will appear for affected subscribers within the “coming weeks,” according to Lowe. Surge pricing is a dynamic, time-based strategy that apps like Uber use when a large amount of customers are requesting rides in the app but there aren’t enough drivers to taxi them around.

Now this will extend to MoviePass, so on opening weekends or at particularly busy late-night showings of popular movies, monthly subscribers should expect to pay a bit more above their locked-in $9.95/month subscription price. Because this is not a fee that the movie theater is charging, users can expect MoviePass to take the surge pricing fee from the credit cards associated with their account — although Lowe or any MoviePass spokesperson has yet to confirm this.

“At certain times for certain films — on opening weekend — there could be an additional charge for films,” Lowe told Business Insider.

Lowe said this decision was a way to have its theaters partners see more traffic for big blockbusters in the mid-week and less-crowded weekends following the movie’s opening weekend. It was also to “make sure that we can continue to offer a valuable service and support the whole enterprise,” Lowe added.

Otherwise, there are two other additions coming to MoviePass this summer: a bring-a-friend feature and IMAX/3D screenings. In the MoviePass iOS and Android app, subscribers will be able to add on a ticket for a non-MoviePass friend, the cost of which will be “somewhere near the retail price of the ticket.”

For IMAX and 3D movies, users will be given the option to pay an added fee for the premium screenings, ranging from $2-$6 according to Lowe. As of now, one of MoviePass’ detriments is that it only allows subscribers to watch regular 2D movies. At launch subscribers will have to choose one of these features or the other for a single film, but eventually they will be able to combine premium and bring-a-friend options for the same movie.

The MoviePass news comes after AMC just yesterday revealed its own movie subscription service, which will let customers watch three movies per week for $19.95 a month — including IMAX and RealD 3D showings. Lowe responded to this new rival service today as well:

“It’s been tough when you have the president of AMC essentially for eight or nine months telling everybody that our subscription was not sustainable, and then he comes out with a program that essentially could cost him $60 or $80 a month to pay the studios their minimums and collecting $19.95,” Lowe said, referring to AMC CEO Adam Aron. “So it is a little bit kind of funny that it’s pretty clear what he wanted to do — clear the way for his own subscription program and not have competition.”

All of the new MoviePass features — including surge pricing — will appear in the MoviePass app by the end of August.

Tag: MoviePass
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21
Jun

Tim Cook Reaffirms Apple’s Commitment to Ireland After Tax Dispute and Abandoned Data Center Plans


Just weeks after Apple abandoned its plans to build a $1 billion data center in Ireland, and amid a major Irish tax dispute with the European Commission, Apple CEO Tim Cook ensures his company remains committed to the country.

In a recent interview with The Irish Times, Cook said Apple appreciated the support it received from the community who wanted the data center to be there, and reaffirmed Apple’s commitment to Ireland as a whole.

“We loved the community there. Fortunately we had great support from the community who wanted us there. That’s probably the biggest disappointment from our point of view; we felt we could have been in the community and made a lot of friends like we had in Cork and grown the relationship over time,” Cook said. “But we understand and respect the process.”

Of course, not all local residents wanted the data center there, as concerns were raised about its potential effects on local animals, flooding on a neighboring golf course, and its close proximity to a shut-down nuclear power plant.

Last October, Apple finally won approval for construction by the Irish High Court, after an appeal by two individuals against the decision was dismissed. However, the appellants decided to take their case to the country’s Supreme Court, resulting in Apple abandoning its plans just before the hearing was to occur.

“Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre,” Apple said in a statement ahead of the Supreme Court heading on Thursday.

“While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow,” the company said, citing plans to expand its European headquarters in County Cork where it employs over 6,000 people.

Cook added that Apple “didn’t come to Ireland for tax,” nearly two years after the European Commission ruled that the company received illegal aid from the country, ordering it to repay 13 billion euros to the country. Apple and Ireland are both appealing the ruling, as escrow payments begin for now.

“We came to Ireland in 1980 because we saw a community we thought we could grow, and could do a number of things to support the continent. We’ve stayed on course on that over almost four decades. It hasn’t been a straight line – life isn’t a straight line, things go up and down – but it’s always been in a trajectory that is increasing. I don’t anticipate that changing.”

Cook visited Ireland this week, where he met with the country’s head of government Leo Varadkar in Dublin, before heading to Cork, where Apple’s European headquarters are located. Apple recently expanded the campus with a new building that provides space for an additional 1,400 employees.


Apple’s recently updated European Job Creation page reveals that it now supports 1.7 million jobs across Europe, including around 1.5 million jobs attributable to the App Store ecosystem, some 17,000 of which are based in Ireland.

Apple’s website notes that it “has been based in Cork for over 35 years and now directly employs 6,000 people throughout Ireland supporting all aspects of the business.” The company also says its Irish team has “doubled in size over the last five years and includes over 80 different nationalities.”

All in all, this amounts to a good PR campaign for Apple, echoing much of what it said in its Message to the Apple Community in Europe a few years ago.

Tags: Tim Cook, Ireland
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21
Jun

Facebook Messenger Expanding Chat Translation to All Users in United States and Mexico


Facebook today announced it is expanding chat translation within Messenger to all users in the United States and Mexico.

When you receive a message in a language that is different from your default language in Messenger, Facebook’s artificial intelligence assistant M will automatically offer a suggestion to translate the message. When you tap on the suggestion, you will be asked to enable auto-translation. Upon doing so, all future messages received that are not in your default language will be automatically translated.

“This is a meaningful milestone for M Suggestions and will enable people to connect with people they would not be able to communicate with otherwise in a way that is seamless and natural,” a Messenger spokesperson said.

Auto-translation is enabled on a per-conversation basis, and all messages are shown in both the original language and translated version. You can opt-out of the feature at any time via the M Settings menu in Messenger, accessible by tapping your profile picture in the top-left corner of the app.

At launch, M can translate from English to Spanish, and vice versa. Facebook plans to add other languages and countries in the future.

Facebook first launched chat translation via M for users of its Marketplace service in the United States in early May. M Suggestions as a whole launched in April 2017, and are now available in 11 countries and five languages.


At its F8 developer conference last month, Facebook previewed an upcoming redesign of Messenger, including a simplified user interface, a dark mode, and customizable chat bubbles. At the time, the company said the facelift will be available “very, very soon,” but as of now, the update has yet to be rolled out.

Apple is known to have looked at a similar implementation of Siri in iMessage as M in Messenger. A patent published in 2016 for a “virtual assistant in a communication session” depicts a scenario in which users can invoke Siri from within chat threads to get answers to relevant queries, complete scheduling tasks, and more.


Apple hasn’t moved forward with the idea, but it did introduce Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12, enabling users to connect certain third-party apps to Siri to greatly streamline voice controls with app-specific actions.

Tags: Facebook, Facebook Messenger
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21
Jun

Leica’s chic new product can’t take pictures, but you’ll still want it


Leica makes cameras, right? For the most part, this is correct. Apart from a range of binoculars and other similar products, — plus some tasty collaborations with companies including Huawei and Master & Dynamic — you’ll find the Leica name on a camera. Its latest product, however, is a wristwatch, and it really is designed by Leica.

There are two models, the Leica L1 and Leica L2, with the difference between them being a GMT movement on the L2. This, through a complicated second dial system, shows a second time zone. The stainless case is the same size on each — a modest 41mm — while sapphire crystal glass covers the face and the back, exposing the manual movement.

Leica L2 watch

It’s the movement that’s really interesting, because it has been developed entirely for Leica by Lehmann Präzision, a German manufacturing firm that already produces its own watches. The movement is built at Lehmann’s factory, and it’s finished at Leica’s workshops in Wetzlar, Germany. For the overall design, Leica turned to Achim Heine, who worked with on the company’s 1999 design identity overall, before moving on to concentrate on watches. The face says Leica Wetzlar, and for good reason. These are true Leica watches.

Red dot

Many will argue it can’t be a Leica product without a red dot, and despite claims they didn’t want to make such a feature a big deal, there are two red dots on the L1 and L2 watches. The first is the most obvious — a ruby on the crown — while the second only appears on the face to indicate when you push the crown to change states, almost like pushing a camera shutter release. This motion sets the watch apart from others, as it stops messing around with pulling the crown and finding different positions to alter times. Another Leica design nod is the power reserve indicator, which resembles an aperture readout.

Leica L1 Watch

The L1 and L2 haven’t been cooked up in an instant. Leica has apparently been considering a watch for decades, and included one in a technology licensing agreement signed in 1996. It began talks with partners on the project in 2012. There’s the same level of passion, appreciation for mechanics, and strong German design in the L1 and L2 as you’d expect to find in a Leica camera.

As with owning a Leica camera, you’re going to need a healthy bank balance to wear a Leica watch. It only intends to build up to 400 watches over the next year, and the cheaper L1 will cost up to 10,000 euros, or about $11,550, according to watch expert Hodinkee. The watches will be sold through the 10 Leica boutiques around the world later this year.

Editors’ Recommendations

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21
Jun

The best comic book readers


theartofphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Every comic book collector knows that it’s a hobby that requires a lot of space. You may start by grabbing a couple issues from your local comic book store, but a few months or years go by and suddenly you’ve got boxes full of comics slowly piling up, until your attic looks like the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the age of computers, however, you can avoid the mess, as long as you don’t mind forsaking physical copies of your comics. There are plenty of comic book readers that will enable you to read digital comics on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Here are some of the best.

Astonishing Comic Reader (Android)

Astonishing Comic Reader doesn’t just have a great name; it’s also an excellent comic book reader, one that makes navigating your collection simple. The app has a clean interface that makes flipping through pages easy, with no clutter. You can enable night mode if you want to read with the lights out, and there is a manga mode for reading right to left. Best of all, the app will automatically scan your phone for comics (such as CBZ files) so you don’t need to search through your storage.

Download now for:

Android

Comics by comiXology (Android/iOS)

ComiXology, which is nowadays a subsidiary of Amazon, is one of the largest platforms for digital comics, and its Comics app is suitably excellent. Once you create an account — the app and signup process are free — you will have access to a vast marketplace of comics, with offerings from DC, Marvel, and more (there is an assortment of free comics, too). The app’s user interface is slick and clean, and you can read through pages as normal or glide from panel to panel in the guided view mode.

Download now for:

Android iOS

Chunky Comic Reader (iOS)

If you’re a comic book fan and have an iPad, consider yourself blessed, as Chunky Comic Reader is one of the most attractive apps for reading comics. Chunky uses techniques like upscaling and auto-tint to make sure the images look crisp and vibrant, even if the scans are of weathered pages. The app also makes importing and managing your collection effortless, syncing up with storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Chunky even lets you share particular panels you find amusing on social media.

Download now for:

iOS

Comic Screen (Android)

If you need a no-frills comic reader, Comic Screen might be the one. The app supports a number of popular formats (CBZ, CBR, JPEG, PNG, and more), and once you select a comic, it will load quickly. You can read in single or dual page formats, depending on what you like. Comic Screen allows you to rotate or crop images, if you choose, although those buttons mean the interface isn’t quite as nice as other comic readers. The app also includes ads, although they are small and largely unobtrusive.

Download now for:

Android

Perfect Viewer (Android)

Does Perfect Viewer live up to its name? Maybe not, but it is a nice app, supporting a variety of file formats (including the usual suspects, as well as EPUB), and offering a simple interface. Once you import your comic files, the comics will appear in a “bookshelf” that some may find kitschy or cute. Flipping through comics is easy and fairly quick.

Download now for:

Android

Challenger Viewer (Android)

Challenger viewer may not have the prettiest menu, but it’s a solid comics reader that loads comics quickly. Once you’ve opened a comic, you’ll find it quick and easy to flip through, and Challenger offers three different viewing options: Single page, double page, or “split” double page. The app also has a variety of other options for you to tailor your experience.

Download now for:

Android

YACReader (Windows/MacOS/iOS/Linux)

YACReader is short for Yet Another Comic Reader, an acknowledgment that the field is crowded. Thankfully, YAC has more going for it than a cute name; it’s also a comprehensive comic book reader for desktops, offering all the features one might need: It supports numerous file types, offers a variety of view options, and even gives users tools to touch up images, giving scans of old comics a fresh coat of paint. If you’re a Mac user with an iPhone or iPad, you can also share your library between your desktop and mobile devices.

Download now for:

Windows MacOS iOS Linux

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The 100 best Android apps of 2018 (May)
  • The best moneymaking apps
  • Six of the best Festival-approved movies and TV shows to stream this year
  • The best guitar tuner apps
  • The best Wear OS apps



21
Jun

The best comic book readers


theartofphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Every comic book collector knows that it’s a hobby that requires a lot of space. You may start by grabbing a couple issues from your local comic book store, but a few months or years go by and suddenly you’ve got boxes full of comics slowly piling up, until your attic looks like the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the age of computers, however, you can avoid the mess, as long as you don’t mind forsaking physical copies of your comics. There are plenty of comic book readers that will enable you to read digital comics on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Here are some of the best.

Astonishing Comic Reader (Android)

Astonishing Comic Reader doesn’t just have a great name; it’s also an excellent comic book reader, one that makes navigating your collection simple. The app has a clean interface that makes flipping through pages easy, with no clutter. You can enable night mode if you want to read with the lights out, and there is a manga mode for reading right to left. Best of all, the app will automatically scan your phone for comics (such as CBZ files) so you don’t need to search through your storage.

Download now for:

Android

Comics by comiXology (Android/iOS)

ComiXology, which is nowadays a subsidiary of Amazon, is one of the largest platforms for digital comics, and its Comics app is suitably excellent. Once you create an account — the app and signup process are free — you will have access to a vast marketplace of comics, with offerings from DC, Marvel, and more (there is an assortment of free comics, too). The app’s user interface is slick and clean, and you can read through pages as normal or glide from panel to panel in the guided view mode.

Download now for:

Android iOS

Chunky Comic Reader (iOS)

If you’re a comic book fan and have an iPad, consider yourself blessed, as Chunky Comic Reader is one of the most attractive apps for reading comics. Chunky uses techniques like upscaling and auto-tint to make sure the images look crisp and vibrant, even if the scans are of weathered pages. The app also makes importing and managing your collection effortless, syncing up with storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Chunky even lets you share particular panels you find amusing on social media.

Download now for:

iOS

Comic Screen (Android)

If you need a no-frills comic reader, Comic Screen might be the one. The app supports a number of popular formats (CBZ, CBR, JPEG, PNG, and more), and once you select a comic, it will load quickly. You can read in single or dual page formats, depending on what you like. Comic Screen allows you to rotate or crop images, if you choose, although those buttons mean the interface isn’t quite as nice as other comic readers. The app also includes ads, although they are small and largely unobtrusive.

Download now for:

Android

Perfect Viewer (Android)

Does Perfect Viewer live up to its name? Maybe not, but it is a nice app, supporting a variety of file formats (including the usual suspects, as well as EPUB), and offering a simple interface. Once you import your comic files, the comics will appear in a “bookshelf” that some may find kitschy or cute. Flipping through comics is easy and fairly quick.

Download now for:

Android

Challenger Viewer (Android)

Challenger viewer may not have the prettiest menu, but it’s a solid comics reader that loads comics quickly. Once you’ve opened a comic, you’ll find it quick and easy to flip through, and Challenger offers three different viewing options: Single page, double page, or “split” double page. The app also has a variety of other options for you to tailor your experience.

Download now for:

Android

YACReader (Windows/MacOS/iOS/Linux)

YACReader is short for Yet Another Comic Reader, an acknowledgment that the field is crowded. Thankfully, YAC has more going for it than a cute name; it’s also a comprehensive comic book reader for desktops, offering all the features one might need: It supports numerous file types, offers a variety of view options, and even gives users tools to touch up images, giving scans of old comics a fresh coat of paint. If you’re a Mac user with an iPhone or iPad, you can also share your library between your desktop and mobile devices.

Download now for:

Windows MacOS iOS Linux

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The 100 best Android apps of 2018 (May)
  • The best moneymaking apps
  • Six of the best Festival-approved movies and TV shows to stream this year
  • The best guitar tuner apps
  • The best Wear OS apps



21
Jun

Leap Motion’s AR table tennis is a long way from your parents’ Pong


Leap Motion has a brand-new game for early testers of its Project Northstar augmented reality headset to play around with: Table tennis. The game leverages not only the headset itself but a new paddle controller as well, and comes with its own A.I. opponent so all you really need is a table. In the demonstration we see the headset wearer bouncing a virtual ball between paddles and having a full game with a floating digital paddle on the opposite end of the table. Better yet, they never have to go and pick up the ball when it falls off the table.

Augmented reality might not have received quite the same push as virtual reality just yet — some think we’re still a few years away from its mainstream adoption — but there are plenty of companies working away at it. Microsoft’s HoloLens is one prominent example, but Leap Motion’s Project Northstar turned heads earlier this year for its expansive headset design and development still continues apace.

As much as the table tennis demonstration looks like a fun way to spend some time in augmented reality, Leap Motion software engineer Johnathon Selstad said that he sees this as more of an example of mixed reality skills training. He sees augmented reality’s greatest potential in helping people to learn things in a partly digital space. Skills they can then apply to the real world. In the case of table tennis, simply practicing a game with real-world motions with an A.I. opponent could help to improve your game without needing to play with people in the real world.

“In VR, we can shape the experience to optimize learning a task or behavior,” Selstad explained. “AR elevates this potential with familiar real-world environments, allowing us to contextualize learned skills. By overlaying virtual indicators and heuristics onto the user’s view, we can even help them develop a deeper intuition of the system.”

In the context of a table tennis game, physics projections of where the ball will go can be shown to the player to help them learn to intuitively understand how it will behave. While such a lesson may not translate 100 percent to the real world, it’s certainly more useful than playing a similar game with a controller or with no real-world environment around you.

That’s especially true when it comes to A.I. opponents. As we saw with humans vs. A.I. matchups in games like Go, when near-perfect A.I. play against top-tier human players, the humans typically lose but improve themselves by learning from their artificial opponents. AR has the potential to make such gameplay more applicable to the real world.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Magic Leap finally unveils ‘goggles’ with wireless processing, tracking
  • Apple’s wireless, mixed-reality glasses could launch in 2020
  • Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip will take VR, AR to the next level
  • Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Smart Rubik’s Cubes, diving drones, robot artists
  • IBM’s new supercomputer doesn’t just take orders — it can argue back



21
Jun

When it rains, it pours inside Snap Maps with new World Effects


Snap Maps put you — or at least your Bitmoji — on the map. But Snapchat just launched an update that gives some flair to that world your avatar lives in. On Wednesday, June 20, Snap Inc. launched Weather and World Effects inside Snap Maps. The update brings animated weather corresponding with the actual forecast along with holiday-themed map looks and even a confetti cannon on your birthday.

The features help add more details to Snapchat’s location sharing feature — so don’t be fooled by that Snap that looks like your friend is having a great time when he’s actually caught in a downpour. The tools use the user’s location data to add animated details from the forecast to the map.

The new Weather effects bring a digitized version of the forecast in the area and animate that weather pattern over your Bitmoji’s head. The animations come when zoomed in on a specific Bitmoji on the map and include rain, sun, and snow.

The World Effects bring similar animations to the world your Bitmoji lives in, but may be less expected than the weather, Snap suggests. The feature changes the usual look of the Snap Map not for accuracy like that weather effect, but to recognize significant events or seasons. For example, Valentine’s Day may turn the usual map into a pink world that looks more like Candy Land than an actual map.

Both features are rolling out soon as the Snap Maps feature itself marks one year. The geotagged avatars and photos already have a mix of highs and lows in that short history, including users original reaction to privacy concerns over sharing a physical location inside an app most popular among younger generations. On the opposite side, placing photos on a map has offered a different perspective on current events that even some news stations have picked up on.

Snapchat isn’t celebrating a year of Snap Maps with any actual numbers on how many people use the feature, but according to Mashable, half of Snap Map users choose to share a location with friends. The update follows Snap Map’s move to the web using an embed tool, while the holiday-themed World Effects follow the platform’s geocaching Easter egg hunt earlier this year.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • Google News receives a major overhaul, replaces Google Play Newsstand



21
Jun

Samsung Galaxy S9 review, 3 months later: Holding the high standard


galaxy-s9-plus-lock-screen-with-face-unl

It’s the same great phone now as it was on Day 1.

Amazingly, our original Galaxy S9 review was published over three months ago. There was a good amount of hype ahead of this launch, despite all the leaks, and the phone lived up to an overwhelming majority of it. Now, three months later, I want to go back to the phone with fresh eyes and months of experience to see how it’s held up after that initial review period.

Certain parts of the phone experience just don’t lend themselves well to a two-week review period, but in an effort to provide buying advice to as many people as possible in a timely fashion with our review. But that’s also why we come back and revisit these phones on a regular basis. To show you what’s held up over time, what flaws have been uncovered, and how the phone stands in the market with a little age behind it. This is how the Galaxy S9+ has managed its first quarter in the wild.

galaxy-s9-plus-black-back-shiny.jpg?itok

Same as it ever was

Galaxy S9+ What’s held up

Aside from a few brief breaks, I’ve been using this U.S. unlocked Galaxy S9+ since it was announced. I’ve carried it in my pocket nearly every day, and traveled to a half-dozen countries with it. And thankfully, as I’ve relied on it, it’s been a rock-solid phone the entire time.

The GS9+ has been a rock-solid phone I can rely on.

You know what you’re getting with a Samsung phone. It’s beautiful, albeit a little slippery and potentially fragile. Mine has spent probably half of its time in a case, so I haven’t faced many scratches, nor any scuffs or cracks in three months. I suspect most people will do the same, but if you decide to go naked you’re going to feel some anxiety around how slippery the Galaxy S9+ is in particular. And in return you’ll get to use this finely sculpted object every day. Yes the design is a bit stale at this point, as it’s effectively a derivative of the Galaxy S6, but you can’t argue that Samsung’s execution isn’t perfect.

And yes, the fingerprint sensor is totally usable now and hasn’t given me any of the same troubles the Galaxy S8 did.

Further on the hardware, I just can’t emphasize enough how awesome it is to have such a great display in your hand. Unlike every other phone, I never pull down the notification shade on my GS9+ to adjust the brightness. The automatic brightness tuning is good, and the range of screen brightness when paired with the high contrast makes it visible in any lighting condition. And other hardware features that I normally feel I can live without, the headphone jack and wireless charging, are just added bonuses I love having around. I use Bluetooth headphones every day, but now and then I need that headphone jack and it’s there. Likewise for wireless charging — it’s simple to charge with a cable, but it’s even easier to just drop the phone on a pad.

Nearly four months in, I haven’t had a single performance hiccup or slowdown.

I’ve regularly complained about how Samsung’s phones, even the latest models, tend to deteriorate and slow down over time. At least right now, nearly four months into using this Galaxy S9+, I haven’t experienced that this time around. Performance has been absolutely fantastic in everything I’ve done with the GS9+, and I can’t recall a single instance of reboots or software crashes. Apps of all kinds have been quick and smooth — and while I’m not a big time Android gamer, everything I’ve thrown at the phone has been handled without a second thought.

Now what about the cameras? For some, the hype around the Galaxy S9+’s photographic improvements settled down quickly after launch. I’m not in this camp — I think it’s still a fantastic camera. I haven’t found a situation or scene type in which I can’t reliably expect a high-end photo, and this comes without meddling around in the Pro mode to tweak settings. Samsung has this camera dialed in, and I love the results.

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Hyped or not, this is a great camera capable of awesome shots in any situation.

Colors are punchy, and HDR processing does a great job — the only intermittent issue is the GS9+’s tendency to slightly overexpose some shots. Really, that’s a small nit to pick, considering the rest of the camera’s prowess. The low light performance, in particular, has just been fantastic. We’ve argued back and forth a bit here at Android Central over whether it’s better than the Pixel 2 considering how it is extra-sharp and therefore sometimes unnatural looking, but I actually prefer the GS9+’s sharp look.

The only part of the camera experience that ended up being a bit of a bust is the variable aperture. Though about half of the photos in the above gallery were at f/2.4, in my testing and experience over the last few months there doesn’t seem to be any appreciable difference in quality in daylight over just shooting at f/1.5 instead. Having f/1.5 in low light has been a fantastic addition, but f/2.4 doesn’t really seem to add anything when the lighting is good.

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Software, software, software

Galaxy S9+ What hasn’t aged well

I took short breaks from using the Galaxy S9+ to spend a few weeks with the Moto G6, OnePlus 6 and Google Pixel 2 XL (with Android P) — the biggest thing that strikes me about coming back to the GS9+ is the software. I don’t like to be the one who keeps harping on this, considering the market has clearly chosen to accept Samsung’s software, but it just isn’t as good as the competition right now.

I still use the GS9+ despite its software, not because of it.

Once leading the way, Samsung’s always-on display isn’t useful enough anymore. Its lock screen doesn’t feel as connected to the rest of the system as on other phones. The notification shade makes zero attempt to integrate custom-colored media notifications. Samsung’s duplicate apps and services are burdensome. I’ve lost count of the number of annoying settings and notifications I’ve had to turn off just to make using the phone a simple and pleasant experience. Samsung’s launcher has the least-efficiently designed folders ever, and can’t even manage to evenly space out apps and widgets? Some of it is preference, but other parts just don’t make sense at all. “Samsung Experience” feels like it’s in dire need of a product manager that’s willing to hack and slash at this overgrown beast until it’s tamed back down to the basics.

And don’t get me started on Bixby. We’ll just let that one go for now.

You shouldn’t have to choose a specific GS9 model to expect security patches.

As I write this and look through the settings on my U.S. unlocked Galaxy S9+, I see that I’m still on the February 1 security patch — the same patch the phone launched on. That means this phone is four patches behind at this point, and just over a week away from being five behind. That’s still ridiculous to me. Yes I know some other GS9 models are ahead of the unlocked one, but that just exemplifies the point — you shouldn’t have to choose a specific model to expect security patches. C’mon, Samsung.

I struggled around whether to talk about battery life in the first section or down here, because the Galaxy S9+ has never left me stranded without a charge. And well, I’m talking about it here. Though I’m never stranded, the GS9+’s battery scares me on a regular basis, hitting power saving mode well before I expect it to on heavy use days. Like every Samsung phone, the GS9+ tends to just eat up battery at a consistent rate no matter what you’re doing, and just seems incapable of idling and sipping power when it’s not in use. Based on what I read of the smaller Galaxy S9 with its proportionately smaller battery, things aren’t particularly great there either. So battery life is just “okay” here, which isn’t okay for a big-money flagship.

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Holding the standard

Galaxy S9+ Three months on

Three months after I first reviewed it, the Galaxy S9+ feels now exactly as it did back then. Its strengths remain, and its initial shortcomings still have the propensity to annoy.

Three months after I first reviewed it, the Galaxy S9+ feels now exactly as it did back then.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+ are beautiful, efficiently designed and well-made. The hardware may be a bit boring at this point, but it’s fantastic to look at and hold every day — even if you just end up putting a case on it. The nice-to-have hardware features don’t grab headlines but are useful, and the top-end specs provide performance befitting an expensive phone. And Samsung still offers the best displays anywhere in the Android world. The cameras are truly great no matter the shooting conditions, making sure novices and pros alike are happy with the results.

The only issues, as ever, are within the software. Some interface elements are still baffling and unintuitive even with months of use, and Samsung’s duplicate apps and services just never go away. The lack of security updates for some models is particularly bothersome for a phone that retails for over $800. But I’ll admit that some people actually prefer Samsung’s software, and with that being the case there’s hardly a problem to point to in the Galaxy S9+.

Even a full quarter after its release, I have no hesitation in recommending the larger Galaxy S9+ in particular, even at its high price. There’s a reason why it’s currently atop our list of the best Android phones. Not only is it a remarkable top-end smartphone with tons of features, but it’s also available just about everywhere in the world — high quality and wide availability are a great combination.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Galaxy S9 review: A great phone for the masses
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S8: Should you upgrade?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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