Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are currently among the best smartphones you can buy. They set the trend for 2017 with bezel-less displays, a gorgeous design and high-end internals. Yet, they are far from perfect. As their yearly cycle comes to an end, we look ahead at what the South Korean manufacturer has in store for us next with the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.
Design and build
We know the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were radical changes when it came to design language. But with the upcoming S9 and S9 Plus, we cannot say the same. From the images that have surfaced so far, we are likely to see a phone with very similar design traits.
A combination of a new magnesium alloy metal and glass will most likely make up the IP68 water- and dust-resistant body of the flagships, just like previous years. However, the back of the phone may see the fingerprint sensor move to underneath the camera module. After receiving backlash for the current sensor placement, it seems Samsung may have finally listened to the complaints.
Additionally, the differences between the S9 and S9 Plus may stretch more than just by overall footprint and battery capacity this year. It seems the S9 Plus will sport a dual-camera unit similar to the one found on the Galaxy Note 8 whereas the regular S9 will get just a single sensor. The cameras on the upcoming flagships are further discussed in a later section.
Screen and specification
As with the phones’ design, we will not be seeing much different for the screens of the S9 and S9 Plus. Expect a 5.8-inch AMOLED display for the smaller device and a 6.2-inch one for the bigger, both at the QHD+ resolution and an 18.5:9 aspect ratio.
Internals wise, the processors will be seeing an upgrade. The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 for variants in North America and Samsung’s Exynos 9810 for worldwide S9 and S9 Plus units. While nothing about exact battery capacities is known, we can expect similar sizes to those found on the S8 and S8 Plus.
The difference will also translate to RAM, with the smaller S9 sporting 4GB while the S9 Plus bolstering the higher 6GB. Both will still come with 64GB of default storage with the option to expand via microSD. But we are also hearing reports of a variant with 512GB of internal storage.
And for those who do not like dongles, you will be glad to hear the 3.5mm headphone jack will be retained on both variants. This year, Samsung will once again provide AKG earphones out of the box and ship its latest flagships with AKG stereo speakers.
Security and software
Even before Apple’s Face ID, Samsung firmly stamped its authority on other biometric unlock methods. The use of the iris scanner was introduced with the Galaxy Note 7 and Face Unlock followed suit. This year, we can expect the same functionality to be available on the S9 and S9 Plus with more refinement. Most of the improvement will come to iris scanning, which will boast an improved lens making it work faster and better in extreme lighting scenarios.
Unfortunately though, we will not see Samsung adopt 3D face scanning akin to Apple’s Face ID due to technical limitations. Instead, the option to use the fingerprint scanner will remain. As mentioned before, the fingerprint scanner will now be moved underneath the camera modules for better reach and convenience. If you were expecting the fingerprint scanner underneath the display, you may have to wait until the Note 9.
As far the software package is concerned, it will be what we are used to from Samsung. Its Experience UI built on top of the latest Android 8.0 Oreo operating system. We can expect it to be feature packed and come with improvements to its virtual assistant, Bixby.
You may have thought that the S9 series from Samsung will employ dual-cameras after what we saw on the Galaxy Note 8. However, that is not quite the case. According to what we have seen, the smaller S9 will sport only a single 12MP sensor with the S9 Plus coming with a dual-camera setup seen on the Note 8. Something noteworthy though is a mention of a variable aperture camera between f/1.5 and f/2.4 for some great depth of field pictures.
Whereas, news on a sensor upgrade or specific features are not yet clear but a 1,000 fps mode for slow motion video has been thrown around the rumor mill. We aren’t sure if the feature will be exclusively for the S9 Plus given the camera differences. In any case, leaks leading up to the phones’ launch will clarify.
Pricing and availability
After seeing how the Note 8 was priced this year, we’re a bit hesitant to predict official pricing for the S9 series. The S8 series was priced starting at Dh2,799 for the base variant and in spite of the S9 and S9 Plus being small upgrades, rumors point to a rise in prices.
However, this is not confirmed. The prices could very well stay the same but aren’t likely to drop. As far as the announcement is concerned, Samsung’s business president DJ Koh confirmed that we will be seeing the phones at MWC 2018 happening in late February. Pre-orders should start by March 1 with the phone being shipped in mid-March.