The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is one of the most important smartphone releases in 2018, however, does that mean it’s worth your $839? I hope that I can help you better understand whether it is. This device was loaned to us by AT&T and was used as my primary device on the AT&T network for the better part of 12 days.
I would like to start off by saying that this was my first time ever using a Samsung phone. I was always under the impression that Samsung phones were overhyped, bloated messes since the Galaxy S2 was popular. When the Galaxy S6 was first released I was intrigued again once I saw how nice the design of the device was but was ultimately turned off by the software. I will admit that I’m a stock Android junkie, using Nexus and Pixel devices primarily as well as HTC and Motorola devices. However, when I was asked if I would like to try out the Galaxy S9+ I took the deep dive to see if Samsung could change my opinion.
This is the best, and most powerful device Samsung has ever built. It’s sporting a Snapdragon 845, 6gb of ram, 64gb of expandable storage, 6.2 inch 18.5:9 2960x1440p display, 3500 mah battery, Android 8.0 Oreo, dual 12mp cameras and an 8mp front facing camera, dual speakers, and IP68 water and dust resistance. It’s a mouth full but these powerful specs make this device a phone to be reckoned with on paper, but will those specs hold up when you actually use this device? All these answers and more will soon be answered.
My Samsung Galaxy S9+ came with Android 8.0, Samsung Experience 9.0, and the February 1st Android Security Patch. The device’s software is far from stock containing many Samsung duplicate apps and AT&T applications, many of which I never touched. Once you get past the bloat though the device holds up well. Applications open very quickly and there is rarely any lag while taking photos. The only time I ever experienced lag was when I was using the stock launcher and accidentally switched to the Bixby tab occupying the far left homescreen. It was annoying because I would try to quickly swipe away but could feel my phone gasping for breath every time I tried.
Samsung’s software is flexible otherwise. Aside from just changing the launcher you can switch the position of the back and recent applications buttons, the look of the navigation buttons, and the look and feel of the quick settings menu. You’re also able to uninstall a lot of the AT&T bloatware applications you don’t want. You’re able to change this device a lot to make it look and feel however you want to which is incredibly cool. This is some freedom that not even stock Android gives you which I give Samsung a lot of credit for. They don’t force you to fit their mold they let you explore and enjoy whatever Android experience you want to.
Unless, of course, you want to remap that curiously placed fourth physical button underneath the volume rocker. That button would be awesome to quickly open the camera, or activate Google Assistant, however it instead triggers Samsung’s Bixby. Bixby isn’t a terrible assistant, however it’s not great. It takes a lot of time to set it up and get to know it. I feel like it can do a lot however Google Assistant tends to be more accurate and far more well-rounded. I feel as though every time I pressed the button it annoyed me simply because I didn’t want to activate it. It’s kind of like that annoying but smart friend you have who is always there but gives you information when you really don’t want or need it.
The Galaxy S9+ has a myriad of methods to unlock your device as well. During my time with the device I used the iris sensor, intelligent scan, and the fingerprint scanner to unlock the device. I have to say I was equally disappointed with each one. No matter how many times I retrained my fingerprint and iris the device only let me in a hand full of times. I’m not sure if it’s me or the device but I found this to be very bothersome. Please let me know if you have experienced this issue.
This is one of the most pleasant devices I’ve held in a while. The curves help the device fit right into your hand. The main problem I have is how slippery the phone is. There were many times I would just be holding onto the phone to answer a text message when I would feel it slowly start to creep out of my hands. The phone is fairly heavy as well which didn’t help matters much. For these reasons I decided it was best for me to put a case on it. Although even a thin case can ruin the ergonomics of a phone it also makes it far easier to hold onto and adds slightly more protection if it falls. If this was my device I probably would have bought a skin however because it is not I settled for a case.
This phone has one of the best cameras I’ve used in a smartphone to date, and it should. It’s not surprising to see how much Samsung stepped it up in performance, however adding something like variable aperture gives the device that extra edge in versatility it needs to stand out.
In my time with the camera I rarely noticed the variable aperture, and I feel that is how it should be. If I don’t the changes that are being made to the images I take, then that means the software is doing its job. Every now and then I would go into the pro camera settings just to see what aperture the software decided to take the picture with, take the picture, and change it to the opposite aperture and surprisingly it does make a noticeable difference. It was nice to see that something that could have been a huge gimmick turned out to be something very helpful.
Speaking of gimmicks, let’s talk about the telephoto lens underneath the main camera. It’s pretty much just there for the approximately 5 times you’ll use it before forgetting about it. I only used it for the sake of the review and even then I couldn’t tell if the second lens was kicking in or if the phone thought it was best to use digital zoom. I feel the second camera could have been much better utilized if it was a wide angle camera, but then again, who isn’t saying that now?
I wanted to quickly hit on AREmojis quickly as well. They’re honestly really cool and fun to make. I made one and utilized the premade gifs to creep out a lot of my friends in text messages. Everyone said they looked very similar to me which I thought was really cool. They’re definitely a neat party trick and the gifs are really awesome to save and use at will. They also save to your camera roll so if you want to take them to another device you can.
I took most of the video with the S9+ in full 4K and it looks absolutely amazing. The OIS really does its job nicely when it comes to stabilizing video even with this much detail. You do not get many options in the realm of options to tweak the video while you’re taking this but if you’re looking for an easy point and shoot video experience the S9+ will not let you down.
Lastly, I’d like to discuss the 960FPS video capture of the S9+. This is a really cool feature but also not very useful. I used the feature that let the phone’s software decide when it would kick on the slow-motion based on the action it was picking up. I used my sister kicking up snow at my dog to make her jump as a method of understanding just when the device thought there was “important” action. Most times the software either picked up the snow or missed my dog jumping completely. The few times it did get it right it was spectacular. Although it is only in 720p the video looks really cool so you won’t really notice the slightly degraded quality. I want to make clear though this feature will be trial and error and mostly error, make sure you know the action you want to get and setup the phone ahead of time because although the phone will start the slow-motion automatically you still have to go into this mode, start recording, and hope it picks up the action you’re looking for at all.
I will leave a myriad of sample images below showing off the camera’s potential below. If you click on the picture you will see a description of what I’m demonstrating.
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ has a 3500mah battery, which, in theory means it should have, at least decent battery life. In my experience with the S9+ I do not feel this battery has lived up to its potential at all. I changed to screen resolution from Full HD+ to the full 2960×1400 when I first got the device because I feel if that’s the display they put on the device then the battery should be able to somewhat handle it. I not only used the screen to its full potential in terms of resolution, but the device rarely was at below 50% brightness. This is because I am outside often, and it is difficult to see during the day otherwise. I also did not throttle the CPU or GPU.
The truth is the battery just doesn’t hold up. I’m not sure whether it’s the processor or the software but I have not been able to get more than 3 hours 30 minutes of screen on time (on a good day). I usually had about 2 hours 45 minutes of screen on time before I was running for a charger. The only time I was able to get over 3 hours of screen on time was if I was consistently using the device to either watch video or play Pokemon Go and that’s because it wouldn’t idle and the screen would just use all the energy. I did not work to try to save battery life because I wanted to use this phone to its true potential and how I would use any other phone. I don’t baby devices, and nor should you. For $839 I expected a lot more out of the endurance of this device.
Miscellaneous and Final Thoughts:
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ has some really amazing hardware with some software that will take some getting used to if you’re used to iOS or a more stock version of Android. Once you’re past that you can get down to the meat and potatoes of the device which contains an amazing build, fantastic cameras, and lack luster battery life. Not only does it contain these three aspects but it’s fast, has great speakers, not to mention a headphone jack!
Even though this phone does a lot of things very well I cannot recommend it as quickly as I would have if the battery life had been better. If you talk to others they may say that software updates will fix these issues in the future and to get the device anyway. With Samsung’s track record though we may not see a software update for a month or so and even so it might not fix the aspects of the device we feel are most important. If you do decide to buy this device I recommend buying it from Samsung’s website where you can get a better price and still pay on an installment plan.
This is the next big thing for Samsung however, I feel they could have done a little bit better in some aspects. What do you think? Do you think Samsung put out a flawless device or will you put your hard earned money elsewhere? Let us know in the description below.
Thank you to our friends at AT&T for their continued support of One Tech Stop. They lent us this S9+ for review and we hope you will check them out.