Samsung is all set to unveil its 2018 flagship handsets and successor to the massively popular Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ from last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+. The company has already sent out invites confirming that the handsets will be unveiled on February 25, a day ahead of MWC 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.
In smartphone upgrade cycle, Samsung’s upcoming flagships are going to be an ’s’ upgrade. That is, there are going to be little changes externally but major changes internally. So, if you were expecting Samsung to introduce a radically new design language with its new flagships, prepare to be disappointed. Instead, the Galaxy S9 will continue to feature a 5.8-inch QHD+ Infinity Display while the bigger its bigger brother will feature a 6.2-inch QHD+ Infinity Display curved display akin to their predecessors.
The handsets will also feature the same glass-sandwich-aluminum design, with a repositioned fingerprint scanner at the rear which should make it easier to reach. While we have been hearing a lot about in-display fingerprint scanners and Vivo has already made a smartphone with the scanner official, Samsung will not be using the technology on its upcoming flagships. Instead, it will be sticking to the good old fingerprint scanner that has been improved to make it more accurate and reliable.
They will be powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 chipset or the company’s own Exynos 9810 chip, pack 4/6GB RAM, and 64GB of storage space. While the rear camera on the devices will retain the same 12MP resolution, it will feature variable aperture and the ability to record videos in super slow-motion.
Samsung will also use an improved iris scanner and offer a better face unlock experience on the Galaxy S9. Disappointingly enough for many though, leaks point to Samsung’s latest flagships coming with the same battery capacity as their predecessor — 3,000mAh and 3,500mAh. This means that one should not really expect a dramatic increase in battery life on the S9 compared to the S8. However, Samsung is going to make up for this by including support for Quick Charge 3.0 for faster charging times.
With so many major changes under the hood, Samsung will be charging a lot more for its upcoming flagship devices as well. The handsets could very well cost upwards of 900 Euros in Europe, with their prices reaching anywhere between $850 to $950 in the United States — a premium of between $100-$150 over the Galaxy S8.
|Specifications||Galaxy S9||Galaxy S9+|
|Display||5.8-inch QHD+ Infinity AMOLED Display||6.2-inch QHD+ Infinity AMOLED Display|
|Processor||Snapdragon 845 (U.S); Exynos 9810 (International)|
|Storage||64GB, microSD card|
|Rear Camera||Primary: 12MP with variable f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture||Primary: 12MP with variable f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture|
|Secondary: 12MP telephoto lens|
|Scanners||Iris and fingerprint scanner|
Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+
The only difference between the Galaxy S8 and S8+ from last year was the display size, bigger dimensions of the latter, and larger battery capacity. This time around though, the differences between the two Galaxy handsets will be more pronounced with the S9+ packing a dual-camera setup and more RAM. This approach is similar to what Apple has taken with its iPhone lineup, with the Plus model coming with more RAM and a better rear camera. This is an interesting approach from the Korean company and a clear push to entice more customers into buying the larger and more expensive Galaxy S9+ this time around.
Both variants of the phone will feature a primary 12MP shooter with variable f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture. Variable apertures are still a rarity in the world of smartphones and Samsung will be the first major OEM to introduce this tech on its flagship smartphone.
The dual-camera setup on the Galaxy S9+ will allow it to offer Live Focus, 2x optical zoom, and capture better photos in low-light scenarios. Its smaller sibling will miss out on all these features. However, Samsung could take a cue from Google and include Live Focus on the smaller S9 despite it coming with a single camera using machine learning and AI.
Samsung’s upcoming flagships are not going to feature any major design changes compared to their predecessors. This means we are looking at an aluminum frame sandwiched by Gorilla Glass from the front and rear. Any design changes are going to be minimal at best, with Samsung possibly looking to launch the phones in new colors and tweak its color scheme a bit to make them stand out. Leaks do point to Samsung working on a Lilac Purple S9 but given the company’s track record, it is possible that this color would be exclusive to certain markets and carriers.
As visible from the renders below, the biggest change in terms of design on the upcoming new Galaxy flagships is the vertical camera layout at the rear. Apple did something similar with the iPhone X last year year and Samsung has followed suit just six months later. The fingerprint scanner has also been placed at the bottom of the vertically placed cameras which should make it easier to reach. Its design has also been tweaked to make it slightly larger which should help improve its overall accuracy. Samsung will not be using an in-display fingerprint scanner on the S9 despite the technology being ready for use in smartphones due to its reportedly inferior performance.
Other aspects of the Galaxy S9 and its Plus brother are going to be the same as their predecessors. This means the handsets will feature IP68 dust and water-resistance, a bottom-firing speaker and thankfully a 3.5mm headphone jack. There were rumors of Samsung giving the 3.5mm jack a boot this year with its flagship phones but the company ultimately seems to have decided otherwise.
A retail box leak allegedly points to the S9 coming with stereo speakers tuned by AKG but given the relative lack of bezels at the front of the handset that does seem unlikely. Similar to Apple though, Samsung could use the earpiece at the top as a tweeter for improved sound output. Like last year, expect Samsung to include AKG wired earbuds in the S9’s retail box. These earbuds offer far better sound quality than the earbuds usually bundled by most OEMs with their devices. The Korean company can possibly bundle a set of wireless buds from AKG as a pre-order offer when it unveils the S9.
Samsung is going to offer the Galaxy S9 in four colors: Midnight Black, Lilac Purple, Titanium Gray, and Coral Blue. The addition of the Lilac Purple color will be a new one in the lineup, with the other three colors being the same as last year.
(The full color pallette, FYI, is:
– Midnight Black
– Lilac Purple
– Titanium Gray
– Coral Blue
– plus the usual lineup of special/limited edition finishes.) https://t.co/pzSBHBUtmB
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) February 5, 2018
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ looked futuristic with their massive Infinity Display at the front, and their successors are not going to be different in this regard. The glass design means that the S9 will also feature fast wireless charging, a feature that is bound to become commonplace in all major Android devices releasing this year. The glass design also means that the phones are going to be as fragile as their predecessors and there is always a chance of the rear glass panel shattering due to a fall.
Chipset, RAM & Storage
Like every year, Samsung is going to use the latest and greatest chips available in the market on its flagship devices. The U.S. variant of the Galaxy S9 will make use of Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 845 chip. Based on the second-generation 10nm FinFET LPP node from Samsung, the Snapdragon 845 chip comprises of Qualcomm’s custom Kryo 385 CPU which offers a 25 percent improvement over the Snapdragon 835. The chip can theoretically reach speeds of up to 2.8GHz, though it remains to be seen if Samsung will push it that far. It also features an Adreno 630 GPU which promises a 30 percent performance improvement over the Adreno 540 GPU found inside the Snapdragon 835.
On the international variant, Samsung will be using its own Exynos 9810 chip. This octa-core chip offers a 40 percent performance improvement compared to its predecessor and features a 1.2Gbps LTE modem. Like the Snapdragon 845, the Exynos 9810 is also based on Samsung’s second-generation 10nm FinFET process. It can run at up to 2.9GHz and features an upgraded MFC and ISP with VP9 and 10-bit HEVC support.
Both chipsets are capable of recording videos in 4K resolution at 60fps as well as slow-motion videos at up to 480fps. They also support 1.2Gbps downlink speeds on LTE, 4×4 MIMO, Bluetooth 5, dual-SIM, dual-VoLTE, 10-bit HDR, and other AI-related enhancements.
As for RAM, the Galaxy S9 will come with 4GB RAM which will likely disappoint many. While 4GB of RAM is enough for an Android device running a near-stock build of Android, it is clearly not enough on a flagship Samsung device running its heavy User Experience skin on top. Many Galaxy S8 owners complained about poor multitasking performance on their device, and with the S9 coming with the same amount of RAM, I don’t see this changing. The Galaxy S9+, however, will come with 6GB RAM. Samsung likely went with extra 2GB of RAM on the bigger model due to its dual-camera setup. The additional RAM will come in handy for features like Live Focus which requires a larger amount of resources. This will also allow the handset to offer better multitasking performance than its smaller brother.
Coming to storage, Samsung will offer its 2018 flagship handsets with 64GB of internal storage which can be expanded further with the use of a microSD card. The Korean company will offer a 128GB variant of the S9+ in certain markets of the world as well. In Asia, the handset will feature a hybrid SIM card slot which can be used with either two SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card.
Samsung is hyping up the camera of its new flagship in a big way with the teaser image it has sent out with the press invites. With the Galaxy S8 not packing any major camera improvements, a huge camera upgrade was on the cards for Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S line. Leaks point to the handset’s camera retaining the same 12MP resolution but coming with smaller 1.22um pixels. Theoretically, this should lead to a small drop in camera performance in low-light scenarios but Samsung has other tricks up its sleeve to make up for it.
The Galaxy S9’s 12MP shooter will reportedly feature a f/1.6-f/2.4 variable aperture, while the larger S9+ will feature an even wider aperture of f/1.5-f/2.4. The wider aperture means that the phone’s camera will be able to absorb more light in low-light scenarios and use a faster shutter speed as well thereby reducing blur. The smaller f/2.4 aperture will come in handy when capturing daylight photos or when there’s plenty of light around. In such scenarios, the camera will drop down to a smaller aperture that will limit the amount of light hitting the sensor thereby preventing it from being overwhelmed by the data available.
The S9+ will feature a secondary 12MP telephoto sensor that will set it apart from the regular Galaxy S9. As already seen on the Galaxy Note 8, the dual-camera setup on the handset will allow for Live Focus — Samsung’s take on Portrait photos — and offer 2x optical zoom. The secondary sensor should also be used by Samsung this time around to help improve the overall image quality in low-light scenarios.
Thanks to the upgraded ISP, the S9 and S9+ will be capable of recording videos in 4K videos at 60fps. They will also support playback of 10-bit HDR videos, VP9, and HEVC codec. An allegedly leaked picture of the retail box points to the handset coming with the ability to record videos in super slo-mo. We have already seen Sony’s flagship Xperia phones record slow-motion videos at up to 960fps and Samsung is likely looking to replicate the same functionality with their handsets this year.
It remains to be seen what improvements Samsung makes to its image processing to help improve the S9’s camera performance, especially in low-light. The company should ideally take a cue out of Google’s book and combine multiple photos with varying exposure to capture more details.
Face and Iris Unlock
Samsung first introduced iris unlock with the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 in 2016 before the feature made its way into the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 last year. Compared to face unlock offered by most other Android OEMs, Samsung’s iris scanning is more secure and cannot be fooled easily using one’s photograph. It is due to this additional security offered by the iris scanner that Samsung uses it as an alternative biometric authentication for Samsung Pay on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, and the same trend is likely to continue with the S9 this year.
While innovative, iris scanner on the Galaxy S8/Note 8 is not without its issues. It is considerably slower to unlock compared to the fingerprint scanner or face unlock and requires one to look at the display at a specific angle for it to work properly. Not to forget, it does not work properly with sunglasses and prescription glasses.
Samsung is looking to solve most of these issues by using a higher resolution iris scanner on the Galaxy S9. This should help improve the overall accuracy of the scanner and make it more reliable. Samsung also used the 8MP AF camera on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 last year to offer face unlock. This year also, the company is going to take a similar approach. The problem with face unlock is that it does not work properly in low-light scenarios, and it is not as secure as iris scanning.
To solve that, Samsung will debut Intelligent Scan on its 2018 flagship handsets. This feature will use the iris scanner and face unlock in conjunction to quickly unlock your device. This way, the iris scanner will take over the job of the face unlock in low-light scenarios where the former shines but the latter struggles. Similarly, in daylight, face unlock will be used as the front camera will do a better job in such scenarios compared to the iris scanner.
Samsung is also streamlining its software to offer a faster iris and face unlock experience on its upcoming flagship handsets.
Battery and Fast Charging
After the Galaxy Note 7 debacle in 2016, Samsung has become quite conservative with the battery capacity that it uses on its smartphones. Sadly, that’s not going to change with the S9 and S9+ this year as these handsets will come with the exact same battery capacity as their predecessors: 3,000mAh and 3,500mAh. Leaks have already given us a glimpse at the batteries so don’t expect anything else when Samsung officially unveils the phone later this month. This does not mean that the S9 series will offer inferior battery life compared to its predecessor. Thanks to the switch to more power efficient components, the S9 and S9+ should offer the same if not better battery life.
Samsung will likely make up for the same battery capacity by offering faster charging on its 2018 flagship handsets. The S8 and Note 8 continued to support Quick Charge 2.0 fast charging despite almost every other major OEM switching to Quick Charge 3.0 and higher. Samsung is also expected to finally make the switch to a faster and more efficient charging process this year. As for wireless charging, Samsung is already ahead of the pack as it offers fast wireless charging on its devices so don’t expect any further improvements in this area.
Samsung will launch the Galaxy S9 with Android Oreo and the latest version of its User Experience out of the box. However, it is unclear if the company has decided to go with Android 8.0 or Android 8.1. While there are not many improvements in Android 8.1, it does contain plenty of bugfixes and under the hood improvements that have a noticeable impact on usability. As for Samsung’s own user experience, the company is expected to redesign it slightly and further streamline it by removing unnecessary features similar to how it has been doing it over the last couple of years.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Release Date
Samsung has already sent out invites for the official Galaxy S9 unveiling on February 25th, a day before MWC 2018 begins. Given the company’s previous track record, the handset should go up for pre-order within the next few days of its official unveiling in South Korea, the United States, and other key markets for the Korean company.
Given the early unveiling of the S9 compared to the S8 from last year, the handset should hit most of the major markets across the world by the middle of March. This includes the United States, Korea, and parts of Europe. Ideally, Samsung’s 2018 flagships should make its way to all major smartphone markets across the world by the end of March.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Price
Despite coming with no major external improvements or breakthrough new technology, Samsung will reportedly price the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus $100-$150 higher than its predecessor which means we can see a starting price of around $850 for the handsets. This is due to an increase in smartphone component price which is pushing Samsung’s bills of material for the handset higher.
To make up for the higher price tag, Samsung will be offering some attractive bundles with the S9 for the customers who pre-order the device. Leaks indicate this can include a pair of wireless earbuds from AKG, a wireless charger, and a 256GB microSD card depending on the market.