Samsung Galaxy S9 comparison
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Following Apple’s lead since the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung offers two models of S9 – the S9 and the S9+. The key difference between the two is size. The S9+ has a larger screen (6.2” compared to 5.8” when measured diagonally), ideal for those with larger hands and larger pockets. The S9+ also has an extra 2GB of memory (RAM), has a dual-lens camera for better photos, is 36 grammes heavier, has slightly better battery life and is, of course, more expensive.
5.8 inches is the diagonal distance from the top to opposite bottom corner of the screen (or vice versa). Phones have been getting bigger in recent times and 5.8” is pretty standard stuff. The exact same diagonal as the iPhone X, for example, with only a short list of ‘Plus’-designated handsets (sometimes called phablets) offering even bigger options.
Size, though, isn’t really what the Galaxy S9 is about. In fact, it curves its screen around its edges to offer more screen while keeping the handset pocket-sized. AMOLED describes the screen technology used – all you really need to know is it’s bright with fantastic contrast levels, offering clear images even under intense sunshine.
The ‘Quad-HD+’ element refers to the resolution – how fine the image is based on the number of pixels (little square dots that make up the image). The S9’s resolution is 2,220 times 1,080 pixels, or 2,397,600 pixels altogether. That’s a higher resolution than a high-definition television which, on a device this size, means the images are very fine indeed. There is no difference in resolution or brightness between the S9 and S9+.
As briefly covered above, the Samsung Galaxy S9 uses the curved edged of its screen to create a narrower profile than most of its competitors, while maintaining the same ‘useful’ screen area. Essentially, the S9 is more easily stashed in a pocket or handbag. The S9+ is a fair bit bigger, but since it is competing with the likes of the iPhone 8 Plus, its curved edges still mean easier stowage compared to this and other competing models.
You might argue that the S9 and S9+ are competing not with Apple’s extravagant iPhone X, but with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models released at the same time last year. That would be fair. However, since the S9 and S9+ are Samsung’s flagship models, and they offer comparable specs and features to the X, we feel a flagship to flagship comparison is fair.
The S9 is around £250-£300 cheaper than the iPhone X, and around £50-£80 cheaper than the iPhone 8. Considering its exceptional specs and features (more comparable with the X than the 8), we’re calling this a huge win for Samsung.
Waterproof? No, water resistant. What that means is, if you drop it down the loo (apparently this is extremely common, though we cannot for the life of us figure out how this happens) the phone actually has a very good chance of coming out unscathed – provided you fish it out immediately.
The ‘IP68’ part refers to the standard of water resistance, which in this case is 30 minutes fully submerged at a depth of up to 1.5 metres. You can drop it in a puddle, in a pint, in the bath – what you can’t do is go swimming with it. Or diving. Definitely not diving.
Like the iPhone X, the S9 and S9+ offer facial scanning as a way of unlocking your phone. Look at it and it unlocks. Cleverly, the phones feature more than simple facial recognition. First it will scan your face and if all is well your phone will unlock. If there is any uncertainty, next it will scan your iris. If it’s still not sure it will use a combination of face and iris to reach the required degree of certainty. All of this happens instantaneously.
Failing that, there’s the fingerprint scanner on the reverse of the phone (just beneath the camera), and failing that, you can get in with a good old-fashioned passcode. How much or how little security you want to place between you and accessing your phone will be down to personal preference.
What’s a blue light filter? Why do you need one? Okay – did you know that blue light signals your brain to be alert? No? Well, it does. When morning sunlight (containing blue light) hits the eye there’s a protein in the retina called melanopsin that uses vitamin A to detect it and to send signals to your brain telling it to become alert – that it’s time to get up. How is this relevant to your phone? Well, phone screens emanate blue light, and that means if you use your phone just before bedtime it’s going to make it harder to get to to sleep, and affect sleep quality generally in a negative way.
The Galaxy S9’s blue filter can be scheduled for certain times each day – the last hour before bedtime, say – and will filter out the blue light so you can use your phone up to bedtime and still get a decent night’s sleep. The screen will appear orange, mind, so you’ll have to decide whether the trade-off is worth your while. Nice feature to have, though.
The Galaxy S9 has an 8 megapixel camera on the front and a 12 megapixel camera on the back. Both are capable of creating very fine images. It wasn’t so long ago that 12 megapixels was literally unheard of outside of the realm of professional SLR cameras costing thousands and thousands of pounds. The S9’s camera is extremely good.
Meanwhile, the larger Samsung Galaxy S9+ also has a 12MP camera at the rear, but this one has two lenses. This, along with some clever picture processing, adds optical image stabilisation (OIS), which allows for clear, blur-free shots even when zoomed in, and with a relatively shaky grip.
One of the chief complaints about Samsung’s previous flagship model – the S8 – was sound quality. This was primarily put down to its one speaker, which sat beneath the screen and pointed downward. If you were holding the phone in your hand the right way up, and in portrait rather than landscape orientation, this meant sound fired down towards your feet.
The S9 and S9+ both come with two speakers, one at the top and one at the bottom – or at either side if you’re holding your phone sideways – thus fixing the sound problems of the S8.
There was absolute uproar when Apple first removed its headphone jack. The idea was to be able to create a slimmer phone, but what it did in addition was to make any headphones you own immediately obsolete. Apple brought out an adaptor you could plug into the lightning port, but it was – and still is – all a bit messy.
Thankfully, Samsung, unlike some other mobile phone manufacturers (Razer, Motorola, Google, HTC and others), has decided not to follow suit. Both the Galaxy S9 and S9+ both have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack for use with just about any set of headphones, while the phones themselves still manage to keep a razor-thin 8.5mm profile. It’s almost like we didn’t actually need to get rid of the jack to make phones thin, but to create a false market in adapters and compatible headphones. Funny that. Isn’t it, Apple?
Yes, there’s a better phone out there when it comes to raw number-crunching power: the iPhone X, which comes out ahead in speed across the board. However, you could argue that with the S9 and S9+ both being cheaper than the X, this is perfectly understandable. You could also argue, justifiably, that the S9 and S9+ are already too powerful – there are little or no apps that make use of more than a fraction of either phone’s power.
Still, some people just have to have the best of everything. So if you absolutely must have the fastest phone, even though there’s no useful way to make use of the extra power, by all means spend an extra £200-£300 on an iPhone X.
And then there’s the problem of increments. How much more powerful, and how many new features do you need to justify jumping from one generation of a phone to another? Yes, the S9 and S9+ are faster, with better screens, more features and so on, but only incrementally so.
In terms of raw power we would argue that the difference between the S9 and the S8, while notable on paper, is barely noticeable in the real world – there simply aren’t a lot of apps out there to use the extra power. If you’re looking for a huge, impressive jump from your S8, you’re likely to be disappointed.
Bixby is Samsung’s voice assistant technology. Think Siri, Alexa or Google Home. However, being a relative newcomer as well as being a ‘nice-to-have’ feature rather than an essential one, means it has neither the seven years of learned user behaviour data accumulated by Siri nor the commercial importance of Alexa and Amazon Echo. It doesn’t compare well to either.
There’s still a lot of ongoing development when it comes to Bixby, and it’s not terrible as it is. It’s just not as good as the competition.
Now, this is something technology manufacturers do a lot: take a buzzword in full knowledge that most people don’t know what it means, add it to their ‘thing’ and advertise it as a feature. In this case, it’s Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Atmos first hit cinemas in 2012. What it does is add speakers on or around the ceiling, adding ‘height’ to the sound. The human ear can detect height, so the addition of these speakers allows sound ‘objects’ (a helicopter or a bird for example) to sound as if they are above you, or in combination with the existing lower, front and rear speakers, swooping down on you or taking off. At home, you’ll need at least eight speakers to create something that sounds like Dolby Atmos.
Once you know what Dolby Atmos is, then, it’s hard to see how it can be a feature of a phone. What the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ actually do is take a Dolby Atmos source (good luck if you can find one of those in the UK – some American streaming services have them) and do some processing to create a more spacial sound. What it absolutely cannot do, is actual Dolby Atmos – speakers that surround you in all directions, including up.
Well, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Check the table above. This changes on a regular basis, but happily our comparison is updated daily.
Yes, it can. While it’s not an in-built feature, there are several apps in the Google Play store that will allow you to do this – we recommend one called ‘REC’.
Yes. It has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack – no need for any adapters or special headphones.
Yes, it does. You can add memory via this slot up to an additional 400GB.
Yes, it can, though you will have to purchase a wireless charging pad separately as there isn’t one in the box. These are relatively inexpensive, especially if you go for a third-party option.
There are dual SIM versions of both the S9 and S9+, though they do tend to be marginally more expensive than their single-SIM versions.
No, absolutely not. The water resistance of the S9 and S9+ are to help prevent accidental water damage, not an invitation to deliberately submerge it.
No, you will have to buy a separate case, depending on the type you prefer, either from Samsung or any number of third-party manufacturers and sellers. It is very easy to find cases for Samsung flagship phones.
No. Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to the era of removable batteries. If you need to replace your S9’s battery for some reason, you’re going to have to take it along to a Samsung-authorised repair centre.
Yes. It’s fully compatible.