If there is a calendar year for smartphone flagships, then it is clearly divided between into post- Apple iPhone launch and post- Samsung Galaxy S series launch periods. These two giants of the tech world have been pushing the envelope when it comes to smartphone specs and experience and setting the path for everyone else to follow. This year, Apple threw a bit of a curveball with the iPhone X which did not really fit to its product cycles. It was expected that Samsung will react with something different. However, the Korean tech leviathan has stuck to its guns — and product plans — by releasing the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. The phone has been announced for the Indian market and with the first sales expected later this week, we look at different aspects of living with this new Android flagship.
Tomorrow, I will talk about performance. But one thing that is already obvious to me is the fact that this phone has very good battery life. Today, I left home at around 9.45 am with about 80 per cent juice on the phone. Exactly 12 hours later, the phone has 33 per cent battery life. That is quite good for a phone that has had its screen on all through, powered an internet hotspot for close to an hour, shots photos and videos and helped for AI driven translations. This could be one of the best features in this phone.
I hadn't realised it till a colleague pointed out. Yes, I was wearing lilac and it seemed I was doing it by design. But this isn't a colour that I would pay for and usually I hide review devices that are not black or gray. With the S9+, I didn't quite mind flaunting the shiny glass.
One of Samsung’s innovations from the S9 is the new AR Emoji feature. Samsung thinks so highly of this feature it has been woven right into the camera app. Basically, the feature clicks a picture of the user and converts it into an animated emoji which can be shared wherever the user chooses. At least, that is what it is supposed to be. But in real life, or should I say augmented reality, the app looks at your face and maps you against a set of preset emojis.
Even this mapping can go really awry if the light is not right. Samsung accepts that accuracy is not what it is aiming for as it is just gunning for some fun. But why would I share an emoji that does not look even a bit like me? Beats me and makes my emoji say NOOOO!!!
Samsung has activated a new feature that is quite handy, no pun intended. Now, you can use the heart rate sensor -- which is placed right next to the camera module -- to click a selfie. As soon as you finger touches the sensor it takes a selfie. I love this feature as it makes it easier to click selfies, after you have figured out where the sensor is. However, the problem with this is that finding and touching the sensor means there is a bit of shake on the camera in the process.
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ uses face recognition to unlock the phone. You can also use Iris scanning, fingerprint, pattern and pin, in place of or in conjunction with, the face recognition. You better. Because for me, the success rate with the face recognition was quite poor whatever the light or conditions. It does work, but the times it did not are what stay at the top of you might. I set up the phone with PIN as the backup -- like I did with Apple iPhone X -- and it was irritating to have to key in the numbers each time. Then I added fingerprint scanning and life became a bit easier.
I then realised that the amount of facial hair seems to have an impact on the accuracy of face recognition.
It is pointless talking about the quality of display on a Samsung flagship. It is a given that the display will be good; it almost comes naturally to Samsung. The S9+ is no exception. The phone has an infinity display and it is on all the time. The always on display means the phone has something to show all the time. On the lock screen you can see time, date and a bunch of notifications icons. This is a black and white screen, but very useful for when you are just glancing at the phone to see if you have missed out something.
The phone, despite its size, is easy to grip. This is important with the fingerprint scanner at the back. Any wider and you will not be able to reach it. The edges are smooth and do not irritate you while gripping the phone tightly as some of us tend to do, mostly with expensive phones. There is a Bixby button on the left, which one can click to summon Samsung’s smart assistant.
Anyway, Samsung has introduced a new colour in the Lilac Purple. Being a staunch black and gray person, I broke into a bit of a cold sweat when I saw the two Ls on the box of the review unit. But having used it for a day, I have grown to like this colour. It is loud but in a sophisticated way, like someone who wears a yellow tie but manages to cover up with the rest of his outfit. There are small changes in comparison to the S8 , but you will not figure that out until you read about it. The fingerprint sensor is right under the dual camera setup and you will get used to having your finger there, especially since Samsung is using the sensor to initiate selfies.
The one thing you will notice first about the Samsung Galaxy S9 as you take it out of the now familiar black box, is that the design is what you would expect. Like Apple with the iPhone, Samsung wants it S series to look the same. So if you were looking for a breath of fresh air, you have just been hit by a desert storm. There is nothing wrong here and the most iconic designs have all been enduring ones -- like with the Fiat Mini, for instance.