A work colleague proudly proclaimed the other day: “I’m getting one of those phones that you can unlock by doing this” (she then proceeds to contort her face, screwing up her eyes and mouth)
“I’m just going to do this all day with it,”she said. She pull another funny face, this time screwing her lips up in a bizarre fashion.
I step in, all casual like. “Oh, you mean one of these,?” I say, thrusting the loaner Samsung Galaxy S9 I happened to have with me in the direction of her eyeballs.
“Oh, do the face, do the face!,” she implores.
I look at the phone – with a normal face, mind you – unlocking the screen with the power of my eyes. I have magical eyes, don’t you know? (Oh, and in fairness, it’s not mandatory that you pull a funny face to unlock the phone: You can just user your normal face. Or a fingerprint. Or an old-fashioned PIN number. It’s up to you)
The Galaxy S9 (RRP $1399. There’s also the S9+ model which adds another two hundy to the price tag) is the latest in the Korean company’s flagship smartphone range – and it’s a beauty, to be honest.
My normal day-to-day phone is a Galaxy S7, and it’s alright, but, sorry S7, the S9 blows it right out of the water – then hoovers up all the charred fragments, popping them in an airtight shoe box before burying said box 50 metres underground, never to see the light of day again.
The S9’s screen is nothing short of breathtaking, at least to me (remember my normal day-to-day phone is an S7), with videos and images vivid and bright, and colours really do pop on the panel. The build quality, as you’d expect from a flagship smart phone, is nothing short of spectacular and it really does look beautiful. As you’d expect with a glossy, metallic back plate, though, you’re going to see those fingerprints so I’d recommend you get a protective case pretty early on.
Compared to the S8, which came out last year and my teenage son got as a replacement for his Nexus 6P which slowly died, there is little to tell the two handsets apart: From the naked eye the only real cosmetic difference is the placement of rear fingerprint scanner: It’s been shifted across a bit. The S9 isn’t a major revamp of the S8: It’s a refinement of that great phone.
I’m not going to get bogged down by technical specs – you can hunt those down somewhere else – but in terms of features, I’m really liking the People Edge feature (where you swipe from the right to reveal your four favourite phone contacts) and haven’t grown tired of unlocking the phone with my magical eyes. The S9 feels really nice in your hand, too.
Samsung is making a big noise about the camera on the S9, especially the super slo-mo feature, which captures the action at 960 frames a second. The NZ division’s launch that I went to in Auckland a couple of weeks ago had 25 S9s set up in a room to capture 5 seconds of action that was then edited into a video that was played to the crowd. Capture stuff included an S9 dropping into a martini glass, some coloured jellies dropping onto a display with someone dusting it with icing sugar and a dance troop busting some moves. I actually missed most of the 5 seconds shooting so it was good seeing it in short film format.
The S9’s takes great photos (I’ve included some I took here) but I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t really know a good photo from a better one, to be honest. I m just an average Joe with an average Job taking photos of average things (the dog, the river near my work building, some sport event I went to last weekend).
The slo-mo is a neat feature, but to be honest, I can’t see myself using it much at all, and the AR Emoji feature (which turns a photo of your into an emoji that you can slap onto photos and the like), seems a bit of gimmick to me but will probably appeal to the social media generation.
For me, what it perhaps one of the most impressive features on the S9 that isn’t the most talked about is the audio quality – and the fact that the S9 has two stereo speakers featuring Dolby Atmos sound, something the S7 certainly doesn’t have. That for me – using a word I detest – is a game-changer for the Galaxy S range.
Stereo speakers, obviously, means music sounds fantastic and audio in videos and movies sounds, well, fantastic, too. Just how good?
Phenomenal, actually. Home alone one Thursday night, my teenage son and I blasted out 80s tunes from the likes of Flock of Seagulls, Men at Work, David Bowie, The Clash, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Toto, REO Speedwagon – and Venga Boys – from the S9 (and his S8: The S9 sounded better, though) and it just sounded magical. It sounded magical. My ears were in heaven!
[Sidenote: Flicking through the sound settings, I noticed there is an option to adapt the sound for music, calls and video with presets for users aged under 30 years old, 30 to 60 years old and over 60 years old. Thanks for thinking of us oldies with “selective” hearing, Samsung.]
Look, if you own an S8, I can’t really see much to gain by upgrading to the S9. Sure you get a better camera and stereo speakers, but the S8 is still a fantastic phone and the differences between the two doesn’t really justify the upgrade. For all intents and purposes, there’s little to differentiate between the S8 & S9. Save it for the S10 (which we all know is already being designed).
However, if you’re upgrading from, say, an older Galaxy, say an S7, then take the leap, my friend, without hesitation. It’ll be well worth it – and if you’re a music lover, your ears will love you long time.
Big thanks to Samsung NZ and its New Zealand PR company Acumen Republic for a loaner of a Samsung Galaxy S9 to review and for flying me up to Auckland (and putting me up in a hotel) for the Galaxy S9 launch. It had blue martinis to drink (not a fan) and jelly nibbles to munch on.