Usage Notes, Battery Life, and Conclusion

Usage Notes

I'm happy to report that upon initial setup with the Galaxy S9+ the user is given a choice to download Samsung's default apps – or not! Having an out-of-box experience using many stock Google apps creates an experience close enough to a Pixel to make this a nice alternative to Google hardware for stock Android fans. Of course this is still a Samsung phone, and the Experience UI, although quite light, is still a skin. I have grown used to it and it offers very smooth and intuitive performance so I'm not complaining.

The Galaxy S9+ feels slightly more substantial in hand than last year’s GS8+, though my perception might be colored by the knowledge that this handset is thicker and slightly heavier. In any case, its curved edges and tall portrait form factor again give the 6.2-inch phone a much smaller feel than you might expect, and it is surprisingly easy to use with one hand. As before, with bezels as narrow as these the curved edges end up affecting the clarity of text at the outermost margins, though the severity of this depends on viewing angle and ambient light reflections. I personally dislike the ‘wrapped’ text effect of these edge curves, but aesthetically the narrow side bezels help create the “all display” effect when viewing the phone head on.

With the attention on Apple’s Face ID since the iPhone X launch one aspect of the phone I decided to try out was Samsung’s face-unlocking implementation. Samsung offers users the choice between a standard pin or stronger password, a pattern, the all-important fingerprint, iris scan, or this face unlock. The process to register a face is much shorter than Apple's, with only a brief head-on look required to register. There is a warning on the screen that this method can be compromised with a video image – which is obviously not very reassuring. Still, for casual unlocking to take the place of a 4-digit passcode I found it to work better that I expected it to, though as a method of securing the phone I’ll follow Samsung’s own recommendation and use either the fingerprint or a password.

I will cover the camera briefly, a camera which has received a startling score of 99 from DxOMark which places it at the very top of their mobile chart. Photos are bright and vibrant, and while exposures seem a little boosted, they provide excellent low-light performance and tend to make iPhone photos look a little dim in comparison. One aspect I experimented with was Samsung's implementation of a depth effect called "live focus", which is user-adjustable for background blur.

The results depend on the subject, with a very busy photo like the tree above creating a mixed result from the background blur effect. Overall sharpness and clarity with the camera was outstanding, and I won't even begin to try outguessing the DxOMark ratings. One thing I will add is that I am once again impressed with the speed of the capture process, which makes the iPhone X feel slow. Samsung has this part perfected – and it's the most important part of the image capture process: very fast and accurate focus and no perceptible shutter lag.

Battery Life

We performed our standard Wi-Fi battery test with the Galaxy S9+, with a fixed screen brightness of 180 lux and with the latest updates applied to the phone. I use a program called Caffeine to keep Android devices from going to sleep during the test, which is conducted using the latest version of the Chrome browser. Safari is used on iOS devices. All other phone settings were left at device defaults – with the exception of screen resolution with the Galaxy S9+ (more on this in a moment).

The result? A very impressive 12 hours and 45 minutes. Why is this lower than last year's Galaxy S8+ even with the same 3500 mAh battery capacity? Well, part of this difference has to be due to the display resolution. The Galaxy S8+ and S9+ both default to a 2220×1080 resolution mode, which helps with both performance and battery life.

As a more demanding test of the hardware with the new S9+ I manually set the display resolution to its native 2960×1440 before running the test. Clearly using Samsung's optimized default settings do help with battery life, as high screen resolutions do result in more battery usage in extended tests like these.


Overall Samsung's Galaxy S9+ looks just like its predecessor – but it is a better phone than last year's version, and an even closer performance competitor to Apple's iPhone 8/8 Plus and X handsets thanks to the very fast Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. version. The camera is again fantastic – perhaps the best ever in a smartphone, and this time around it offers an enhanced slow-motion capability for video as well. The industrial design and construction quality are both world-class, and in general there is nothing to complain about with Samsung's latest flagship, though the rather severely sloping sides of the display due to the curved glass design can be a little distracting when text is displayed on the edges of the screen.

Samsung fans can rest assured that this really is the best Galaxy phone yet, and the decision to retain both a fingerprint sensor and 3.5 mm headphone jack once again position Samsung as a great alternative to an iPhone for disgruntled Apple users. We tested the U.S. version with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, and while an international version with a Samsung Exynos 9810 Octa is available this Snapdragon version is the fastest Android phone we have tested to date. It should be another very successful year for Samsung in the mobile space, especially with this latest Galaxy wrapped in thicker Gorilla Glass for better shatter resistance.

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