At first glance, the Galaxy S9+ seems very similar to the Galaxy S8+ that came before it. Truthfully that’s not a bad thing. The S8+ design was an instant classic with its curving screen and slim bezels. It’s hard to see how Samsung could improve on it in a single year.
Still, there are some changes. The screen is the same 6.2-inches but the body itself has very slightly different measurements. On the back, the S9+ now sports a dual camera system and the fingerprint reader has been moved to make it easier to reach.
Our review model was a black unit. With the screen powered off or in the Always On standby mode, its OLED technology let it blend seamlessly with the edges of the phone for a unique and attractive look.
The S9+ supports a variety of unlock options including face scan, iris scan, fingerprint and the usual Android PIN or patterns. Initial setup is quite quick and will take you through the unlock options as well as network setup and more.
This review model features a basic gradient background which gives an uncluttered, no-nonsense look. Swiping up or down on the home screen will show you your apps. The pre-installed apps include Samsung Health and Samsung Gear to link to a smartwatch.
Links to install Microsoft Office apps such as Word and Outlook are also provided. The S9+ is one of the few phones with a screen large enough to let you get some serious work done in apps such as these. You can even plug in a USB keyboard with the adapter supplied (though maybe a Samsung DeX would be a better idea). It’s also got plenty of horsepower thanks to the latest Samsung octa-core processor and 6GB RAM.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S9+ CAMERA
It’s the new S9+ camera system that’s the real headline grabber. As Samsung say, it’s “The Camera Reimagined”.
The S9+ main camera features a variable aperture. This allows it to control how much light reaches its sensors. In low light, the lenses open up to capture as much information as possible. In brighter conditions, the lenses close down to reduce the chances of ‘blown-out’ images that are much too bright.
In the standard Auto mode, this happens by itself. The camera decides which setting is best and sets up the aperture accordingly. You can toggle the setting yourself in the camera’s Pro mode for some interesting effects.
Variable aperture is especially useful at night-time. The two photos below were taken in near darkness. With the shutter fully opened, more light and colour is visible in the clouds and more detail can be made out in the shadows. The differences are subtle, which is a welcome change from camera phones that would over-expose dark images like this.
(You can click on any of the below sample S9+ camera images to view them in full size).
Shutter set as open as possible (f/1.4).
Shutter set as closed as possible (f/2.5).
Indoors and under normal lighting conditions, the S9+ captures colour and fine detail with incredible accuracy.
We use these food jars as test photo subjects in many of our reviews. The S9+’s colours are again very true to life and the photo overall is very crisp and clear despite poor lighting.
A rare blue sky over Santry really shows off the camera’s capabilities. Fine detail such as the transmitter masts on the mountaintops are easily picked out:
In a panorama test, the camera was easily able to cope with being pointed almost directly at the sun. If you zoom right in and scroll to the left of the sun, you’ll even see a flock of birds against the sky.
We also tested out the S9+ portrait effects using our old friend Oscar. Here’s a standard shot that doesn’t use the portrait effect. Both Oscar and the plant are in sharp focus:
The second shot uses the S9+’s Live Focus to create a blurred background. The background blur can be adjusted both as the photo is being taken and afterwards as well.
Again, the effect is subtle but effective, which really sums up the S9+. This is quite a professional-feeling phone that goes about its business in a very efficient way. There are no gimmicks and no flashy, impractical design choices; just a powerful phone and an equally powerful camera.
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ is available now
on bill pay from €29.99* and on prepay from €809.99.
*Price available when you switch to Vodafone from another network.