It won’t have big, flashy changes when it launches on February 25, according to every credible leak we’ve seen. However, it’ll fix three obvious problems that dogged the otherwise stellar 5.8-inch Android phone in reviews. The 6.2-inch Galaxy S9 Plus is said to be going through similar revisions.
Samsung doesn’t need to make drastic changes to its flagship smartphone in 2018. But you can look forward to the following trio of Galaxy S9 features that are poised to make the best phone even better at MWC 2018.
1. Galaxy S9 to fix Samsung’s maligned fingerprint sensor
What sucked about the Galaxy S8: The fingerprint sensor on back of the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note 8 was awkwardly offset from the center and right next to the camera. It led to a lot of camera smudges. We hated it.
The Galaxy S9 fix: Samsung will move its maligned fingerprint sensor to a better location underneath the camera, according to renders and Samsung Galaxy S9 case leaks, and that’s good news.
We’re in for a center-aligned rear scanner on the Galaxy S9, and Samsung is also said to be readying a Face ID-like feature similar to that of the iPhone X. Yes, it may have the best of both biometric unlock methods: a fingerprint sensor on back and Face Unlock on front. If you miss Touch ID and want to sometimes use Face ID, Samsung will likely tout both. It’s not the in-screen fingerprint sensor we really wanted, but the next best thing.
2. More camera focus, more HDR video
What sucked about the Galaxy S8: If you’re not first, you’re last. While the Galaxy S8 has a better camera than the iPhone X, the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL best them all in our best camera phone tests.
The Galaxy S9 fix: Samsung is boldly promising “The camera. Reinvented” at its MWC 2018 press conference on Sunday, and there’s room to believe that’s it’s going to have a take superb photos and video. It’s ready to strike back at Google’s Pixel Visual Core technology.
First, it's expected to sport a variable aperture of f/1.5 (great for low light) to f/2.4 (more in focus, like group shots). Second, the Snapdragon 845 chip (likely in the US phones) hints that this may be the first phone to support HDR video capture to soak up 64 times the color data that the Snapdragon 835 can. Third, the Galaxy S9 Plus is supposedly getting a dual-lens camera, just like the Note 8.
3. Stereo speakers – finally
What sucked about the Galaxy S8: The curved Galaxy S8 display made it look like a multimedia powerhouse – and then it opened its tiny, bottom-firing speaker mouth and we all collectively tweeted sad face emojis. It was way too easy to cover up the speaker grille, thus ruining the experience.
The Galaxy S9 fix: Every major leak concerning its the Galaxy S9 speakers has good news: we’re going to be hearing sound come from the phone in stereo. It’s about time for a Samsung flagship received stereo speakers given the fact that the iPhone X has them – heck even the iPhone 7 did it.
We’re expecting the Galaxy S9 to include a speaker within its earpiece at the top and stick with the bottom-firing speaker, just like Apple does. Samsung values its all-screen design too much to do true front-facing speakers like the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL. But this is a significant step in the right direction and music to all of our ears.
4. Staying the same isn’t so bad
Samsung had continued to impress us with its picture-perfect screen and smartphone design, and none of that appears to be changing in 2018. It’s also sticking with the 3.5 headphone jack, and we actually like the Samsung Experience software (it’s not called TouchWiz anymore and it’s not terrible). Bixby AI has a chance to improve in year two, as well.
The big mystery is the Samsung Galaxy S9 price. With all of these improvements and Apple being able to charge a high premium for the iPhone X, are we going to see a price increase? Current signs point to yes, even though this is an iterative update and Samsung should be saving on the bill of materials with so few design changes.
However the S9 price shakes out, we’re in for a superior camera, amped-up stereo speakers and, thank goodness, a fixed fingerprint sensor. That’s more important for anyone who wants the best smartphone possible. Samsung’s prospects with the Galaxy S9 are tremendous in 2018 thanks to its three small, but meaningful feature tweaks. We'll see if it listened to our feedback on Sunday.
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