The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the newest really big Android smartphone, and also the worst-kept secret by Samsung. We all knew it was coming today.
Samsung's Unpacked 2018 event ahead of MWC 2018 has given us our first official look at the handset and its massive 6.2-inch display – and it honestly doesn't look all that different from last year's S8 Plus.
But looks are deceiving. You're in for a decidedly better camera thanks to the new adaptive-aperture technology and the world's first f/1.5 aperture on a smartphone. The low-light photos are going to be top-of-the-line for a phone camera.
Big changes worth noting are fixes to the fingerprint sensor location and the long-overdue debut of stereo speakers on a Samsung flagship. The S9 Plus has everything we want, except a convincing price.
We're finally able to lay out all of the facts about the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Here's what this camera-focused smartphone is all about.
- Read our hands-on Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review
- Don't want the big phone? Everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S9
- Or read our hands-on Samsung Galaxy S9 review
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The Galaxy S9's larger sibling
- When is it out? March 16 release date, but announced today
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus release date and price
- Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus release date: March 16
- Pre-orders begin today (in Europe); March 2 (US)
- Price: £869, $839, AU$1,349 depending on carrier
The official Galaxy S9 Plus release date is Friday, March 16, Samsung announced at its Unpacked 2018 reveal event in Barcelona.
Pre-orders for both the S9 and S9 Plus open today in Europe and Friday, March 2 in the US. This gives American carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile time to hype up their S9 Plus deals in the US.
In the UK we've already seen prices from EE, which says the phone will start at £63 a month/£150 upfront with 4GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts.
It's coming very soon. That's the good news. The bad news is that it'll be even more expensive than the S8 Plus was last year. In some countries, the price jump is significant.
In the US, it'll cost $839.99, or $35 a month for 24 months for the S9 Plus unlocked. That's through Samsung's official website. Individual carrier prices may differ, of course.
In the UK the S9 Plus will cost £869 – that's a lot more than the S8 Plus launch price of £779, and £130 more than the smaller Galaxy S9.
In Australia, the price hasn't shifted from the Galaxy S8 Plus launch, sticking with the AU$1,349 starting price.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus design and display
- Fingerprint sensor is center-aligned on back, stereo speakers debut
- Samsung's classy glass-and-metal smartphone design
- Minor changes to the dimensions compared to the S8 Plus
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a screen-first smartphone with minimal bezel on the front. It's easy to appreciate its giant 6.2-inch display, Quad HD resolution and Super AMOLED technology, even if practically nothing has changed from the S8 Plus.
You will find some newness to the Galaxy S9 Plus look. The fingerprint sensor is on the rear of the phone again, but shifted to the center. That contrasts with the much-maligned offset scanner on the S8 Plus. Samsung listened to last year's overwhelmingly negative feedback when it made the Galaxy S9 Plus, it seems.
Another important shift is that Samsung has finally decided to use stereo speakers on the Galaxy S9 Plus. It's 40% louder than the S8 Plus, thanks to the addition of a second speaker in the earpiece that's combined with the familiar bottom-firing speaker. These aren't dual front-facing speakers, but this is a big step in the right direction for a Samsung flagship.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus colors include three options, and maybe four depending on where you are. There's Midnight Black, Coral Blue and Lilac Purple – Samsung's new standout color – which you'll see everywhere when Samsung markets the new phone. There's also a Titanium Gray color, although this won't be coming to every region.
Dual-aperture, dual-lens Galaxy S9 Plus camera
The Galaxy S9 Plus camera is a big upgrade for smartphone photography, thanks to Samsung putting all of its energy into the world's first phone with an f/1.5 aperture.
It should be fantastic at capturing low-light photos as the camera is now able to pull in up to 28% more light, and capture images with 30% less noise. This is due to the fact that it can switch from the f/1.5 aperture when it's dark to a more typical f/2.4 when there's enough light.
Samsung has also added a second telephoto lens to the S9 Plus, just like it did for the Note 8. And beneath the dual-lens is DRAM as part of the image sensor stack. This gives you a photo that's really a composite of 12 frames. That's an upgrade from the three frames used in last year's phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus video capabilities have been upgraded, too. It can now take-super-slow motion video at 960 fames per second at 720p. The previous 240fps has been enhanced to 1080p.
Our favorite part of Samsung's take on super slo-mo video is that it automatically starts rolling when the camera senses motion. There's no need to try to haphazardly press the shutter button just to capture split-second action.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus AR emoji
The font-facing camera is taking on Apple's Animoji viral sensation with more masks and props that appear over your face. Samsung is adding Snapchat-like special effect to the Galaxy S9 selfie camera to the default camera called AR Emoji.
You can create an avatar in your likeness or assume a completely different persona. It's also possible to add AR oversized hats, sunglasses and other fun accessories. There's more variety to AR Emoji with customizations that remind us of bitmoji, but with a moving avatar that matches your facial expressions. It's not as expressive as Apple's Animoji, however.
Sending AR Emoji to friends is easier thanks to the fact that Samsung decided to export the animations as GIFs. That'll make it easier to send AR Emoji to your friends, even if they're on a non-Samsung device.
Samsung Galaxy Plus specs and software
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is poised to be the fastest Android phone when it launches. It comes with either Samsung's Exynos 9810 chipset or the Snapdragon 845 chipset (in the US and China). We're expecting them to be 30% faster, according to our recent tests of the Snapdragon 845 chip on a Qualcomm reference phone.
There's also 6GB of RAM, a reason to get it over the smaller Galaxy S9 that has just 4GB of RAM. 64GB of internal storage is supplemented by a microSD card slot that can store up to 200GB of extra data.
If you're looking for a Samsung phone with Android 8.0 Oreo, this is it. It runs the latest Google operating system with the 'Samsung Experience' skin that was once called TouchWiz. It's streamlined compared to years past, and we no longer have a problem with it. In fact, many of Samsung's default apps, including the camera app are better than Google software.
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus battery life
You're likely going to get all-day battery life out of the S9 Plus due to the fact that it contains the same 3,500mAh battery capacity as last year's phone. It's another reason to go with the bigger phone over the normal S9, which has a 3,000mAh battery.
We're hoping that its new chips are efficient enough to make the battery last a bit longer – we'll know for sure when we conduct our full Galaxy S9 Plus review. The good news is that the phone supports both fast charging and fast wireless charging, so you should be able to juice up again in no time.