It won’t have big, flashy changes when it launches on February 25, according to every credible leak we’ve seen. However, it will fix three obvious problems that dogged the otherwise stellar 5.8-inch Android phone. 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 improved 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 was wrong with 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 the fingerprint sensor to a better location below the camera, according to renders and Samsung Galaxy S9 case leaks, and that’s good news.
We’re in for a center-aligned 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 worlds: a fingerprint sensor on the back and Face Unlock on the 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 it's the next best thing.
2. More camera focus, more HDR video
What was wrong with 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 both 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 reason to believe that it’s going to be capable of capturing 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 of the scene in focus, great for 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, with the new chip able to soak up 64 times the color data 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 was wrong with 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 the Galaxy S9 speakers has good news: we’re going to be hearing sound coming from the phone in stereo. It’s about time a Samsung flagship received stereo speakers, given the fact that the iPhone X has them – heck, even the iPhone 7 did.
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 implement true front-facing speakers, as on the Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL, but this is a significant step in the right direction, and music to our ears.
Staying the same isn’t so bad
Samsung has repeatedly impressed 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 any more, and it’s not terrible). Bixby AI has the chance to improve in year two as well.
The big mystery is the Samsung Galaxy S9 price. With all of these improvements, and with 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 materials bill 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 relocated fingerprint sensor, and that’s more important for anyone who wants the best smartphone possible. The prospects for the Samsung Galaxy S9 are tremendous thanks to these three small but meaningful feature tweaks. We'll see if Samsung has listened to users' feedback on Sunday.
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