Five days with Samsung’s Galaxy S9
On Sunday evening Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S9 to the world and I was lucky enough to get one of the first devices in the country to review.
So since Sunday night I have been playing with the S9 like I played with my toys when I was a kid. That is to say, I can’t put it down and I find myself scrolling through options just to learn more about the handset.
My full review will be out once I have had enough time to properly get to grips with the handset but since pre-orders are currently available I thought it best to share my experience before you part ways with R15 499.
The battery life leaves me wanting
After four days of use I have found that the S9 requires charging every night after charging while I sleep.
This is partially due to me having to install numerous updates but even when the phone is fully updated I’ve found that it needs to be tethered to the wall.
All in all the S9 lasts about 14 hours depending on your use. The more you use LTE connectivity and the brighter your display settings the sooner power will run out.
Charging for 0 percent to 100 percent capacity takes an hour and half with a 30 minute charge giving me just under 50 percent capacity.
This is par for the course with flagship smartphones but I would willingly sacrifice the thinner form factor for a larger battery.
Seeing as Samsung touted the rear snapper as the defining feature of this handset I’ve been testing it at length.
Sadly the last few days have been cloudy here on the West Rand of Johannesburg so pictures do appear muted thanks to the clouds blocking out all of that golden sunlight.
But even in that case, my goodness do photos look great. Take a look at the gallery below. Note, photos were captured at a 4:3 aspect ratio at 4032 x 3024 but have been resized for the web.
Samsung’s dual pixel technology means autofocus is lightning fast and even while recording in 4K you can quickly tap the display to pull focus on an object. It’s smooth and fast and I can see myself recording many videos with this snapper.
As for Super Slow Motion, it’s okay.
You can choose from two options for recording. Manual recording which will simply record a short clip and slow it down or Automatic recording.
This option places a square in the viewfinder and when motion is detected within the square it will start recording automatically.
Both options have flaws. For instance Manual recording results in an extremely short clip so the action needs to be happening as you hit record. The Automatic recording option is hit or miss, sometimes I missed the action completely and recorded just a short clip of well, nothing happening.
When you do manage to capture a scene in slow motion however it looks great. Granted Sony has already said its XZ2 will be able to capture slow motion Full HD video (1920 x 1080) at 960fps so if you must have slow-motion that might be the better option.
The selfie camera is really great as well and AR emojis are fun even if they are very gimmicky.
Software and bloatware
Not much has changed in Samsung’s software. The S9 does still run Android (specifically version 8.0 at time of writing) customised with Samsung’s own skin – Samsung Experience.
The handset comes pre-loaded with Samsung specific apps such as Samsung Health, SmartThings and Samsung Gear. There are also apps for Facebook and Instagram.
All of these apps require updates so if you won’t be using them my advice is to delete them ASAP.
“Bixby, setup Google Assistant”
Bixby is dumb.
After updating the app and going through the induction process I started using the personal assistant.
My first issue was that Bixby was picking up the voices of those around me, something I’ve never experienced with the Google Assistant. The second most glaring issue was that Bixby is still learning how I speak.
This learning process can be guided by you but the system is less than intuitive.
For example, in one interaction Bixby misunderstood one word in a sentence. Tapping the “Teach Me” button allowed me to tell Bixby but the word it misunderstood had been split into two words so I couldn’t teach it what I meant.
I understand that this is a process of learning but I feel like Google’s Assistant has the edge here simply because more people are using it giving the artificial intelligence a wider variety of data to draw from.
It’s early days still and I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I can teach Bixby to listen to me and not every other voice in the room.
The school of hard Knox
Many folks celebrated the moving of the fingerprint scanner to below the camera.
This doesn’t make too much of a difference to me as I am clumsy and still end up smudging the camera with my fingerprints. The fingerprint scanner is fast though so that’s nice.
Iris scanning/facial recognition is great, like really great. The feature doesn’t work too well in darkness (obviously) but in low light it performs surprisingly well.
Samsung’s security scanner works well but I do wish there was a visual indicator that showed me my device was secure without having to dive into the settings to run a scan and assess my devices health.
So far the Galaxy S9 is impressive (except for the battery life) and if you’re a fan of Samsung’s previous devices this will be a great upgrade from the S7. Whether it’s worth upgrading from the S8 however remains to be seen.
Our full review will be out as soon as I’ve been able to put the S9 through some more abuse.