When we review a smartphone we usually only have the handset for two weeks before it gets shipped off to the next reviewer.
This is the same for most publications here in South Africa.
Very rarely, however, do we receive a handset and the manufacturer forgets to pick it up. That was the case with the Samsung Galaxy S9.
A year later and the handset is still in my possession and I’ve decided to look back at my review and see how the handset holds up after a year of (almost) daily use.
During the review period I noted an average battery life of 10 hours. After a year of use the battery life now clocks in at eight hours and some change with low use.
When I’m putting the handset through its paces by calling all day, using the handset as a mobile hotspot and checking app notifications I’ve noted a battery life of six hours.
Charging the battery up from empty takes one hour and 45 minutes which is a slight increase from the hour and thirty minutes a year ago.
Your mileage may vary over the course of a year but this should give you a good idea about the degradation you can expect with average to heavy use.
Performance and updates
The performance of the S9 has remained rather consistent throughout the year though I didn’t expect to see massive performance drops.
Early in February I downloaded the Android 9.0 update which added a figurative ton of features as well as a UI update for the S9.
So far performance it has been great and I find navigation is much easier than the older UI. For things that I can’t find a quick gesture allows me to search for what I’m looking for with suggestions helping me find other, related options.
The fingerprint scanner still reads my digit incredibly quickly. In fact I’ve turned unlocking my handset into a game by enabling all authentication methods and seeing which is fastest.
Between fingerprint, iris recognition and a passcode, the fingerprint is still the best but it’s nice to have options.
As for updates, I’ve been impressed with the regularity of system updates Samsung has delivered. These are presented in small downloads that can be installed while you aren’t using the handset, usually while I’m asleep.
Overall I don’t feel as if performance has degraded over time and a quick benchmark using Geekbench 4 reveals that our performance results are unchanged compared to a year ago.
Seeing as the Galaxy S9 was released right at the beginning of the year it’s not going to win top trumps for camera tech.
The camera hasn’t changed much, as you might expect though the UI has changed for the better.
The phone is still not a replacement for your DLSR or mirrorless camera but it will work in a pinch. I cannot count on one hand how many times this camera has helped me in a bind.
As for slow-motion video, I have never used it or felt the need to use it outside of my initial review. It is an undeniably cool feature but it’s a novelty for me.
The functionality of slow motion recording is much better thanks to the recent One UI update but I still feel it’s very much a gimmick that I don’t find myself reaching for often, if ever.
While not specifically related to the camera the audio recording on the Galaxy S9 is pristine. Whether you’re recording a lecture in a massive hall or an interview in a busy media lounge the recording quality of the S9 is great.
Urgh, shut up Bixby
I hate slamming a product but in the case of Bixby, I have to say something.
Between the bespoke button that cannot be reprogrammed and the inability to connect to the internet when I’m on an LTE network, I have all but written Bixby off.
The simple fact of the matter is that compared to a personal assistant such as Google Assistant, Bixby looks like a light weight. We know folks at Samsung have probably worked very hard to make Bixby work but perhaps it’s time to pack it in.
Comparing Bixby to Google Assistant is like comparing a pea-shooter to an M16. Google just has so much data to train its assistant with compared to Samsung that the short comings of Bixby are noticeable. For example, Bixby triggers when I say something that sounds like “Bixby” but never when I actually say the name.
I tried to use Bixby but eventually it became such a pain that I stopped. The only time I see the assistant now is when I accidentally press its dedicated button.
I would also like to say that I admire Samsung’s push to get me to use it’s apps (Health, Things, Pay) but I really have no use for any of them and if I did it’s unlikely I’d pick Samsung Health over another solution.
I have used a number of accessories in my time with the S9 but the best accessory by far is the Folding Cover from Samsung itself.
The cover allows you to prop the handset up so you can watch video in landscape without having to hold your phone constantly.
There is space to plug in your headphone jack and charger, you can slot the device into a DeX dock (if you still have one of those) all without a fuss. The best feature however is being able to skip or rewind audio tracks without having to unlock the handset.
It is a pricey cover at R899 at time of writing but I’ve dropped the phone enough times to warrant this as a “must have” for your S9.
After a year of use I’d still recommend the Galaxy S9 to smartphone buyers though that recommendation comes with one caveat.
Don’t expect the battery to perform as well a year after use.
Science and physics are against you on that front and I’d advise carrying a power bank with you if you plan to be away from a power outlet for more than 8 hours.
Beyond that however, there’s very little that has me considering its time to upgrade my handset.
Updates are still being delivered in a timely fashion, DeX now doesn’t require the massive dock that it launched with initially and Android improvements have made the handset a joy to use.
Will the handset still be working as well as it is now, a year from now? I suspect it will be but the battery life might cause some frustrations.
Overall after a year of use the Samsung Galaxy S9 is still a great handset and I would still recommend it.
Will it hold up to the Samsung Galaxy S10? We’ll have to wait and see.