The modern era is defined by the launch of one technomajig when the previous version is barely a few months old. The cycle of thesis-antithesis-synthesis is spinning like a roulette wheel outta’ control and there is simply no dialling the dial back anymore. If you aren’t flaunting the latest gizmo-wizardry out there, you might as well climb back under the rock you came from.

With this FOMO ringing loud and clear, I hastily made my way to the Samsung Galaxy S9 launch and wasted no time in acquainting myself with the new device. To give you a bit of a background, I gave up on the iPhone last year after nine years of unquestioned loyalty and have been on the Android platform since. In fact, even as I contemplated switching back with the iPhone X, I instead upgraded to the Pixel 2 XL not entirely because I like Android or Google; let’s just say it was complicated and, score one for Google.

 

Back to the latest palm-slab on the market, the S9 feels solid in build from the start. A sleek metal body weighing 189g for the S9+ (163g for the S9), with Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides, claims to be 15% stronger than Gorilla Glass 4. In other words, if you dropped your previous phone from a height of 5 ft and it survived, you can now go an entire 22cm higher without breaking a sweat. Why one would do so however is another question.

The power button is housed on the right side while the volume toggles are to the left along with a dedicated quick-access button for Bixby, Samsung’s version of Siri, or Alexa, or Google Assistant by any other name. I’m told Bixby is capable of a lot more (live translation, currency conversions) but during this short interaction with the device, it didn’t allow me to explore further (Samsung account needed and such).

 



The body definitely feels robust, way sturdier than the mostly plastic construct of the Pixel 2s, more in line with the iPhone ranges, but even more seriously committed to not cracking at the first fall. The AMOLED display is quasi-infinity at best for the tapered bezel isn’t exactly edge-to-edge; you have a fairly distinct forehead and chin to the device but, on the flip side, no annoying notch. Thankfully.

Both the phones charge through USB-C and retain a 3.5mm headphone jack, something missing (and much missed) on many phones on the market today. The AKG-Harman Kardon noise-isolating wired earphones (with mic) are the added sweet bonus with the purchase.

Unique Samsung UI features include AR emojis which uses your facial features to construct caricatured expressions and gifs, sticker options in messages, edge-light for notifications, and swipe gestures. Use the palm for screenshots and fingers to send messages to or call contacts.

Also, there is a ‘Panic Mode’ to dial emergency numbers (simply press the power button three times to activate). You can enhance video quality and even change the touch sensitivity to prevent goof ups. The one-handed mode sounded like a useful add. 

The camera is the main upgrade here with a awwwwwe-inducing (yep, a five ‘w’ awe) super slo-mo (SSM) mode that can capture upto 20 SSMs (at 960 fps) shots in one video. The playback was definitely impressive and unprecedented. What however was not as great was the low light mode. The S9+ has two lenses (f1.5 and f2.4) and in spite of this ammo, the low-light picture felt artificially saturated with overtly enriched colours. That said, the Pixel 2XL produced a less sharper image but at least the colours were more natural.

On the whole, the camera is more zoomed in than either the iPhone or the Pixel 2XL so one really needs to step back to capture the same amount of content.  As for the overall picture quality, the images on the Pixel 2XL were definitely sharper, crisper, with better true-to-life colour reproduction.

In the portrait mode, the Pixel 2XL’s algorithm further outshone the S9+s Live Focus mode, which, although allows for blurring in the post-production stage, also leads to mild pixelation in the background as one blurs further. Yes, I know the DxOMark score for the S9 did supersede that for the iPhone X and the Pixel 2XL, but this is what I felt from my first-hand handling.

The speakers are loud and crisp, far ahead of anything on the iPhone or any of the Pixel phones; AKG tuning and Dolby Atmos definitely up the ante here in a way that makes this far superior to its peers.
Samsung Pay, a very successful introduction, remains standard in these devices. Iris, fingerprint and facial recognition ensure the security of the device in case it’s lost, misplaced, or stolen. The phone intelligently uses the quickest of the three methods to unlock the phone. 

Further integration with Reliance Jio and Airtel will (allegedly) open up more bandwidth for these devices thereby allowing them access to speeds in excess of 250mbps while surfing the net which can translate to roughly 2.5 times faster than other phones on the same network.

Compared to the S8 series, these pack in more processor power, a kick-ass(er) camera, and the live emojis. Most other features remain similar, right down to the battery (3000mAh and 3500mAh). 

Between the S9 and the S9+, the latter gets a dual camera with live focus (aka portrait) mode, a bigger battery and more screen. The processor is the same, a 2.7GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos processor which, I imagine, is enough power to send a small satellite into space.

Price: 
S9 64GB – Rs 57,900/-
S9 256GB – Rs 65,900/-
S9+ 64GB – Rs 64,900/-
S9 256GB – Rs 72,900/-

Paytm will offer a Rs 6000 cash back for some time. March 16, 2018, the phones will be available in three colours, Midnight Black, Coral Blue, and the new one, Lilac Purple. For those, who don’t wish to upgrade the S8 and S8+ remain available starting around Rs 54,000/- (with upto Rs 10,000 cashback further).

Reasons to Buy:

  • Awesome camera with Super slow-mo mode at 960fps
  • AR Emojis
  • Premium build and feel
  • Dolby Atmos and AKG-tuned speakers and earphones

Reasons to Skip:

  • Not much over the S8
  • Picture quality is not entirely ahead of the competition
  • No funky colours!