Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, the newest flagship from the Korean company, is a minor upgrade over last year’s model. The smartphone keeps the critically-acclaimed design of Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones and offers a subtle change in the form of relocated fingerprint sensor. However, the smartphone sees major upgrade in the camera department, namely the dual aperture primary image sensor at the back.
The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are the first smartphones to do away with fixed aperture. The primary 12-megapixel sensor on the back of the Galaxy S9 duo support mechanical aperture that can vary from f/1.5 to f/2.4. The feature is a nifty addition to Galaxy S9’s arsenal as Samsung tries to fight back Apple and Google in the premium smartphone segment. While the cameras are a major improvement, Samsung did not explain how it managed to achieve that dual aperture setup.
Now, iFixit has gone ahead and torn down the Galaxy S9+ to understand how the camera works in real life. Samsung has achieved the dual aperture functionality by modifying the design of camera module. While traditional smartphone cameras with single aperture have five-blades to let light in, Samsung is using just two ring-like blades.
The decision to switch to two ring-like blades limits the functionality of the camera with option for either f/1.5 or f/2.4 aperture and not actually vary between the setting. However, it leads to the camera being relatively smaller than older design.
With Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, Samsung is also borrowing from Apple’s Animoji and bringing a 3D Bitmoji feature called AR Emoji. The teardown reveals that Samsung is not using any advanced facial/depth-mapping feature like Apple to implement this feature. iFixit says the front camera, iris scanner, IR emitter and proximity sensor all remain pretty much exactly like those on the Galaxy S8. The teardown makes it clear that AR Emoji is purely achieved by software-based algorithm and not advanced hardware like the TrueDepth camera on iPhone X. It is possibly the reason why Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ don’t have a notch.
The teardown also reveals that Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ have many modular components which can be replaced independently. The 3,000mAh and 3,500mAh battery on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ respectively can be technically replaced but accessing them is an unnecessary challenge. A challenging design to seal battery in place could be due to the Galaxy Note 7 debacle from 2016.
The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ feature a metal and glass sandwich design which increases the chance of breakage and iFixit notes that repairs are difficult to start. In order to replace the screen, the rear glass panel requires to be removed and the entire phone needs to be disassembled with tough adhesive affecting the process. In terms of repairability, the Galaxy S9+ scored a 4 out of 10, which is same as that of Galaxy Note 8 but lower than 6 scored by iPhone X.