Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, the successors to Galaxy S8 and S8+ will launch next month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. DJ Koh, the company’s mobile chief confirmed at CES that the flagship smartphones will be unveiled at MWC after missing the launch time frame last year.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ were the most crucial flagship launch for the company after its Galaxy Note7 flagship were recalled due to battery issue. According to Strategy Analytics, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ were the best-selling Android smartphones during the second quarter of 2017 and the research firm estimates Samsung to have sold over 20 million units of the devices since launch.
With Galaxy Note8 having received good response from Note fans and Apple struggling to justify the $999 price tag of iPhone X, Samsung has an opportunity to drive some iPhone users away from Apple’s stable with its S9 duo. With the official launch just a month away, here is what we know so far about the two flagship smartphones
Design and Display
Samsung, like most other smartphone makers, follows a tick-tock refresh cycle for its flagship smartphone lineup. The Galaxy S8 belonged to the tick cycle of design refresh while Galaxy S9 will be the tock model. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ will bring iterative updates to company’s Infinity Display design with some leaked panels showing thinner bezels than existing models.
The leaks suggest that Samsung plans to make the chin thinner than that of Galaxy S8, which should make the devices even more compact and its screen-to-body ratio might hit the 90 percent mark. Another major design change and a crucial one is expected to come in the form of re-positioned rear fingerprint sensor.
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ will miss out on in-screen fingerprint sensor and will instead feature a rear mounted fingerprint sensor placed below the camera module. The biggest disappointment of Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note8 is the awkwardly placed fingerprint sensor, which has been found hard to reach by most customers. Samsung has virtually confirmed that design change with the launch of Galaxy A8 and A8+ smartphones.
The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are expected to sport 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch OLED display respectively. Samsung is not likely to introduce a bump in resolution by moving to a 4K panel but it is expected to improve the quality of display. According to DisplayMate, the Galaxy S8 achieved a peak display brightness of over 1,000 nits while Galaxy Note8 managed over 1,200 nits so it is easy to assume that display on Galaxy S9 will at least match Note8 in terms of peak brightness. Samsung is the leader in mobile OLED display and could bring hardware improvements to enhance saturation and color reproduction this year.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ will be among the first devices to be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset. The Snapdragon 845 is an octa-core chipset based on custom Kryo 385 CPU that brings 25 percent improvement in CPU performance and 30 percent improvement in GPU performance. The Snapdragon 845 is a 10nm chip built using second generation LPP (Low-Power Plus) process and is being mass produced by Samsung.
The Snapdragon 845 also brings faster connectivity in the form of new X20 LTE modem that has a maximum throughput of 1.2Gbps and support for 5x carrier aggregation. It also supports Dual SIM, Dual VoLTE, which will be especially useful in markets like India. It also brings an improved image signal processor and a secure subsystem for on device vault similar to secure enclave on iPhone. Like Huawei and Apple, Qualcomm is also adding AI support allowing for dedicated neural processing on the chipset and will speed features like facial recognition and voice assistant functionality.
Like in the past, Samsung will use Snapdragon 845 only with models sold in the US, Canada and China while all other markets will get company’s own Exynos chipset. Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ will use Exynos 9 series 9810 chipset which was launched last week. The chipset is also based on second generation 10nm FinFET architecture and Samsung claims two-fold increase in single-core performance and around 40 percent gain in multi-core performance. The chipset also supports gigabit LTE with 6 carrier aggregation and deep learning algorithm for handling AI-based applications including 3D face recognition.
The camera (or cameras this time) has been one of the strongest area of any Galaxy flagship smartphone. Samsung is likely to limit the dual camera setup to the large-screen Galaxy S9+ while the Galaxy S9 will offer an improved single rear camera setup. The Galaxy S9+ is expected to borrow the dual camera system found on Galaxy Note8 with dual optically stabilized image sensors and dedicated telephoto lens.
The Exynos 9 series 9810 includes a new image signal processor that can record 4K videos at 120 frames per second. Apple iPhone X is the only smartphone capable of recording 4K video at 60 fps and by adding 120fps support, Samsung will allow for slow-motion videos at high resolution.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are rumored to retain the 3.5mm jack and it takes courage to retain the proprietary headphone jack on a smartphone these days. According to Korea Herald, it will feature an improved iris scanner with 3-megapixel image sensor as opposed to 2-megapixel sensor found on iris scanners found on Galaxy S8 and Note8 smartphones. The iris scanners to offer faster response time and will support mobile banking.
In a nutshell, we know a lot about Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ even before they become official. Samsung seems to be fixing the flaws observed on Galaxy S8 duo and will likely offer features that make it more competitive against iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL. The bigger question will be whether it will hit that $999 price tag to match Apple.