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Samsung at MWC 2018: Galaxy S9 hands-on and more

It’s fair to say that the Galaxy S9’s development has proved leakier than a bullet-riddled bucket, with rumours, specs and spy-shots giving us almost every iota of information on the phone ahead of its formal launch at Mobile World Congress.

Thankfully, both the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are now here in an official capacity and we’ve gone hands-on with both so you know which new super-smart Sammy might be right for you.

Samsung Galaxy S9 hands-on

The Galaxy S9 looks to be a wholly iterative update, addressing the relatively short list of bugbears users held against last year’s S8 in order to produce a more refined flagship experience.

That starts with the design, which at first glance appears unchanged from 2017’s Galaxy. The Infinity Display still flows over the sides of the phone’s front and whilst the change appears imperceptible to the naked eye, Samsung assures us that the bezels above and below the screen are now narrower, giving you an even greater screen-to-body ratio.

The 5.8-inch display itself boasts the same stunning Super AMOLED technology, the same Quad HD+ resolution and the same elongated 18.5:9 aspect ratio as before, making it ideal for split-screen multitasking and enjoying media. Samsung clearly listened to music and media lovers this time around by granting the S9 dual stereo speakers tuned by AKG, not to mention the 3.5mm headphone jack is still present and correct too.

Flip the phone over and the rounded glass back ensures a comfortable feel in the hand, ongoing wireless charging support and a stage that’s perfect for all the smears, smudges and fingerprints your digits can muster.

Unlike its larger sibling, the S9 opts for a single rear camera setup under which sits a new centrally-positioned fingerprint sensor. Not only does this new positioning accommodate ambidextrous use, but it takes just three swipes of your print to register during initial setup.

The camera itself is a 12-megapixel effort, similarly to the S8, albeit with a new adaptive dual aperture feature that typically shoots at f/2.4 but can expand as wide as f/1.5 in exceptionally dark environments.

In an effort to improve snaps even further, the S9’s new snappy dual pixel sensor actually captures up to 12 frames each time you press the shutter button, combining them to remove grain and shake before spitting out an enhanced final image.

It’s not just general photography that’s been upgraded, though; super slow motion video is now a possibility too. The as yet unnamed Exynos processor (or Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in some markets) powering the S9 grants the phone the ability to record a burst of 960fps video at 720p HD resolution. To out-do Sony’s super slow motion efforts from its 2017 handsets the S9’s technology also includes an intelligent motion detection feature that triggers the shutter when it registers action in a specified area in-frame.

Animoji might be the cornerstone of Apple’s iPhone X marketing but that isn’t stopping Samsung from getting in on the action. The front-facing 8-megapixel camera can be used to scan your face before transforming you into what it calls an AR Emoji. These can then be used as animated avatars or as stickers, both of which have been designed to support sharing across most social media platforms.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ hands-on

As was true last year, so is it with this year’s Galaxy S9+. Samsung’s larger flagship phone offers the same vivacious Quad HD+ AMOLED display but on a larger 6.2-inch panel, the same Android 8.0 Oreo-driven Samsung software experience and the same top-tier processor, all wrapped up in a familiar IP68-certified dust and water resistant package.

Beyond the bigger footprint, there are three key factors that set the S9 apart from its smaller sibling. It packs in more RAM (6GB as opposed to 4GB), a larger capacity battery at 3500mAh and most importantly, a dual camera array.

Provided you’re comfortable with a larger device, opting for the Plus model grants you a secondary 12-megapixel telephoto snapper, not unlike the one we encountered on last year’s Galaxy Note 8.

The module is vertically aligned on the S9+ and features an f/2.4 aperture. Aside from granting the Plus 2x lossless optical zoom, it also adds Live Photo mode to the camera app’s feature set, letting you dress portraits with attractive background blur and the ability to refocus shots after they’ve been taken.

Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ specs

Galaxy S9 Galaxy S9+
Screen size 5.8-inches 6.2-inches
Screen resolution 2960 x 1440
Audio AKG-tuned stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions 147.7mm x 68.7mm x 8.5mm 158.1mm x 73.8mm x 8.5mm,
Weight 163 grams 189 grams
OS Android 8.0 Oreo
Front cameras 8-megapixels w/ f/2.4 aperture
Rear cameras 12-megapixels w/ dual aperture f/1.5 & f/2.4 12-megapixels w/ dual aperture f/1.5 & f/2.4 + 12-megapixels (telephoto) f/2.4
Processor (market dependant) 2.7GHz/1.7GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos or Qualcomm Snapdragon 845  2.8GHz/1.7GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos or Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Memory 4GB RAM  6GB RAM
Storage 64GB. MicroSD up to 400GB 128GB. MicroSD up to 400GB
Battery 3000mAh  3500mAh
Colours Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple.
Extra IP68 certfication, heart rate sensor, improved Bixby Vision w/ real-time translation, fast wireless charging

Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ accessories

If you’re prepared to drop around £800 on either of these new Galaxys, you’ll likely be tempted by the fleet of new accessories that are bringing up the rear.

Hyperknit Cover

You might have heard of Nike’s Flyknit material, a tightly woven polyester yarn that appears on sports tops and footwear, well, Samsung’s got its own take on the same stuff and wrapped a phone case with it. It’s available in red or grey.

LED View Cover

This folio-style case provides complete protection whilst a bank of LEDs on the cover can display incoming call or notification information. What’s more, you can assign select icons to specific contacts. It also features a sleeve so you can slot in a bank card or two and comes in black, blue or purple.

Clear View Standing Cover

This all-round protective case features a mirrored translucent front that ties into a dedicated interface powered by the Galaxy S9. You can answer calls, check notifications, view your battery percentage and more. Plus it doubles as a stand so you can watch media on your phone in portrait or landscape. It’s available in black, blue, gold and purple

Protective Standing Cover

This hardy 3mm-thick case features a ridged back for improved grip and an integrated kickstand that lets you enjoy content in either orientation. Despite the level of protection on offer, Samsung also assures users that they’ll still be able to charge wirelessly without taking it off. Available in black or silver.

Alcantara Cover

Alcantara has become a material synonymous with sports cars. The suede-like finish not only feels nice in the hand but should soften the blows suffered by an unfortunate S9 headed straight for concrete. The material also lines the inside of the case to minimise scratches and scrapes. Comes in black, blue, red and Mint Grey

Silicone Cover

Samsung’s official silicon cover offers perfect no-frills protection and adds tons of grip too. It’s lined with a microfibre material and comes in Black, Grey, Mint and Pink

Wireless Charging Stand

The new Wireless Charging Stand not only wirelessly charges your S9/S9+ back up quickly, it also accommodates both portrait and landscape orientations, so you can charge up whilst you chow down on some Netflix. Available in black or white.

Wireless Charging Convertible

Samsung’s new convertible fast wireless charger features an elegant sliding mechanism that locks in place to double as a phone stand. Comes in both black and brown.

Fast Charging Battery Pack

If you need more power fast, Samsung’s new 5100mAh battery pack has enough juice to refill your S9 or S9+ and some. It also features a stylish design and can itself be fast-charged by any compatible Samsung fast-charger.

DeX Pad

A flat version of last year’s DeX Station that turns your S9 or S9+ into a full desktop computing experience. The new design means you can use the phone as a trackpad or virtual keyboard, making it a more flexible solution than its predecessor. Slated to arrive in June 2018.

AKG-tuned Earphones

Samsung teamed up with the audio boffins at AKG to make a pair of in-ears to accompany their stylish new smartphone. These buds feature a metal body, a 1.2m fabric cable with an inline three-button remote, microphone, come with interchangeable small, medium and large silicone ear tips, a protective leather case and can be had in Titanium Grey or Burgundy.

Pricing and availability

Pre-orders for both devices start today with a planned arrival time in stores and online on March 16th. The Galaxy S9 will start at £739 for the smaller 64GB capacity option, whilst potential S9+ owners will be expected to fork out at least £869 if purchasing the phone off-contract. Those who pre-order before March 7th can expect to receive their devices a week earlier than launch on March 9th.

For more coverage from Mobile World Congress 2018, check out our MWC Hub.