The Samsung Galaxy S9+: a timely update on an already excellent phone with a refined user experience and a cornucopia of capabilities. There’s a lot to cover, so here’s how to get the most from its standout features.
AR Emoji are Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Animoji and whilst it’s fair to say that aren’t quite as slick, they’re still novel and unique in equal measure. There are a few creatures and characters to play with, but you also have the option to sculpt one in your own likeness, which most will find either cool or creepy.
Jump into the camera, swipe along the mode switcher (at the top in portrait or along the side in landscape) and tap on ‘create my emoji’. You’ll then see a viewfinder circle in which to position your face.
Take a snap, choose your sex and then, with a bit of behind-the-scenes processing magic, you’ll be presented with your new digital avatar. You can customise its skin tone, hairstyle and colour, outfit and give it accessories, but once you’ve been through this process, you can’t edit the same AR emoji again. Luckily the whole process can be repeated in seconds if you want to make tweaks.
After choosing whether you want to save the auto-generated animated stickers to your gallery (they’re still accessible in apps via the Samsung keyboard even if you don’t), you’ll then find any AR emojis that you’ve created next to the shutter button. Tapping on them overlays a motion-tracked instance of one on your viewfinder that copies your movements which you can then use to snap a custom expression of record a video clip
There are also other creatures underneath your own AR emojis worth checking out, and if you tap the ‘+’ icon you’ll be taken to the Galaxy Apps store where you can download even more, including some official Disney characters.
If you want to delete one of your own AR emojis, then long-press on it and a ‘-’ icon will appear that you can then use to remove it altogether.
You can run two apps side by side on the S9+’s expansive 6.2-inch display with ease. Whilst in an app, long-press on the recent apps button in the bottom left and the app you’re currently using will snap to the top half of the screen, whilst a list of open apps will appear beneath it. Scroll through to find and tap on the app of your choice or tap the ‘App List’ button to see all the apps installed on your device.
You can drag the divider between the apps to give one more screen real-estate or tap on it to access five options: the first makes an app pair shortcut on your home screen so you can jump to this split-screen setup again with a single tap. The second icon switches to snap window, which gives you (by default) a 16:9 window to snap too; great if you want to watch a video whilst checking another app. The third option simply reverses which app sits on top, whilst the fourth icon pushes the active app into a standalone floating pop-up window that you can move around, minimise or maximise. Finally, the ‘X’ closes the active app, letting the secondary app take full-screen.
Home screen customisation
Long-press on your S9+’s home screen and you’ll zoom out to a customisation view that lets you drag entire home screen panes around, delete them and align icons on a page with a single tap. The far left pane features a toggle to show or hide Bixby – Samsung’s virtual assistant, whilst you can tap the ‘+’ icon on the far right to add an additional home screen.
The options along the bottom let you swap out your phone’s wallpaper or entire theme, add widgets (readily accessible discreet features or functions from apps installed on your device) and play about with the user experience’s look and feel (called ‘Home Screen Settings’).
The Home Screen Settings menu lets you alter the grid size on which your apps sit, let you add an app drawer button if you’d rather not swipe up or down and it includes some new features like landscape support and the ability to summon the notifications pane by swiping down from any blank space on your home screen.
Customising camera modes
There are a lot of powerful shooting modes tied to the Galaxy S9+’s camera setup. As mentioned earlier, they all lie at the top or along the side of your viewfinder (depending on orientation) and you can swipe through them to switch between them. But, there’s a chance you don’t want all those modes all the time, or you simply never plan on using them.
Thankfully you can reorder these modes by long-pressing on the mode switcher. The subsequent screen lets you drag the modes up or down to reorder them and you can tap the tick box should you want to hide them altogether.
Alternatively, you can jump into the camera’s settings by tapping the cog icon on the viewfinder and then selecting ‘edit camera mode’. Choose whether you want to change to modes tied to the phone’s front or rear cameras and then tweak away, as before.
Faster face unlock
Just like last year’s S8 phones, the S9+ packs in an iris scanner which you can use to unlock your phone. You also have the option of face unlock but there’s now a third option in Intelligent Scan, which combines the two to serve up an even faster unlock experience.
Once you’ve registered your irises and face on your S9+ you’ll have the option to activate Intelligent Scan which attempts a basic face unlock, followed by an iris unlock if that fails, after which it bunny-hops between the two technologies to try and unlock your phone that little bit quicker. Researchers have said that whilst it is faster, it’s no more secure as an unlock method.
The S9+ is a big phone and one-handed use is an essential part of navigating this handset when your other mitt is otherwise occupied. To activate it, jump into the settings menu and look for the ‘Advanced Features’ section. There you should find the option to toggle on one-handed mode.
Tapping on the words, rather than the toggle will also let you choose how you activate it; with a diagonal swipe or a triple-tap of the home button. When active, tapping the chevron will switch the shrunken interface to the other side of the screen for easier left or right-handed use.
Read next: Samsung Galaxy S9 Tips & Tricks Guide