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Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

TechRadar logo TechRadar 15/07/2019 Matt Swider
a hand holding a cellphone: Lilac Purple is the hot new color on this year's Galaxy phones © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Lilac Purple is the hot new color on this year's Galaxy phones

Update: The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus now has the likes of the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS to compete with, but it remains a top phone and is now available at a slightly lower price. However, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is fast approaching.

a close up of electronics © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd.

Other than the newer Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the Galaxy S9 Plus is Samsung's most advanced big phone thanks to its oversized screen and superb cameras – even if it all looks identical to last year’s S8 Plus. It's also Samsung's best phone. In fact, almost a year after launch it remains at the top of our best phones list.

Without dramatic changes to the design, it’s only an iterative update to the S8 Plus – but it’s an iterative update to an Android phone that sat near the top of our best phones list for around a year. That’s important to remember.

We’ve tested the Galaxy S9 Plus for months now, and its low-light photos and big screen are the two most obvious highlights. It’s still Samsung’s grandiose 6.2-inch curved ‘Infinity’ display that will sell you on this more expensive phone over the 5.8-inch Galaxy S9, but both handsets have an improved 12MP camera that boasts a f/1.5 maximum aperture.

This is the first camera phone with such a wide aperture, giving the S9 and S9 Plus low-light and noise-defeating powers that, in many situations, are more advanced than those of even the Google Pixel 2, our previous best phone camera, and new LG G7 ThinQ with its AI camera.

That said, the newer Google Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and iPhone XS now have it beat in our best camera phone ranking.

The S9 Plus benefits from a rear dual-lens camera, too, giving it the same telephoto capabilities as the previous year’s Note 8 (the S9 has one lens on the back). Its primary lens can also capture super-slow-motion video at 960 frames per second if you’re serious about video and, if you’re not, uses its 8MP front-facing camera to paint your face with AR Emoji props and masks. It's Samsung's spin on Apple's Animoji, but don't get too excited about it. It's rather unimpressive, unlike the rest of the phone.

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Samsung has listened to the negative feedback regarding last year’s handsets, and has wisely moved its offset rear fingerprint sensor to a centre-aligned position. It’s a more natural location, although you may not even need it thanks to the face unlock and iris scanning onboard and working at the same time. Addressing another shortcoming of the S8 Plus, Samsung finally gives its flagship phones stereo speakers for superior sound.

If you’re thinking a sudden emphasis on stereo speakers, face unlock, AR Emoji and vertically stacked 12MP dual cameras sounds as if these are Samsung’s take on iPhone X features, you're right. 

The S9 Plus tries to match everything Apple can do, but at a larger screen size (at least until the iPhone XS Max arrived) and with a 3.5mm headphone jack – and it also bests the Google Pixel 2 XL’s low-light photography in some scenarios. The night mode of the Huawei P20 Pro beats it in some low-light scenarios, but not all.

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What’s interesting is that Apple’s and Google’s handsets aren’t the fiercest competition for the S9 Plus – it’s Samsung’s own phones. The now-cheaper Galaxy S8 Plus is an incremental downgrade, ideal for anyone put off by the high S9 Plus price, while the Galaxy Note 9 is ideal if you have a penchant for the S Pen and a slightly bigger screen.

a screen shot of a smart phone © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd.

Still, the Note 9 couldn't quite unseat the S9 Plus as our favourite phone, so if you don't need a stylus you should definitely keep reading.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus release date and price

a person holding a flower: The S9 Plus sports the same lovely curved screen – now with a tiny bit less bezel © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. The S9 Plus sports the same lovely curved screen – now with a tiny bit less bezel
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus release date was March 16, 2018
  • $840 (£869, AU$1,349) marks a jump in price
  • It’s still cheaper than an iPhone XS
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus specs
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Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm

Weight: 189g

Screen size: 6.2-inch

CPU: Snapdragon 845 / Exynos 9810

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 64GB or 128GB (region dependent)

Camera: Dual 12MP rear, 8MP front

Battery: 3,500mAh

a hand holding a cellphone © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd.

The official Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus release date was Friday, March 16 2018, two weeks after pre-orders opened on February 25 (UK and Europe), and March 2 (in the US).

Its price was more expensive at launch than the S8 Plus in the US and UK. In the US, it costs $839.99 for the S9 Plus unlocked through Samsung's official website. That's only $10 more expensive than the S8 Plus at launch, but it’s now $120 more expensive than the normal-sized S9. The gap is widening between the two sizes.

Of course, US carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint break this full price into digestible monthly fees, though Verizon and AT&T charge $100 more in the long run. But just about all American carriers offer $350 for recent phone trade-ins.

In the UK, the Galaxy S9 Plus costs £869. That's a big price hike over the S8 Plus, which cost £779 at launch - you can check out the best Galaxy S9 Plus deals here. That's £90 more in one year. Ouch. In Australia it costs AU$1,349.

Those are launch prices though and if you shop around you can now get it cheaper. In the UK we've seen it from around £620 for example, while in the US you can pick it up from roughly $700.

There's good news if you're looking for a Galaxy S9 Plus right now though, as the handset has been discounted for Amazon Prime Day (15-16) in both the US and UK. If you're willing to buy the handset upfront, you could save yourself hundreds during this two-day event.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus US deals

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus 64GB Unlocked $699 $449 on Amazon Get the older but still solid Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus for 3% off retail price on Amazon Prime Day. This deal is for the 64GB model, but you can easily increase storage with a MicroSD card up to 400GB. Choose from Coral Blue, Midnight Black, and Lilac Purple.View Deal

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus 128GB Unlocked $749 $499 on Amazon

Snag the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus for 33% off during Amazon Prime Day. While not the newest S-line phone, it's still a solid flagship that outpaces other midrange phones at this price point. This applies to the 128GB storage model in the Lilac Purple and Coral Blue colours.View Deal

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, 256GB Unlocked $819 $569 on Amazon Pick up a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus for a respectable 30% off during Amazon Prime Day. This big-screen phone is still a handset to be reckoned with, especially with 256GB of space, easily outpacing other midrange phones at this price point.

View Deal

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus UK deal

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus (128GB): £535 £444 at Amazon The Galaxy S9 is barely a year old, so this low price tag is great if you're looking for recent tech. The handset initially launched at £869 so you're getting almost 50% off a big phone with impressive specs and cameras.

View Deal

Design

  • Samsung’s elegant-looking glass-and-metal smartphone design returns 
  • Small changes: center-aligned rear fingerprint sensor; stereo speakers
  • You won’t notice the dimension differences from the S8 Plus

The Galaxy S9 Plus is the most stylish-looking smartphone you can buy thanks to Samsung continuing its design ethos of melding two glass panels with a metal frame. It doesn’t look very different from the S8 Plus, but that doesn’t matter unless you’re upgrading every year and demand annual newness.

Samsung has made small, but meaningful, changes on the back of its new phones. You’ll find the fingerprint sensor on the rear again, but now it’s aligned in the centre, below the camera. The S8 Plus had a much-maligned offset scanner adjacent to the camera, and it was hard to blindly unlock your phone without smudging the camera lens. This is an improvement, although we found the fingerprint sensor pad smaller than the ones on most other Android phones.

You can choose one of five colours, including this year's standout Lilac Purple. Other S9 colour options at launch included Midnight Black and Coral Blue in the US, UK, and Europe; there’s also a Titanium Gray hue available in other countries, and the new Sunrise Gold colour just launched in the US.

Our Midnight Black review unit has been a mess with fingerprints, even though we wiped it down between photos. It’s another reason to invest in a stylish Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus case.

And that’s it design-wise – you won’t readily notice anything else that’s new on the outside of the S9 Plus. The dimensions have changed by a few millimetres to reduce the top and bottom bezels, making the phone a tiny bit shorter than the S8 Plus, but it’s still a really big phone.

You’re still going to have to stretch your fingers to touch the corners of the screen furthest from your grip – navigating Google Maps on the go, for example, can be a cumbersome affair – so if you’ve been hesitant to buy into big-screen phones your best option is the smaller Galaxy S9. This is a big phone meant for big mitts.

Unlike many of its rivals, Samsung is standing by both the 3.5mm headphone jack and the microSD card slot. It’s also giving us a second year of the Bixby button on the left side of the phone to call up its digital assistant. No, you still can’t remap this button to your liking without third-party software and, yes, you’ll still hit it thinking it’s the nearby volume-down key.

Display

  • 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED curved screen
  • 90% of the front of the phone is now screen
  • No in-screen fingerprint sensor here

Samsung’s 6.2-inch display on the Galaxy S9 Plus is as expansive as it is impressive. It’s unchanged from the company’s previous Infinity Display – but that's held up to be a fantastic screen, so that’s okay with us, too.

Its tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio has set the standard for all-screen smartphones. It can display a Quad HD+ resolution, yet it still looks outstanding at the default Full HD 1080p. It’s the combination of the futuristic-looking curved edges, vibrant colours, and high contrast ratio that make it pop.

We also appreciate the fact that Samsung has created a screen that fills 90% of the front of the S9 Plus. There’s very little bezel here, and no notch whatsoever, which makes it feel like you’re holding one large, beautiful light beam in your hand.

That beautiful beam of light is prone to occasional false touches, which we experienced due to a combination of the curved screen and our firm grasp of such a big phone. It’s no fun watching text messages disappear only because our pinky finger glanced the backspace key (which happens to be right near the edge) while we tried to clutch this massive 6.2-inch display.

There’s no in-screen fingerprint sensor. That highlight may be saved for the Galaxy S10, but if you can't wait that long some other handsets such as the OnePlus 6T already have one.

Gallery: The 20 best smartphones in the world (Business Insider)

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