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Samsung Galaxy S9: Incrementally better in all the right places

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is a strange breed of smartphone. With a Snapdragon 845 processor, great camera, and 18:9 screen, it has all the trappings of a fantastic 2018 handset. Yet, at the same time, it’s remarkably similar to the Galaxy S8 that it replaces. In fact, it’s so much like its predecessor, issues we might normally overlook become all the more obvious this second time around.

Samsung’s hook with the Galaxy S9 is a “reimagined” camera, but the camera’s new features—namely Dual Aperture, Super Slow-mo, and AR Emoji—are equal parts gimmick and catch-up to competing models. And because Samsung is limiting the dual camera and Live Portrait mode to the larger Plus model, the S9 (the phone I’m reviewing here) feels less like a new phone than a mid-cycle refresh. As such, the S9 is a perfectly fine entry for the first new premium phone of 2018, but there’s nothing here that breaks exciting new ground for other phones to follow.

Dual aperture? We actually found it’s not that necessary. Super Slow-mo? It works beautifully, but it’s not a feature people will use all that often. AR emoji? It’s fun and it works as advertised, but it also feels like a response to Apple, not a trailblazing feature.

In short: When we look back on 2018 and pick a defining handset, the S9 probably won’t be it. But it’s still a great phone.

A CLASSIC (YET UPGRADED) DESIGN

Lots of Galaxy S9s are going to be mistaken for Galaxy S8s once they start appearing in the wild, given their extremely similar size and shape. However, there are physical differences between the phones—subtle tweaks that change the new model just enough so last year’s cases won’t fit:

DIMENSIONS

148.9mm x 68.1mm x 8.0mm 147.7mm x 68.7mm

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