back to article Samsung's Galaxy 9s debut, with not much other than new cameras

Samsung has formally launched its next-generation Galaxy 9 flagship smartphones just ahead of 2018's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This year's S9 and S9+ models feel like they're treading water versus last year's S8 and S8+. The screen spec is the same at 2960 x 1440 pixels, but Samsung says they're a bit brighter this …

  1. EastFinchleyite

    Saturated

    I am now feeling saturated. Not by a sudden spring downpour or an unnecessary 5th pint in the Windsor Castle but by the arrival of new technology that exceeds my needs by some distance.

    We have seen this before with PCs. Just what is the benefit to be gained by having a extra few Mhz over a 3.2GHz Quad core CPU, more than 32Gb of RAM, and a 2TB HDD when you only use less than half of any of it.?

    Being a bit over the age when any thoughts of breeding should be discouraged, my eyes cannot make out the difference between the latest high definition displays and those with half the pixels. Likewise. my ears top out at about 10Khz so any super dooper sound chip is wasted on me. As for storage, I regard anything kept on a smartphone as a short term cache that is vulnerable to loss or damage. Nothing is long term. Anything that could be is downloaded and archived to my local NAS.

    My first smartphone was a bit rubbish (Galaxy Ace 5830i) which did its job for a year or so. Its technical shortcomings became very evident and it was put in a drawer. The current generation of kit is so far beyond most users and my needs that extra new shiny can only really appeal to people who value shiny.

    We are well beyond "good enough". Now the focus should be on keeping the software and OS up to date, and more than anything else, price.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Saturated

      + 1 Insightful

      A quick look around the office at work shows me exactly 0 current flagship phones.

      Most of my colleagues are pretty happy with last years (or the year before's) mid-ranger or a second hand iPhone. I don't think it's a money thing, as they would mostly be characterised as upper-middle class, but what they have works well enough for them so why would they spend more than they need to?

      Myself, I have a Galaxy S7, which I bought when the S8 came out and the price dropped $150 or so.

      I will probably replace it with a Galaxy S11 when the S12 comes out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Saturated

        I've just changed companies and it is refreshing to have a boss who replaces his phone when the old one stops working.

        My old boss used to pillage the contracts up for renewal each year, to ensure he got the latest iPhone.

        Now, the new boss' Samsung Galaxy S4 just died and he wanted an S5, we pointed out that the price difference to an S7 wasn't that much and it was still getting some updates...

        Most of the employees seem to be using older devices (4 years old), which have been rooted and are running Nougat builds of third party Android distros.

    2. Mayday Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Saturated

      Agreed.

      I use my phone for basic email, news and the odd social media which my several years old phone seems to manage rather adequately.

      I'm positive that a Samsung Galaxy S9/iPhone X (take your pick) does all these things in a vastly superior manner to what I am using now but why do I need one of those?

    3. J J Carter Silver badge

      Re: Saturated

      Also, whatever happened to tunes you could whistle?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Saturated

        Also, whatever happened to tunes you could whistle?

        Oh, those went out with Windows Phone.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Saturated

        Also, whatever happened to tunes you could whistle?

        Still there - you just have to look beyond the hit-parade pap..

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saturated

      Yep though I'm not moist or wet for an S9. Oh Matron.

    5. Chz

      Re: Saturated

      My middle-aged ears can still pick up well above 10kHz, it's just that sounds have to compete with my tinnitus in that range.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Saturated

        I'm going to order a new phone today. My Nexus 5 has limped on with a cracked screen, dead orientation sensor, dodgy microphone connection cable and no updates for some time now. And its battery (the original or its replacement) was never quite big enough.

        OnePlus 5T it is. Apparently a software update makes better use of its camera hardware over its original release, and its far cheaper than a top end Samsung. Unlike a mate of mine I'm not interested in VR, so won't miss the daftly high resolution.

        Waterproofing would be nice though.

    6. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Saturated

      I feel the same about everything PC-wise, not just phones:

      - Processor speeds, unnecessary past 2-3GHz (though the trend now is ordinary-speed chips that slow down "for power-saving" )

      - RAM, I've had that argument on here about the minimum being > 4GB, but once you have 8, 12 or 16, I don't need much more.

      - Storage, SATA SSD gives me all the speed I could desire, I don't need stupdenous NVMe speeds. I'd much rather have a 2Tb SATA SSD that I won't fill than a 256Mb NVMe that I will.

      - Networking, Gigabit to the desktop, everything else is the bottleneck.

      - Sound, so long as it can do the basics, who cares? That means 44KHz stereo for me, and even that's probably overkill.

      - Video, I'd rather have my games running at 1368x786 or whatever it is and not struggle than at 4K and need a beast of a machine. Same for SD vs HD TV, etc., especially if I save a few quid and Gigabytes on the download.

      - Mobile phone, I stuck with an S5 Mini (removable battery, headphone socket, IR blaster to control my old-fashioned devices that don't need to broadcast over the airwaves or connect to the Internet, etc.). It does everything I need, could do with some better logic on installing to internal memory all the time when there's a half-full 32Gb microSD card in it, but apart from that it's fine.

      There's a point where "good enough" suffices. There's also a reason that I use an 8-year-old model of laptop and yet have a dozen virtual machines in it, all my games from Steam, and just about every game I've ever owned on any platform, ever, all loaded on it. And why my phone is from 2014.

      At some point, any kind of upgrade just doesn't make sense, especially if it means you lose features that you currently have. As far as I'm concerned Windows 10 and new Android are more than cancelled out by stupid update policies (just dealt with someone who loses their Ethernet on every Windows 10 update at home, so they try their hardest not to update at all), hardware without the basic removable parts (SD cards, batteries, headphones, decent amount of USB instead of USB-C, etc.) and PC's that are basically dialling back to stupid speeds to save power.

    7. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Saturated

      some games benefit from good smart phone specs (a bit like PC gaming where something a lot better than game quoted minimum spec needed for half decent performance)

    8. Oh Homer Silver badge

      Peak Android?

      Or in fact Peak Smartphone.

      Actually there is one last frontier that needs to be crossed, namely the excruciatingly slow databus on ARM systems (mostly due to archaic SD flash technology).

      Match desktop-grade SSD storage and I/O speeds on ARM devices, and you have a winner.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saturated

      More like smartphones are just like household appliances to people these days e.g. a refrigerator or a toaster. Sure, you could splurge on one, but chances are you would rather spend much less money for one that gets the job done reasonably well without too many fancy features.

      Samsung and Apple, the two top dogs in the market, understand this. That's why they're trying to extract every single possible penny from their sizeable market shares of 'captive' customers, while both companies try to one-up each other in an 'arms race'. Their negative attack ads target each other.

      Meanwhile, LG, Sony. HTC etc are struggling, they can't compete on price with the cheap Chinese phones, and they don't offer anything compelling to get an existing Apple or Samsung user to switch over.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Saturated

        We are fast approaching the point in market segmentation where the low end phones, and by low I mean cheap as chips Chinese phones are going to catch up. Despite remaining inferior from a "specs" war perspective, the quality of the user experience is not going to be tangibly different as the human using the phone will be the weakest component.

    10. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Saturated

      Will upgrade my S8+ to an S9+ at some point once prices for upgraded ones drop on eBay. Battery life is also supposed to be better (due to the new CPU and screen).

    11. teknopaul Bronze badge

      Re: Saturated

      Agreed on all counts.

      Check the dex thing tho. Could be a game changer.

      Phone tech has for the first time roughly caught up in specs with desktops, Dex starts to be more relevant. I.e. "Lugging" a phone around instead of a monitor and keyboard.

      No laptop bag on a plane would be a winner.

      I saw a demo, it looked a far better desktop env that windows 8 :)

  2. present_arms

    Still Happy

    I'm still happy with my S6 Edge (apart from the edge can be a pain at times) but it still does everything I need to do, and kodos to Samsung in that it has given me kernel updates for the recent scares.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still Happy

      well, I'm still happy with the s2, and I'd be happy enough with my old (ex-) orange whateveritwascalled, that still works, i.e. makes and received calls and plays music (and lasts longer than the s2 anyway :)

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Still Happy

        S2 high five! Oh, and the S2 does have an official extended battery version, complete with matching flat back cover - it's worth using it.

  3. Gecko

    I really wish they'd commit properly to the dex device and add proper Linux support. It immediately changes the phone from just a phone to a dual function unit that justifies the extra cost.

    Keeping Android up to date is another must have feature now. If Google and now Nokia can do this then Samsung will have to up it's game.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Hopefully the more modular nature of Android O should help with timely updates (see Project Treble)

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      re: If Google and now Nokia can do this then Samsung will have to up it's game.

      Samsung will have to up their game when consumers demand security updates for Android. That won't happen till someone manages to do something big enough and nasty enough to get people's attention.

  4. Lysenko

    So, Apple's lead killer feature for the last release was an animated turd, and Samsung hit back with the animated cartoon selfie? Hmmm ... I'll give that one to Samsung for (vanishingly little) utility, but Apple's grasp of the true consumer zeitgeist is unchallenged I fear.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Meh

      Apple's other 'feature'

      the iPhone X was one that either works wonderfully/fails miserably [delete as appropriate]. I'm talking about 'Face ID'.

      It seems that for once Samsung has defined the critics (who usually called it Samesung) and not copied Apple in this area. At least the Galaxy does not have that wonderful/awful, stupid [again, delete as appropriate] notch which will please many people.

      Personally, I think this is a 'meh' release and may not sell in the gazillions that Samsung want it to. As has been said, it really does not offer much over the S8 for the average user.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Apple's other 'feature'

        It seems that for once Samsung has defined the critics (who usually called it Samesung) and not copied Apple in this area.

        They haven't had enough time. It'll be in the S10.

        Rest assured the entrails of the middle managers and outsourced contractors responsible are being raked over hot coals as we speak.

    2. sabroni Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      re: Apple's grasp of the true consumer zeitgeist is unchallenged

      Quality!

  5. Tristan

    Microsd - check, when you've trashed the phone just pull the card with the photos on out of the wreck

    Headphone socket - check, can connect it to the many older things like hifis and cars

    Removable battery - nope. So expensive disassembly job if you want your costs-more-than-a-laptop device to not have a much shorter working life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well, using an S8 as a benchmark, I found a £50 battery change in London, on a (booked) walk in basis in the first five search results. I'm sure more enquiring would find other service centres at lower cost. If you've paid around £800 for your phone, is fifty quid to replace the battery every eighteen months to two and a half years really that big a deal?

      Not that this matters to me - I'm a happy advocate for Xiaomi products, and my Redmi Note 4X also has a sealed battery. Tear down videos suggest I can replace the battery myself in about half an hour with some care, but since the thing cost me £160, if it only lasts two years then I'm fairly relaxed about its longevity. For those who insist on buying flagship phones, you need to except that the bells and whistles extend to a non-user replaceable battery, because that's what most buyers are happy with. If there were a worthwhile profit in flagship phones with user replaceable batteries, don't you think that those companies struggling to make any profit making Android handsets would have seized upon it?

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "you can only capture 0.2 seconds in each burst"

    And they'll never be the 0.2 seconds you wanted.

    Seems like mobile phone makers are coming close to the point where nobody will care any more what model they put out. Just make 'em reliable and cheap and we'll be happy enough.

    Oh, and stop trying to make them into PCs. We have tablets for that.

    1. regprentice

      Re: "you can only capture 0.2 seconds in each burst"

      Do we though?

      I've never seen a tablet better than the equivalent flagship from the same manufacturer.

      Just now I read an article 'rumoring' that the galaxy tab 4 might have a Snapdragon 835 processor....that's last year's processor! Why would I sit on my sofa and pick up a tab 4 if my s9 is noticeably faster?

      As processers get faster the difference may be less noticeable but I've only ever owned one tablet (Samsung galaxy tab 2 10.1) and using it was like wading through treacle compared to the phone I had at the time. If I'm going to consume media and game on a tablet it needs to be better than my phone...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Emoji-selfies

    can't wait to get my hands on this technology when the current model has moved to S34 or something, and I get my hands on S9... So many opportunities, my head spins!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DeX dock has ben replaced with the DeX Pad

    I can see where this is going with the next (revolutionary) DeBug...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: DeX dock has ben replaced with the DeX Pad

      How docking devices that last one device model only have ever been successful? While the idea of turning a mobe into a desktop device is appealing, the implementation still looks being into a search of an usable solution, especially as long as the lifespan of top-of-the-line devices is often measured in months, before being replaced by an incompatible new version, and non-replaceable batteries put anyway a bit limit to it.

  9. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Continuous improvement is the hallmark of consumer products

    Missing from the review: battery size / use. Also a note that the S9 will can have two SIMs.

    400 GB SD card and going from a dock to a pad are important for those thinking they might be able to replace a notebook with this. I suspect Samsung will see solid sales because of these USPs.

    1. Solviva

      Re: Continuous improvement is the hallmark of consumer products

      The S7 and S8 '"will can haz" dual sims if you go for the dual sim version, I think aimed primarily at the Asian market but available over in Europe too if you look around. Probably the earlier Ss had an option as well.

      If you get really daring, since the 2nd sim shares a hole on the sim tray with the SD card, you can do some hacking and merge a SIM card and SD card (the contacts are in different locations), to then have both dual SIM and SD.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Continuous improvement is the hallmark of consumer products

        "The S7 and S8 '"will can haz" dual sims if you go for the dual sim version, I think aimed primarily at the Asian market but available over in Europe too if you look around."

        In much of Europe the EU rules around roaming have lowered the need for a second sim.

        1. Solviva
          Thumb Up

          Re: Continuous improvement is the hallmark of consumer products

          "In much of Europe the EU rules around roaming have lowered the need for a second sim."

          I guess the UK marketed S10 may well feature dual sims then?

  10. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    This seems to be another attempt to sell me a phone for around a thousand quid which can't really do any more than my sixty quid Medion/Lenovo from Aldi. What benefit would I get from spending fifteen times as much?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What benefit would I get from spending fifteen times as much?

      Bragging rights amongst the chavs

      A much better camera

      Better quality screen

      Better quality sound

      Faster processor

      Water proofing

      Wireless charging

  11. Naselus

    Competition clearly over

    With Apple mostly playing catch-up to older features (wireless charging, facial recog, curved screen etc), clearly Samsung felt that they didn't need to do much in the way of innovation this year.

    I get the feeling that this will be more or less how it plays out from here on in, until the flagship market dies off completely. Despite their endless 'gamechanger!' claims, Apple aren't really pushing the envelope anymore, which removes the pressure on Samsung to do so as well... resulting in both companies producing ridiculously marginal upgrades for absurd price tags.

    The result looks a lot like the phone market in 2004, tbh - lots of companies massively improving the resolution of cameras and fiddling with emoticions(then)/emojis (now), and doing nothing else remotely useful.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Competition clearly over

      There are changes in the marketing as the market moves from contract + device to device only sales. So you can now order more easily from Samsung direct, trade-in your old phone (including Apple) for a discount and also do a "new phone every year" deal, should you want to.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Competition clearly over

      until the flagship market dies off completely

      Why will that happen? In almost every mature product market, there are clearly defined segments that go up to a "premium" category, where buyers pay a lot more for essentially the same day to day functionality they could have for far less money. In most respects the point of these products is to show other people that the buyer can afford them. So there's still a market, and those buyers remain happy. Why will phones not always have a premium handset market? Vertu showed us the limits on what you can charge, and that mere bling is not enough, but both Apple and Samsung are pushing the price of their range leading handsets ever higher.

      Possibly in phones, it isn't so much about who CAN afford these devices, but who WILL afford them. And a Middle Eastern "prince" and a chav from Luton may be united as the willing buyers of these modern day tokens of excess.

  12. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Bored now. I'm not going to bother upgrading from my S8. I think they're only releasing a new phone every year as they've got their upgrade program that they launched which states that you get a new phone every year.

    The only benefit to the S9 being pretty much exactly the same as the S8 is that they might be able to easily keep pushing the updates out for the S8 as well. I'm currently running the beta Oreo on my phone patiently waiting for them to release the final version, which I thought they'd do on the announcement of the S9.

    Nope, I'm going to hold out with my current phone unless something from another manufacturer catches my eye. Even those who love people to know they have the latest phone will be no better off with the S9 because how would anyone know you had one? Is that one of the reasons the iPhone X has a notch?

  13. iron Silver badge

    What?

    "The eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is fractionally faster, on-board memory although there's an upgrade for Micro-SD capacity from 256GB to 400GB."

    What on earth is this sentence trying to say? Several words about the memory appear to be missing.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: What?

      It's digital publishing. They rush the articles out so as not to miss page views for the initial wave of interest and then they correct it later (mobile seems slow to never to get them?). Sign of the times, thankfully we are intelligent enough as readers of this site to decipher the odd strangulation of a sentence. The sentence you mention looks like some of the things I'd write if I was knackered.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: What?

        I'd write if I was knackered

        You seem to have misspelt "in the alcoholic afterhaze of two bottles[1] of fine whisky"

        [1] Or, better still, half a bottle of fine whisky (you can't really taste the difference after that) and a bottle and a half of furniture-cleaner-grade cheap blended whisky. It does save the pennies.

  14. Daedalus Silver badge

    Fluff uber alles

    "This is just fluff, yet was the feature that drew the biggest audience reaction at the launch event."

    Exactly. Geek chic is all very well, but style sells better than substance. Apple sold the iPhone with a shot of a guy bopping away on the street, taking a call seamlessly, then getting back to bopping. That's how the drones see their phones. It's an offense against everything techies stand for, but the phone zombies don't care. AR was supposed to give us an enhanced view of the world around us, but the phoning dead went on Pokemon hunts instead.

    This is the business we are in.

  15. vistisen

    My company's standard phone, Galaxy 7 or iPhone 7.

  16. Ian Joyner

    New features are hard

    As noted in the story and comments, not much new. Apple would be criticised for this. But it really shows, we have reached a limit in this space. You can up the specs a little in hardware, etc. This allows some innovation in software such as AR and face recognition, but even with software, where to go from here?

    It is only 10 months since the S8 release and if I had bought the S8, I'd be feeling somewhat miffed that a new major (in terms of upping the number)/minor (in terms of features) release was so soon.

    More than ever, this seems a marketing release by Samsung. Perhaps they wanted '9' to symbolically be between 8 and X.

  17. DougS Silver badge

    Samsung slowing down Exynos versions?

    According to the review at Anandtech, Samsung told them they were going to limit the much faster Exynos versions to performance roughly equivalent with the 845. They saw much lower than expected performance on most benchmarks they tried that was on par with the 845, except for Geekbench.

    That would be a stupid plan if they did it, but I'd have to laugh if they did after all the Apple haters who thought it was a terrible thing that Apple limited the iPhones with Qualcomm hardware to match the LTE speed of the Intel hardware (i.e. an iPhone X can hit "only" 600 Mbps instead of 1 Gbps max)

  18. tony2heads

    Battery life

    The only thing that would get me interested in a new phone would be a longer battery life. I care about that more than more pixels on the camera or face recognition or notches.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: Battery life

      In that case the reissues Nokia 3310 4G has you covered.

  19. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Xiaomi Redmi 4A does it for me.

    Recently got upgraded to Android Nougat (7.1) and have a slew of whizzkid features which I'll not use. Can't they make Android modular, so if you want a split-screen function, you just download the appropriate package? Keeping things lean and mean (and less battery-chomping as well).

    I still have my old Huawei Mediapad T1 phablet, going strong despite a cracked screen.

    Xiaomi is being used as a general day-to-day comms unit (whatsapp/telegram/email etc) whilst the Huawei is used for banking only.

    Handset manufacturers will most probably start to collude and design handsets that expire after two years' use, no matter whether they're being used heavily or seldom.

  20. BigAndos

    I loved my S7 Edge but sadly I broke the screen. Decided on a second hand Pixel XL (original one) in the end. 128GB storage, Android O, no bloatware and it runs really smooth. Simply can't justify paying £800 for incremental upgrades any more, I'll keep this phone then maybe get a Pixel 3 or S10+ when the prices come down! I don't even use my tablet any more now today's 6 inch phones are so good.

  21. Patrician

    My Nexus 6P 64GB still does everything I need of it and, surprisingly, the battery is still good for a full days heavy use or a couple of days light usage.

    I must admit that the S9+ does look nice but, apart from the camera, does nothing more than my 6P so I'll be keeping it for another year at least and maybe longer.

  22. the-it-slayer

    Copy Apple + Paste, Edit Samsung

    Apart from the lack of anything new from both of the top boys for useful features, Samsung can't help itself but be a clone of their competitor. The emoji thing is something they pulled from an apprectices side-project to match a side-by-side feature comparison with the iPhone X. Why? Animoji's are just there to woo the millenial/gen x users.

    Still Samsung can't pull off anything imaginative (not saying the stuff they do isn't any good). There's a market to branch off business features (to battle corp's who dislike BYOD policies). My biggest issue with Apple is they won't allow profiles on their iOS devices to manage different user types. But their privacy/walled garden concerns (and reliability/consistency of patching) keep me there for now.

  23. Tessier-Ashpool

    Bixby?

    Does that turn the phone green and crack the screen?

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