It’s fair to say that we’ve become a little numb to smartphones.
Unless a new device has a truly groundbreaking and unusual feature, it’s seen as boring or dull; everything from megapixel cameras to 18:9 screens has come and gone over the past decade, and it only seems to take 12 months for the allure of a new element to become stale and ordinary.
Many have suggested that because the Galaxy S9 looks so similar to its forerunner and doesn’t offer any massive technological advancements, it’s not worth getting excited about – but for me, refinement is often preferable to needlessly chasing the “next big thing”.
That’s not to say that Samsung hasn’t tried with the S9; the camera’s variable aperture system is genuinely clever, even if I’m not entirely convinced it will become as commonplace as the fingerprint scanner or waterproofing bodywork.
However, looking beyond this element, the phone doesn’t really do a lot to distance itself from its immediate forerunner; the design is almost identical, save for the placement of the fingerprint scanner; placed side-by-side, it’s genuinely tricky to tell the S9 apart from last year’s S8.
For any self-respecting mobile buyer, that’s a grave mistake – how will all your mates know you’ve upgraded if it looks like a dead ringer (no pun intended) for last year’s phone?
Despite these first-world problems, I’ve fallen a little bit in love with the S9. Sure, it’s not a revolution, but not every major phone launch has to be; in fact, as we’ve seen in recent years, chasing such an ideal can lead to unforeseen problems.
Better Than The iPhone X? Yeah, In Some Respects…
The iPhone X, as gorgeous as it unquestionably is, still feels like a half-finished product to me; although the opposite has been said by Apple’s employees, I’m almost certain that the company wanted it to ship with an in-screen fingerprint scanner to back up the occasionally temperamental Face ID system, but the tech simply wasn’t ready.
And what about the debacle with the Galaxy Note 7, where Samsung tried to push the boundaries of smartphone battery stamina and ended up with flaming phones on its hands?
You have to feel a little sorry for the guys and gals within the walls of Apple and Samsung who have the ultimately thankless task of dreaming up the headline-stealing features for a new phone every 12 months.
It’s clear now that these companies are running out of ideas and that’s when mistakes happen; technological dead-ends which are heralded as the next big thing before being quietly dropped in less than a year when the real next big thing comes along.
Samsung may have had a cheeky stab at marketing the S9’s camera as a game-changer, but the rest of the phone is all about making last year’s model even better, and it is here that it has succeeded.
The eye-catching design is enhanced by slightly smaller bezels and a more sensibly-located fingerprint scanner, but it remains mostly unchanged – which is no bad thing, as the S8 was designed by a company at the top of its aesthetic game.
Galaxy S9 Display Is Still The Best Around. Period
The display remains industry-leading and is even brighter this time around. The processor is naturally faster, and even the much-maligned AI assistant Bixby has a few more tricks up its sleeve (although you sadly still can’t assign another function to that Bixby hardware button).
Sometimes, looking for the next breakthrough can lead companies to ignore the fact that they need to make phones which are easy to use, powerful, stable and – most importantly of all – actually make our everyday lives that little bit easier to stomach.
After spending almost a month in the company of the S9 I think it’s a handset that does all of that and more, without introducing new features which are half-baked at best and borderline broken at worst. S
ure, the S10 will no doubt see normal service resumed – we’re already hearing talk of an in-screen fingerprint scanner and Face ID-style scanning tech – but for the time being I’m happy that Samsung has polished its flagship device, rather than completely overhaul it in the name of progress.
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