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Samsung S9 Review: New & Upgraded Camera Features & Better Sound Makes This Great For Music Fans

For a music fan, if you want a phone with good sound (as good as a phone can get) and a great camera with the screen to show those pictures in great quality, the Samsung S9 is for you.
Samsung S9

Samsung versus Apple verses Google versus LG. Android verses iOS. The battle rages on about who makes the best phones, the best software, the best products. There are the perpetual haters and the disciples of certain brands who will stay loyal to one or the other. They have bought in no matter what. However for the rest, when new products arrive, they see the pros and cons and decide what is best to use as a consumer. No one size fits all. We had a chance to get our hands on the new Samsung S9 and live with it over the past week. For my entire smartphone life I have had iPhones, so I was a little skeptical of checking out the new Samsung. Switching operating systems and devices once you get locked in can be a pain, but it was exciting. The opportunity was framed around the S9's sound and camera and the phone exceeded expectations on both accounts.

Samsung S9

When you first look at the phone, it is sleek and smooth. There is no wasted space on the screen. It was a bit of a change moving from a phone with a home button to one where you have to find it at the bottom, but that change is pretty easy to make. The home screen layout on an Android is different from an iPhone and the way you navigate through apps is somewhat different, but it is like driving a different car. It is the same mechanics, you just have to get used to the new system.

Samsung S9 Box

The box

The main feature that matter to us are the sound and the camera, which they are pushing HARD. First let’s talk the sound.


The phone has a headphone jack. So for those of you with iPhones who don’t want to give up a headphone jack (like me) you are in luck. You lose sound quality when listening to audio on Bluetooth and if you work in music or make it, that extra bit of quality matters. Buying extra dongles for your headphones are not needed here.

It also comes with stereo speakers (not studio monitors, but good ones for a phone) and Dolby Atmos support, which make sure your videos sound like they aren't were played back to you on a potato. So when you are lying in bed or on your couch flipping through your on Facebook, Instagram or checking out old concert videos on your phone that hopefully now don’t look like crap, the sound will be a bit better than before.

Photos & Video:

This is the big point that Samsung has been trying to get across with the phone. They want this phone to blow others out of the water with its camera. Coming from an iPhone SE, the difference is remarkable. It shoots incredibly well in low light and the picture is super clear. This is important for concerts, where you likely won’t have good light, though shots in dark clubs where alcohol and drugs may be in play won’t ever look good, no matter your camera. Put the phone away on the club dancefloor.

Samsung S9 Carousel

Shot with only a few minutes left of sunlight and that thing was moving fast

The 9s+ has a telephoto lens, which gives it portrait mode and more range with the camera, but the regular camera comes with dual Aperature mode, the first for a phone. This allows users to switch between F1.5 mode/ F2.4 mode. In the “pro” mode where you can find Aperature, there is are also other little perks for photographer people like ISO, focus, color correction tools like saturation and other ways to change the way your photos look.

Samsung S9 Portait Mode

Portait Mode

The Aperature mode gives those who are really into cameras a chance to take some better photos with their phones. You can’t always have your camera on you, so this gives you a little extra bump when taking photos and adjusting your shot.

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Sansung S9 Snow

Shot during the snow yesterday at low light. A New York winter slushland.

The other major improvement on the camera is super slow mo mode. It allows you to take video and slow down sections of it in really good slow motion video. It is only .2 seconds of real time footage that manages to get stretched out to six seconds of footage (see the DJ scratching below). It has a manual mode that allows you to focus on a certain object in your view and you can start and stop the slow motion, or you tap to focus with your phone to help decide when the slow motion video starts.

You can cut up the super slow mo mode videos into the pieces you want and then edit them so the slow mo goes forwards like you filmed it, backwards or “swings” like a slow-mo boomerang.

One thing I found disappointing with super-slow mo was that is was only shot on 720 HD instead of 1080p HD. When you are shooting things that move very quickly, or change suddenly, there are moments when it can get blurry. When put against your other videos or photos, there is a difference. Despite that, the super-slow mo, is the best you will find of other phones on the market.

Bixby Vision:

Another great feature of the phone is Bixby vision. A feature you can access from the “auto” setting on the camera. Within Bixby there are a bunch of different objects that is can look at and identify. It can look at food and give you approximate calorie counts if you want lose some weight. It can look at a picture of a building and tell you where it is, to a certain degree of accuracy. When testing this last Wednesday at an event, there were some issues with this when images got too close together. It can translate text, though it does it word for word, so beware when repeating full phrases back to someone. It can also digitally apply makeup to your face and through a partnership with Sephora, order that makeup on the spot through your Samsung pay account. I looked ridiculous trying on the various lipsticks and blushes, but it isn’t for me.

Battery Life:

It seems to be quite good. I used it sparingly during the week and did not charge it at all and only had to charge it after seven days. Though I was not using like a normal phone user who is texting, looking at video and using apps. Still, it won’t shut down overnight when you aren’t using it. It should last through a festival day.

Samsung S9 Dumbo

Around 30 minutes left of light in the day, but you would never know. My iPhone thought it was midnight

Comparison To Other Phones:

Now comparing it to other brands on the market, the S9 doesn’t run away from the pack. Only the S9+ has portrait mode, which comes from the extra rearview camera if you want to focus on one object in an image like yourself or more importantly a pet. It has not upgraded its front-facing camera for selfies, which lags behind the Pixel 2. It has a “selfie mode” to take portrait style photos from the front, but the tech is not updated form the S8.

Despite that, the super-slow motion camera is top of the line, Dolby Atmos and dual aperature help set this phone apart.

Final Thoughts:

For a music fan, if you want a phone with good sound (as good as a phone can get) and a great camera with the screen to show those pictures in great quality, the Samsung S9 is for you. 

It will cost you $720 for the Samsung S9 and then $830 for the S9+, so judge your finances and current phone situation when thinking of an upgrade. The phone is available for pre-order and will be released on March 14.

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