The good and the bad of the Galaxy S9, the new cell phone with which Samsung wants to maintain its dominance of the market on Apple’s iPhone

The good and the bad of the Galaxy S9, the new cell phone with which Samsung wants to maintain its dominance of the market on Apple’s iPhone

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Better camera but with minor changes.

That is the summary of the critics when it comes to evaluating the new Galaxy S9mobile phone and its larger version S9 + launched on Sunday by the South Korean company Samsung.

The phones have a slow-motion feature in their camera (slow motion) designed to make the key moments of the action last longer.

They also have a type of lens that improves photography when there is little light.

However, experts say that beyond the camera, the phones have minor updates and the design closely resembles that of its predecessor, the S8.

Samsung’s sales increased in 2017, but not as fast as those of many Chinese rivals.

Therefore, critics think that it will be a challenge for Samsung to achieve growth in business with the new features presented by the S9.

Presentation of the Samsung S9 in Barcelona.  (Photo: Samsung)
Image caption The S9 can automatically design an avatar or emoji for users. (Photo: Samsung)

S9 vs S8

In terms of design, the new Samsung phone has slightly smaller ends on both the top and bottom and a new position for the fingerprint sensor, compared to the S8.

And the S9 + also registers small differences with respect to the S8 +.

One of them is that it has two camera lenses in the back , which provides different fields of vision and allows the backgrounds of the photos to be blurred digitally.

“I’m not sure the improvements will be enough to make people rush” and change the phone, said Francisco Jerónimo, an analyst with market research firm IDC.

“The quality of the camera is an important point for many consumers and that of Samsung seems to be better than that of (Google) Pixel 2.

“But I expected to see more development around his intelligence , he still depends on the cloud, which means he needs to be connected to the network to do live translations, for example.”

On the contrary, he added that the latest Huawei phones can translate words while they are offline thanks to the use of a new chip technology.

MakerPhone shipments in 2017Comparison with the previous yearMarket share
Samsung317.7 million+ 2.0%21.7%
Manzana215.8 million+ 0.2%14.8%
Huawei (incl Honor)154.2 million+ 10.7%10.6%
Oppo111.7 million+ 12.0%7.6%
Xiaomi92.7 million+ 75.0%6.3%
Alive87.6 million+ 13.4%6.0%
LG55.8 million+ 1.2%3.8%
Total industry1.46 billion-0.5%100%

Source : IDC

Samsung celebrated the launch of the Galaxy S9 one day before the opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The price of the cell phone is 849 euros (US $ 1,047) and the S9 +, 949 euros (US $ 1,170), 50 euros (US $ 61.5) more than its predecessors.

Light, camera and … movement

The biggest hardware change for the S9 camera is that it now has a variable aperture, with two configuration options.

In its wider configuration allows more light, which can be useful in low light conditions , but at a cost of having a more superficial approach.

A man tries the S9 before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.Copyright of the AFP image
Image caption The S9 was presented a day before the Mobile World Congress begins in Barcelona.

It is not the first manufacturer of mobile devices to do this.

Nokia offered similar technology on its N86 phone in 2009, but the innovation failed to achieve success.

To further enhance low-light photos, the S9 now takes 12 images in rapid succession to help detect and eliminate imperfections: the S8 only takes three.

But its outstanding feature is the ability to slow down the video while maintaining high definition resolutions: 960 frames per second (fps) at 720 pixels and 480 fps at 1080 pixels.

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium phone added a similar feature last year, but Samsung says its version is “more useful.”

In both cases, users must determine at the capture point, the 0.2 seconds that become six seconds of the scene. And getting a good result can become a challenge.

While Sony relies on users to press the button at the right time, the Samsung S9 automatically activates the function when motion is detected on a chosen part of the screen.

Presentation of the Samsung S9 in Barcelona.  (Photo: Samsung)
Image caption The latest Samsung phone has a camera that can be adapted to different light levels. (Photo: Samsung)

Emojis of selfies

Another of the innovations related to the camera are the AR Emojis.

These are cartoons created from facial scans of users who then imitate their expressions.

They are similar in concept to Apple’s Animojis based on animals, but Samsung says its version is more “personalized”.

Also, the Bixby Vision image recognition application now has the ability to identify the foods targeted by the camera and estimate its caloric content.

And the phone now combines data from its iris systems and facial recognition to improve its reliability.

Samsung, however, refused to provide an error rate to allow a comparison with the Apple statistics of its Face ID.

Ian Fogg, of technology analytics company IHS Technology, said the risk to Samsung is that if consumers do not value the new features as a breakthrough, they might prefer to wait to see what the S10 offers.

“Samsung showed important incentives for the user to change the phone with the improved camera and the bigger screen.”

“But the problem is that phones two or three years ago are still very useful for many.”

Presentational gray line
Ar Emoji from BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.
Image caption Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones was not convinced that his Emoji AR looked like him.

Analysis by Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

How enthusiastic are you to see the world in an ultra-slow motion or to have an animated emoji that looks like you?

Samsung is betting that these are not just niche interests and that they will make users buy the latest version, especially those people whose phones are a couple of years old.

The Galaxy S9 seems to be a significant improvement compared to last year’s S8: the screen occupies a bit more space although the size is the same, the sound system reaches a higher volume, which means more antisocial noise in public places and Samsung’s disappointing assistant Bixby became a bit smarter when reading foreign menus.

To be fair, smartphones like the Galaxy are already brilliant computers that offer extraordinary performance at any time, and making new models stand out from the crowd is a struggle for all manufacturers.

It’s a good bet that the S9 will sell very well and generate big profits for Samsung, but it’s not going to make the tired phone buyers say “wow!”

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