Six Months with the Galaxy S9: Lots to love, lots to hate

I have been using the Galaxy S9 Plus as my on and off daily driver since the day it launched. When I think of Samsung, I think of rocky relationships. The Galaxy S9 is no different. There are just so many things to love about this phone and yet I cannot use this phone without getting a bit frustrated from time to time.

What’s to Love?

  • The Display: It’s not news anymore. Samsung makes the best OLED panels in the industry hands down. The display on the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus is still the best on the market, in line with the newer Note  9 and slightly better than the one on the iPhone X. There has been no burn-in on my devices and I don’t think it’s a major issue anymore. If you watch a lot of video on your phone, the large and vibrant display on the Galaxy S9 Plus provides one of the best multimedia experience on any smartphone.
  • Stereo Speakers: Although the display plays the major role in providing an excellent multimedia experience on this phone, it’s the speakers which nail the coffin. The speakers are clear with no distortion at the highest volumes. It’s even good for some casual music listening when you don’t have a bluetooth speaker around.
  • Design: Glass and aluminium sandwiches have ruled the smartphone design philosophy in 2018, but Samsung has been doing it since the Galaxy S6 which makes their devices a bit more refined. The aluminium frame now has a matte finish as compared to the glossy one on last year’s model which gives better grip and a more elegant look. My blue S9+ and lilac S9 still manage to be one of the better looking smartphones in the industry and quite the attention grabber if you have the guts to carry them without a case.

What’s to Hate?

  • Battery Life: I am not a huge fan of large smartphones but I still end up using them because they generally come with great battery life. Well, that’s not the case with the Galaxy S9 Plus. The phone never really had spectacular battery life to begin with but you could still hope to last a day worth of medium use. While I cannot be sure, I suspect it was after the August update that the battery life took a tumble. Now the phone almost never lasts a day, with it needing a top up by evening. This has been really disappointing for me because the Galaxy S8+ last year had one of the best battery lives I have ever seen on a smartphone. It has been speculated that the Exynos variant has considerably worse battery life than the Snapdragon one. That might explain it then, because both my S9 and S9 Plus are the Exynos variants.
  • Performance: The phone speeds through the day to day tasks with considerable ease. Not a problem there. But like many others, I too was bitten by the PUBG bug a couple of months ago and let’s just say that PUBG is pretty much unplayable on this phone. This was surprising as it worked extremely well on my cousin’s old iPhone 6S. But it could be a bad port for Android, right? To find out, I tried the game on a OnePlus 6 and it worked brilliantly. Same results with the Poco F1, Nokia 7 Plus, OnePlus 5T and a Xiaomi Note 5 Pro. Now, I don’t care if my phone is powered by the latest Exynos or Snapdragon. The Galaxy S9+ is an expensive smartphone and should not perform this poorly in any use case scenario. The problem persists after multiple factory resets and reinstalls.

Neither to Hate, Nor to Love

  • Software: Samsung Experience was called TouchWiz back in the day. It made a bubble sound whenever you pressed a button. I had a tradition of installing Nova Launcher as soon as I set up my Samsung device. The S9 comes with Samsung Experience 9.0. Samsung has made giant leaps in the software department. I did not feel the need to switch to a new launcher this time. Samsung’s software is still riddled with tiny annoyances like slow animations, app crashes and bloatware. But it’s better than ever and completely usable. I still prefer stock Android to be honest, but if I were out buying a smartphone, Samsung’s software won’t be a dealbreaker anymore.
  • Camera: The camera on the Galaxy S9 is great. Most of the time it takes decent photos which are completely satisfactory. But sometimes the images turn out to be so over saturated that they just look weird and washed out. The selfies always look like they were captured after turning on a Beauty Mode or something. This problem has been bugging me for quite some time now, because I prefer my photos looking as natural and true to life as possible, and the Samsung camera experience is anything but that.

Conclusion

The Galaxy S9 Plus is a great smartphone. It will continue to be in my pocket for some time until it is replaced by it’s newest stylus wielding sibling, the Galaxy Note 9. There is more to love than hate and frankly, if I could somehow manage to get an all day battery life on this phone, I would probably never swap my SIM out for any other phone. But it is what it is. You just can’t get everything. Well maybe you can. Stay tuned for the piece on the Galaxy Note 9.