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The Samsung Galaxy S9 looks just like last year's S8. Here's how it's different.


With the latest version of its feature line Galaxy S smartphone, Samsung has opted for the "if it ain’t broke don’t fix it" approach design-wise.

That means its got the same 5.8-inch end-to-end, curved "Infinity" display – or in the case of the S9+ version, a 6.2-inch – wrapped in the same minimal metal and glass body.

But as far as what these S9 phones can do, there is definitely some new here.

A lot of that is in the camera: For one, the Galaxy S9 has a dual-aperture 12 megapixel shooter that can switch between a 2.4 and a better-for-low-light 1.5 aperture setting, the latter of which is the largest aperture on any smartphone you can get today. Whether that means the S9 is capable of taking the best low-light pictures of any smartphone yet will, of course, be up for some interpretation.

The S9+ version adds to that with a second telephoto lens, seen on last year’s Note 8 but new to the Galaxy S line, that brings optical zoom and blurred-background portrait-style option to the pictures it takes.

Also fresh for the S9 camera is Super Slow-mo. It shoots video in 960 frames per second, which outmodes the Galaxy’s previous 240 frames per second slow motion mode and produces – you guessed it – a slower, more dramatic-looking video. Now, it is worth noting that Samsung’s Super Slow-mo only captures video in 720p HD, whereas iPhone X’s 240 fps slow motion does full HD.

Speaking of the iPhone X, another camera feature new for the S9 is AR Emoji, no doubt a response to Apple’s Animojis. The difference with Samsung’s version is, instead of just using your face to control various emojis, you can create a character in your own likeness to digitally puppet. And that is in addition to a pick of different stock characters, even, thanks to a partnership with Disney, some famous ones. (We know for sure Mickey Mouse is included.)

Warning: Keep in mind that the Galaxy S9 is like the S8 in that it lacks the face-mapping hardware that the iPhone 10 features, and so expecting AR Emoji to be as responsive and smooth-working as Apple's Animojis is probably a bit of wishful thinking.

Now, the one major difference between the new S9s and the S8s that you will be able to see on the outside of the phone sits just below the camera: the fingerprint reader. On the S8 models, it lived on the side of the camera lens. Samsung says its new spot will be easier to reach.

And another, perhaps smaller, difference you won’t be able to see: These Galaxies have new stereo sound using the earpiece and the bottom speaker together.

On the power side of things, the S9 phones are, as you’d expect, a bit more souped up than their predecessors, getting this year’s slightly faster Snapdragon 845 processor vs last year's Snapdragon 835. The S9+, in addition, has 6 GB of RAM, two more than the S9, S8 or S8+ do.

Beyond all the physical S8 similarities addressed of the top, the new Galaxy S models also run the same version of Android the S8s are getting upgraded to, have the same size batteries they did, come – once again – built with Samsung’s Bixby digital assistant, also have identical water-resistance and are even marked at about the same prices at launch that the S8 phones were: starting at $720 and $840, respectively.

Oh yeah, one more difference: The S9 phones will come in a novel Lilac Purple color to compliment the tried and true Coral Blue and Midnight Black.

So, S8 owners and others, if there’s enough "new" here to entice you, preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ go on sale March 2, with actual sales beginning on the 16th.

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