You will be able to use your phone as a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard in Android P

  • Development code in Android P points to a feature enabling you to use your phone as a wireless keyboard or mouse.
  • You can do this currently in Android, but only if you root your device first. This new feature would eliminate the need to root.
  • While not exactly a highly demanded feature, it would be incredibly useful to use your phone as a mouse in certain situations.
  • Over at XDA Developers, Android enthusiasts have been working tirelessly to round up all the rumors of upcoming features in Android P, the next iteration of the Android operating system. It looks like one of those features will be the ability to use your phone as a Bluetooth input device, like a wireless mouse or keyboard.

You can read the recent XDA blog post to get the nitty-gritty details, but essentially the code to perform wireless input functions has been present in Android since 2016. The Android team just never turned the feature on. Why, we don’t know, but it looks all but certain that the function will finally get switched on whenever Android P makes its debut.

Technically, rooted devices have had this feature for quite a while. Simply root your phone, download the Bluetooth Plus app, and then take your pick from any of the Bluetooth mouse/keyboard apps available on the Google Play Store.

However, making the feature built into Android will enable users to do this without rooting their phone, which is a big deal for people who are not tech savvy enough to root their device or who simply don’t want to go through the hassle.

You may or may not see any real advantage to using your phone as an HID (human interface device), but for people who give lots of presentations, it would be quite useful. Not having to carry around a wireless mouse with you to navigate through a presentation would be nice indeed. And people who use desktops as their media center control might like to use their phone to navigate around rather than keeping a wireless mouse on their coffee table.

Ultimately, we won’t know 100% for sure if this feature will be present in Android P until Google announces as such, but the code seems to support that certainty.

Now, the real question is: will it be Android Pie, Android Pop, or Android Popsicle?

STAY ORGANIZED Gmail Android app updated with support for inbox types

Rolling out to all Gmail users now.

Gmail continues to be one of the most popular email clients on Android, and today Google’s adding support for various “Inbox Types.” This is something that’s been available on desktop for some time, and it enables you to customize the various priorities of the emails you receive.

First and foremost, if you have a specific inbox type that you use while accessing Gmail on your computer, you’ll now see that same setup in the Android app. For example, if you want your unread messages at the top of your inbox and everything else to populate below them, you’ll now see those changes reflected in the Android app.

In addition to this, you can hop into Gmail’s settings on your phone to change the inbox type you’re currently using.

To do this, go to Settings -> Inbox type, and then choose the one you want – including Default Inbox, Important first, Unread first, Starred first, and Priority Inbox.

This is rolling out to all Gmail users starting today, and it should be widely available over the coming days.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs: All about refinements

While last year’s Samsung flagships featured more or less the same list of specifications (barring screen size, battery capacity, and dimensions), the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs differ in a few more areas. The company is taking more of an Apple approach to its smartphone lineup this time around, which means buying the Plus version will get you more than just a bigger display.

The biggest difference between the phones is that you’re only getting a dual-camera setup on the Galaxy S9 Plus. The bigger of the two phones feature a wide-angle Dual Pixel 12 MP sensor with f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures, and a 12 MP telephoto lens. The smaller Galaxy S9 features one Dual Pixel 12 MP sensor with the same dual apertures as the S9 Plus.

There are a few other differences between these phones, too. The most obvious one is the difference in display size — the S9 Plus has a bigger 6.2-inch Quad HD+ display while the S9 has a 5.8-inch screen. You’ll get more RAM and battery capacity with the Plus model, too. The Galaxy S9 Plus features 6 GB of RAM and a 3,500 mAh battery, while the S9 has 4 GB of RAM and a 3,000 mAh cell.

Both phones will come with either the Samsung Exynos 9810 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoCs (depending on the region), 64 GB of storage, microSD expansion up to 400 GB, as well as IP68 ratings and the Dolby Atmos audio codec built in.

Below you’ll find the full list of Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs:

Samsung Galaxy S9 Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Display 5.8-inch Curved Super AMOLED
2,960 x 1,440 resolution (Quad HD+)
570 ppi
18.5:9 aspect ratio
6.2-inch Curved Super AMOLED
2,960 x 1,440 resolution (Quad HD+)
529 ppi
18.5:9 aspect ratio
Processor Global: 10 nm, 64-bit, octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.8 GHz quad + 1.7 GHz quad)

U.S.: 10nm, 64-bit, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

Global: 10 nm, 64-bit, octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.8 GHz quad + 1.7 GHz quad)

U.S.: 10nm, 64-bit, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

GPU ARM Mali-G72 (Exynos)
Adreno 630 (Snapdragon)
ARM Mali-G72 (Exynos)
Adreno 630 (Snapdragon)
RAM 4 GB 6 GB
Storage 64 GB
microSD expansion up to 400 GB
64 GB
microSD expansion up to 400 GB
Cameras Rear: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12 MP AF sensor with OIS, f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures

Front: 8 MP AF sensor, f/1.7 aperture

Rear: Dual camera with dual OIS
Wide-angle: Super Speed Dual Pixel 12 MP AF sensor with OIS, f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures
Telephoto: 12 MP AF sensor, f/2.4 aperture

Front: 8 MP AF sensor, f/1.7 aperture

Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
3,500 mAh
Non-removable
Fast Wired Charging compatible with QC 2.0
Fast Wireless Charging compatible with WPC and PMA
IP rating IP68 IP68
Network Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 18 Enhanced 4X4 MIMO / CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 18
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
VHT80 MU-MIMO
1024QAM
Bluetooth v5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location: GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
VHT80 MU-MIMO
1024QAM
Bluetooth v5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
ANT+
USB Type-C
NFC
Location: GPS, Galileo, Glonass, BeiDou
Sensors Iris
Pressure
Accelerometer
Barometer
Fingerprint
Gyro
Geomagnetic
Hall
HR
Proximity
RGB Light
Iris
Pressure
Accelerometer
Barometer
Fingerprint
Gyro
Geomagnetic
Hall
HR
Proximity
RGB Light
Authentication Lock type: pattern, PIN, password

Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan

Lock type: pattern, PIN, password

Biometric lock type: iris scanner, fingerprint scanner, face recognition, Intelligent Scan

Audio Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology

Audio playback format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF

Stereo speakers tuned by AKG, surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology

Audio playback format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA, APE, DSF, DFF

Video MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
Virtual reality Gear VR with controller (SM-R325NZAXAR)

Google Daydream View

Gear VR with controller (SM-R325NZAXAR)

Google Daydream View

Software Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Dimensions and weight 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm
163 g
158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm
189 g
Colors Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple, Titanium Grey Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple, Titanium Grey

What do you think about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs? How do you feel about Samsung offering different RAM/camera setups for the different models? Let us know what you think in the comments.

What can you do in ARCore right now?

It’s time to experience your world in augmented reality, with your phone

ARCore is a new set of API’s, Frameworks and tools to allow real-time Augmented Reality(AR) apps to work on a standard Android device. What is AR as opposed to Virtual Reality (VR)? Great question! It’s a program that will put digital objects and visuals in your view of the actual world through your VR Headset or, in this case, your phone screen. Based on the work they’ve done with Project Tango, ARCore removes the need for specialized hardware making room scale VR in reach of the common Cell Phone

How do You Install The ARCore App?

Before you had to jump through way too many hoops just to get ARCore working on your phone. Now that ARCore version 1.0 has been released, getting it onto your phone is that much easier and you can download it right from the Google Play Store! Now, remember, ARCore is just an app you download that will allow the other supporting ARCore apps to work. So when you click on the app and it opens like a library, don’t be discouraged. To use the full benefit of this app, check out the list of other apps below.

After you download other apps that use ARCore you just launch those apps from your phone!

The New AirPods Could Have Hands-Free Siri

One thing Apple does consistently is deliver new versions of its existing products. Except the Mac mini. Sure, these aren’t always the most innovative upgrades, but they are upgrades nonetheless. And it looks as though a new version of the AirPods is already on the way.

New rumors suggest that Apple is currently working on new AirPods. The AirPods may have split opinion at launch — read our review to see what we thought — but they have been a big seller. So much so that Apple gave the AirPods the starring role in its holiday ad.

And now, the second generation of AirPods is (rumored to be) on the way in 2018.

The Devil Is in the Detail

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg states that Apple is “working on upgrades to its wireless AirPods headphones.” So far, so utterly predictable. However, the devil is in the detail, and those same sources claim to know what’s changing.

The first upgrade will be a new wireless chip. The AirPods are actually rather good at finding and maintaining a Bluetooth connection, but there’s always room for improvement. So, expect the W2 chip from the Apple Watch at the very least.

The second upgrade will be the option to summon Siri using just your voice. At the moment, you have to tap the headphones to activate her, but the second generation of AirPods should bring hands-free Siri to the fore. Which would be a Godsend.

Finally, looking even further forward, Bloomberg’s sources claim the third generation of AirPods, due to be released in 2019, will be water resistant. While they’re unlikely to survive a drowning, this future version of AirPods should survive a little rain.

Persuading People to Upgrade

Apple took a gamble with the AirPods, but that gamble has paid off. So it’s no surprise to find the company eager to release a new version sooner rather than later. And adding hands-free access to Siri is bound to persuade plenty of people to pay for the upgrade.

Do you own a pair of AirPods? What do you like about them? And what do think could be improved? Would you buy a new pair for the improved wireless? For hands-free Siri? Or for better water resistance? Please let us know in the comments below!

Top 9 Samsung Galaxy S9 features

Samsung has two new flagships, and like most years, they have several new features alongside welcome improvements. What are the best features of the Galaxy S9? We’ve picked out the top nine reasons you might want to buy Samsung’s latest flagship devices!

New fingerprint sensor position

The first one is pretty simple. If you have the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus, or Galaxy Note 8 you’ll be glad to know the odd fingerprint sensor position has finally been addressed. In the Galaxy S9, you’ll find the fingerprint sensor in the center of the device on the rear, beneath the camera.

You might still touch the camera by accident on occasion, but it’s less likely than on last year’s devices. The center position also makes for a much better experience, and means you can comfortably register the digits on either finger (rather than just your right finger last year).

Dual camera on the Galaxy S9 Plus

On the Galaxy S9 Plus, you’ll find the fingerprint sensor beneath not one, but two cameras (the regular S9 has only one). Yep, Samsung took a page out of Apple’s (and others) book, including dual cameras on its bigger Galaxy S flagship for the first time.

These cameras work similarly to the Galaxy Note 8. There’s a regular wide-angle super speed dual pixel 12 MP camera with dual aperture — also found on the regular Galaxy S9 — and a secondary 12 MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture. Both lenses feature optical image stabilization and allow for a depth of field effect using the live focus mode.

Multi-frame image processing

This is one of the highlight features for the Galaxy S9 family. Thanks to a new Image Signal Processor, the flagships are able to use multiple photos to help reduce overall noise in post processing. Using DRAM on the camera sensor, the Galaxy S9 is able to capture four times as many pictures at four times the speed.

It captures 12 images in a split second and sorts them into batches of four. For each batch, the software uses all of the detail from the four images to produce the best image. The software then processes the three resulting images one last time to create an overall best image.

960 fps automatic slow-motion video

DRAM on the camera sensor also comes in handy for super slow-motion video. The Galaxy S9 can capture four times as many frames as the Galaxy S8, bumping the slow-motion capture from 240 fps to 960 fps at the same 720p HD resolution.

What sets this function apart on the S9 is it’s automatic mode, which takes the guesswork out of perfectly timing slow-motion footage. Rather than predicting exactly when to start the slow-motion recording, the Galaxy S9 automatically identifies when to record in super slow-motion while recording regularly. If you’re at a baseball game and want to record what happens when the ball comes into the seam, it can be tough to know exactly when to press record. The Galaxy S9’s software determines exactly when to record and it works rather well.

Once you record a super slow-motion video, the Galaxy S9 saves it in your camera roll, as well as several sharable GIFs. These GIFs also come with preset effects like looping or reversing the clip, which make for interesting shareable animations. The video also automatically adds background music, which you can change to preset tunes or songs from your music library.

Mechanical Aperture

Samsung cameras have traditionally struggled in low light, but the company is hoping the Galaxy S9 will change that. The Galaxy S9 comes with a mechanical iris which physically switches between two different apertures.

The tighter f/2.4 aperture is used for bright scenes to prevent crushed highlights. The wider f/1.5 aperture is used for low light shots and lets in 28 percent more light than the Galaxy S8. In Auto mode, the phone will automatically pick which aperture to use, but in Pro mode you’re able to pick one or the other.

AR Emoji

Expressing yourself is a large part of the Galaxy S9 experience and nowhere is it more apparent than the new AR Emoji feature. Inspired by the Animoji feature on the Apple iPhone X, AR Emoji allows you to create a 3D scan of your face. You can customize the hair, skin tone, clothes, and accessories of the scan to really have some fun.

Once you create your own Emoji, you can then record videos or photos using the emoji. Saving the Emoji automatically creates 18 different GIFs in your phone’s gallery and on your phone’s keyboard, which can be shared quickly with friends.

Gigabit LTE

One of the key features of the latest Qualcomm processor is LTE Cat 18 support. This allows the phone to download at speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps on a supported mobile network and makes the Galaxy S9 one of the fastest smartphones for mobile data.

Stereo speakers

Another area where Samsung phones have traditionally struggled is audio. After Samsung’s acquisition of Harmon Kardon last year, this is hopefully a thing of the past. The single bottom-firing speaker from last year is now joined by a second front-facing speaker. Both speakers have been tuned by AKG (who are now part of the Samsung family after the Harmon acquisition).

The speakers are 1.4 times louder than the Galaxy S8 and Samsung says the speakers offer amazing premium audio. The dual speakers also benefit from a partnership with Dolby to add the Atmos codec to the Galaxy S9. This allows the phone to offer spatial audio, resulting in a more immersive experience overall.

Intelligent Scan

The Galaxy S8 family came with three different forms of biometric security: a fingerprint sensor, iris scanner, and face unlock. The Iris scanner and face unlock both only worked well in certain lighting conditions.

The iris scanner is super secure but doesn’t work well when you’re outdoors and the sun is behind you as the sunlight interferes with the IR. The Face unlock was the opposite — it worked great outside in good light, but it used the front camera, which struggled in dark conditions.

On the Galaxy S9, Samsung has combined both of these features to leverage the strengths of both technologies. Intelligent Scan uses iris scanning as the primary for applications that need higher levels of security such as banking apps or Samsung Pay. For day-to-day unlocking, the Galaxy S9 offers the super fast convenient experience of Face Unlock.

Those are our top nine features on the Galaxy S9. What are your favorites?

Exclusive: OnePlus 6 has 19:9 notched display, Snapdragon 845, top benchmarks

Big numbers, and a conspicuous gap at the top of the screen.

he next flagship phone from OnePlus looks set to boast impressive benchmark scores, while adopting an iPhone X-like display notch. Images obtained by Android Central from a source close to OnePlus reveal AnTuTu benchmark scores from the OnePlus 6, codenamed A6000, while also revealing other key details about the upcoming flagship.

The overall score of 276510 bests the previous champion, Xiaomi’s upcoming Mi Mix 2S, which is set to launch March 27. The CPU score also makes it pretty clear that this phone will run Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845, which shouldn’t really be a surprise given OnePlus’s history of shipping the latest processors.

OnePlus 6 benchmarksOnePlus 6 benchmarks

Benchmarks alone can’t tell you much about how responsive a phone will feel to use. However, OnePlus’s most recent devices have been among the most speedy-feeling we’ve used, and it can’t hurt to have that performance pedigree backed up by top scores in synthetic benchmarks.

Most interestingly, today’s leak appears to corroborate earlier live photos of the OnePlus 6, showing a telltale space up top for a display cutout. The middle of the status bar is taller, and conspicuously blank, with the system clock relocating over to the left and a truncated set of icons on the right. There’s pretty much only one reason to arrange your UI in this way, so consider it confirmed that the OnePlus 6 will follow the most polarizing smartphone trend of 2018. The aspect ratio of the screenshots is 19:9 — which is effectively 18:9 with a little extra space up top for the notch.

Based on previous leaks we can also expect the phone to pack a glass-backed design — the first in a OnePlus phone since the OnePlus X — along with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, dual cameras and minimal screen bezels.

Given that we’re seeing details of the OnePlus 6 leak already, it’s possible we’re looking at a launch earlier in the year this time around. Last year’s OnePlus 5 arrived in late June, with the first pre-launch details emerging around a month out from launch.

How to Send GIFs in iMessage Chats

The awesome iMessage has tons of cool features for iOS users. Much more than just a basic text chat, iMessage lets you integrate apps and send your friends all kinds of goofy content.

Did you know that you can send GIFs right in iMessage? If a picture or emoji won’t communicate your message properly, a GIF could be just the solution. These moving images are perfect for reacting, illustrating, or just messing around.

Here’s how to easily send a GIF in your next iMessage conversation.

How to Send GIFs in iMessage Chats iMessage Send GIFs

How to Send GIFs in iMessage Chats

  1. Open the Messages app on your iPhone.
  2. Select the chat you’d like to send a GIF in.
  3. You’ll see your iMessage apps lined up at the bottom of the screen. If you’re already typing a message, you can see them by selecting the Apps icon.
  4. Tap the red icon that has a magnifying glass. You’ll see some random GIFs that you can scroll through.
  5. Tap a GIF to add it to your message.
  6. To find the perfect GIF, just enter some text to search for in the Find images box. You’ll also see some suggested categories handy for reactions, like yay and thumbs up.
  7. Add a comment to your message if you want, then hit the Send button.

That’s all there is to easily adding GIFs to your iMessage chats. If this feature doesn’t have the GIF that you want, try using a different GIF website or app to find the right one. For most GIFs, you can long-press on them and select Copy, then just Paste the GIF into an iMessage chat.

For more, check out fun iMessage games you can play with your friends.

 

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus hands-on: Express yourself

Another year, another Samsung Galaxy S flagship. How do you take a flagship device that’s nearly perfect and improve it in any meaningful way? This is the conundrum Samsung faced creating the Galaxy S9, but the company seems to have found a few areas to improve its popular handset.

The Galaxy S8 was nearly perfect. It delivered an immersive smartphone experience, thanks to the Infinity Display, and pushed the boundaries of smartphone design more than ever before. The camera improved a little over the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S8 Plus was a big phone for those who wanted something a little larger.

With the Galaxy S9, Samsung has kept similar design but tweaked it to create a better overall experience. There are two devices again this year. While the form factor and display size are the same as last year, both devices have a slightly smaller overall footprint. The Galaxy S8 Plus especially was a pretty tall device but the Galaxy S9 Plus is a little more manageable in the hand; by reducing the bezels above and below the display, Samsung has managed to shave 1.2 mm off the height of the Galaxy S9 and 1.4 mm off the Galaxy S9 Plus.

The displays themselves have also been tweaked a little, offering 15 percent higher peak brightness. The Galaxy S8 topped out at around 600 nits, while the Galaxy S9 is expected to achieve closer to 700 nits. For those bright sunny days, this extra brightness should help with overall legibility. The phones’ curves are not as steep as the S8 line, nor do their displays run all the way to the edge. Samsung says this is designed to prevent accidental touches along the edge of the screen and it will hopefully also address the light banding issue when watching a video.

The Galaxy S9 also bring stereo speakers to a Samsung smartphone for the first time. After its acquisition of Harman Kardon last year, the Korean manufacturer set about improving the audio on its devices, previously one of the poorest experience on any smartphone. This year, there are two speakers — a forward facing one joins the bottom-firing speaker from last year.

Both have been tuned by AKG. As a result, the speakers are noticeably louder. Samsung says the overall output is 1.4 times louder than the Galaxy S8. Samsung also partnered with Dolby to add the Atmos codec to the Galaxy S9 — once enabled, it offers spatial sound playback which helps to add to the overall immersive experience.

The most controversial part of the Galaxy S8 family was the fingerprint sensor, which Samsung chose to place right next to the camera in a very awkward position. The company has finally addressed this in the S9 by moving it to the center, beneath the camera. The new positioning works well enough and means the sensor is useful again. On the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, the positioning was awkward enough to be uncomfortable.

Those are the small improvements over the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, but the big improvements are in the camera. As part of its theme of being able to express yourself, the Galaxy S9 camera brings a collection of new camera features, as well as some tweaks to the Galaxy S8 camera.

The Galaxy S9 camera features the same hardware as the Galaxy S8 with a 12 MP super speed dual pixel sensor with optical image stabilization. The Galaxy S9 Plus also features the secondary camera found on the Galaxy Note 8, a 12 MP telephoto lens with OIS and f/2.4 aperture. Both devices feature 8 MP front-facing cameras with f/1.7 aperture.

The low light performance on Samsung phones previously let down the camera experience, but the Galaxy S9 looks to improve this with dual aperture and multi-frame image processing. The Galaxy S9 has a mechanical lens that opens and closes. For bright scenes, it’ll use the tighter f/2.4 aperture and for low light scenes, it’ll use a wider f/1.5 aperture. As a result, Samsung says there is 28 percent more light coming into the system than the Galaxy S8, which should improve the low light camera performance. The mechanical aperture is hardware based and doesn’t offer any aperture stops between the two. By default, the Galaxy S9 automatically picks which aperture to use but in Pro mode, you can control it.

The multi-frame image processing is also new to the Galaxy S9 and it’s designed to help with noise reduction. The Galaxy S9 comes with DRAM on the camera sensor itself, which means the camera can capture four times as many photos at four times the speed. In a split second, the camera takes 12 images which are then sorted into batches of four. The software then uses all the detail and information for processing and noise reduction. It does this three times to give you the best three photos from each batch. The software then does it one more time on the three photos to get the overall best photo.

The DRAM isn’t just used for multi-frame image processing, but also for super slow-motion video. The Galaxy S8 offered 720p super slow-motion video at 240 fps, but the Galaxy S9 now offers it at 960 fps. This isn’t new to smartphones but the automatic mode is definitely a step above other devices. Instead of having to time exactly when to press record, the Galaxy S9 will also do it for you and all you have to do is press record.

The automatic mode works rather well and once you take a super slow-motion video, it also saves several shareable GIFs including effects such as loop and reverse. For those who want to relive a great super slow-motion video, you can save the video as your lock screen wallpaper. The software also automatically adds background music to the video, which you can then change to one of the preset sounds or a song from your music library.

The Galaxy S9 follows the lead of the iPhone X and brings a new feature called AR Emoji. This feature captures your face, analyzes it, and allows you to make an animated version of yourself which can be customized further. The customization options include two different types of animation, either more life-like or more cartoon-like. You can also change the hair, skin tone, glasses, clothes of the image. After you’ve finished customizing your AR Emoji, it’ll save 18 GIFs to your phone’s gallery, as well as the Samsung keyboard, so you can easily share it with your friends. AR Emoji lets you record either photos or videos. While you can talk and move your head, it’s doesn’t seem to pick up as many facial expressions as the iPhone X.

Camera aside, the Galaxy S9 also brings a series of other improvements to Bixby, connectivity, and security. Bixby has gained a new food mode, which allows you to point the camera towards a piece of food and get nutritional information about it. Using the selfie camera, the new makeup mode allows you to try on makeup from Sephora or CoverGirl and buy it straight from Bixby.

The Galaxy S8 had two different biometric security options — Face Unlock and the Iris Scanner. The Galaxy S9 combines these into a new feature called Intelligent Scan. Samsung says both of these were great in certain scenarios and by combining them, it gets around the issues faced especially by the Iris Scanner. Intelligent Scan uses Iris Scanning as the primary security option for applications that need higher levels of security, like banking apps or Samsung Pay. For day-to-day unlocking of your phone Intelligent Scan uses the convenient super-fast experience of Face Unlock. How well does it work? This remains to be seen but we’ll find out in our Galaxy S9 review in the near future.

The Galaxy S9 is the first smartphone powered by the Snapdragon 845 processor and brings Gigabit LTE support. The regular Galaxy S9 comes with 4 GB of RAM, while the Galaxy S9 Plus has 6 GB of RAM. Both devices are IP68 water and dust resistant, offer fast wireless storage, and have a headphone jack. Both come with 64 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded by up to 400 GB using a microSD card.

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will launch in three colors in the U.S. — Midnight Black, Lilac Purple and Coral Blue. The fourth color — Titanium Gray — isn’t coming to the U.S. It’s not entirely certain how much they will cost, but pre-orders launch on March 2, ahead of its March 16 release. Samsung is also offering its first-ever global pre-order offer called Trade Up and Save, allowing you to get up to $350 off the cost of the Galaxy S9 when you trade in last year’s flagship from any manufacturer. Trade Up and Save offers tiers so those with a Galaxy S7 or two-year-old flagship from another OEM will receive a little less.

Samsung Galaxy S9 review: A fantastic phone for the masses, but not an exciting one

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Look, I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are all-new phones worthy of praise for doing a whole bunch of things that their predecessors did at the start of 2017. Not a whole lot has changed in the last year, and that’s just the reality of what we’re working with here.

Not only is Samsung using almost all of the same materials, design, components and features found on its last-gen flagships, but the similarities go down to using the exact same box, wall charger, USB cable and the AKG earbuds. The Android Oreo and Samsung Experience 9.0 software is near-identical to the update that started hitting the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in January. In many ways, Samsung isn’t even trying to act like these are altogether new phones. Iterating the branding to “S9” is purely an exercise in keeping naming consistent for consumers than a true indication of a generational jump.

If any other company did this, its phones would quickly be cast into the shadows for lacking innovation or an eye-catching feature to draw in potential buyers. But Samsung isn’t like other companies — Samsung is sitting at the very top of the Android world, sucking in nearly all of the available profits in the $700+ price segment. To quote myself, “it’s Samsung’s world and we’re all just living in it.” And that affords it some flexibility to release an iterative update set to fix the Galaxy S8’s few flaws and re-release phones that almost anyone looking to buy in 2018 will enjoy.

About this review

I’m writing this review after 9 days using the U.S. unlocked Galaxy S9+. The phone was used exclusively on the AT&T network, first roaming in Barcelona, Spain and then locally in Seattle, WA. The software build was 1UEU1ARB7, with the February 1 security patch, and was not updated during the course of the review.

Considering their similarities, the entirety of this review is applicable to both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, except in portions where Galaxy S9+-specific commentary is noted.

IN VIDEO

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Video review

There’s a place for words, and then there’s a place for a concise video review — thankfully, we have both available for you right here. To get things kicked off, be sure to watch our full Galaxy S9 video review, and to get more details, read on for the complete written review right here.

Samsung Galaxy S9+

MORE OF THE SAMESUNG

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Hardware, design and display

The Galaxy S9 is near-indistinguishable from the Galaxy S8, but the hardware is still absolutely a strong point. This is a beautiful, modern design that looks great and is functional in terms of getting a ton of screen in a relatively small package. The standard Galaxy S9, in particular, is downright compact by modern smartphone standards.

The metal frame and tightly curved glass are gorgeous, but Samsung is still showing it didn’t have to sacrifice functionality for form. The Galaxy S9 is IP68 water resistant, of course, and the glass back enables wireless charging, which isn’t a must-have feature for me but I’ll always use it if it’s there. There’s also a fan-favorite SD card slot for up to 400GB of extra storage — or up to 2TB when the cards come out at that capacity. And look at that on the bottom of the phone: a headphone jack! The increasingly rare port matches up well with a really good pair AKG earbuds you’ll find in the box, but is wonderful to see regardless. Samsung is saving us from dongles for at least another year, and I applaud it.

Samsung was smart to stick with everything that made the Galaxy S8 so appealing — but it did manage to fix the few hardware quirks we latched onto last year.

Yes, you can actually find and use the fingerprint sensor without any hand contortion. It’s slightly easier to reach on the smaller Galaxy S9, and the sensor isn’t quite as easy to blindly find as on the Google Pixel 2 or OnePlus 5T, but this is a massive improvement and no longer a weak point of Samsung’s flagships. And for times when you can’t reach, the new “intelligent scan” system lets you quickly unlock the phone with your face while retaining iris scanning for protecting more sensitive data in the phone. I kept it turned on and it never interfered with my fingerprint sensor use, but was there when I needed it — again, a vast improvement over last year.

Without changing the exterior design, Samsung made a few choice upgrades on the inside. A new top earpiece complements the down-firing speaker to form a stereo pair — providing critical audio separation when you’re watching landscape video, and making it impossible to just block all sound coming out of the phone with a single finger. Samsung claims the pair is 1.4-times louder, and I won’t go that far — but I definitely notice a boost to both volume and bass when listening to music without headphones. That’s all we really needed.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs

On the other hand, going far beyond “adequate” is this AMOLED display, which is absolutely leading the industry. Samsung outdid itself by increasing brightness 15% over last year, complementing what’s already a fundamentally fantastic display in terms of colors, clarity, off-axis viewing and visibility in direct sunlight. DisplayMate’s tests show all of the specifics, but you don’t need to know any of that — trust me, you’ll either love having this display, or you’ll wish your phone had it. The only puzzling decision Samsung makes is still putting the phone in FHD+ resolution by default — turn that thing up to QHD+ and enjoy the brilliance.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

STANDARD SAMSUNG

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Software, specs and performance

With years of iteration, Samsung’s software has made leaps and bounds in terms of design, overall fluidity and features — but its out-of-box experience is still burdensome and clunky if you’re used to any other company’s phones.

Samsung Experience 9.0, built with Android Oreo, still feels like it’s hanging on to vestiges of previous software versions in many places. Countless settings pages go several layers deep concealing features new and old, leaving search as the only realistic way of finding something quickly. Many design cues, like the notification shade design, are mismatched with new Oreo-targeted apps. Samsung’s launcher just now offers long-press actions that came to Android in Nougat, but they’re half-baked and aren’t useful like they are on other phones — at least the notification badges are now actually tied to the notification shade. Somehow, its keyboard is still not even in the same ballpark as Google’s Gboard with prediction and swipe input — and don’t even get me started on the poor voice dictation.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ softwareSamsung Galaxy S9+ softwareSamsung Galaxy S9+ softwareSamsung Galaxy S9+ softwareSamsung Galaxy S9+ softwareSamsung Galaxy S9+ software

The preservation of legacy features and a design lineage that stretches back several years may be comforting to some longtime Samsung users, but for people who just want to get the basics done the Galaxy S9 has a mountain of cruft to contend with. I personally can deal with it all just fine through an afternoon of tweaking settings, but then again, should I have to?

Yes I’m being somewhat nitpicky on a few things here, and there are far more people out there who are accustomed to Samsung’s software than any other single flavor. But it just strikes me every time I pick up a new Samsung phone how many hoops I have to jump through just to get it to work the way I want — sometimes you can go overboard in offering options, and Samsung is walking that line. I doubt the software bloat will actually dissuade anyone from buying these phones, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with potential frustration points.

Quickly, a paragraph about Bixby! The Bixby Home panel connected to your home screen still lacks standout features, leaving me to wonder if we’d all be better served by just integrating the few pieces of it that work into other areas of the phone and leaving this full-screen Home experience to die, as most of it just isn’t useful. Bixby Voice recognition is actually pretty good, if you just downright don’t know how to do something and want it to handle it over voice — but most of the time, touch is faster and more accurate. I could go deep into why Bixby is a flawed system that isn’t making any strides in terms of changing the way we use our phones, but let’s save that for another time — the important part here is that you can use Bixby if you want, and you can turn it off entirely if you don’t.

It’s sort of the same “use it or forget it” situation for AR Emoji — Samsung’s new Apple Animoji competitor. It works, it’s neat to play with and maybe the younger crowd will latch onto it. But for most of us, we’ll stick to taking great pictures with the camera rather than putting weird masks on our quasi-cartoon avatars in selfies. Samsung once again deserves praise for having a camera feature that’s dead simple to capture and export anywhere, rather than locking you into its platform, but this isn’t compelling enough to be an actual selling point of the phones.

Performance

The Snapdragon 845 processor I’m using in this U.S. model of the Galaxy S9+ is the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, and honestly it’s far more powerful than anything we need in a smartphone today — particularly when it’s paired up with 6GB of RAM. But hey, it means this phone’s ready for the future.

As far as using the phone every day, it doesn’t feel any different from the Galaxy S8 using Oreo, or the Note 8 using Nougat for that matter. Anyone who’s spent time with a Pixel 2 or even last-gen Pixel will be able to sense moments of dropped frames or stutters on the Galaxy S9, but let’s be honest it just isn’t that big of a difference. The Galaxy S9+ handled everything I threw at it without any hesitation, and I experienced zero slowdowns, app crashes or system instability. The phone’s been rock solid, and I just hope it stays that way over time.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ on a wireless charger

Battery life

Samsung’s promise of “all day” battery life holds true in my use, if just barely, with the 3500mAh capacity inside the Galaxy S9+. Without fail, I got 17 to 18 hours of battery life each day, including 3 to 4 hours of “screen on” time, at the point when I settled into bed and tossed the phone on its wireless charger. That’s certainly good enough for most people, and roughly on par with what I get out of my Pixel 2 XL — but heavier users will need a midday top-up if they’re going to be hitting the phone hard.

On the other side of things, light users will still be charging at night regardless, as the standby battery life just isn’t fantastic on the Galaxy S9+. Even with light usage and most of my day spent at home on Wi-Fi, the phone was still estimating roughly 18 to 19 hours of battery life. Consistency is good in most cases, but keep in mind that even if you baby it throughout the day you aren’t going to be able to push far into a second day without charging.

Galaxy S9+ battery lifeGalaxy S9+ battery lifeGalaxy S9+ battery life

Despite this being the year 2018, Samsung is curiously still supporting just Quick Charge 2.0 charging speeds and supplies the same charger as it did with the Galaxy S7 and S8. It’s not really an issue, and the phones do support USB-C Power Delivery for another fast charging option, but it’s so odd that an otherwise extremely technologically advanced phone wouldn’t have at least Quick Charge 3.0.

As I only have the larger Galaxy S9+ for this review period, the only question mark that remains is just how the Galaxy S9, with its smaller 3000mAh battery, will fare. Given my S9+ experience of a full day, and realizing that the Galaxy S9 has all of the same specs and capabilities with what is still a very large display, I expect the smaller phone to once again underwhelm in its longevity. That’s the one trade-off you take into consideration when getting the smaller phone for its ease of use in one hand.

Samsung Galaxy S9+

THE BIG IMPROVEMENT

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Cameras

With the move to a an all-new 12MP sensor, the Galaxy S9 has dramatically improved its processing for photos of all kinds. Each photo saved is the combination of 12 frames captured simultaneously, blended into 3 batches and then worked into a final image. The result is insanely crisp details and almost no noise even in extremely dark conditions, without the typical over-processed or artificially-smoothed look we so often see associated with low noise.

The camera’s trick new lens that can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 helps even further. A majority of shots are taken at f/1.5 to let in as much light as possible and give the sensor a better chance at keeping the ISO down. It will switch to f/2.4 in bright daylight scenes and provide even better fine detail, and I found the camera does a great job of choosing which one is right for the job. You can fiddle around with Pro mode if you want, but I was blown away by the quality of photos in Auto.

The biggest comparison here is of course the Pixel 2’s camera. These phones don’t take the same types of photos, but they both produce fantastic images in their own right. The Pixel 2 is capable of creating scenes that no other smartphone can, and uses its advanced HDR processing to create eye-catching photos that have a very dramatic look with extra saturation and highlights — it basically does an advanced editing job after capturing. On the other hand, the Galaxy S9 comes closer to natural reproduction of a scene, with great colors and amazing detail — you might want to tweak it in some cases, but you get a fundamentally great photo to start with.

On the whole, I’d say both phones have great cameras that anyone would be happy to shoot with. The Galaxy S9+ isn’t going to dethrone the Pixel 2 as the “best” camera out there in my opinion, because things are just more nuanced than that, but it does just as good a job in most situations and has plenty of features the Pixel 2 doesn’t. I was consistently amazed by the photos I took with the Galaxy S9+ — and at that point, whether it took the “same” photo as the Pixel 2 in any given situation is basically irrelevant to me.

The photo quality is so good from the main camera it almost obviates the need for the secondary camera — which is near-identical to the Note 8’s. That second sensor and lens aren’t anything special, meaning in many dimmer scenes you’ll just be using the main sensor with a digital crop anyway. And the Live Focus portrait mode still runs into processing issues where the f/1.5 main lens can often provide better, natural background blur. None of the photos I’m showing in this review use Live Focus … I always took a better shot in Pro mode at f/1.5. When you take this into account, it really doesn’t feel like Galaxy S9 buyers are losing much by not getting that second camera — so don’t let that be your deciding factor between the two sizes.

The new camera sensor tech also enables 960 frame per second slow motion, which is very clearly a gimmick — but it’s a darn fun one. With the right conditions and a steady hand, you can get jaw-dropping slow-motion scenes. And Samsung’s automatic capture interface makes it dead simple to get the shot you’re looking for — something that was sorely missing when I reviewed the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Be sure to check out our review video for some choice slow-mo action from the Galaxy S9+.

Samsung Galaxy S9+

THE NEW STANDARD

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Bottom line

It’s become increasingly clear to me that the Galaxy S line of phones is no longer exciting, at least from the standpoint of those who strive to see the latest and greatest technology. They are, instead, becoming the new standard Android phone by which all others are measured as a baseline. A vast majority of Galaxy S9 buyers will not know much about the details of their phones, nor do they need to — but they know that this phone has cool new features, does everything they ask of it, and in turn brings no measurable flaws, trade-offs or downsides.

These are expensive phones, but the value proposition is pretty simple. When someone walks in the store and asks for a phone that has a specific feature or can do certain things, undoubtedly the Galaxy S9 or S9+ can do it — and that same phone can fulfill different requests from the next person that walks in. Samsung doesn’t have to turn away any customers, because these phones just do everything.

It’s funny how we now appreciate a phone that just does things customers want, in a normal way, rather than trying to force some new agenda or change before it’s ready to happen. With the Galaxy S9 and S9+, Samsung isn’t pushing the envelope: it’s just making phones that can appeal to as many people as possible. The excellence in these phones is that Samsung managed to make the “phone for the masses” while keeping them grounded as a proper, finished product rather than a portmanteau of random ideas that’s less than the sum of its parts.

The real question is, for the discerning buyers out there who don’t want a phone that does everythingbut wants one that does certain things best, and will put up with a couple compromises, whether they’ll be better served by a phone like the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL. They may not have the brilliant display or mountain of features, but their software experience and simplicity are undeniably better — and that’s important for some people. If you’re willing to look at the details, you may be better served by those phones — but statistically most people will buy a Samsung phone, probably one of these two in 2018, and they’ll undoubtedly love it.

Samsung is going to sell an insane number of these phones — not because they’re groundbreaking or hyper-innovative, but because they’re solid, beautiful, feature-packed and have fantastic cameras. And that’s why Samsung is now the default choice for non-iPhone buyers — and even some in Apple’s camp — around the world.