The Samsung Galaxy S9 is the latest iteration of an already high-powered line of smartphones. In fact, many users are still using the Galaxy S7, now two generations old. With phones continuing to get more powerful — and better overall — let’s take a look at how the S9 fares against the previous generation. Quite a few key aspects have been changed.

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Despite this being the ninth-generation Galaxy S device, there’s still plenty of big improvements and new features to talk about. Much of the design is very similar to the Galaxy S8 line, but under-the-hood improvements have been made which make the S9 a worthy step up from its predecessor. The glass-on-glass design is very familiar, and the colors of the newer device now include the lovely Lilac edition, which is a purple hue we surprisingly enjoyed. Samsung managed to make the Galaxy S9 slightly smaller than its predecessor, though it’s hard to tell unless comparing them side by side.

Both the Galaxy S8 and S9 lines sport IP68 certification for dust and water resistance. Little has changed on the design front between these two phones, though a couple pain points have been addressed.

More: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs

The speaker grille on the bottom is no longer a series of dots. It’s now just one of two units in a stereo setup. The Galaxy S9 now has a front-facing speaker integrated in the call speaker. Both speakers are powered by Dolby Atmos, meaning the audio experience is louder and fuller than ever. This bolsters the audio portion of the media consumption experience, because the viewing experience is largely the same as before.

The audio experience is louder and fuller than ever on the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.

Though it was not so much a problem with the S8, the fingerprint reader of the Galaxy Note 8 was a pain point, which Samsung has now addressed. By stacking the camera on top of the fingerprint sensor, anyone looking to use their index fingers to unlock the device will find it easier to reach. This is a great move on Samsung’s part, even if it is clear Samsung is focusing on other biometrics like Iris Scanning and Face Scanning, now merged into one measure called Intelligent Scan. With this new biometric security method, the phone uses one or the other depending on your environment.

That fingerprint reader reveals the other big change in the S9 Plus: a secondary camera. Taking a page out of the Note 8’s book, the camera now includes a zoom lens. The main lens also gets a big upgrade in the form of mechanical aperture adjustment. This is a feature that really puts the S9 over pretty much all of the competition — a mechanical iris will automatically open and close to the levels of f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the lighting condition, or manually when in Pro mode.

This is a big step forward in smartphone photography. More light will be able to make its way into the shot when using the wider aperture of f/1.5. This will also result in more accurate bokeh compared to photos taken with the f/2.4 aperture. It’s not that the singular f/1.7 aperture camera of the Galaxy S8 is very far behind, but this is a significant change.

At least on paper, the Galaxy S9's camera has a leg up on the competition.

The Galaxy S9 line also has the ability to shoot a dozen concurrent shots for better image processing. Three groups of four pictures are used in order to discern the detail, contrast, and noise of the picture, while the multi-frame processing works to provide the best possible shot. All of this is done a few different times to bring one great result. This is achieved by the memory built into the camera sensor itself. The camera app is also updated, now showing all of the modes up top, rather than hiding them in a sliding menu.

Slow motion was already available in the Galaxy S8, but it has been boosted to record 960 fps footage at 720p. This is not necessarily new, but the phone also has the ability to automatically detect when the motion which the user wants slowed down occurs.

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Finally, AR Emoji brings what is essentially camera-driven Bitmoji to the Samsung camera, which will be fun for anyone that wants to send personalized GIFs and caricatures to their friends. Once you tweak the settings of your AR Emoji to look just right, it can then be saved to your gallery in a series of 18 unique GIFs to share with whoever you’d like.

The camera talk also gives way to a few improvements in Bixby, Samsung’s somewhat controversial assistant. There’s still a hardware Bixby button on the side of the device, and hitting it brings up the assistant, which now adds better visual recognition through the camera. Food can now be recognized using the Bixby camera. We found it had a little bit of trouble with some foods — it showed bagel spread as ice cream. Live translation is also enhanced, allowing for augmented reality looks at translated text in the real world. We don’t see why these enhancements can’t just be updated to the Bixby software installed on the Galaxy S8, but it will be immediately available in the S9.

Aside from the camera, many of the updates we’ve been expecting have been included in the Galaxy S9 line. Both the S9 and S9 Plus are powered by either the Snapdragon 845 or the Exynos 9810, though the S9 Plus brings 6 GB of RAM compared to the S9’s 4 GB.

The S9 and S9 Plus also sport 5.8- and 6.2-inch displays respectively, same as last year’s models. The S9 line’s screens don’t bleed over the edge on the right and left sides like they did on the S8 line. The screens are still curved, but the curves have been dialed back.

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus also retain the same battery capacities as the S8 line: 3,000 mAh and 3,500 mAh, respectively.

The Galaxy S9 and S8 lines are pretty similar in a lot of ways, but there are some notable changes we can’t wait to spend more time with. In a world where smartphones are getting harder to distinguish from one another, that is a feat in and of itself.

What do you think of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus? Be sure to sound off in the comments, and stay tuned for more coverage of Samsung’s latest here at MWC!

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