Photo Source: Anshel Sag
As a technology industry analyst, I form parts of my opinions on the status and future possibilities of technology by using various devices. I did tech products, strategy, and marketing for over 20 years before I started my analyst firm, so that’s to be expected. I use one new product (phone, computer, consumer IoT) on average per week and I routinely carry three phones with me at all times. One of those three phones I consider my “primary” or my “#1” phone. Since the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, my primary phone had been an iPhone, but I have just exchanged my iPhone X for the Samsung Galaxy S9+. I still love my Apple iPhone X and still carry it, but there were some very compelling reasons why I switched to the S9+ as my primary, and I’d like to share those with you.
The primary reason for my switch to the S9+ was productivity. I founded and run a small size business, Moor Insights & Strategy, and serve as its president and principal analyst. My day primarily consists of collaborating on vendor calls, researching companies and products, writing reports, and communicating in real-time on social media. Also, I travel a lot as I attend around 40 in-person analyst events a year. Choice is very important to me in my use case as well, and I change routinely from Windows PCs to Macs.
Messaging and communications
Since a phone is still predominantly a communications device for me, I wanted to cover things like calling and texting. Because I am one of the weirdos that likes to dictate very long texts and emails, the voice assistant is an important part of the phone to me. Using the Google Assistant speech to text engine, I can do this with nearly flawless precision, which I believe to be an overall value-add to most Android devices.
I also receive and respond to text messages on a Windows 10 PC via the S9+ android interface. I can get all my Android notifications on my PC today, and tomorrow, and thanks to the newly-announced RS5 Microsoft Phone App at BUILD, I should get improved text messaging and easier photo sharing in the future. For my use case, this just makes me more productive as I get every message on the PC.
Yes, I know I can get some iPhone messages on the Mac like iMessages, but that’s not the point. I want all my phone notifications on my many computers, and as I use Windows PCs a lot more than Macs, I prefer the S9+ and Windows 10 combination.
Superior wireless connectivity relevant to my use case
Samsung has always been a leader when it comes to wireless connectivity as it has generally been the first to implement new wireless tech and embrace it as part of their brand’s value. Having faster more consistent wireless connectivity means I can get more done quicker when I want to get it done, whether I’m on the tarmac, in the airport, inside a venue, or in a vendor meeting. WiFi isn’t the answer as many places I am in have cruddy WiFi and edge LTE connectivity means a lot. Many times, I’ll be on the edge of a cellular network, and the S9+ will have two bars, and other phones will not have any.
As for max speeds, independent 3rd parties like Ookla have tested the S9+ against the competition and found it to be up to 42% faster than other phones. Why is that? The Galaxy S9+ has Cat 18 LTE capability with a 4×4 MIMO antenna configuration and other modem features that come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and the X16 LTE modem.
Some have argued with me that it’s “not a noticeable difference” or “it doesn’t matter.” Well, for my usage model, it matters, and it matters a lot. When I’m conducting business, and, on the clock, time is money. The difference between downloading that document on the tarmac or not could mean real money for me.
I also use the phone to share Wi-Fi in a hotel, which is great for simplifying connectivity. I’m not talking about using LTE as a bridge then have end points connect, I am talking about sharing a WiFi connection. This helps as sometimes there are limits on hotel connections without a surcharge, and only requires me to sign in once, not four or five times for each device.
Charging and battery life
Charging and battery life is an important topic to me because I am always on the go and don’t always have time to sit down and charge everything I own all the time. There are days where I will be on my phone eight straight hours, particularly when I am at an analyst event with big launches. I’m on the move at big industry events like CES, walking from venue to venue while hailing Ubers, taking hundreds of pictures, posting to Twitter and writing short emails.
From my experience, the S9+ battery life is good, but its recharging capabilities and fine grain control are even better. The S9+ supports Samsung Quick Charge which includes support for up to Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0. I would like to see Samsung support QuickCharge 4+ as that charges even more quickly and efficiently than the 2.0 standard.
I really enjoy the fine grain control of battery life and performance with three different power savings modes which include:
- “Off”- Full background network usage, always on display, limits CPU speed to 100%, full brightness and display resolution to a full WQHD+ (2960×1440).
- “Mid”- Adds an estimated 3.5 hours and shuts off background network usage, always on display, limits CPU speed to 70%, decreases brightness 10% and lowers the display resolution to FHD+ (2220×1080).
- “Max”- Adds a whopping estimated 34 hours and shuts off background network usage, always on display, limits CPU speed to 60%, decreases brightness another 10% and lowers the display resolution to HD+ (1480×720). It also removes all biometric function, adds a dark theme and limits usage to eight selected apps.
All of these fine-grain controls helps me when I’m in a pinch let’s say when my plane gets delayed and I’m sitting there without a plug. I put the battery setting on “max” and while I don’t have the full experience, I have the basics like text and email.
I also enjoy Samsung’s fourth generation of wireless charging tech, which I find to be simply the best for my business use case. I can lay down my phone or put it at an angle to consume content or interact with the phone as I am sitting at the desk. I believe that Samsung has really nailed the wireless charging experience for business people and you would expect this given it’s the fourth iteration. Samsung has also been one of the few players to remain consistent in their support for wireless charging and unwavering in their support for the technology. It’s hard to believe some premium-priced smartphones don’t yet support wireless charging.
Cameras matter in my line of work for many reasons. My most common uses for a smartphone camera include taking photos of documents that vendors give me (I don’t do paper) and taking pictures at events of on-stage happenings, people, slides, and products. At the time that the Galaxy S9+ came out, it had the best DxO score from the DxO benchmarking company who benchmarks cameras, camera sensors, and lenses. While a DxO score is not the “end all be all” of the camera performance as they do not test for OIS, it is still a pretty good indicator of camera performance overall.
Since the S9’s launch, other cameras have surpassed the S9+ score of 99, but they may lack in other places of smartphone usage that the S9+ does not. The Galaxy S9+ has the best low light of any camera I have used to date thanks to the f/2.4 aperture lens; this helps so much a “big tent” events like product announcements where light is low, and flash is unacceptable. The 2x optical zoom helps as I don’t always get a good seat at tech events, and having dual OIS plus 2x optical zoom means I can get serviceable shots from far away.
I also like that the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S9+ keeps your settings when you reopen the camera after closing it. This is particularly useful when at events as it keeps the previous zoom setting, making switching between photography and other applications easier to do. With other smartphones, I need to rezoom every shot which is another step and has led to missed shots. I also like Android’s unrestrained background photo upload capabilities to OneDrive, Google and Amazon Photos. Yes, it does result in additional battery drain, but when I’m at an event taking photos I need my photos to be nearly instantly accessible on my PC for work. While I understand why other vendors limit background tasks, when I need to upload, I just need to upload! With Samsung, I’m more in control, not the manufacturer.
Security has always been a big strength for Samsung, and its something it without a doubt touted as a unique capability over the Android competition, including new, Google certified” models. This capability is especially noticeable in their deployment and growth of Knox. I understand how people could be afraid of using stock Android from a security point of view, even though Google has made a lot of improvement for each release and continues to deliver rapid updates. I feel better knowing that the S9+ has Knox and the fact that Samsung’s Knox is considered military-grade security and deployed by the U.S. military.
Samsung has also been very aggressive in enabling biometric security choice and multi-factor authentication with the ability to use fingerprint, iris and 2D face recognition in addition to PIN passwords. I also like that Samsung still uses the secure folder which allows me to layer your biometric security behind multiple factors to ensure that my hyper-sensitive data is protected. What some call “complex”, I call more secure and giving me control.
Killer OLED display
Samsung is recognized as one of the leaders in display technology and is also known for making some of the best OLED displays for smartphones in the world. Samsung supplies many of their own competitors with their OLED displays.
So, it comes as little surprise that the Galaxy S9+’s display was rated the highest by DisplayMate, one of the most regarded display review and benchmark websites in the world. They said, “The Galaxy S9 matches or sets many new Smartphone Display Performance Records, earning DisplayMate’s highest ever A+ grade.” The display itself is a 6.2” 529 PPI OLED display with improved brightness over the Galaxy S8 with a peak brightness of 1,130 nits. I will just let the DisplayMate tests speak for itself.
Samsung also enables different display resolutions which can be used to lower power draw. Again, I like that Samsung gives me the control.
As most all of my recent laptops have USB Type-C connectors, the S9+’s USB-C connections mean I only must bring one adapter with me, not Lighting plus USB-C. Having to carry fewer charging cables and adapters is actually a big deal for me because I generally tend to pack very light and every little bit makes a difference.
Samsung Pay is also a great value-add because it works anywhere there is a credit card pin pad. Many people forget Samsung Pay can work with card swipers. There is no special requirement for NFC technology like other smartphone pay technologies, and I believe that Samsung’s solution delivers a superior user smartphone pay experience.
I was also impressed with the quality of the AKG headphones included in the box- they are simply the highest quality I have ever experienced coming with a phone and work great for conference calls. Some other vendors’ wired headphones just don’t fit my ears well.
I can simply do more with the S9+ if I want, and there’s freedom in that. The fact that it has an expandable SD card storage slot means that I can install an SD card up to whatever capacity is available at the time. I could install a 400 GB microSD card, and I’ll admit that I never needed it but it’s nice to know I could keep my entire OneDrive on it if I wanted to, and I would never have to worry about downloading/caching music or movies on it.
The Galaxy S9+ also can be slotted into a VR headset with Samsung GearVR which gives the smartphone more capabilities and flexibility. While I am more of a believer in self-contained VR headsets, some people will value this.
There is also the DeX Pad which I will be writing more on later, which extends the S9+ use case to a desktop PC. I have used it for the past two weeks and so far, so good. There’s a patch that should improve the experience, and I will be reviewing that later.
What I miss
There are some things about switching from the iPhone X to the Samsung Galaxy S9+ as my primary phone that I will miss. To be clear, I am still carrying the iPhone X, but it’s not my primary phone. One of the big things for me is that I cannot use my Apple Watch effectively anymore. I have worn my Apple Watch nearly every day since the original watch was introduced and I have only been happy with it.
I also will miss using iMessage, especially in my household where I am now the only non-iOS user which means that I’m kind of an outcast now. As the Android guy, I make the family group text “green” and make it harder to share pictures and videos since they now have to be sent over SMS. Maybe RCS will help in the future, but I’m not holding my breath, as Google and the carriers have had a decade to figure this out.
I also miss the Apple leather cases that fit 100% perfectly every time. I also miss my AirPods, that still work with Android, but not nearly as well. AirPods are simply the best right now, and I haven’t found a set yet that works nearly as well with the Galaxy S9+. The Jabra Elite 65t is the pits so far.
Switching to the Galaxy S9+ as my primary phone has been primarily a positive experience for me. For my personal use case, I am more productive. However, there are still some things that I also do miss from being fully in the Apple ecosystem.
That said, I am still extremely happy with the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and it’s without a doubt one of the best phones I have ever used to date. It’s a great time to be a consumer and business person with so much competition and high-quality choices.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag contributed to this article.