It is arguably the most high-profile premium Android device out there, but the Samsung Galaxy S9+ also faces a lot of competition. And as we mentioned in the review, the Android competition seems to have got closer to it than it ever had in the past. But does it do enough to threaten the position of the S9+ as THE Android flagship? To answer that, we compared the device with four phones that are laying siege to it – three from other brands, and one from Samsung itself. The results:
The traditional clash: vs iPhone X
Can the notch nick it?
This is a clash of tastes more than anything – the more realistically tuned AMOLED of the iPhone X against the eye-popping brilliance of the Galaxy S9+; the true to life cameras of the X against the more pleasant results from the S9+; the curvy design of the X against the taller and slightly more edgy looks of the S9+; Apple’s chips against Samsung’s; Apple’s UI against Samsung’s, and so on.
So yes, it is – as always – going to depend on what you yourself prefer. Where do we stand? Well, we have to confess that the design edge goes to the iPhone X, as it is handier and is simply one of the most distinct designs we have seen for a while, whether you like or hate the notch. Yes, the Galaxy S9+ does get an edge over the X with its cameras (when that dual aperture mode works, it is pure magic, and the phone does seem to handle glare than Cupertino’s darling) and its Dolby Atmos backed dual speakers, but the difference is not quite as much as you would have expected from a device that is discernibly newer. The X’s FaceID feature also works much better than the S9+ and all those sensors near the front camera mean that the iPhone’s Animojis reflect your facial expressions a whole lot better than the S9+’s AR emojis.
The battery life of the S9+ is also slightly better than that of the X, but even with its latest buggy update, we found using iOS on the X a whole lot better than the Experience UI on the S9+. That said, at Rs 64,900, the S9+ still costs a whole lot lesser than the iPhone X (which officially starts from Rs 95,390 but is available for prices in the vicinity of Rs 85,000) and brings dual SIMs and expandable memory to the table.
If constrained by budget, the S9+ wins, but if you are still looking for THE stand out phone in the premium segment, it remains the iPhone X. It simply looks more distinct, is easier to handle and offers a more consistent experience across all parameters, although if you are willing to really explore the device, the S9+ has a number of tricks up its ample sleeves as well.
(Read our iPhone X review at https://techpp.com/2018/02/08/iphone-x-review/)
Battling for the Android crown: vs Google Pixel 2 XL
So who gets pixel-ated?
For quite a few years, the S series has been Android’s poster phone. But the last year and a half have seen Google itself come to the Android flagship party – the Pixel XL had sparred against the Galaxy S8+, and this year it is the turn of the Pixel 2 XL to throw itself against the S9+. Which phone you choose from the two depends really upon how much you value photography – the S9+ comes with a terrific pair of cameras but the Pixel 2 XL’s blend of software and hardware wizardry in that department makes it pretty much the leader in that zone. The Google phone also scores over the S9+ in battery life, generally lasting a bit longer. And of course, it comes with the joys of stock Android and assured updates. However, that’s where the Pixel 2 XL’s edge over the S9+ ends. The Samsung phone looks much better (the Pixel 2 XL has visible bezels at its edges!), has a vastly superior and larger display, totally bosses the Pixel 2 XL when it comes to sound, and oh the irony is a more consistent performer than the occasionally laggy Pixel 2 XL. Oh and unlike Google’s star, the S9+ comes with dual SIMs and expandable memory. The Pixel pretty much gets pixellated here – it does not even have a massive price edge, coming with an official price tag that starts from Rs 61,000.
Unless one is a rabid stock Android fan (those exist) and/or is ready to tolerate a few lags for camera excellence, we would always recommend the S9+ over the Pixel 2 XL. That simple. Google has not yet cracked the premium smartphone category. Samsung on the other hand, owns it.
(Read our Google Pixel 2 XL review at https://techpp.com/2017/12/01/google-pixel-2-xl-review/)
Budget clashes with Premium: vs OnePlus 5T
Show me the moneeeeeyyy!
This is perhaps one clash that we would not have foreseen a couple of years ago, but it is a tribute to how far OnePlus has come that one of the queries we have been getting is about how its latest device, the OnePlus 5T compares with the S9+. And it is also a tribute to the Never Settler that while it does not exactly match the S9+, it keeps running it close, in spite of the price gulf between the two of them. That said, in pure performance terms, we have to say that the S9+ pulls well ahead of the OnePlus 5T – the display is vastly superior as is the audio quality, and although the Oxygen OS on the 5T is far less cluttered than the Experience UI on the S9+, the latter does work every bit as smoothly. The OnePlus 5T’s cameras are competent but really no match for those on the S9+, although the front-facing camera churns out better selfies than Samsung’s flagship, and face unlock on the 5T also tends to work dramatically faster (even though it is not as secure). The S9+’s water and dust resistance and support for expandable memory totally tilt the odds in its favor. The one point that, however, keeps the OnePlus 5T in the running is the fact that its general performance is not THAT far behind that of the S9+ and that it punches well above its price tag – a price tag of Rs 32,999 that is almost half that of the S9+. It even has an 8 GB RAM version that costs Rs 37,999 – that’s more RAM than the S9+ plus has, if you are keen on that sort of memor-able stuff.
In terms of pure performance and design, we have no hesitation in picking the S9+ over the OnePlus 5T. But utter those three magical words “value for money” and the doubts start to creep in. If every penny counts – and for many it does – the OnePlus 5T might tempt you to Never Settle with any other Android flagship at the time of writing.
(Read our OnePlus 5T review at https://techpp.com/2017/11/21/oneplus-5t-review/)
All in the family: vs Galaxy Note 8
Stabbed by a stylus?
This was a bit of a surprise for us. Generally, the Note and the S have belonged to different Galaxies (pun intended), but the similarity in design – those tall displays – and the proximity of the price tags have made people ask us to pick one between the two. Truth be told, it is a very difficult choice. For while the S9+ does possess a newer chip, there does not seem to be a massive difference in general performance terms between the two devices. Indeed some people to whom we showed both devices seemed to prefer the display of the Note 8 to the S9+. The S9+ does outpoint its Note-worthy opponent in the camera and sound departments, but then the Note always has its secret weapon – the S Pen stylus to fall back on. Yes, the interface on the Note 8 seems a lot more complex than the one on the S9+, thanks to customization made for the stylus, but that stylus does mark the Note 8 out as perhaps the most distinct Android flagship out there. The price differential between the two is also not quite THAT wide (the Note 8 officially starts at Rs 67,900), and when you add the fact that the battery life on the Note 8 actually is better than the one on the S9+, we can see people getting swayed.
It boils down to just how much you value that S-Pen, really. If you do, then the Note 8 is your weapon of phone-y war. But yes, if you value camera and sound quality, the S9+ wins this one. But it is an insanely close battle. And that does tell a story.