The Samsung Galaxy S9 series reached its end-of-life status this week. Samsung will no longer provide regular security updates for older flagships, so if you rely on stock firmware, phones will become more and more dangerous with each passing day.
Still, the Galaxy S9 had a good run, a good run, even. The four-year-old flagship phone may not be the industry-defining Galaxy S2, but it does represent a shift in Samsung’s strategy as the company no longer seeks to win over customers with flashy new hardware designs and unnecessary software changes, but rather with improvements. – a bit like Apple.
Join me in revisiting the Samsung Galaxy S9 and how tough it is these days.
Material and design
The Samsung Galaxy S9 was by no means revolutionary. In fact, it looked almost exactly like its predecessor. The S9 was actually a step backwards in some ways; it came a bit thicker and heavier than the Galaxy S8. However, the location of the S9’s fingerprint sensor, placed below the camera rather than next to it, more than made up for its extra weight. Looking back from today’s perspective, it’s also impressive what a good camera Samsung has managed to squeeze into this bumpless phone.
What’s also notable is that the S9 isn’t really smaller than today’s flagships, even though it has a smaller screen due to its bezels. Holding a Pixel 6 and an S9 side-by-side, their footprint is almost identical, if it weren’t for the Pixel 6’s huge camera bump. The S9 also made good use of the bezels – they hid an iris scanner, which was much more secure than any face unlock mechanism on Android at the time.
The Galaxy S9 was also one of the last flagship phones to feature a headphone jack, as Apple ditched the headphone jack with the release of the iPhone 7 in 2016. Samsung even mocked the decision to Apple, but we all know the industry has long since moved away from the headphone jack.
Performance and software
Using the (Exynos-based) Galaxy S9+ today, I’m surprised at how much punch remains in the device. I’ve used both a unit with the preinstalled version of Android 10 based on One UI and another with the privacy-focused iodeOs ROM based on Android 11. Although the battery may not hold its charge as well than before, and while a Pixel 6 or Galaxy S22 Ultra is obviously much faster, it’s still perfectly usable for messaging, browsing, photos, and most everyday tasks you can throw at it.
The Galaxy S9 proves that smartphone hardware these days is perfectly capable of lasting four years or more – provided software support is extended enough. My experience with the S9 actually makes me wonder if Samsung’s five years of update promises are enough for today’s flagship hardware, which can easily last longer than that. Still, Samsung’s commitment to updates is a big step forward. Back in 2018, when the company promised no updates and often ditched flagship phones after just an Android upgrade or two, no one would have thought that Samsung would be the company to even surpass Google in this regard.
The biggest issue I see with the phone today is its limited 64GB storage (which was the only variant initially sold in the US). My mom, who’s been using the S9+ every day for three-and-a-half years, regularly has issues with full storage, and a microSD card can’t do much when your apps’ cache and storage needs keep growing. grow over time. years, and you don’t want to keep manually moving data to the microSD card all the time.
The One UI transition
The Galaxy S9 was the last S-series phone to launch with Samsung’s infamous TouchWiz skin, before the company switched to its much more refined and focused One UI. While TouchWiz on the S8 and S9 was something quite different from previous bloated versions, the name just got burned on the marketing front. As such, you could think that the change was a big event for users looking back, and the upgrade to One UI 1.0 certainly changed a few things, but One UI basically built on what Samsung touted as its “Samsung Experience” in TouchWiz before.
It’s true that One UI was basically a fresh start for Samsung, much more focused on the core experience and not trying to cram as many potentially useful features into Android as possible, and the S9 is the device to experiment this transition.
Overall, the Galaxy S9 may not have been the biggest upgrade in terms of hardware and design that Samsung has ever launched, but it certainly represented a shift in Samsung’s strategy. Instead of going bigger, flashier, just After, the company began to focus on refining the experience, upgrading features and hardware only when needed. This change may have been inevitable as smartphones matured and became more of a commodity than a novelty, but for Samsung it was the perfect time to make these changes.
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