The Samsung Galaxy S9: Worth or Waste?

Where Android's Biggest Creator Went Wrong

Written By: Cassandra Bondie

In the summer of 2018, Google proudly launched Android 9 Pie, a new-and-improved operating system that promises boosted navigation, smart notifications, and indoor mapping. The message was loud and clear: It's a great time to be an Android fan!

Just days after the announcement, Samsung released the Galaxy Note 9. The new $1,000 phone, the company said, will use Android Oreo 8.1. This OS, while relatively new, is hardly distinguishable from the OS currently running on the Galaxy S9. Once again, Samsung missed an important opportunity to showcase its pairing with Android by investing in an upgraded system. And that's not the only thing they've done wrong here.

It will be difficult to convince Android users - and even diehard fans - to invest in the Note 9. It lacks the high-end hardware and software that we've come to expect from new releases. Instead, Samsung has provided the same version of Android that Pixel users were given more than eight months ago. Did Samsung just watch the innovation train leave the station?

Things to Like

There are, of course, impressive features on the Galaxy Note 9. While none of them will blow your mind, several aspects have been improved. User favorites are locked in place, including external storage microSD cards, water resistance, and a 3.5mm analog headphone jack.

In terms of new features, users will enjoy a large screen, a redesigned S Pen, and built-in DeX software. This software can turn your smartphone into a relatively functional desktop computer, powerful enough to use an external keyword and run Microsoft Office. In addition, the phone boasts impressive storage capacity and Bixby capability – though Bixby has a long way to go before catching up with Google Assistant and Siri.

When you break down specifications and features, the Galaxy Note 9 is seemingly worth the $1,000 price tag. But with more advanced releases coming along, including Google’s Pixel 3, potential buyers are hesitating. What makes this phone truly, uniquely special? Will another, more affordable phone with the same features be released in six months? These are the questions buyers are forced to ask themselves in this market.

The Competition

An hour into the Galaxy Note 9 launch, DJ Koh, the president and CEO of IT and mobile communications at Samsung, went off-script. He said, “You inspire us to push through barriers and make the Note better every year. It’s not easy every year, frankly speaking.” His honesty earned him a sympathetic laugh from the employees, journalists, and experts present at the release.

Still, a collective shrug won’t alleviate disappointment. More and more often, new releases at companies like Samsung and Apple are regenerations of old releases with a few new pieces of technology thrown in. It’s been several years since a truly impressive and groundbreaking release hit the field and encouraged consumers to line up around the block. 

“As we reach hardware parity,” writes Jeremy White on WIRED, “Consumers are not willing to automatically upgrade handsets. It takes something with serious wow-factor to get them to do so. Even Apple felt the pinch when it didn’t make significant alterations to its iPhones for three consecutive years.”

What Experts Say

Experts have an awful lot to say about Samsung’s newest release – especially about software.

"If Samsung wants to truly compete,” writes Michael Simon on PCWorld, “It needs to care more about its software. Oreo stands out like a sore thumb on such a high-end phone. And, in all likelihood, the Note 9 won’t get Pie until after the Galaxy S10 release more than six months from now.”

Others are more concerned about Samsung, on the whole.

“Samsung really needs a sure-fire smash hit,” reads the WIRED article. “The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus had sluggish sales. Despite improved cameras and audio, in this year’s second quarter, Samsung lost more market share than any other major handset maker, posting its worst performance since the second quarter of 2013.”

In other words, Samsung needs to pull itself together. Other smartphone manufacturers, like Google and Apple, are working hard to rise above the demands of the industry – supplying consistent and impressive innovation. We’ll see if Samsung can catch up.

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