Samsung finally released their new device in the Note series: the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and compared to last year we finally have a properly “note-sized” battery which I’m excited about. But first things first, Samsung was kind enough to hand me a device at the event (which you can watch the behind the scenes of in my vlog here) so as is the usual here figured I’d do a complete walkthrough on it for you guys.
If you aren’t familiar, a complete walkthrough on my channel is where I try and go through every feature I can on a device, so you are better prepared should you be thinking about buying one. With that said, there’s a lot to go through on the Note9, so let’s get started.
Galaxy Note9 Hardware
First up, the hardware.
The Note9 is made out of Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back with an aluminum frame. It’s a bit heavier and more solid feeling than the Note8 I think, probably in part at least to that new frame (just like the S9 vs. the S8). I like it though (as I did with the S9 and S9 Plus), feels more premium to me.
We also have some new colors for a change. I hate that whoever told manufacturers that Americans only want black phones was listened to for so long, but happy to see some companies finally offering colors for a change. For the Note9 we have metallic copper (apparently not coming to the States), lavender purple, midnight black, and ocean blue. Also, the S-Pen now matches each of the colors except for the blue, which comes with a yellow pen (which I’m a sucker for and love for some reason).
On the front, we have the largest Note screen ever. It’s a 6.4″ Super AMOLED display with a 1440 by 2960 resolution and an 18.5 by 9 aspect ratio. That screen is HDR10 compliant (like most nowadays frankly) and has the always-on display feature we’re used to from Samsung.
Above the screen, we have our 8MP f1.8 aperture front camera.
At the bottom, we have our small bezel with our software pressure sensitive button like the Note8.
On the right, we have our power button.
On the left, we have our volume buttons and our Bixby button.
At the top, our either dual SIM or SIM and MicroSD card slot combo.
And at the bottom, our USB-C port, speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack, and our S-pen that has a clickable mechanism to release and lock it back in place (and also makes for a great fidget spinner when removed).
Speaking of my new fidget spinner, it’s been upgraded this year. It can do all the normal S-pen things we’re used to hardware-wise, it’s also added Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity. This allows you to use it not near the phone’s screen to do things like remotely use the camera, use it for powerpoint presentations, etc. We’ll get more into all of that in the software section shortly, though.
On the back, we have dual 12MP cameras that are identical to the Galaxy S9 Plus. We have our main one with its dual aperture of F1.5 or F2.4 and dual-pixel auto-focus with optical stabilization. And we have our secondary 2x telephoto camera with an aperture of f2.4 and optical stabilization, as well.
These are paired with our LED flash.
Under the camera, we have our fingerprint sensor. In the right spot. In the middle.
In addition to that fingerprint sensor, we do have iris scanning and facial recognition (and Intelligent Scan which is a combo of the two) but I find that for most Galaxy devices with it, and the Note9 is no different, its pretty hit or miss and I can usually enter my pin faster than it recognizes me, so I just stick to the fingerprint sensor.
Internally, we have a Qualcomm 845 or an Exynos 9810 depending on your market, 6GBs of RAM if you get the 128GB storage model, or 8GBs of RAM if you get the 512GB model (which, by the way, means if you put a 512GB microSD card in you have a 1TB phone. Nuts).
We have Bluetooth 5.0 as well as AptX HD for higher quality Bluetooth audio streaming, as well as A2DP.
Samsung Galaxy Note9 Software
The Galaxy Note9 is running Android 8.1 with Samsung’s UI previously called TouchWiz UI, now called Samsung Experience at version 9.5.
Now, since it’s very similar to other versions of the OS you guys are used to seeing and since this is an unlocked version there isn’t much as far as bloatware besides the inclusion of a Fortnite installer, I’m going to just go through the one big thing software-wise that makes a Note a Note: the S-Pen features.
The New S-Pen
Taking out the S-Pen will automatically bring up Air Commands. This is a semi-circle of various Samsung apps that are preinstalled and meant to be used with the pen. You can customize this list to change what S-Pen apps show up as well as put other apps and functions in there if you want, as well.
Quickly, here’s a rundown of each of the S-Pen apps:
- Notes: Samsung’s note-taking app that is optimized for using the S-Pen compared to others.
- Smart Select: Use the S-Pen to take a screenshot of a specific section of the screen.
- Screen Write: Capture a screenshot and then instantly be able to annotate on it with the pen.
- Live Message: You can draw something, or even draw on an image and then send it via any messaging service to someone as an animated gif that’ll show them you drawing on the image. This works when sending to any device, whether its a Note, other Android device, or iPhone–it just shows up as a gif.
- Bixby Vision: This isn’t an S-Pen app really, but it’s included in Air Command so why not. It’s an app using the camera to try out makeup, translate text, do an image search, find a product to shop for, identify food, wine, scan QR codes, etc. It’s Samsung’s version of Google Lens in a way.
- Translate: Which lets you hover over text on the screen with the pen to translate it into another language.
- Magnify: Allows you to hover over an area of the screen with the S-Pen to magnify it.
- Glance: Creates a picture in picture window out of your current app that you can hover over to temporarily full screen again or tap and hold to drag to a trash can and remove it.
- PENUP: A third-party app for creating drawings. You can sign up for a free account and then share drawings or view other artists’ work. The cool thing about it is the ability to rewatch them drawing the art instead of just the final product.
- Coloring: Which is a short cut to the coloring section of PENUP where you can color in the art using the S-Pen. Seems to be something people are using to calm themselves on Twitter. Adult coloring books are a thing now, so maybe there’s something to it?
Besides these S-Pen apps, you can also use the S-Pen as a remote thanks to the Bluetooth LE I mentioned before. You can first choose what app opens when you hold down the S-Pen button and then you can choose within specific apps what a single press or double press does. In the camera, for example, you can single press to take a photo (great for selfies or just being creepy on the subway) or double press to switch cameras. You can use it to change songs when playing music, present powerpoints, etc.
They’ve opened this up as an API, as well, so other developers of other apps can integrate it into their apps in the future.
Besides that, you can use the S-Pen as a hover command like from a computer when hovering over items on the screen to bring up additional info (and it works on websites as if it was a mouse, by the way).
You can use it to turn your handwriting into text in any field by hovering over it and tapping the icon that appears.
Also, thanks to the Bluetooth, it can sound an alarm if you walk too far away from the pen.
And, finally, you can adjust a bunch of these things in the S-Pen settings on the phone.
Galaxy Note9 Camera
Lastly, let’s go over the camera.
For anyone who’s familiar with the S9 Plus, a lot of this is going to sound familiar since it is an identical camera module, but there are some new software tricks the Note9 has that the S9 Plus (at least at the moment–who knows if they’ll bring some of them to it or just keep them for the Note9) doesn’t.
Firstly, if you’re not familiar with the S9 Plus, because of the two sensors we can go from our wider “normal” angle to a 2x zoom by tapping the button at the top right.
We also have a bunch of camera modes that you can get to by swiping left and right on the viewfinder.
For the rear camera, we have:
- Food: Which just ups saturation as far as I can tell.
- Panorama: Which lets you take multiple photos that stitch together into a panoramic shot.
- Pro: Which lets you manually control things like exposure, shutter speed, etc.
- Live Focus: Samsung’s version of Portrait Mode. It’ll separate the foreground from the background and blur the background to mimic the shallow depth of field look. Unlike Portrait Mode on an iPhone though, it allows you to adjust the depth of field after you take the photo.
- Super Slow-Mo: This allows you to take a quick video of about 0.2 second-bursts in 960fps to then play back in super slow motion.
- Slow Motion: The camera can do 240fps in 1080P that can then be played back at 30 frames per second to get an 8x slow-motion effect. Unlike Super Slow-Mo though, this isn’t as slow but can be used for prolonged periods compared to the 0.2-second bursts.
- AR Emoji: You can use this to create animated versions of yourself and friends that respond to your facial features and even use Disney characters, etc. as well.
- Hyperlapse: The opposite of slow motion.
And on the front camera, we have:
- Selfie Focus: Live focus to blur the background around you but for the front camera.
- Selfie: Selfie is, um, just the front camera.
- AR Emoji: Sams as the rear AR Emoji but for the front camera.
- Wide Selfie: This allows you to take a photo and rotate the camera left and right to stitch it all together to create a wider selfie image.
And there we go, a lengthy walkthrough for sure, but hopefully, it was helpful for you guys. The Note9 is going to be available as of Aug 24th with pre-orders open now, and it’ll cost $999 for the 128GB model and $1249 for the 512GB model. And yes, that is a lot of money, but I think we all just have to accept flagship phones are going to get more and more expensive. But truthfully, the largest markets for all of these devices are markets like the US, UK, and other places that have subsidies or payment plans. You can watch my original video on the iPhone X here for more info on that.
As for my opinion on it, so far I like it. It feels more premium, has a properly sized battery finally (I’ll be doing a battery test of it versus a bunch of other flagships ASAP, by the way, subscribe and tap the bell to be notified when that goes live) and the S-Pen is a unique factor, as always and I love the added functionality that Bluetooth brings to it.
Stay tuned for me putting its camera to the test as well as battery, etc. shortly in upcoming videos. As always, though, thanks for reading.