A cohesive and general review of the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Two months and a few days ago, I got rid of my aging iPhone 5s. I grew up using Apple products. In fact, my very first computer ever was a Powerbook G4. However, the new and “exciting” iPhones weren’t offering anything spectacularly different from what I already had. And I was not looking forward to giving up my headphone jack and fingerprint sensor for a fat notch and slow gestures. Besides, I was tired of my phone not working in unison with my desktop PC that I use for work. It was time for a change. It was time… to go to Android.

And wow, let me start off by saying what a pleasure Android has been. I have been welcomed with open arms into the Google universe, and although I dislike Google for a great myriad of things, they make a great operating system. Or at least better than Apple does.

Keep in mind I have NEVER used Android before this phone. The S9 has been my first experience with Android, and so I’m not 100% sure what features are Samsung-specific, and which are general Android operating system facets, but I have a pretty good idea and will do my best to differentiate where possible. However, I do know some basic things about Android (such as knowing you can change the launcher), so I’m not a complete noob.

I went into the phone experience with the intent to start as fresh as possible. I did not import any of my data from my iPhone, merely disabled iMessage (which loads of people forget to do when making the switch and then get mad at Android for not delivering messages/not receiving them), and disabled all my 2-factor-authentication apps. I use Google Photos on iOS already, so all my photos were safe.

The initial setup experience was good, although long. I linked a couple things such as my google account, and set up the finger-print sensor and facial recognition, but disable facial recognition in favor of the fingerprint scanner soon after. After, it put me on my home screen. Although slightly overwhelming, I began to disable and uninstall all the apps I didn’t need. After, I went through every page in the settings app and looked at each option and decided what was going to work for me.

After the basic setup, it was time to install a launcher. Launchers are the home screen experience of Android, which you can change at will. I opted to install the well known and popular Nova Launcher, which gives you heaps of customization options and looks beautiful. It’s free, but you can pay to unlock some premium customization features forever, which I did.

The best part about Android, in my opinion, is the customization. There is honestly a trillion different things you can choose to do with your phone, and you can make it work and perform how you see fit. For instance, I installed Light Flow so that I can control my notifications with very fine precision. Samsung includes an LED light at the top to inform you of notifications, but they seem very erratic and don’t make any sense to me. I never noticed the light indicating anything, so I installed Light Flow instead to override it. It’s a game changer. Two vibrations for my girlfriend, and the LED stays solid pink until I dismiss it. Blue for text messages with a single vibration. Fully charged and it vibrates 3 times and plays a pleasant tone, then the LED turns green. You get the idea. The limits are endless. I don’t even have to pick up my phone or wake my screen to know what kind of notification I’ve received. It’s such a small thing, but it’s amazing. My phone vibrates and I glance at the light. Oh, an email. Don’t have to check it. You can, of course, order the notifications by priority. If I get a text from my parents, that’s higher than an email to my business account, obviously. If my phone is charged, I don’t care about that if I have a text waiting to be checked. You get the picture.

The thing is, I could go on and on about every single thing that Android has done to make my life easier, but this blog post would be bigger than the Bible. Instead, I will give a very brief description of every feature I like, and you can Google it or buy the phone and experience it for yourself.

In no particular order:

  • You can put icons anywhere
  • You can have widgets that display useful information on your desktop
  • You can put whatever icons on your desktop you want, and the rest are stored in the app tray
  • The fingerprint reader is in the perfect position for my fingers (I have small-ish hands)
    • The fingerprint reader is fast as hell (when combined with the point above I pull it out of my pocket and it’s already unlocked)
  • The entire operating system is fast and responsive
  • You can clear notifications by swiping them away and it marks them as read
  • You can clear all notifications with a click
  • Apps can run in the background and do tasks such as uploading without needing to be in the forefront
  • You can use split screen with most apps that aren’t games to multi-task
  • The bixby button can easily be remapped with bxActions to do whatever you want, basically giving you an extra button to do any actions you please
    • There’s a lot of fine control over the point above. For instance, mine launches the camera when you hold it when the screen is off, but launches Google Assistant if the screen is on. Double tap toggles between sound and vibration regardless of the screen, and single pressing it at any time does nothing, because it’s easy to brush it sometimes when adjusting the volume.
  • It doesn’t shove update notifications into your face every week (or every day if you refuse to update)
  • An actual file browser where you can see the file structure of your phone
  • Apps can interact with the system more fully since they have more freedom and control of what they can control and connect with on your device
  • Live wallpapers look gorgeous (animated, moving wallpapers you can set at will)
  • The haptic feedback and small clicks they make with vibrations feels very good, and going back to an iPhone and typing with no feedback feels terrible
    • I use Swiftkey as my keyboard, but I do NOT use the swiping feature. To me it feels terrible, and I just use it as a normal keyboard.
    • They also use the haptic feedback for certain buttons and toggles, and it feels wonderful to get that confirmation that your touch actually did something, so you never need to wonder if the phone is loading, or just didn’t register your touch
  • Numbers appear above the keyboard when typing in a password, preventing you from needing to switch to another page
    • Optionally, they can always be above the keyboard, but I prefer not to save space
  • Autocorrect is MUCH more consistent than on iOS, and I actually find it useful as opposed to correcting stupid things and making me sound retarded when I’m texting my friends
  • The dedicated controls at the bottom of the screen are amazing once you get used to it. Having a dedicated back button at the bottom of the screen in the same position at all times is amazing, as opposed to trying to figure out where whatever app you’re using put their back button this time.
  • To add on to the point above, having the “app switcher” button is great as well, because if you double click it, the phone will switch back to the previously used app. This allows you to switch between texting and games seamlessly, or to multitask even easier in apps that don’t support split screen.
  • You can flip the phone over to mute an incoming call
    • In fact, interacting with the phone’s volume buttons or power button while a call is incoming mutes it as well, but lets it continue to ring
  • The edge display is absolutely beautiful
    • I did find it marginally hard to get used to, since it can lead to accidental touches on the edges, but I adjusted my grip and got used to it within a few days
  • I love the fact that the screen is unbroken by a punch out or a notch
  • The OLED display is, again, absolutely beautiful
    • Black themes for apps like YouTube Vanced and Boost (a reddit client), makes viewing it at night soft on your eyes and amazing-looking
  • The auto-brightness learns from your behavior and what you set the brightness to in different lighting conditions, and adjusts itself to that. It’s also way more consistent than the iPhone’s auto-brightness (anecdotal)
  • You can rearrange the icons and bottoms in the Android “control center”, and remove the buttons you don’t want. Want your flashlight button to be on the top right for easy access? No problem, Android has your back.
  • Samsung Pay is really cool, but is more of a novelty feature than actually really useful, because many locations take your card from you and swipe it (such as at restaurants and many other businesses), and Samsung Pay doesn’t really allow for that (it times out in 15 seconds to prevent theft or accidental purchases, probably)
  • It’s very intuitive, and takes a little while to get used to the different locations of things, but I didn’t find it difficult at all to learn, and I’d say I fully knew the OS after a month or so (although I took a weekish of continuous customization and tweaking to get everything working up to my standards)
  • Wireless charging is quite nice, but isn’t unique to Android phones
  • You can use extensions like AdBlockers on Android like on desktop computers (I use Firefox)
  • The gestures and ease of use to everything feels very natural. For instance, you can swipe down on the fingerprint sensor with one finger to open the notification drawer
  • The camera is amazing (4k 60fps optional)
  • The speakers are very good (for a smartphone). I usually just set the phone down on the floor at a touch below max volume and then I can hear it over the noise of the shower.
  • It integrates nicely with practically every service/app out there, so I can swipe down my notifications and click a button to turn my lights off, or ask Cortana to remind me of something and my PC will remind me later, or ask Alexa to add something to my calendar and it appears on my Outlook account

Honestly, I could go on and on and on. I’m finding new things to love about it every day, and when some small annoyance does pop up, such as the screen not rotating instantly when I flip the phone around (but it is pretty fast), it doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal as on the iPhone, where every annoyance was huge because there were so many of them.

In closing, I love this phone, and if Apple wants me to switch back to their universe any time soon, they’re going to have their work cut out for them.

Sent from my Android.

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