SAMSUNG UNVEILS GALAXY NOTE 9

amsung is coming off of a disappointing launch for its Galaxy S9, but that doesn’t mean the company is shaking things up for its next major smartphone. The Galaxy Note 9 is officially being announced today, and Samsung is doubling down on everything that the Note series represents: productivity and performance. It has the best specs you’ll find in any flagship Android phone, the screen is bigger, its S Pen has more tricks than ever before, and the battery is huge. Oh, and Samsung’s DeX software is now built right into the phone — no dock required — so you can plug it into any external display for a desktop-like experience.

The Note 9 will be sold in two configurations: there’s a 128GB / 6GB RAM model for $999 and a top-tier 512GB / 8GB RAM version for $1,250. Preorders begin on August 10th, and the phone will be available on August 24th at all major carriers or direct (and unlocked) from Samsung.

By looks alone, the Note 9 is nearly identical to its predecessor, save for the rear fingerprint sensor that has been moved to a more sensible spot below the camera. All of Samsung’s other hardware signatures like water resistance, fast wireless charging, expandable microSD storage, and the headphone jack are still here. (So is the Bixby button, for that matter.) Toss a 512GB microSD card into the 512GB Note 9, and you’ll have a phone with 1TB of storage. That’s nuts.

The Note 9 ships with Android 8.1 Oreo and the same user experience as Samsung’s last several phones. Samsung Pay is still present, and having the ability to mimic a credit card’s magnetic stripe at stores where NFC payments don’t always work is a nice fallback.

The new Note will be available in blue and pink / purple in the US; the blue model includes that bright yellow S Pen seen in all the leaked images. There’s no black option (at least in the US), which is pretty surprising. The Note’s width and thickness measurements have increased a bit due to an ever-so-slightly larger screen — 6.4 inches versus last year’s 6.3-inch display — and a bigger battery. The 9 is actually a hair shorter than the 8, thanks to continued downsizing of the top and bottom bezels.

Last year’s Note felt like a truly monstrous phone, and this one is no different. It’s bigger than what you picture “big” phones to be. If you’re looking for one-handed efficiency, you’re looking in the wrong place. But in exchange for giving that up, you’ll enjoy the giant Super AMOLED Quad HD+ screen. It’s phenomenal to look at, as always. The Note 9 also has a really nice matte aluminum frame with chamfered edges reminiscent of the old Galaxy Note 5.

The battery is 4,000mAh, which is the largest that’s ever been in a Note. It also eclipses many of today’s other Android flagships. While the Note 7 recall disaster is in Samsung’s rearview mirror, it certainly hasn’t been forgotten. In addition to running the Note 9 battery through its own multipoint safety check, Samsung has had it validated and certified by outside companies UL and Exponent. So yes, the company came ready for your exploding phone jokes.

Like the Galaxy S9, the Note 9 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor. But this time around, Samsung says it has made optimizations to the GPU. And get this: there’s a new water cooling system inside the phone. That might be the most overboard Galaxy Note thing I’ve ever heard of, but why not, right? It’s too early to know whether this is ultimately just a marketing gimmick, but the company says its “Water Carbon Cooling system” is designed to ensure smooth, consistent performance during long gaming sessions when you’re playing Fortnite. Yes, the unbelievably popular battle royale game is coming to Samsung devices first, and yes, you can get in-game bonus items if you opt for the Fortnite preorder package. (The other choice is noise-canceling AKG headphones.)

See the plant icon at the bottom of the viewfinder? That’s the Note 9’s new AI-powered Scene Recognition feature at work.

Samsung pulled the Note 9’s camera system straight out of the Galaxy S9 Plus. You get the same two 12-megapixel cameras and the same dual-aperture (f/1.5 or f/2.4) trick with the primary, wide-angle camera. Both lenses have optical image stabilization. For the Note, Samsung is focusing its camera improvements on software and artificial intelligence.

A new Scene Optimizer mode can analyze the subject you’re pointing the camera at and identify up to 20 different scenarios (food, pets, sunsets, plants, urban / street, etc.). It then automatically applies changes to brightness, contrast, saturation, and white balance before you snap the shot to ensure the best possible end result. A lot of Android phone makers are trying these AI optimizations, but the results have been very mixed. There’s always regular auto mode or manual mode if you prefer. More useful — assuming that it works — is the new Flaw Detection feature that will let you know if a shot was blurry, if someone blinked, or if an image was too backlit and blown out.

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