Samsung’s custom ROM, aka TouchWiz, has come a long way. It’s not even called TouchWiz anymore. Samsung calls it Experience. The Galaxy S9+ and Galaxy S9, being Samsung’s latest of the lot, ship with the latest and what is supposedly the greatest version of Experience software. Based on Android 8.0 Oreo, both these phones rock Experience 9.0.
The software that’s inside the Galaxy S9+ and Galaxy S9, is not very different from what we saw in last year’s Galaxy Note 8 — or for that matter, even the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ — that shipped with Android 7.1.1 Nougat-based Experience 8.5. You’ll in fact have to be as observant as Sherlock to make out the differences. A lot of this, of course, also has to do with the fact that Android Oreo isn’t too remarkably different from Android Nougat. There’s only so much that Samsung could have done.
Still, Samsung has gone ahead, and tried to give the Galaxy S9+ and Galaxy S9, a distinct flavour as far as software experience is concerned. This is especially true with regards to the camera app, that sees a complete overhaul, cramming more features inside than any other Samsung phone in the past. At the same time, Samsung has, introduced a new security feature called Intelligent Scan, that combines both facial and iris recognition to effortlessly unlock its new phones in literally every lighting scenario. There are app icon batches, as well as more customizable clock-styles in Samsung’s hallmark always-on display.
Here’s a closer look at 9 cool software tricks the Galaxy S9+ and Galaxy S9 bring to the table:
1. Download booster: Found under connectivity settings, the download booster feature allows faster download of large files (over 30MB) in the Galaxy apps and Play Store by using Wi-Fi and LTE networks at the same time.
Samsung has also partnered with Jio and Airtel, to bring LTE carrier aggregation to the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9+. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ can stream data at approximately 250Mbps, which is 2.5 times faster than the average smartphone connected to the same network, according to Samsung.
2. App icon batches: One of the headlining features of Android Oreo, app icon batches are dots that appear on an app icon whenever there’s an app notification. When you dismiss the notification, the batch disappears. Notifications and batches are linked so every time you swipe away notifications in the notification panel, the batches will also disappear.
Samsung, in addition, allows you to pick different batch styles: show with number or show without number. Also, you can check your notifications at a glance when you touch and hold app icons on the home screen.
3. Home screen layout: You can choose to have home and app screens like in vanilla Android, or you can also opt for an iOS-like home screen only approach that will give you a springboard of apps and widgets across multiple home screens.
Samsung, in addition, allows you to swipe down anywhere to open the notification panel from the home screen. There’s also a landscape mode that, when enabled, switches both the home screen and the app drawer into landscape orientation.
4. Edge screen/edge panels/edge lighting: Samsung’s edge screen and edge panels were, one upon a time, limited to its Galaxy Edge phones. Ever since the company dropped the Edge moniker, in favour of a Plus option, the features have trickled down to both the versions of the Galaxy S phones. Edge panels are custom shortcuts accessed by swiping from the edge of the screen. You can put them either on the left or on the right depending on your preference. These panels allow for quick shortcuts ranging from apps edge (quick shortcut to apps) to people edge (quick shortcut to your phone contacts) to reminders to tasks and calendar and news. Apps edge now also allows for app pairing so you can open two apps in split-screen simultaneously.
Edge lighting, meanwhile, allows the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, to light up differently depending on your incoming notifications.
5. Dual messenger: Dual messenger allows you to use two separate accounts for the same app like Facebook and WhatsApp. App support is limited here.
6. Intelligent scan: Intelligent Scan is a biometric feature that makes use of facial and iris scanning to unlock the Galaxy S9+ and Galaxy S9 even in dark and harsh light. Intelligent Scan makes use of the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9+’ front camera sensor as well as the iris scanner to help the phones detect a user’s face in challenging light scenarios. The Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ allowed users to have fingerprint and face/iris unlock at one go, and it wasn’t possible to have face and iris sensing enabled at the same time. But face and iris scanning have their limitations. With Intelligent Scan, Samsung is looking to offer users the best of both worlds and therefore entail in phones that unlock more seamlessly.
7. Always-on display: No one does always-on better than Samsung. Not only does it keep enhancing its functionality, it keeps adding more options to it in every iteration. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. likewise, ship with even more options to customize your lock screen so you can get seamless access to your clock and calendar, as also all your notifications directly on the lock screen, without having you to power up your phone.
8. Bixby Vision: Samsung has made changes to Bixby, more specifically Bixby Vision, so it now supports live translations, as well as shows place and food information like the amount of calories a certain donut can have.
9. Dual-aperture cameras: The Galaxy S9 comes with a single camera sensor on the rear. It can shoot dual-pixel 12-megapixel photos — assisted by OIS. This sensor can shoot between f/1.5 and f/2.4 with the former assisting in low light and the latter jumping in when lighting is ideal. It’s possible to manually switch between the two apertures using the phones’ pro-mode. The Galaxy S9+ carries the same primary sensor but it also includes a secondary 12-megapixel sensor with fixed aperture (f/2.4) for portrait photography and bokeh much like it is in the case of the Galaxy Note 8.
ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S9: It’s what’s inside that counts
Both the phones support a Super Slo-mo mode allowing users to shoot 6-second 240fps super slo-mo videos, something on the lines of what Sony offers in phones like the Xperia XZ Premium. There’s also an in-built AR Emoji mode that allows users to make animated avatars of themselves much like the iPhone X’s Animoji feature. Unlike the iPhone X, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ allow users to share AR Emojis as standard GIFs via any app that supports GIFs.
All of these camera options are now part of a revamped camera app, that, in case you’ve used an iPhone, would definitely remind you of iOS. Samsung has tried to give you as many options on one screen as possible so you can start using them — by swiping left or right — in a jiffy.
All isn’t hunky dory though
Samsung’s penchant to offer as many features — and options — to make your life easier — and exciting — continues with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ as well. There’s so much to explore, but chances are, you may end up scratching only the surface, and barely at that. Samsung’s Experience software is a cornucopia of features and options, that are more often than not, buried one under another. So much so that finding something that you’ve been looking for can be a task. Thankfully Android Oreo allows for a universal search option in settings, but, there can also be times when you’re not sure about what something is called.
Samsung has gone to great lengths to improve the overall design scheme of its software, and the efforts, are quite visible, the moment you power up and start using its new phones. The software is fast and fluid, and it’s seamless across the board. Whether or not it holds up after six months or so, and also whether or not Samsung keeps updating its new phones timely in future, is yet to be seen, but, the company should now work towards simplifying its software as well. While features are good, ease of use shouldn’t be taken for granted. And while at it, it should also work towards cutting its penchant for duplicate apps, because simply put, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, ship with far too many.