In Depth

Samsung Galaxy Note 9: pre-orders, specs and reviews

Tech giant’s latest ‘phablet’ has revamped AI system and Fortnite support

After accidentally leaking details of its new handset prematurely, Samsung has now officially taken the wraps off its Galaxy Note 9 smartphone.

Often referred to as a “phablet” because of its size compared to a regular mobile, the Note 9 replaces the year-old Note 8 as the most powerful - and pricey - smartphone offered by the South Korean tech giant. 

Samsung unveiled the new phablet at its “Galaxy Unpacked” event in Brooklyn, New York, yesterday afternoon. It showcased the Note 9’s improved dual-lens camera set-up and revamped Bixby artificial intelligence (AI) system. 

The Note 9 is due to reach the UK at the end of August, but pre-orders are open now for those keen on getting their hands on the new phone on day one. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Samsung’s new flagship device. 

Release date and pre-orders

Fans don’t have to wait long to get they hands on the new Galaxy Note 9 as the smartphone will hit stores on 24 August.

A number of providers have already started taking pre-orders for the new phone. For instance, Vodafone is offering the Note 9 with 128GB of storage in Ocean Blue for £63 per month with an upfront cost of £79. This nets you 20GB of data, along with unlimited calls and texts.

Carphone Warehouse also has the Note 9 on a range of plans from O2, EE and Vodafone. There’s also the option to buy the phone outright on a pay-as-you-go plan. The entry-level 128GB model starts at £899, while the 512GB range-topper comes at a £200 premium. 

Those with an old Galaxy S7 Plus can save £200 if they trade in their old phone for a Note 9 through Carphone Warehouse, the Daily Express says. This deal also comes with a free Samsung wireless charging pad worth £49.99.  

What’s new?

A second-generation version of Bixby, Samsung’s AI voice assistant, will make its debut on the Note 9.

The system lets users issue voice commands, analyse photographs for location information and send reminds. The upgraded version heading to the Note 9 is “better at processing natural language” and can offer “quicker response times” to user voice commands, The Verge says. 

Users can also “have more natural conversations” with the voice AI, the tech site says. The system now understands follow-up questions after a command is given, so discussions between the user and Bixby are more fluid than before. 

Meanwhile, the Note 9 gets the same 12-megapixel dual-lens camera as the Galaxy S9 Plus that launched earlier this year, bringing with it an AI system that warns users if images are blurry or if the subject blinked, The Guardian reports.

And following the release of the hugely popular multiplayer game Fortnite: Battle Royale on iPhones in April, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will now become the first Android smartphone to support the online shooter when it launches later this month, the newspaper says.

What about hardware upgrades?

Arguably the biggest hardware change coming to the Note 9 is the option of up to 1TB worth of storage. 

Buyers can choose between two models when ordering a Note 9: an entry-spec 128GB version and a range-topping 512GB phone. Both handsets can have their storage expanded using the microSD card expansion port, so those who choose the top-spec model can add another 512GB using a memory card - bringing the total storage to 1TB. 

The screen has also been upgraded over the outgoing Note 8, says Wired. The phone’s 6.4-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display is an inch larger than its predecessor’s, but Samsung has managed to fit the larger screen inside the same body size as the old phone.  

The battery gets a sizeable boost over the old phone, too. The tech news site says Samsung has increased the battery capacity by 21% over the Note 8, which the company believes should allow users to get a whole day’s worth of power from one charge.

What do the critics think?

Those on the hunt for an “excellent” smartphone with a big screen won’t need to look much further than the new Galaxy Note 9, argues Engadget.

The mobile boasts a range of new features that make it stand out from its predecessor, such as the “brilliant” 6.4-inch AMOLED display and “powerful” eight-core Snapdragon 845 processor, the tech site says.

TechRadar says the Korean tech giant’s artificial intelligence (AI) system, Bixby, is also “developing quickly” and is getting ever closer to competing with Google Assistant - arguably the best voice assistant there is.  

Another key feature is the new 4,000mAh battery pack, which Samsung touts as providing enough charge to power the phone “all day”. It’s a claim backed by tech website T3, as a full day of battery life is possible “with medium mixed usage”. 

However, the site says users will struggle to get more than a day’s use on a single charge “unless you use the device very lightly”, so Note 9 owners are “still very much locked in a daily recharge cycle” that other smartphone users endure.

CNet concludes by saying the Note 9 is “one of the year’s best phones”. Its “massive battery” and optional 512GB of storage is hugely appealing, as is the added functionally of the revised S-Pen - which can now be used as a wireless remote.

But unless users are in “dire need of an upgrade”, the tech site recommends waiting for the next iPhone or next year’s Galaxy Note 10.

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