Mobility

Samsung Galaxy S9: The best feature no one's talking about

Plenty of ink is being spilled about the speed, the design, and the camera of Samsung's latest flagship smartphone. But, its battery life is what makes it an excellent choice for professionals.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 continues to get praise for its desktop-class performance, AI-powered camera, and industry-leading design. And while there's also a lot to like in the evolution of its DeX platform for turning the phone into a work computer, the most useful day-to-day feature of the S9 for pros is its battery life.

TechRepublic's Dan Patterson and I have both been testing the Galaxy S9 over the past several weeks and we discussed how and why the Samsung Galaxy S9's long battery life makes it a strong option for business professionals, particularly those that travel frequently or have long commutes.

You can watch the video interview above or read the transcript below.

Dan Patterson: Jason Hiner, TechRepublic, you've been living with the S9 now for a couple weeks, as have I. And I hadn't thought about this because it's one of those things that when you get great battery life, it's not top of mind. You just end up using the device a lot more. What are your main takeaways after using the device a couple weeks, especially with the functionality that great battery life brings?

SEE: Wireless Networking Policy (Tech Pro Research)

Jason Hiner: It's one of the features people aren't talking about much. You and I have talked a lot about the S9. Great camera. It's got some AI. Camera now has its own processor, can do really cool things like the 960 frames per second super slow mo. It can do some low light photography, which CNET has tested and had a little bit of mixed results with. But it's on the way there. DeX, of course, we've talked a lot about that capability. There is now a desktop-class processor in this [S9] device. But the thing that people aren't talking about that much that I think of, especially because I use these devices for business and a lot of our readers are professionals that are using these devices, so it matters a lot, is battery life.

On the surface, the S9 and the S9 Plus have exactly the same battery as the S8 and the S8 Plus, 3,000 milliamp hours on the S8 and the S9, and then 3,500 on the S8 Plus and the S9 Plus. It looks exactly the same. However, with the Snapdragon 845 processor, as well as Samsung's on Exynos processor, which it uses in some models of these phones, both of which, by the way are actually made by Samsung. It's a 10 nanometer process. It's a 64 bit processor, similar to last year. But it is a much faster processor. And it's also a far more efficient processor. Really, a lot of this is down to that, as well as down to some of the software things that Samsung has done. You'll get little alerts on this device that say, "Hey, there was an app in the background that was using a bunch of power. And we just shut it down. And here's what it is."

And it'll list it for you. There's some software that's doing some things where if there are some apps running that are draining your battery, it just shuts them off. And then it gives you an alert and lets you know. And then there are times when it'll alert you and say, "Hey, this thing's running in the background. Do you want us to shut it off?"

And you might be uploading a video. You might be running a process. And you can tell it, "No. Don't."

But otherwise, it's doing some better software management as well. The combination of those two things, a better processor and better software that's managing it has produced some pretty tangible results. I've had this experience. You've had some similar experiences, where with light use, this thing can go a couple days without having to charge it, which you really don't see in a high end phone like this, where you cannot charge it for a couple days if you're just doing some light use with it, and still have 50% battery life, or at least a usable amount of battery life left. Now with heavy use, it'll go a day and a half. You can forget to charge over night, wake up, you might still have 40-50% battery life, sometimes a little more. You can still get through a bunch of the day until you get to a charger or a charging pack.

The combination of those two things make this device just far, far more usable. Kind of like what you were saying, Dan, is you don't really think about it. You're just using the phone. But you really notice these devices when they're running out of battery power quickly, and you're having to charge them all the time.

SEE: For pros, Galaxy S9 offers: Speed and power boost, DeX Pad, and low-light photography (TechRepublic)

Dan Patterson: Yeah, I have had two experiences that are particularly useful, or particularly in biz tech, what I might be doing during my work day, or productivity oriented. And that is using the secure enclave, and using that super slow mo camera. Joking a little bit about the super slow mo camera. That might be in particular use cases. But let me tell you, I use that far more than I use the iOS slow mo. And I use it to capture things that, "Hey, I might want to watch that back and see how each frame developed, and really pay particular attention to segments of video."

And as media becomes more important to every company, that's a more useful tool than I anticipated. Of course that secure enclave, I kind of live inside of that. And in previous devices, that's sometimes the thing that I will notice a little bit of drain on the battery life. With the S9, Jason, you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I forget. I have the old Nokia experience. I forget when I charged the device last. And I take a look at it [and] it's like, "Eh, it's doing just fine."

Jason Hiner: Yeah. It's one of the [important] things. These devices aren't that different. This device is not that different from the S8. But if you're somebody that really struggles with battery life, or are a heavy user and you have some issues with battery life, [then it matters]. Or, I know some people that have had he S7 Edge. Great phone, not quite as solid on battery life. They've asked me about this device. I said, "Look, if you care about battery life, if you're a professional, that's one of the best reasons to get [the S9]."

And I know a couple people that have actually made the call and said, "Yeah. That's one of my biggest pain points."

I think you'll see others that find that's a good reason to upgrade.

Dan Patterson: Jason, I know we have a full review coming on TechRepublic. What can we look forward to in some of those posts and videos, not just about the phone itself, but features like the battery, the camera, and all things business technology professionals not just need but require?

Jason Hiner: We're going to talk more about DeX pad. We're going to talk about the camera, show some examples of photos that we've taken including photos I took with the camera in Barcelona following the launch event there, as well as the following week. I was in Israel, doing a tour there on AI and robotics. I took some photos with the S9 Plus there as well. We're going to talk about what it can do. The nice thing about this phone, the sort of watershed moment with this phone, especially at MWC, was this really is the first phone with a desktop-class processor in it. You can say, to a degree, you had this with the Note 8. You had this with the iPhone 10, and the iPhone 8 Plus last year as well. It was a step in this direction. But with the DeX pad, you're really seeing this as a phone that is as powerful as your computer.

And then with 5G, the other big story of MWC, next year, you're going to get a phone, the S10, that's going to have 5G in it. And all the sudden, you're going to have a device that is now as fast as the fastest connection that you can get on a desktop computer today—if you have Google Fiber, [or] if you have a super fast connection at work, anything. We really are at the stage where these devices are not only the center of our lives, the center of our data, the center of our productivity in some cases, but they are also moving to where they are as powerful and as fast as your average computer.

Also see

​Samsung Galaxy S9 on wireless charger

Samsung Galaxy S9

Image: Josh Miller/CNET

About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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