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Is the gold Samsung Galaxy S9 less smudgy than the purple S9?

Six words: french fries, almond butter, hand lotion.

James Martin/CNET

Yes, the glossy glass backing on the Samsung Galaxy S9 is pretty. But it's also smudgy as hell. Every time I pick up a Galaxy S9, the back becomes streaked with a new set of prints.

So when Samsung came out with a new "sunrise gold" variant that has a more satiny, matte finish than the other ultra glossy S9 phones, I had to see for myself if the gold S9 is less prone to collecting disgusting grease than, say, the purple Galaxy S9. Of course, Samsung never suggested that the new finish would react with smudges any differently, but a person can hope.

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Samsung says the gold Galaxy S9's "satin gloss" finish is meant to emulate the feel of fabric. When I swept my fingers along the back of the gold Galaxy S9, it felt a little bit rougher than a glass backing, more of a matte surface. But fabric? Not so much.

When I initially took the gold Galaxy S9 out of its packaging, I immediately  noticed the new satin gloss finish. I held the gold and purple S9 phones up to the light, and the gold reflected less off its back. In that moment, I thought my wishes were granted. The more toned-down gloss made me believe that the gold would do a better job guarding against my fingerprints.

Did it? Let the smudge test begin!

French fries, almond butter, and lotion

First, I looked at the prints that my natural hand grease left on the phones. Then, I amped it up with outside factors that commonly leave grease on phones -- specifically hand lotion, french fries, and almond butter.

During each test, I pressed my thumbs on the back of each phone at the same time, lining them up the back as I went along. I then took a close look at the carnage to see how much the gold Galaxy S9's finish made a difference in picking up grease.

Test 1: Smudging the gold Galaxy S9 with finger grease

I started off with a thumbprint from my basically-clean hands to establish a baseline. This test was to simulate normal, everyday use.

My natural fingerprints weren't very prominent, but still evident nonetheless. The print looked more defined on the purple Galaxy S9, especially when I turned the phone from side to side to catch light at different angles. I couldn't be sure if this was because of its darker color or because of the glossier backing. And so, I proceeded with my next test.

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The Samsung Galaxy S9 in gold -- with a new "satin gloss" finish.

James Martin/CNET

Test 2: Hand lotion

This time I wanted to see how the phones react to the humble hand lotion, which is a common offender for phone smudges. I pumped a large squirt of lotion into my palms, rubbed it in, and pressed my thumbs on the back of both phones. This time, the residue was equally visible on both phones, and my hands have never been smoother.

Test 3: French fry grease

How many times do you pick up your phone while you're eating? For me, it's a lot, and this leaves plenty of food residue on the screen and backing.  

I'm always in the mood for french fries, so this test was a no-brainer. I got the best-tasting fries I could find, ate a few, greasing up my hands and narrowly avoiding the temptation of licking my fingers clean.

samsung galaxy s9 smudge

The gold Samsung Galaxy S9 all smudged up after our test.

James Phelan/CNET

This print stuck out like an oily sore thumb from the other ones, and looked just as obvious on both phones. I could see oil, salt, and a little bit of pepper in the prints. Grease even started to drip down the sides. Don't worry, no fries were wasted in the testing of the gold S9 -- I continued to chow down until the bag of deliciousness was empty.

Test 4: Almond butter

What's even more persistent than fry grease? The oils in food like almond butter toast, which just seems to cling to my fingertips even after washing my hands.

To test this effect on the unsuspecting smartphone, I dumped some chunky almond butter on a plate and rubbed my thumbs into the oily spread. Even after wiping my hands, the leftover residue was still strong enough to leave a mark on both phones.

Though this fingerprint wasn't as greasy or prominent as the yummy french fries, I could tell that the last test affected both phones equally, and held the same rank on the smudgy scale. 

Gold Galaxy S9 verdict: It still smudges

Though the satiny finish makes the phone less shiny and reflective, the gold Galaxy S9 still picks up the same amount of finger grease as the glossier purple Galaxy S9. If anything, the lighter gold color does a better job of hiding the prints than the darker purple did, but they're still there.

If you want to keep your phone print-free, getting a case is your best bet.

The gold Galaxy S9 looks pretty sleek, and it has all the same features as the excellent Galaxy S9 in blue, black, purple and grey, selling for the same price. Check your local retailers or Samsung's site for availability in your region. 

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