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Phones

And the Galaxy S9's six best features are...

Brace yourself. The headphone jack isn't one of them.

James Martin/CNET

After using the Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus almost every day for the last three months, it's funny that the phones' most enviable features -- a fantastic OLED screen, great photos from the dual-aperture camera lens, elegantly curved sides -- aren't what I love most about Samsung's top handsets for 2018.

See, it's the little things that connect a person to a device. The way it looks or feels in the hand. That one specific feature -- Wi-Fi calling, an FM radio, perhaps -- that compels someone to swear they'll never give up their phone or brand.

And it's these little things I notice most in my experience with the Galaxy S9 Plus, thoughtful touches that make my life easier, or at least more interesting. It's not that I take the Galaxy S9's speedy processor or waterproofing for granted. It's that the S9 is so reliable I rarely have to think about connection speeds or the phone's now-rare headphone jack. They're already there.

So here are six of the Galaxy S9 features that bring something extra to my daily use. Not to say everything about the phone is great -- I'll have a list of the worst S9 features out soon. Feel free to jump into the comments with your favorite Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus tidbits.

6. That purple color

I've been using the Galaxy S9 Plus in lilac purple almost exclusively since early March. The color is deep, lustrous and changes in the light. It makes me like using the phone more. I've rejected almost every case because they don't do the phone design justice (this one from Spigen is OK, but the color's starting to scrape off the rims).

I've caught people staring at the purple S9 when it's facedown on a table. Once I even noticed a woman in a restaurant awkwardly hold her phone to "slyly" take a picture of the phone. Maybe I sat a little taller.

5. Samsung Pay

Launched in 2015, Samsung Pay is now a fixture in the Galaxy firmament, but that doesn't make it less special on the Galaxy S9. Apple Pay and Google Pay are great mobile payment options, but only Samsung Pay lets you make a payment at literally any terminal, even those that claim they don't accept mobile payments.

That's because Samsung Pay can work like the magnetic stripe on your credit card when you hold it near the mag-stripe reader.

The fact that Samsung now awards buyers cash back for using Samsung Pay with certain retailers (in the US for starters) gives you even more reason to use it.

4. Customizations galore

You could get lost in the Galaxy S9's submenus of settings and advanced options. Sifting through your customization options can be an exhaustive pursuit, but a rewarding one if you stumble on some graphic or layout choice that really speaks to you.

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You, too, can change the Galaxy S9 clock color and format.

Josh Miller/CNET

For example, I spent a good 10 minutes customizing the shape, size and color of the clock icon on the lock screen and Always-On display. I'll be the first to admit that it sounds like a simple, silly thing to do. But once I did, I suddenly felt more bonded to the S9: Here was one more telltale sign this phone belongs to me. (Well, it's a loaner phone, but you get the idea.)

Android is already about customization, that being one part of the nature of the platform. And for better or for worse, no phonemaker embraces that philosophy quite like Samsung.

Read: Discover 21 hidden Galaxy S9 features

3. Quick-access to apps and people

A tab that lives on the edge of many Galaxy phones is called the Edge display. Swipe it open to get to a sort of shortcuts bar that you can access from any screen.

Although it isn't unique to the Galaxy S9, I find myself using it at least once a day, usually to quickly open a weather app -- because I'm obsessed with microclimates, aren't you? -- or Google Drive. The idea is that I don't have to think about where the app icon lives. This tab makes it a constant no matter where in the phone I am.

Sometimes I swipe this open by accident, but I like that if it's in the way, I can drag the tab to any other position (this is new for the Galaxy S9). My one piece of advice: Use the space wisely. Less is more or you wind up wasting time flipping through the Edge display.

2. Split-screen mode

I've tested split-screen mode on plenty of Galaxy phones, but it wasn't until I began using the Galaxy S9 Plus full time that it all clicked. Now, instead of inventing reasons to try it out, I began to turn to split-screen reflexively.

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I'll often call up a map, calendar appointment or email in one pane and a website or text message in another. Instead of flipping tabs to grab some information, split-screen lets me refer back to the same source a couple of times before closing it out.

When I take a break from the Galaxy S9 to use another phone, this is a feature I find myself missing.

1. Iris scan do-over

samsung-galaxy-s9-face-iris-intelligent-scan-unlock-2

If it doesn't unlock the first time, the Galaxy S9 gives you a do-over.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung uses a different kind of technology than the iPhone X. In fact, its iris-scanning feature predates Apple's most ambitious phone. Iris scanning is secure enough to work with Samsung Pay and Android Pay, too.

But my favorite part about it is that if the scan fails the first time, you get a do-over. There's a semi-circular arrow that looks like a replay button, and it'll trigger the scan again. I wish that the iPhone X did that, too. Instead, you have to lock and unlock the screen or wait a loooong pause to reset.

The Galaxy S9's fingerprint reader on the back, now conveniently moved below the camera array, gives you another option for unlocking the phone, too. That's the right approach in my book.

Honorable mention: Loud, rich speakers

These Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus phones mark the first time Samsung has given a phone a second speaker. The results largely blew us away with very loud, rich audio for voices, movies and games.

While speakerphone quality is rather deplorable and other phones, like the Razer Phone, had a more immersive effect, the Dolby Atmos audio software inside takes advantage of the second speaker, making music, videos and games boom when you play them aloud.

Tested: The Galaxy S9's dual speakers are loud and rich

Read next: Galaxy Note 9: everything we know about the Galaxy S9's sibling