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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

The new Galaxy S9 (left) and Galaxy S9 Plus (right).

Sarah Tew/CNET

For years, the Plus model in any Galaxy lineup has told a simple story: "The same phone, just bigger." You paid a premium for a larger screen and bigger battery, but otherwise the core features lined up with the smaller, more mainstream and cheaper Galaxy S. 

This year, the Galaxy S9 Plus gives you three reasons to spend more: A second rear camera, more screen space and larger battery capacity. The second camera is especially compelling. Building that extra 12-megapixel telephoto sensor into the camera module means you'll be able to take depth-of-field portrait photos that blur the background so that the subject of your photos stands out. 

The one downside to the extra features is the price hike from the Galaxy S9 to the S9 Plus. The S9 Plus costs between $840 and $930 in the US, depending on your carrier. That's about $120 more than the S9. In the UK it'll cost £869 -- £130 more than the S9. Australian prices start at AU$1,349, which is AU$150 more than the cheapest Galaxy S9.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

The S9 Plus stacks two rear cameras directly above the fingerprint reader.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Galaxy S9 Plus is only the second Samsung phone to get a second camera, falling in line after last August's Galaxy Note 8 ($269 at Amazon). Samsung came to the trend more than a year late, so its phones are still making up for lost time in standing behind these kinds of shots. The fact that this dual-camera setup escapes the Galaxy S9 ($245 at Amazon) tells us that Samsung sees the photo feature as a high-end differentiator.

In fact, by stratifying its own line this way, with the single-camera S9, larger S9 Plus with dual cameras and the Note series with dual cameras and a digital stylus, Samsung is clearly defining and justifying three price tiers that match up with feature upgrades. The model makes sense, and mirrors Apple's own structure with the iPhone 8 ($182 at Amazon), 8 Plus and iPhone X ($900 at Boost Mobile).

While not everyone will care about taking portrait photos, the S9 Plus and its dual-camera setup represent Samsung's continued ambitions to dominate the global Android landscape, with only Apple's iPhone as its fiercest rival for our hearts and minds. 

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

The S9 Plus' camera pulls out all the F-stops.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As long as camera quality remains one of the most important deciding factors for choosing one phone over another, Samsung's Galaxy cameras must compete with the best innovations and implementations for mobile phones.

These mobile camera advancements are often carryovers from DSLR cameras. One example is the dual-aperture lens on both the S9 and S9 Plus that physically, automatically shifts to let in more or less light to take clearer photos.

Now playing: Watch this: Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: Our first look

Larger screen, bigger battery

The Galaxy S9 Plus' second camera lens makes it the more advanced of Samsung's two new marquee phones, but the S9 Plus also has the advantage of a larger, 6.2-inch screen, which gives you more space to view media and interact with what's on the screen. A bigger screen makes for a more sizable phone in the hand, of course.

Like last year's models, the S9 Plus also comes with a higher-capacity battery than the S9. It's got 3,500 mAh compared to the S9's 3,000 mAh. If the S9 Plus follows last year's pattern, it should also run longer than the S9 on a single charge. Of course, the bigger screen can drain the battery faster, but last year's Galaxy S8 Plus got hours more battery life than the Galaxy S8 and we expect this year's test results to follow suit.

And the rest of the specs? With the exception of weight and dimensions, they're the same. You'll find the same core hardware and software on both Galaxy S9 phones, including that main 12-megapixel dual aperture camera and 8-megapixel selfie cam, super slow motion video, wireless charging and waterproofing, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor and those gorgeous purple and coral blue colors (in addition to black and gray).

As a slightly stepped version of the Galaxy S9, the S9 Plus is ready for its moment in the light.

Now playing: Watch this: Unboxing Samsung's new Galaxy S9 Plus

Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus specs versus iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 XL

Samsung Galaxy S9 Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Apple iPhone X Google Pixel 2 XL
Display size, resolution 5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels 6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 570ppi 529ppi 458ppi 538ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.81x2.70x0.33 in 6.22x2.91x0.33 in 5.7x2.79x0.30 in 6.2x3.0x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 147.7x68.7x8.5 mm 158.1x73.8x8.5 mm 143.6x70.9x7.7 mm 157.9x76.7x7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.75 oz; 163g 6.66 oz; 189g 6.14 oz; 174 g 6.17 oz; 175 g
Mobile software Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo iOS 11 Android 8 Oreo
Camera 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel Dual 12-megapixel 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 7-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz) Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz) Apple A11 Bionic Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35Ghz + 1.9Ghz)
Storage 64GB (US only), 128GB, 256GB 64GB (US only), 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB
RAM 4GB 6GB Unlisted 4GB
Expandable storage Up to 400GB Up to 400GB None None
Battery 3,000mAh 3,500mAh Unlisted 3,520mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back Back None (Face ID via TrueDepth camera) Back
Connector USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes No No
Special features Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanning Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanning Water resistant (IP67), wireless charging, Face ID Google Assistant; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready
Price off-contract (USD) Varies: $720-$800 Varies: $840-$930 $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB) $849 (64GB), $949 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £739 £869 £999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB) £799 (64GB), £899 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,199 (64GB); AU$1,349 (256GB) AU$1,349 (64GB); AU$1,499 AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB) AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)

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