Galaxy S9's take on animojis look good, but don't track your face well

AR Emojis, one of the new chat features on the Galaxy S9 takes a page from the iPhone X.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
2 min read

Samsung was paying attention when the iPhone X got animojis, animated emojis that map to your facial movements. Because the Galaxy S9's own animated emojis, called AR Emojis, take a page from Apple's playbook.

We had some hands-on time with the Galaxy S9 to check out how it works, and while it's fun to create an emoji using your own face, the implementation is far from perfect. In fact, it kind of creeped us out

Take a selfie from within the app (but don't smile!), and watch the Galaxy S9 churn out a Bitmoji-style avatar of your face in less than a minute. From there, you can customize your avatar with skin tones, hairstyles, eyeware and various outfits. 

Once you're done tweaking, there are a few types of AR Emoji you can make. The most interesting by far is to turn your own face into an animated GIF by recording a short video of your emojified face and voice. The app will project your real-life facial expressions onto your avatar. 

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Now here's the big "but" -- the quality of the expressions falls short. Where Apple's animojis are smooth, Samsung's emojis tend to flicker and turn smiles into grimaces. While turning yourself into a cartoon is fun, you can also embody other emoji, like animals, or in the future give life to other characters. Disney will be one partner, for example.

There's one other way to share yourself through AR Emoji. When you first set up your profile, the app makes 18 static stickers of your avatar conveying various emotions -- you can't change these, by the way. You use them by popping into a gallery, say in Samsung's messaging app, to select these AR Emoji stickers. As with the video GIF, you can share these with friends in any messaging app that supports GIFs.

Watch this: Galaxy S9's AR emoji: How good are they?

AR Emoji has an enormous amount of potential, but it doesn't yet have Apple's smoothness. It's likely that the iPhone X's depth-sensing camera does a better job mapping your face than the Galaxy S9's 2D front-facing camera.

It's early on, and these issues can be fixed over time with better tech, but so far in our hands-on experience, it's looking like Apple has Samsung beat in this specific area -- we'll need to fully review the Galaxy S9 to know for sure. With that said, the stickers do add a personal touch, though you'll have more initial options with the Bitmoji app. 

We wouldn't be surprised if Samsung has plans for expanding AR Emoji in future phones .