Samsung’s insistence on being everything to everyone gives it an advantage over Apple and Google, but does that mean the S9 is a better phone than the Pixel 2?
Does a top smartphone need all of the additional bells and whistles to compete, or does it just have to do what it does extremely well?
Here are five reasons why Google’s flagship is top dog
Uncompressed Google photos storage
With the Pixel 2’s great power comes great…..storage space. Unlimited storage space to be exact. All Pixel owners automatically get unlimited, uncompressed free Google Photos storage space for their pictures and videos in full quality until 2020, after that Google will only store media up to a certain quality.
This is offer is exclusive to Pixel and Pixel 2 owners. Samsung owners also get unlimited Google Photos storage, but not for uncompressed images. Instead, it’s unlimited storage for ‘high quality’ pictures, which are reduced resolution and therefore smaller files. Samsung mitigates this with expandable storage up to 400GB(!), but the unlimited, uncompressed cloud storage is for Pixel People only.
Samsung’s newly rebranded UX software ‘Experience’ (formerly known as TouchWiz) is what Samsung lays on top of Android. It has improved dramatically since its sluggish, bloated early days but it’s still worse than stock Android, which is what the Google Pixel 2 runs. Also, the S9 ships with Android 8, instead of 8.1 (more on this later).
So it’s not the most up to date software, which means users will miss out on new Android features. But, what’s much worse, is the amount of unnecessary bloat and duplicate apps that come as a result of Experience.
“Aside from this the Galaxy S9’s customisation of Android (now called ‘Samsung Experience’) will again include familiar bloatware: two app stores, two calculators, two web browsers, two mobile payment services, two clocks, etc. This is the deal when you buy a Samsung phone, so there’s no point complaining about it anymore.”
Samsung receives Android security updates as quickly as the Pixel 2 does. Google keeps a list here if you want to see which manufactures stay up to date with security patches. That speed isn’t reflected when it comes to OS updates, which can take months.
As I mentioned above, the Galaxy S9 will ship with Android 8.0, not 8.1. So S9 buyers will miss out on fixes and new features (like Bluetooth device battery status) that comes with 8.1 and other future updates. This is because Samsung, and other manufacturers with their own overlay, have to fit the update into their skinned version of Android, which takes time.
Cheaper (sort of)
Here’s the thing about the Pixel 2 ($649) versus the Galaxy S9 ($719) on price: the Pixel 2 is cheaper by $70, but you get a lot less for your money. The S9 has a better display, bigger battery and expandable storage. So if you’re on a strict budget, then go ahead and save yourself $70, but spending those extra 70 coins is good value for money.
The Pixel 2 XL ($849) is only $10 more expensive than the Galaxy S9 Plus ($839), but that’s a far more equal matchup.
The Bixby Threat
Despite being far behind its competitors – and far, far behind the current frontrunners Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa – the Korean company is plowing ahead with its AI assistant.
Now, Bixby will improve and Samsung is spending big to make sure of that. But if you’re already a frequent user of Google Assistant across multiple devices and apps – if you’re trapped in the Google Assistant ecosystem – then life is a lot simpler if you stick with Google’s offering. It’s also just a better AI assistant.
The problem is that Samsung will continue to push Bixby and bake it further into the Galaxy experience for the S9 and future devices, to the point where I can imagine Bixby being the only smart assistant option on future Samsung devices. Or, at the very least, being endlessly nagged to use Bixby at every turn.