Should you buy the Galaxy S9 or wait for the Galaxy Note 9?

Decisions, decisions

Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

A couple of hot new flagship smartphones just arrived in town: the Samsung S9 and the Samsung S9 Plus. We're only in March, but there's no doubt these are going to be two of the phones of 2018, and a lot of the early reaction to them has been positive.

If you're a fan of Samsung and Android, and you like what you see, you might well be itching to click the buy button on one of these phones. Before you do though, consider what's coming later in the year with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – is it worth waiting for?

What you get with the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

From any angle, these are two fantastic new handsets from Samsung. Some might complain that not much has been changed from the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus, but if Samsung has got a winning formula, why change it?

As well as slightly smaller bezels, the two S9 phones bring with them an Exynos 9810 or Snapdragon 845 processor chip, 4GB of RAM (or 6GB on the S9 Plus), and 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with a memory card if needed.

The cameras see some improvements, with a dual-aperture setting for improved low-light performance, and a new 960fps slow motion mode for videos, so you can really get a close look at the action.

Battery-wise, you're looking at a 3,000mAh pack for the S9 and a 3,500mAh pack for the S9 Plus, which happen to be exactly the same capacities as their respective predecessors. Let's hope with some internal optimisations, these phones can last for longer between charges than the S8 and the S8 Plus.

Even with handsets still to come in 2018 from Apple, Google, LG and others, those are impressive specs that are unlikely to be bettered by much over the next 12 months. If you opt for buying an S9 or S9 Plus now, you won't have to think about upgrading for at least 12 months, and probably much longer.

Don't forget Android 8.0 Oreo is on board as well, so you're right up to date with the latest version of the Samsung-skinned OS from Google. Even at the high prices the S9 and S9 Plus command, they're undoubtedly worth the outlay.

What we're expecting from the Galaxy Note 9

Galaxy Note 8

Galaxy Note 8

Hang on just a moment, though, because Samsung has another big phone launch happening this year: we're expecting to see the Galaxy Note 9 appear around August time, along with a revamped, updated Bixby 2.0.

For several years now, Samsung has produced a Note device as a bigger, more powerful, stylus-equipped alternative to the main Galaxy S line. In many ways, it's actually the Note that's the flagship Samsung device, though with its humongous screen (6.3 inches on the Galaxy Note 8), high price and integrated S Pen, it's not for everyone.

Last year the Note got a substantial camera upgrade over the rest of the Samsung line-up, getting a dual-lens setup around the back of the device while the S8 and the S8 Plus had to make do with just one lens and sensor.

As for what we can expect from the Note 9, it's still too early for the rumour mill to have really started up, but one source has said to expect the Note 9 to have an in-screen fingerprint sensor – that'll be a first.

Unlike 2017, the Galaxy S phones have had a serious camera bump this year, and so we don't think the tech inside the Note 9 is going to be all that superior, if there are any differences at all. The internals should match the S9 and the S9 Plus too.

The improved Bixby 2.0 smarts will no doubt roll out to the S9 and the S9 Plus as well, so that leaves a bigger screen and a stylus as the main reasons why you would choose the Note 9 over the phones we launched at MWC 2018, as long as you've got the budget for it.

Should you buy now or wait?

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9

Whether you buy now or wait, you're guaranteed of bagging yourself a top-quality smartphone, so in one sense don't spend too much time agonising over the right choice – there won't be a whole lot to choose between the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

Deciding what to do might depend on when your phone contract is up for renewal too. If you have reached the end of your tether with your current handset and you have the chance to upgrade, the S9 and S9 Plus will seem like very appealing options.

On the other hand, if you're still happy with your existing phone and your upgrade window is still some way off, maybe it's a better idea to hang on and wait for the Galaxy Note 9 to show up. You've only got five months to wait... probably.

In terms of the differences between these handsets, we don't know exactly what the Note 9 is going to bring with it, but the key differences are likely to be a slightly bigger screen, that integrated stylus, and a slightly higher price. If the idea of scribbling on the display with an S Pen appeals, wait for the next launch.

As for internal specs and camera quality, it's likely to be a close call between all three phones, so opting for one or the other won't make a huge difference in terms of performance or software features.

You can't really go wrong: just remember we've still got handsets from LG, Google, Apple, HTC and others to come yet this year, so keep your eye on the rumours and speculation hitting the web. And if you want to save yourself some cash, then the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy S8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 are still very much worth a look.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.