Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 gets a smarter stylus, stacks of storage, and (exclusive) Fortnite


We often joke that Samsung isn’t very good at keeping secrets. Which is fine, because they don’t seem too upset when their news leaks out early. It does mean that we have very few pleasant surprises when the time comes for Samsung to announce their latest and greatest devices… but there’s usually something.

That’s largely the case with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 — just about all of the rumours we picked up in the run-up to this year’s Note announcement were on the mark. Here’s what Samsung announced for the Galaxy Note 9 at this year’s Unpacked 2018 event… including the one surprise.

Design: Not much has changed

Do you remember what the Galaxy Note 8 looks like? Good, then you have a fair idea of what the Note 9 is going to look like when it arrives on various contract offerings here in SA on 24 August. Like the headline says, not much has changed, design-wise. It’s got the same curved sides and utilises the same design language that the S8 launched into the world (in other words, it still looks damned good) but there are some differences. Subtle ones, but they’re there.

The Note 9 is the largest Note to date, for starters. Samsung’s pushing into tablet territory, giving users a 6.4in 2,960 x 1,440 display to play with — contrary to the rumour that Samsung was going to be sticking with the Note 8’s 6.3in screen. The other change, one we’ve been looking forward to, is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. It’s been moved out of the camera bar and located beneath the central sensor — which should lead to less lens smudging for everyone! Yay!

Hardware: Unless you have a look inside

We’re looking at the most powerful Galaxy Note to date, in addition to it being the largest. Samsung’s put its own Exynos 9810 octa-core processor into the phone for most of the world, including South Africa, while the Americans are getting the Snapdragon 845 version. Because they’re special or something. There’s 6GB of RAM inside if you’ve got the 128GB version (R19,000), but if you opt for the larger 512GB (R24k) version you’ll snag yourself 8GB of RAM into the bargain.

If you’re the type to leave everything on your phone forever the good news is even the 512GB will be expandable via microSD… up another 512GB. Which means you can have a terabyte of storage on your phone. Shooting a lot of 4K video of late? This might be the phone for you.

There’s also a gigantic battery powering everything. Samsung’s opted for a 4,000mAh cell — the largest we’ve seen in a Note, and large enough that Samsung reckons it’ll last all day. It’s even larger than the battery that caused all that trouble for Samsung a couple of years back. You might find yourself thinking about that dark period and feeling nervous. You shouldn’t. It’ll be fine. Samsung’s got more checks and measures in place for its batteries than are probably necessary in the wake of the Note 7 fiasco.

Features: Making the S Pen even more useful

Why do you want to buy a Galaxy Note 9? As with all of the Note range, there are only two reasons to really get one aside from brand loyalty: The size and the stylus. Mostly the stylus. And if you think Samsung hasn’t been dreaming up something a little different for this year, you’re mistaken.

The Note 9’s stylus has gotten an upgrade: Bluetooth. It’s quite a basic addition to the S-Pen but one that does allow for a new set of features. Music can be paused and started, in the same way that the in-line control on a set of headphones works. Only without the wires, of course.

The S-Pen can do service as a presentation clicker as well, letting users click through slides without fiddling with keyboard and mouse. Users will also be able to use the S-Pen as a photo remote control, meaning we could see the Note 9 used as a photographic device even more — especially for selfies. It does mean that the S Pen has a battery in it now, but Samsung reckons it charges to full in about a minute and that will give it 30 minutes of use.

Camera: We’ve been along this road before

Samsung’s excellent camera from the Galaxy S9 and the S9+, that dual 12MP variable aperture creation that takes such lovely photographs, is coming over to the Note 9. The hardware is pretty much unaltered, so you’re getting a 12MP f/2.4 setup on the telephoto camera, and a variable aperture 12MP f/1.5 to 2.4 snapper for the regular camera next to it.

But it’s not all the same: Samsung has made some improvements to the camera on the software side of things. A more ‘intelligent’ system is being released with the handset, one which detects typical problems. If your lens is smudged or your subject was caught mid-blink, the Note 9 will let you know immediately so you can retake the image.

Software: Samsung’s Fortnite exclusive

Remember the Fortnite rumour? Yeah, that one was real. Very real. Samsung does indeed have a timed exclusive for Fortnite on Android. But you’re not restricted to just the Galaxy Note 9. If you’re a Fortnite nut, you’ll be able to download the beta Android version of the battle royale game through Samsung’s Game Launcher or Galaxy Apps app provided you have one of the supported Samsung smartphones at your disposal.

If you’re rocking anything from the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge onwards, the Note 8, Note 9, or the Galaxy Tab 3 or 4 (which isn’t here yet), you’ll be able to get your Fortnite on now. Note 9 users will also get an exclusive character skin to use in-game when they download the gaming phenomenon. Other smartphones will be getting into the beta at a later stage, so don’t worry too much if you don’t have one of the above devices. Your turn will come.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Initial Verdict

Samsung’s come out with a very good phablet here, though not one that does much to stand out from the Note 8 right out of the gate. We’re reserving judgement until we get a little more hands-on time with the Note 9, but on paper it’s looking like the best Note we’ve seen from Samsung. Time will tell if it proves to be the most popular. The price is the thing there and Samsung’s got local pricing for the handset available already.

If you want the base model Galaxy Note 9, you’ll be able to pick it up for R19,000 — that’s for the 128GB version, to be clear. Expect to pay around R24,000 for 512GB of storage… and you’ll want to spend a little more on a big microSD card and some data — at least Samsung was nice enough to include a cover in the box.

The really good news is that the Note 9 launches in South Africa at the same time as the rest of the world on 24 August. Someone’s looking to deny Apple a few global sales, by the look of things. With this sort of hardware on offer, Samsung might just pull it off, too.


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