Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S6: Should you upgrade?

Most people, particularly in the U.S., have fallen quite comfortably into a two-year phone upgrade cycle. But if you're buying your phones outright, or you're just one of the sensible set who doesn't want to splash money on a new phone until you really need to, perhaps you make your flagship last a full three years. If you bought a Galaxy S6 or S6 edge, that was probably a pretty tough ask — but nonetheless, we know many people who did it.

At three years old, your Galaxy S6 is probably feeling the weight of time, and we know they're unsurprisingly no longer being considered for software updates. So, is the Galaxy S9 the right phone to upgrade to? Here's what you need to know to make the jump.

What's the same

Samsung has done a masterful job of keeping its flagships in a consistent design language.

Samsung has done a masterful job of keeping its flagship phones following the same basic identity from year to year, and even looking at a three-generation change it's undeniable that the Galaxy S6 and S9 are both Samsung phones. The Galaxy S6 still feels like a solid, well-made and modern device even in 2018, and that identity carries over entirely to the Galaxy S9. The newer phone is a bit more sleek and curved, but this is still the familiar metal-and-glass sandwich formula from 2015.

Funny enough, Samsung is still using the same Quick Charge 2.0-level charging speeds on the Galaxy S9 as it did back with the Galaxy S6, so you actually aren't missing out on anything in that respect. Dual-mode (Qi and PMA) wireless charging was introduced on the Galaxy S6 and remains today as well, though the Galaxy S9 has at least added support for a bit faster speeds.

What's different

As you'd expect for a phone that's three years newer, the Galaxy S9 is better than the Galaxy S6 in every way. Hardware-wise Samsung has made advancements across the board: you get water resistance, USB-C charging, dual speakers and a notably improved display (albeit at the same resolution) on the Galaxy S9. And we should remember that Galaxy S6 owners haven't had an SD card slot, so even though that came back with the Galaxy S7 it's still "new" if you're upgrading to the GS9.

Design similarities aside, the Galaxy S9 is better than the S6 in every way.

So long as you aren't pushing things hard, the Galaxy S6 actually still performs pretty well. And with the Oreo update it has a very similar experience to the newest phones — albeit at a slightly slower pace. But from this point forward it won't be getting any fresh software updates, and that Exynos processor and 3GB of RAM are really starting to show their age — particularly if you set it alongside the new Galaxy S9 and see how much quicker everything is. Apps are far more demanding today than they were in 2015, and if you want to keep up with the latest software you'll need to move on to a new phone as well.

Then there's battery life. We know the Galaxy S9 isn't a stellar performer in this category, particularly with the Exynos processor, but even with that being said it's going to be far better than the Galaxy S6. Battery life was arguably the biggest drawback of the Galaxy S6, with its 2550mAh battery incapable of making it through a day for most people — and three years on, it's nowhere near what a new GS9 can do with 3000mAh.

A massive mark of progress three years on is in photography. Even the single-camera Galaxy S9 is a big improvement from the GS6. The same core idea of a good sensor, OIS and a fast lens are at play here, but all of the components have improved — the sensor is an entirely new generation of chip, the aperture is now wider at f/1.5 and Samsung's processing has greatly improved. The daylight photos may not show as big of an improvement as you'd initially think, since Samsung had that well-handled even in 2015, but the low-light shots are in a new league. Plus, you get that awesome 960 fps slow-motion video.

Should you upgrade?

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S6

If you've held onto your Galaxy S6 or S6 edge this long, you got your money's worth out of it. And perhaps the more telling thing about using a GS6 for that long is that you have to be a fan of Samsung's hardware and software — and that points you right at the Galaxy S9.

If you enjoyed 3 years with a Galaxy S6, you'll love the Galaxy S9.

If you've still been enjoying many aspects of the Galaxy S6 as a whole, and want to upgrade because you need something more modern so you can keep up with the times, Samsung's latest flagship will be a fantastic upgrade for you. In typical Samsung fashion, the company has managed to add a whole lot to the experience without taking anything away — and the scale is simply higher when you look at a three-year upgrade.

And here's the great thing: you can still sell a good-condition Galaxy S6 for about $100-150 (opens in new tab) on the second-hand market. That makes the $720 retail price on the GS9 far easier to handle. It's time to upgrade.

Update May 2018: Updated with the latest information based on the age of the Galaxy S6.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Everytime you guys do one of these articles, the answer is always "maybe, depends, you decide". Zzzzz
  • The last line of the article is literally "It's time to upgrade."
  • After it says, maybe, depends...etc
  • No. No it doesn’t.
  • Just searched the article for both "maybe" and "depend" and the only results were this comment.
  • Daniel I love the fact that you aren't afraid to confront folks in the comments lol
  • #blackcrush
  • Does the s6 have black crush?
  • This article feels a bit incomplete without the information you were running a while ago, that the S9 is not a massive step up from the S8, and that the latter can be had for a significant saving over the price of an S9. Presumably, as people with your ears to the ground and plenty of experience in this area, you must be expecting the S10 to be the back landmark stage for a new series of Galaxy phones. So with the S6, S7, S8 and S9 all broadly similar, why is your recommendation not the S8?
  • Because the article says in the title, “Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S6”. S9 is the newest, not the cheapest, but the newest.
  • By all means do the upgrade! S9 plus is an Amazing phone! The screen is Brighter! The sound system is outstanding! The S9 is BLAZING fast! This is a person who switched from the note 8 to the S9 plus!
  • How about this?
    For a user who doesn't store alot of apps, should they stick with a Galaxy S5 or move to the S9 ?
  • If your phone is running at a tolerable level, then you don't need to upgrade. There are potential security issues though. I look forward to new seasons of Westworld, am enjoying the old one, but will enjoy the new one.
  • I think he was being facetious.
  • I'm playing Devil's Advocate. ..
    But I do love my S5 even though I recognize the obvious improvements hardware-wise in the S9s.
  • My S5 with a charging back is still going just fine. I see nothing worth $700. To make me "update".
  • BTW my S5 has 25g plus of VUDU video on it's SD card.
  • ignorance is bliss.
  • If your a happy camper why upgrade?
  • Of course you do! What a pointless article 🙄
  • Should you trade a S6 for an S9? The S6 is not supported any more. That won't matter a bit, until it does. Getting issues resolved can be time consuming and frustrating and annoying even with good support. Just sayin'.
  • If your coming from anything more than two yrs old like a S7, then yes it's worth the upgrade to the S9. Me and my wife upgraded and couldn't be more happier with the S9 Plus. So definitely if you have a S6 you should upgrade.
  • It isn't S9 vs S6. Its S9 vs S6 plus whatever else you might want to do with that money. Also the S8 was the big leap, if you didn't do it then might as well wait for the 10. I am still happy on my Note 5. I can't think of anything going to the S9 would get me that I care about that much. Yeah no SD card would be nice probably dealbreaker for some but I'm used to it.
  • really? you pay a monthly fee.. but yet use a phone that is out dated? you aren't saving yourself money.. it's like paying 120$ month for cable packages and using a 720p 25" tv to save money. it's dumb. I get it your s6 works, but the LTE connectivity, speeds and hand offs works literally 30x better on an s9 compared to an s6. that alone is enough to upgrade. not to mention everything else that improves your quality of life with your device.
  • Yup! Yuppers! And....yep!
  • If there is one thing I've learned about phones, is that quality of life should never be linked to them. ;). The truth is, your life won't change with your phone. If you think it does/will, your life is empty. I have made the same mistake, so not above that thought pattern.
  • Some people still use their smart phone for the original purpose. To make phone calls and the occasional email or two. My father-in-law still uses his LG-G2. Tells me it works just fine for what he uses it for. Phone calls, emails to his family, and an app that tells him where the cheapest gas is
  • Lol. Ok. 🤣
  • Also no.... If your current phone does what you want, you should never upgrade. It's a trap.
  • Except.... just yesterday 4/12/18, all 3 galaxys in my home S6 / S6 edge (not plus versions mind yoy) did indeed get a security update. I guess they squeezed one more out for old times sake. The last one before that was February. So maybe they realized just how many are still using this line after all. Either way, they have sedated my itch to get the S9 for the moment. The resale value of my S6 is tempting also and that will disappear with time but heck... I've held out this long. True, the software is nicer... nicer camera... but, in your podcast you also are giving mixed signals. So for now (with my fresh security update) I'm content.
  • I still have a Note 4, so I understand why one would still be using a S6. I say upgrading every 2 or 3 years is key. That's the time you will see a huge difference. But judging from my Note 4, from day to day use and the apps, there's not a huge difference other than a second or 1.5 sec of "delay". Sure my Note 4 screen never seen washed out until I held it next to a Note 8. Next to any iPhone or other android phone, the Note 8 still holds it's own.
  • « Design similarities aside, the Galaxy S9 is better than the S6 in every way » The design is very different, especially from the front... And how can the S6 still performs well if samsung are known to slow after a few months of use ? I am reading both things in the same website so what’s true? :)
  • Other than battery life, my S6 Edge is still pretty quick and still takes great photos. Definitely no need to upgrade. If you got the money and need the latest and greatest, then go S9
  • S6 was a great phone and still is, S9 would be a good time to upgrade if you feel the urge. I am at the point where I am looking to hold onto a phone for 3 years or more since the upgrades have been minimal each year.
  • Yawn, another article pushing an upgrade. God bless you if you still use an S6. You have used it this long, you can wait for a 5G LTE modem to arrive in your next phone. I predict the next two years of premium mobile phone sales (Apple, Samsung, & all) will be horrific. The primary reason being price, and a close second is that 5G LTE is coming soon.... It's still a ways away... But resale value of 4G LTE phones will collapse once 5G LTE rolls out. We might even see 5G LTE modems arrive early in premium phones... Well before networks exist, as a way for mobile manufacturers to maintain sales.... Perhaps in 2019 models.
  • These articles are so dumb.
  • Yes... Lol, this site that attracts the most well informed thinks you can't figure out when to upgrade.... It's simply part of an industry effort to remove the next $ from your pocket.