Best answer: The Galaxy S9 is still fine a phone, and holds its own in 2020 thanks to its solid specs, great screen, and updated software that mostly matches the Galaxy S20. That makes it worth a look if you want Samsung on a budget. But it's getting old, and is at the end of its software update life — a year-newer discounted Galaxy S10e is a good alternative for not much more money.
Should you buy a Galaxy S9 in 2020?
Every time we see a new flagship Samsung phone, it's enticing and exciting. It's also expensive. The Galaxy S20 range starts with the Galaxy S20 at $1,000, and goes up beyond $1,400. That's just too much for many people, and it's a logical conclusion if you're looking for a Samsung phone to start looking at older models — even two-year-old Galaxy S9s.
The Galaxy S9 series offers substantial savings, but is almost too old to recommend at this point.
Since being released in March 2018, discounts have brought the Galaxy S9 down to about $475, and the larger Galaxy S9+ down to about $575. That's a substantial savings compared to even the Galaxy S10 series, which has received official price cuts.
Comparing to the Galaxy S10 and S10+, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ don't have a ton of practical differences; it's mostly marginal improvements across the board. The S9 series has smaller screens, though the quality is still great. There's a slower processor, less memory, less storage, and shorter battery life, but those are all relative decreases compared to the latest and greatest. Both phones will still get the job done for everything most people need to do, and the Galaxy S9+, in particular, will offer fine battery life by modern standards. The Galaxy S9's cameras are rather limited because it doesn't even have a telephoto shooter, but the main camera is nearly up to par with the Galaxy S10's; but no matter what, you're missing out on the S10's awesome wide-angle camera.
The S10 is better than the S9 across the board, but these are all relative changes and not dealbreakers.
As far as the rest of the experience goes, you won't notice much of a difference. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ have great hardware, and all of Samsung's usual great features: water resistance, wireless charging, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and solid speaker quality.
On the software side, things are nearly identical. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ were updated to Android 10 with One UI 2, and have the same basic interface, apps, and features as the Galaxy S20. The issue here is this is the last major update for the S9 series, and we can't even expect regular security patches much longer — that's a major mark against buying a phone that's already two years old.
These are fine buys in the $400 range — but if you're willing to look beyond Samsung, the OnePlus 7T is a compelling alternative.
If you're trying to buy a Galaxy flagship phone on a budget, it's not a bad idea to give the Galaxy S9 a look. It does a lot of what the Galaxy S10 does for hundreds of dollars less, and still has solid hardware and specs to keep up with modern tasks. In the $400 range it's a good, albeit not great, buy. If you can stretch that budget a little bit and get a newer phone, the Galaxy S10e is now officially $600. You'll get year-newer hardware, better specs and another year of software updates.
What may make you really question the value of a two-year-old Galaxy S9 is comparing it to phones outside the Samsung world. For this money, there are some great phones that are newer and very much worth considering. Notably the OnePlus 7T at $500 with better specs across the board, or the Google Pixel 4 at $550 with a dramatically better camera and long update future ahead.
Still capable in 2020, but requires a lot of caveats
The S9 will get the job done in 2020 with the same core Samsung experience. You don't get the latest specs, larger screen or battery life of the S10, though, and newer phones at roughly the same price are often more appealing.
A year newer
Go a whole generation newer for a reasonable price
For just a bit more than a Galaxy S9, and nearly the same price as an S9+, you can get an entire generation newer Galaxy S10e. If you can stretch your budget, this is a better buy.
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