The Galaxy Note 9 was released a little over two years ago and throughout its lifetime so far, the phone has been succeeded by two newer generations of Galaxy Note devices. The Galaxy Note 9 may no longer be a hot topic in the year 2020 but the bigger question is whether or not it has remained a viable choice for prospective buyers who may be looking for a decent Galaxy phone on a budget. In short, it’s a mixed bag.
The mobile industry is moving fast; it’s been moving fast for the past decade. Technologies that were groundbreaking a few years ago have either become the norm or have been relegated to history. And for better or for worse, the Galaxy Note 9 has a bit of both.
Reasons to buy the Galaxy Note 9 in 2020
The titular question is whether or not you should be buying a Galaxy Note 9 in the year 2020. And really, the answer can go either way. Here’s why we think the Galaxy Note 9 remains a decent choice today before we delve in the reasons why you may want to avoid it.
1. Fast, reliable biometric authentication
Most Galaxy smartphones today are equipped with an in-display fingerprint sensor but this wasn’t always the case. The Galaxy Note 9 belongs to a generation of devices equipped with rear-mounted fingerprint scanners, and even though the sensor’s placement may not be as convenient, its reliability and speed makes up for it.
But aside from the fingerprint sensor itself – which you may or may not prefer over the in-display solution – the Galaxy Note 9 also features a second biometric authentication method, namely an iris scanner. It’s the last Galaxy device to be equipped with a dedicated iris scanner, which is fast, reliable, and very convenient.
2. It has a fantastic Super AMOLED display
The Galaxy Note 9’s 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel is great even today. Although it’s limited to the HDR10 standard instead of HDR10+ like the newer models, the pixel count is higher than it is on the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 20, while contrast/brightness levels remain decent even two years after the phone’s debut.
The 2018 flagship’s display has a resolution of 2960 x 1440, which is closer to what the upper-tier Galaxy Note 10+ and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra have than it is to the base models. And granted, the Galaxy Note 9’s display is limited to a 60Hz refresh rate, but so is the Galaxy Note 10 series and the base Galaxy Note 20 model.
3. Still decent, albeit not perfect performance levels
The level of performance delivered by the Galaxy Note 9 in 2020 is a mixed bag in itself. Multitasking isn’t as great as it is with newer phones, largely because the 2018 flagship is equipped with 6GB of RAM – unless you can somehow find the 8GB / 512GB model on sale. Therefore, you may notice that background apps will be closing down quicker on the Galaxy Note 9 compared to newer flagships.
However, as far as overall performance is concerned, the Galaxy Note 9 can still deliver a great user experience regardless of whether you’re using the Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 variant. The Galaxy Note 9 can run modern mobile games without any difficulties, so ultimately, your mileage in regards to performance will vary depending on what you want to get out of your phone.
4. The S Pen experience is great and has gotten better
The Galaxy Note 9 was the first model in the series to bring Bluetooth to the S Pen but newer Galaxy Note devices have expanded upon the S Pen formula in a couple of ways. Firstly, the Galaxy Note 10 S Pen added a gyroscope for Air Actions – though in a way, the lack of a gyroscope means that the Galaxy Note 9 delivers a pure, gimmick-free S Pen experience; and secondly, the Galaxy Note 20 series boasts improved S Pen latency.
But even with these newer advancements that the Galaxy Note 9 S Pen lacks, the 2018 flagship remains a great tool for productivity and mobile artistry. The S Pen suite of apps is more useful than it’s ever been and with the One UI 2.5 update that was released a few weeks ago, the Galaxy Note 9 now boasts the latest version of Samsung Notes, same as the Galaxy Note 20 series.
5. It has a headphone jack, unlike newer Notes
The Galaxy Note 9 was the last Note flagship to be equipped with a headphone jack. That may be an important point to consider if you’re someone who isn’t onboard with the wireless audio frenzy that has gripped the industry and doesn’t want to deal with USB-C-to-3.5mm adapters to be able to use your existing 3.5mm audio gear with your phone.
Reasons to avoid the Galaxy Note 9 in 2020
So far the Galaxy Note 9 may sound like a great S Pen phone to buy in 2020, especially on a budget. It still performs well in most areas and it even has some technologies that the newer models are lacking, i.e., an iris scanner. But the truth is that you may want to avoid buying the Galaxy Note 9 if you care about the following shortcomings:
1. An outdated design with thick display bezels
The Galaxy Note 9 was Samsung’s last flagship to embed the front-facing sensors in a thick upper bezel. The Galaxy flagships that followed have transitioned to the Infinity-O display design, so the Galaxy Note 9 is unmistakably a last-gen device, at least as far as its exterior design is concerned. If the way a smartphone looks is important to you then you might want to pass on the Galaxy Note 9 in 2020.
2. Outdated camera setup
The Galaxy Note 9 has only two rear-facing cameras and it lacks an ultra-wide sensor. The phone is equipped with a 12MP main camera and a 12MP 2x zoom lens, as well as an 8MP selfie shooter.
If you don’t expect 4K selfie videos from the Galaxy Note 9 and you can make peace with the fact that it lacks an ultra-wide angle lens, you should have a decent-enough photography experience with this device. In other words, if you’re looking for the best mobile photography solution on a budget, the Galaxy Note 9 is not it. Then again, if you don’t care much about the ultra-wide sensor then we’d argue that the Note 9 is still a decent choice even today, with quality pictures possible with the main rear camera both in daylight and at night through the dedicated Night mode.
3. It’s not easy to come by
Samsung is no longer selling the Galaxy Note 9 through its online stores, at least not in major markets like the USA and Europe, so finding a brand-new Galaxy Note 9 at this point in time can be a real challenge.
Your best bet is a refurbished phone sold through online retail channels such as Amazon. On the bright side, this means that the phone’s price will be even lower. Then again, if you want to have a fresh unboxing experience and avoid used products, the chance of finding a Galaxy Note 9 fitting this description is virtually nonexistent.
4. Bye bye Android OS Updates
The last but not least important reason why you will want to avoid the Galaxy Note 9 in 2020 is the lack of software support. The phone will continue to receive monthly and quarterly security patches for the next couple of years, but as far as Android OS releases go, the Galaxy Note 9 has reached the end of its journey.
The Galaxy Note 9 was released running Android 8.1 Oreo and it was updated to Android 10 at the beginning of the year. It was its last Android OS update. The phone also received One UI 2.5 a few weeks ago and it won’t make the jump to One UI 3.0.
If you care about new firmware updates then the Galaxy Note 9 is one of the worst phones you can pick up right now. Effectively, what you see is what you get with the Galaxy Note 9, as the user experience will no longer be subjected to any noteworthy changes and improvements.
Are you looking to buy an S Pen phone or simply a Galaxy device on a budget, and do you think the Galaxy Note 9 has what it takes to fit the bill? Are you a Galaxy Note 9 owner already and you have thoughts on the device and user experience in 2020? We’d love to hear from you so you’re welcomed to join us in the comment section below.