I used the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for three months — here's what I loved and hated about it

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
I used the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for three months — here's what I loved and hated about it
So, I've been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for the past three months nearly non-stop, and aside from a cracked screen that cost me a certain sum to get fixed, my overall experience was superb Admittedly, I've had a very soft spot for Samsung phones over the years, and while I wasn't very fond of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, almost all Samsung phones ever since have caught my attention one way or another. Say what you want, the Galaxy S8 remains the sexiest phone in recent memory, and my mind can't be changed. Now that I've used the Note 9 for so long, I admit I've grown very fond of it and genuinely feel sad that I will have to part ways with it... for a while, that is. Yet, I keep comforting myself that there's plenty more fish in the sea, which in this case are nothing else but high-end flagships and other exciting phones for me to try out.

So, I've been using the Note 9 for more than three months, and while it's not a polarizing device at all, I feel like I absolutely need to share my first-hand impressions with you. As usual, we have to take the good and the bad, so not everything you read down below will be in the Galaxy Note 9's favor.

Of course, all points I've made are purely subjective and it's okay to disagree. 

What I loved about the Note 9

It's sexy

It still mesmerizes me how Samsung packed so much stuff in so little space - aside from the aforementioned headphone jack which definitely takes up some precious space, the Note 9 also has a large S Pen inside, as well as a hefty 4,000mAh battery, all of which require their fair share of physical space. Having achieved all that, Samsung also went out of its way to create a sexy device that playfully beckons you to grasp it with your hand, caress its silky smooth back, and feel its smooth curves against your bare skin.

Of course, the almost perfect symmetry at the front is another design aspect that I adore. As of now at least, it seems that the Galaxy Note 9 will remain the last fully-symmetrical Samsung phone, with a display unobtruded with neither a notch nor a punch hole. I was very partial to Samsung's stubbornness to go the easy way and adopt the notch in 2018, so I will definitely cherish the Note 9 as the epitome of the old-school phone design. Heck, who am I kidding, I will likely be drooling all over the Note 10 as well, punch hole or not!

Unmatched customizability

Yes, it's 2019, and yes, I'm still a customization freak. I just like things going my way, and when it comes to extensive customization, Samsung is still king to me. Being an Android device, it's already pretty customizable right out of the bat, but Samsung has made many other aspects of its interface inherently customizable, which is right up my alley. I've spent lots of time tweaking every aspect of the Note 9's interface to suit my liking and am grateful that Samsung allows me to customize everything ranging from the Always-On display to the system-wide font itself. Add the fact that SwiftInstaller works with non-rooted Samsung phones and you've got yourself a winner for sure. From a customization standpoint alone, I feel that Samsung has been nailing it for the past couple of years and is still unmatched in this regard by none of its competitors.  

All phones should have a customizable always-on displays

We never knew we needed such a functionality until we got it, and I'm glad that Samsung's implementation is the best one I've seen. LG's take on the matter is close second, but I really, really, really love the Note 9's AOD, simply because it's so customizable and useful, battery life be damned. The colors, the different clock faces, the ability to interact with it without ever having to unlock the phone are the main motivators behind my fondness for this small interface functionality. Oh, and how could I forget - the ability to pin a note jotted down with the S Pen on the AOD has been more than useful on many occasions. I got OneUI nearly two weeks ago and while it slightly limited certain customization aspects (the Clockface app I used to customize the Always-On Display is sadly unsupported on OneUI), it made the device even better in my eyes thanks to the system-wide Night Mode, which is a godsend. 

It has a headphone jack

Yes, I'm one of those people, and while my opinion on the matter may contradict with some of my colleagues', it's purely driven by my own personal experience. I'm using wired headphones at least 8 hours a day and phones without a 3.5mm audio jack usually get an almost instantaneous "no-no" from me. Before I got the Note 9, I had used a OnePlus 6, a Galaxy S9+, and a OnePlus 5T back-to-back throughout 2018, and there's something common with all of these - they have headphone jacks. I am not a fan of Bluetooth headsets and earbuds as I certainly don't entertain the idea of having one more device to charge overnight; additionally, the plug-n-play nature of wired headphones is still vastly superior to the unpleasant ordeal of pairing certain Bluetooth headsets to certain Android phones.

To me, wired is still the superior option, call me whatever you want.

Love me some stereo speakers

Unironically listening to loud music in public through your phone's loudspeakers should definitely be prosecuted as a crime against humanity, but having potent speakers is definitely something I really like in the Note 9. I have found myself blasting loud Spotify tunes while in the shower more often than I'd like to admit, and watching stuff  on Netflix while doing the dishes make mundane chores something to look out for, especially in stereo sound. Ok, doing the dishes is hardly pleasing, but you catch my drift.

It has a bright and large notification LED!

Okay, I never thought I'd see the day when notification LED would fall out of grace, but the advent of truly bezel-less fullscreen devices is bad news for this "classic" Android feature. I also really hate those small and pesky notification LEDs that are hard to make out even from up close or, God forbid, only light up in one color. Of all Android vendors that are still putting this user-friendly hardware feature on their phones, Samsung has always had the best implementation by employing a bright and large LED, making it easy to see discern between the different notification types even from afar. Green light? It's probably a chat message that could be ignored. Red light? Oh, it's got to be a missed call, I should probably check up who called.

Lockscreen wallpapers, a gimmick I grew to love

I mean... yeah? It could be a stupid gimmicky feature to you, but I like it very much and often go out of my way to snap 15-second 4K videos in the odd 18.5:9 aspect ratio to use as pleasing lockscreen wallpapers. Usually, these are videos of my cat doing cutesy cat stuff, and admit it, who wouldn't want a cat video on their lockscreen!?

I mean, look at it:

Oh, sweet battery life 

I'm a heavy user, and I'm almost always doing something on my phone. It's a really bad habit, I know, but it's just how I fly these days. Samsung phones have hardly lasted me more than a day and I'm almost certain that up until I got the Note 9, no other Galaxy device could last me a second day even with extreme battery-saving measures in play. Thank God for that 4,000mAh battery at the rear, which give me the peace of mind to enable the WQHD+ resolution of the display, turn up the screen brightness a bit, leave the Always-On Display at maximum brightness, and have all other features of the phone enabled without having to worry that the battery will die on me during the day. Galaxy phones have never had wow-worthy battery life, but the Note 9 is alright in my book. 

It elevated the power-user in me

Admittedly, the Note 9 is a power-user's dream, and while my ego is not big enough to label myself as such, I really feel like the phone urged me and pushed me to make full use of all its little productivity features scattered around the interface. Using the S Pen to easily add little edits to certain images in Photoshop Mix and Fix, as well as unleashing my amateurish artsy side in Photoshop Sketch and PENUP felt so natural and intuitive that I now find myself fidgeting around with the bottom right portion of each phone I touch, looking for an S Pen stylus. Using the accessory for quick note-taking when the screen is off proved to be an immensely useful albeit underrated feature when you're in a relative hurry and can't for the life of you find a pen and some paper lying around. Yes, I am still one of those people that write faster the old-fashioned way and can't deal with auto-correct while in a hurry. Additionally, pinning notes to the Always-On Display is a great way to do your shopping in style.

You might also find it a bit funny, but I found myself using the Note 9 with the DeX dock, and... the experience was not as bad as I anticipated it to be. Using your phone in a desktop-like interface felt very intuitive and familiar, but what really surprised me was that I actually enjoyed working on such a setup. Yes, I worked from my phone for three days in DeX mode and lived to tell the tale: the phone coped with my heavy browsing, multi-tasking, word processing, and some basic image editing workflow  admirably. It's not advanced enough to fully replace a PC, not at all: it's a very niche functionality but I think that Samsung's definitely on the right track when it comes to boosting up a phone's functionality.

However, not all is roses. There are a few things that either annoyed me or left me indifferent. As we have to take the good with the bad, I feel that I should mention what Note 9 features I developed a disdain for: 

What I disliked about the Note 9

The haptic feedback

As my co-worker and friend Paul pointed out, Android manufacturers love to make excellent phones... and then put a totally-disappointing  buzzer inside that feels tinny and simply begs you to disable vibration feedback. The Note 9's vibration motor is not exactly tinny by any means, but it is certainly lagging a bit behind your interactions with the screen.  To you, this could either be a non-existent or a really petty problem, but to me, it's a major gripe I have with the phone. Having played around with the LG V30 and the Pixel 3, I know that good Android vibration feedback certainly exists, but Samsung is just not there yet, and unless we as customers provide it with the respective feedback, we'll likely never see improvements in the, uh, haptic feedback.

The camera 

This might come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but the Note 9's camera isn't very good, especially when you compare it with some other Android devices like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Pixel 3 XL. My personal gripes with it are the not-so-great HDR feature, which almost always burns out the highlights of the image or makes up for a rather mundane and underexposed photo, and I also can't get over how soft images turn out in low-light conditions. Admittedly, I expected more of the Galaxy Note 9's and was left slightly disappointed from the results I got, making me enviously look in the neighbor's garden more often than I'd care to admit.

Intelligent scan is just a failure

I wear glasses, and although my face and irises has been scanned with and without glasses TWICE during the initial setup process, Samsung's Intelligent Scan feature still takes its sweet, sweet time to unlock the phone. I hate reaching out to the fingerprint scanner at the rear and I am often forced to fall back to this biometric sensor when I'm in a hurry and Intelligent Scan simply doesn't cut it in terms of speed and responsiveness. A useful in-display fingerprint scanner can't come soon enough.

Related phones

Galaxy Note 9
  • Display 6.4" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Octa-core, 2800 MHz
  • Storage 512 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4000 mAh(29h 3G talk time)



1. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 674; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

Sounds like you absolutely loved it overall. Cool. I'm a fan as well.

2. limporgyuk

Posts: 357; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

I am another Note 9 & customisation lover, Good Lock is a fantastic app and shoould be adopted by other OEMs

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 30971; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Some of my good lock stuff is currently unplugged, can't wait to get some of those features back. Customization is great, and you don't know, till you have it.

3. Jishnusur

Posts: 173; Member since: Oct 07, 2013

I just bought a note 9 a couple of days back. I was using a op5 before. The intelligent scan works fine though, it has failed only once till now. I love the display and the speakers

4. geordie8t1

Posts: 287; Member since: Nov 16, 2015

My gripe seems to be with the 2xzoom setting, whenever i zoom or use the 2x button the camera physically starta vibrating and makes a sound, the image is all distorted, there is a mechanical fail issue on mine, samsung have yet to respond, also the paint is flaking on my device near the power button and also at the s pen slot, again this has still to be addressed by samsung

5. peter.k

Posts: 76; Member since: Jul 05, 2017

Hmm, sounds like you got a fluke. Sorry, man!

10. geordie8t1

Posts: 287; Member since: Nov 16, 2015

Yea it is a known issue, the camera issue i mean, to be fair whenever I have had issues in the past Samsung have usually honoured any repairs or replacements free of charge and as my phone was bought in late november, its still pretty new so I suspect i should have no issues on repairing or replacing again.

6. maherk

Posts: 6773; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I agree with every point you made, the ones you loved and the ones you hated. My biggest disappointment was definitely the camera, it was such a let down after months of using Huawei flagships(P20 and Mate 20 Pro), it's a very good shooter, but definitely not a top 3 and I doubt it's even a top 5 camera smartphone.

12. darkkjedii

Posts: 30971; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Yeah bro, the samples you sent me from the PDub were awesome.

7. cmdacos

Posts: 4110; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Gcam mods definitely help make a good camera great, especially with night sight but can't fault anything in this review. Intelligent scan works well for me but I understand for some it doesn't.

16. peter.k

Posts: 76; Member since: Jul 05, 2017

For the life of me, I couldn't make GCam work with the Note 9 (I have the Exynos version). It always works for 3 seconds and force-closes.

46. cmdacos

Posts: 4110; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

I had similar issues on the QC version but this latest mod has been real good and apparently works well with the Exynos version. https://amp-reddit-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/amp.reddit.com/r/GalaxyNote9/comments/a9gs4x/google_camera_with_night_sight_for_note_9/?usqp=mq331AQECAEoAQ%3D%3D&_js_v=0.1

51. nodes

Posts: 1158; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

and it takes forever to process the photo. great result, but terrible experience using it.

8. Xxtoxicskittlexx

Posts: 189; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

On point review. Thank you.

9. Soundjudgment

Posts: 370; Member since: Oct 10, 2016

Another down-side to mention: The unassignable Bixby-Button.

19. starche

Posts: 8; Member since: Jun 27, 2017

Not really. Get yourself bxActions - Bixby Button Remapper. When I used to have Samsung, that's the very first app I installed. I used that button to start camera.

21. peter.k

Posts: 76; Member since: Jul 05, 2017

Yep, I used it for the Google Assistant, because the camera can already be started by quickly tapping the power button twice.

25. starche

Posts: 8; Member since: Jun 27, 2017

Whatever app or action you want to assign to it. And I agree - that should be built-in

11. darkkjedii

Posts: 30971; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I can totally respect your review, I do like the camera very much though. My love for the camera is more for the features, than the quality. Quality is fine for my preference, but one thing I love is the full screen view finder mode, that completely eliminates the top and bottom borders. I hate that Samsung did away with dual camera mode, but APKmirror can give it right back. The Note 9 is the best phone (I've) used. I don't speak on what I haven't used.

20. Xxtoxicskittlexx

Posts: 189; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

What do you mean they did away with dual camera mode? Just got pie. So want to make sure I understand what feature to look for? Thanks!

27. darkkjedii

Posts: 30971; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Using the front and rear cams at the same time, not as in portrait mode.

14. bucknassty

Posts: 1325; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

totally agree with you... the vibration needs a haptic style motor and the intelligent scan needs to be improved... i wear glasses too and it works best when i have contacts in.... i guess you can say it's doing its job if it doesnt recognize me, which is the whole point of the safety aspect

15. dimas

Posts: 3347; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Your customization is dope! You also got me with cat wallpaper.

23. sissy246

Posts: 7081; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Great review I didn't get the note 9 but, i can't wait to get my note 10.

30. 7thlvl

Posts: 59; Member since: Dec 09, 2018

Cute Kitty! I want a Note 9. I tried to use T mobile jump program to trade my s8 in for it. The guy at the store told me I needed $200 down and my almost paid off s8. I've been a customer for over 10 years the fact that I have to put a down payment is an insult. The prices of these flagship phones have gone up so much that the T mobile jump program is basically useless now. I am sad.

38. Leo_MC

Posts: 7214; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Note is - maybe - the greatest Android device but it's one of the dullest flagships of 2018. Just like with XS: you can't go wrong, using it, but it's just a "meh" device.

42. Fellwalker

Posts: 535; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

I got a note 9 in September to replace a Huawei Mate 9. Unfortunately the Mate 9 wouldn't update (due to Huawei misregistering it) , so it would not work with android auto. That was all I was upset about. Otherwise a great phone. The Note 9 has similar features - fast fingerprint unlock, as good battery life, good photos, good WiFi and mobile reception. The s pen is wonderful even if only used occasionally. It just adds another dimension. The sound is average. I've not found the apps edge even slightly useful. The new UI looks child-like. I detest the screen curved edges, and how narrow it is. From reflections, and missing icons near the edge, to being impossible to use the pen at the edge. Web pages, magazines and books are all poorly displayed compared to the Mate and any of my previous phones. Turning it landscape just means it Is too shallow. Typing when it is landscape gives just such a stupidly wide keyboard.

45. GoTstan

Posts: 386; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

I agree with landscape keyboard, it is too wide lol, never use it

44. GoTstan

Posts: 386; Member since: Jul 25, 2015

I forgot what haptic feedback feels like, I turn off all of those battery draining features, along with stuff in developer options

56. brasstax

Posts: 541; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

If I am not mistaken that home screen is done with Nova Launcher and not One UI. Also out of the box I honestly feel EMUI and MIUI are hands down the most customizable interfaces though not everyone's cup of tea.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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