You can customize certain actions, like long-pressing the S Pen button. By default, that opens the camera (even when the Note 9 is asleep). Double click to switch over to the front camera, and click it once to snap a picture. Barring some trouble it had registering a double click, everything went smoothly.
Helpfully, the Note 9 displays a round badge with a pen symbol that you can hover over with the stylus to see what actions are available (double click to see next photo in Gallery, for instance). Then, you can enable these for individual apps in the settings. Even at this early stage, the S Pen's remote controls feel well thought out.
Everything else about the S Pen works more or less the same as its predecessor -- you'll still have useful tools like Air Command and Translate, as well as the ever-entertaining Live Message.
The Note 9 borrows the camera from the S9 Plus. That means it has the same Dual Aperture feature that opens up the lens to f/1.5, letting in more light. There's also the Dual Pixel autofocus that makes capturing sharp shots easier and faster, and from the few photos I took during our hands-on, Samsung's cameras continue to be excellent. Granted, we were in a nicely lit room with colorful props, so we'll have to see how it fares in a real world environment.
I also had a little help from a new camera feature called "Scene Optimizer." It's basically Samsung's answer to Huawei's and LG's AI photography software, and is enabled by default (you can deactivate it). It works more or less the same way: point your phone at what you want to capture, and the Note 9 will detect what's in the scene, then tweak settings like brightness, white balance and saturation to get you an Instagram-ready image.
Samsung's interface is similar to Huawei's -- a badge appears at the bottom of the viewfinder to show you what the phone recognized, and the edits are instantly applied before you hit the shutter. From what I saw off the demo Note 9, its AI goes for more subtle tweaks than Huawei's, which had a tendency to overdo it on saturation and contrast. Samsung's AI only gently bumped up contrast and saturation for subjects like food and flowers.
The Note 9 also has a new software trick called Flaw Detection, where the camera notices whether your subject blinked, your lens is smudged or your scene is backlit, and prompts you to take another photo. It's similar to what some other phones like the Pixel 2 already do when they suggest you clean your lens, but Samsung takes this a step further. I didn't get to test this very much at the demo, so we'll have to wait and see just how effective it is.