Galaxy S10 Preview: Samsung Adamant To Reclaim Android Tech Lead

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This early look at the Galaxy S10 series is being regularly updated to reflect on the latest information and rumors about Samsung's upcoming Android flagships. Its last revision was made on February 15.

Last year has been rather poor by Samsung's standards, with the company missing out on revenue and profit targets, partially due to a decline in smartphone sales. The Galaxy S9 and Note 9 lineups didn't perform particularly well and Samsung is now understood to be making an all-in bet on the Galaxy S10 range in terms of innovations, with the idea being to provide consumers with a comprehensive package full of industry-first features which delivers a notable upgrade over the previous product generation, something it apparently failed to do last year. While some still point to the Galaxy Note 9 as the best 2018 handset in overall, the latest mobile race was a lot closer than what Samsung is used to, especially given how much Huawei improved its high-end phablets with the latest P- and Mate-branded devices.

That state of affairs is why the Galaxy S10 is now shaping up to be Samsung's most ambitious handset yet, with recent reports being indicative of massive improvements across the board meant to illustrate how Samsung wants to reclaim its undisputed leading status in the flagship segment. Here's everything there is to know about the upcoming Android smartphone series which will become available for purchase this spring.

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Debuting sooner than expected

Samsung already confirmed its next Unpacked event is taking place on February 20 and while no specific product families were named as part of that announcement, insiders and industry watchers are in agreement that the happening is meant to be the launch vehicle for the Galaxy S10. The date pushes its debut five days ahead of Mobile World Congress, a Barcelona-based trade show where Samsung traditionally launches new additions to the Galaxy S family.

The Galaxy S10 should still be available for hands-on sessions at the Spanish event and is expected to be released by mid-March. Being Samsung's main flagship line of the year, the company should be leveraging the full power of its distribution network and make the Galaxy S10 range available for purchase on a global level.

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A powerhouse in every sense

While Samsung improved last year's Galaxy S9 range in terms of performance, the jump provided by the new devices should be much more significant. Both the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and Samsung's own Exynos 9820 chip debut new process nodes with more transistors per a given area – the former uses a 7nm process, whereas the latter is based on 8nm technology. In practice, the improvement should deliver notable benefits in the energy efficiency department. As far as raw processing power is concerned, the Snapdragon 855 variants of the Galaxy S10-series devices may be superior when it comes to rendering graphics, at least given early benchmarks, though consumers are unlikely to notice any difference in everyday use. Much like it was the case in recent years, the new Galaxy S flagships using Qualcomm-made silicon will be sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and China, whereas the rest of the world will be getting models using Samsung's in-house chips.

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Not accounting for memory configurations that are bound to be plentiful, the South Korean company will be releasing four main members of the Galaxy S10 family. The entry-level model was previously rumored to be launching as the Galaxy S10 Lite (SM-G970), though one newer report claims it will actually be called the Galaxy S10 E. It will sport a newer chip, a 128GB storage base, and a more capable triple-camera setup compared to the Galaxy S9 but is otherwise likely to be almost identical to its 5.8-inch predecessor, save for one final difference dissected below. The regular Galaxy S10 (SM-G973) will instead use a 6.1-inch Super AMOLED display and offer 6GB of RAM, as well as the same starting storage configuration. The Galaxy S10+ (SM-G975) is rumored to be equipped with a 6.4-inch screen (less reliable rumors even point to a 6.7-inch one), up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash memory, though its most affordable variant should still be using a 6GB/128GB combo.

Samsung's (poorly guarded) "surprise" for this year is another device that will essentially be a Galaxy S10+ with support for 5G networks, a new wireless standard that's set to start being deployed for commercial use over the course of this year. This particular phablet is rumored to be advertised as the Galaxy S10 X and will also have several memory configurations, starting at 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage and going up to a 12GB/1TB setup. And yes, the latter will be insanely expensive but more on that below.

The only disappointment in the specs department is expected to come in the form of the actual memory types Samsung will be using; while numerous reports already suggested the Galaxy S10 will mark the company's foray into consumer-grade LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.0 storage, that won't be happening until the Galaxy Note 10 at the earliest, according to a new claim from an established source.

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How do you make something more "infinite?"

Hardly a pretty photo but still the first "real" look at a Galaxy S10 prototype.

Samsung's Infinity Display series of Super AMOLED panels pushed the entire mobile industry into an aggressive pursuit of bezel-less designs two years ago and the Galaxy S10 will now be taking things one step further. The new line will utilize Infinity-O modules Samsung already presented at its developer conference in November, featuring cutouts for front-facing cameras that allow the company to continue pushing for even more impressive screen-to-body ratios without resorting to more traditional notches, a polarizing element of contemporary handsets. The firm technically already commercialized this look with the Galaxy A8s but the new Galaxy S generation will be debuting it on a global stage and with actually premium modules supporting QHD+ resolutions. The latest iteration of the Infinity series will also replace the unique 18.5:9 ratio with a more common 19:9 one that's usually used by notch-equipped smartphone screens.

The clearest "real" look at the Galaxy S10 range emerged online in early January, having been shared by industry insider Evan Blass. Besides screen sizes, the mobile family should also differ in the front-facing camera department as the Galaxy S10+ is expected to sport two sensors and hence have a larger display cutout. The Galaxy S10 E will also mark Samsung's return to flat high-end smartphone screens which it abandoned after the Galaxy S7 launched almost three years ago. The entry-level model will also be the only member of the new series that won't be embracing an in-display fingerprint reader. The other two should feature such a scanner but instead of going with optical sensors like some manufacturers such as Huawei and OnePlus did, they'll be using more accurate (read: secure) ultrasonic readers which are also faster and can work with wet fingertips.

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The video above is technically a compilation of concept renders but appears to be largely in line with what credible insiders have been saying about the Galaxy S10 range for months now. On the other hand, the gallery below doesn't provide a clear view of every single design feature of the new handsets as it comes from a mobile accessory vendor but remains the most high-resolution look at the phones to date. In overall, the new Infinity-O tech is expected to be the basis for the look all new Samsung-made devices will be embracing until at least 2021 while the company continues to work on figuring out how to make truly bezel-free devices.

Three-eyed, maven

While reports on the actual camera specifications of the Galaxy S10 phablets remain somewhat conflicting, it appears the curved-screen models will use an identical system on the back, sporting 12-, 13-, and 16-megapixel sensors. The rear modules of the Galaxy S10 E are a bigger mystery, as are the front-facing sensors of the upcoming flagships, with the only exception being the Galaxy S10+ that will almost certainly be using two selfie cameras. Samsung reportedly hasn't given up on AR Emoji even though it completely dropped it from its advertising efforts following the debut of the Galaxy S9 and the underwhelming response to it from the general public and consumers. Whether that means at least some Galaxy S10-series devices will be utilizing a specialized sensor akin to what the Xiaomi Mi 9 and Apple's last two iPhone generations have remains to be seen but without three-dimensional mapping, it's unlikely that the company can do much to improve the overall experience of the said gimmicky feature.

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While some industry rumors already suggested a number of Galaxy S10-series devices will indeed be offering what's essentially self-driving technology that allows them to accurately measure depth in real time, hence making AR Emoji less horrible and even enabling improvements someone might actually care about, reports on the matter are highly inconsistent. The physical restrictions of Infinity-O panels also make any such potential implementation a massive technical challenge since the technology for mass-producing functional imaging tech sitting beneath a display simply isn't ready yet. Then again, that's far from the craziest claim about the Galaxy S10 that's been circulating the industry in recent times. After all, there have already been rumblings about light rings and five-lens camera setups.

A new approach to Android – again

The Galaxy S10 range will almost certainly be launching with One UI, Samsung's latest implementation of Google's operating system – Android 9 Pie. The software has been available in beta for several months now and even started rolling out to Samsung's 2018 handsets in some European countries, though the builds used by the incoming devices should offer some exclusive features, as has always been the case with Samsung's generational jumps in the high-end mobile space.

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The company already attempted explaining its convoluted train of thought that prompted it to completely rethink its mobile software, revealing that it wanted to place a larger focus on one-handed use, something that's growing into a challenge for many manufacturers as the industry keeps insisting on making handsets larger (or taller since 2017). And while initial reactions to One UI have been largely positive, the fact remains that this absolute revamp of Samsung's mobile software strategy came less than two years after – the last absolute revamp of Samsung's mobile software strategy. In other words, it's difficult to predict where Samsung will move from here as the company itself doesn't appear to be sure and while a pattern of continuous major changes is not necessarily a bad thing, it does raise consistency concerns. After all, Samsung wants consumers to upgrade their handsets every year but is now also making them largely relearn how to use them every other one.

And no, despite yet another complete overhaul of its Android OS implementation, Samsung definitely isn't abandoning Bixby, though it is promising its AI-powered voice assistant will be getting a lot better in 2019. Then again, that's the same tune it's been singing since Bixby's debut nearly two years ago and while some improvements have been made, the service is still largely inferior to alternative solutions when it comes to anything but managing Samsung devices. In other words, those who already find Bixby useful will likely have something to look forward to but Samsung is unlikely to offer any new incentives to consumers who stayed away from the voice assistant so far.

The ever-looming spirit of the Galaxy Note 7

Despite the abundance of new technologies the Galaxy S10 range will be debuting, Samsung reportedly won't be going too crazy in the battery department as it's still wary of repeating the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco even as the world largely moved on. The 5G-ready Galaxy S10+ model should be the best member of the line in this regard as it's rumored to offer a 5,000mAh battery. The rest of the range shouldn't be too different in terms of cell capacities but is expected to offer superior battery life due to more efficient processing enabled by the latest and greatest chips. In terms of actual capacities, the Galaxy S10 E is expected to sport a 3,000mAh battery, while the Galaxy S10 is rumored to have a 3,500mAh one. The LTE-only Galaxy S10+ will most likely be fueled by a 4,000mAh power source, according to several credible sources.

While the introduction of an "affordable" flagship in the form of the Galaxy S10 E will likely see Samsung's main high-end line return to a starting price of around $700, the series as a whole is still expected to be extremely expensive, going up to around $1,600 for the best Galaxy S10 X model. Given the underwhelming sales of last year's high-end devices, Samsung and its carrier partners are more likely to offer some aggressive pre-order incentives to consumers, though those deals will heavily differ depending on the country and network operator in question.

Whether the world's largest handset manufacturer will manage to regain the momentum it lost in 2018 remains to be seen but as things stand right now, the Galaxy S10 family is shaping up to be its most innovative smartphone generation to date, at least in terms of the sheer number of annual improvements it will be debuting.

Update [January 24]: Industry watcher are growing more befuddled as someone appears to have mistaken certain model numbers, leading to hilariously conflicting reports on the Galaxy S10 line's projected battery life.

At the same time, the series is understood to be amazingly varied in terms of both color and pricing, with a single Galaxy S10 X supposedly going for the equivalent of two Galaxy S10 E models.

This Thursday was a great day for Galaxy 10 leaks in overall, largely because it delivered by far the clearest look at the upcoming Android flagships to date.

Update [January 23]: The Galaxy S10 lineup will feature "reverse wireless charging" support advertised as Powershare, according to a new report.

A separate leak is indicative of some kind of a cryptocurrency wallet being part of the incoming Android flagships package as well.

Update [January 22]: Not long after getting out of prison as part of a plot twist worthy of a novel, Samsung's heir apparent Jay Y. Lee reportedly started showing a surprising amount of interest in the Galaxy S10 series, going as far as to insist the new gadgets have cutting-edge camera technologies, insiders claim. It's understood news and rumros about unannounced Samsung smartphones are rarely encountered and difficult to obtain in South Korean prisons.

Update [January 21]: Triple rear cameras will be included on both "main" Galaxy S10 models, a known insider claimed earlier today.

Shortly thereafter, some keen eyes and stubborn minds used the latest build of the Samsung Pay app to ruin one of the most public secrets in the industry – Samsung's new high-end handsets will offer in-display fingerprint readers.

Update [January 30]: The majority of the Galaxy S10 series is already in mass-production, with the only exception being the heavily rumored 5G member of the portfolio, insiders claim. It's currently unclear whether that will affect its planned release window.

On the bright side, it appears Samsung's next take on a contemporary Android flagship won't disappoint in terms of battery life, at least if the latest rumors are to be believed; after all, several insiders already claimed the exact opposite.

Update [January 31]: An Ice Blue variant of the Galaxy S10+ will be released in the United States, as suggested by the first "official" leak of Samsung's incoming gadgets.

Update [February 1]: Even the "budget" member of Samsung's upcoming range will debut as one of the most expensive devices on the market, a new report indicates.

At the same time, an industry insider obtained several new renders of Samsung's next Android flagships which appear to be in line with their previous sightings.

Update [Februrary 4]: An FCC certificate confirmed the Galaxy S10 line's ability to charge select devices wirelessly.