Samsung on Wednesday unveiled the Galaxy S10 lineup, hence officially announcing an Android flagship series that has been leaking online like crazy for about half a year now.
While the new range comes with few surprises in terms of looks and many of the technologies it takes advantage of have already been reported about to great extent, the sheer volume of new solutions and improvements makes this product family one for the history books. The Galaxy S10 may not be the first to utilize many new solutions and concepts that are part of this high-end package but in overall, the device represents arguably the largest annual tech upgrade ever delivered in the smartphone era.
As Samsung has no issues of being a trend-setter even during its quieter years when it’s playing it safe and only focusing on incremental product upgrades, the Galaxy S10 line will almost certainly play a decisive role in the mobile industry’s 2019 efforts, so understanding what makes it tick and why it looks and acts the way it does is crucial if you’re likely to be shopping for an ultra-premium Android handset in the near future.
Notches are for kids
The most obvious novelty comes in the form of the new Infinity-O displays which are Samsung’s response to screen notches have been making smartphone screens less attractive since late 2017, at least if you ask the vocal portion of electronics enthusiasts. Much like the name implies, the new modules avoid asymmetrical edges by utilizing circular cutouts giving way to front-facing cameras.
The Galaxy S10e and Galaxy S10 sport one such hole each, whereas the Galaxy S10+ is equipped with two of them as it ships with a dual-camera setup. The former two devices can be differentiated based on their displays – a 5.8-inch flat panel versus a 6.1-inch curved one, as well as the fact that the Galaxy S10e uses a dual-camera setup on the back instead of a three-lens system.
The new Dynamic Super AMOLED screens gracing (most of) the new Android flagships from Samsung are unsurprisingly its best yet; consequently being the absolute pinnacle of what the handset segment ever delivered. That’s not even according to Samsung but well-known calibration experts at DisplayMate. Much of the new viewing improvements are attributed to the line’s HDR10+ certification, another industry first. Yet another precedent-setting feature is HDR10+ capture support of the Galaxy S10’s rear camera system but to be frank, while this particular standard may only now be entering the market, Samsung is a year late to the mobile HDR recording game.
Raising the variety bar by a degree or ten
Another eye-drawing selling point of the Galaxy s10 range is the pure variety Samsung is putting on offer this year. The something-for-everyone mantra sure is an overused cliché at this point, yet there’s no better way to describe what Samsung put forward today, so let’s break this down.
The newly unveiled product family consists of three base models planned for global releases: the Galaxy S10e, 10, and S10+. All of them will be available in at least two distinct memory configurations and four colors in Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, and Pri-Flamingo Pink. The Galaxy S10+ is the poster boy of the new Android family, so it’s no surprise it’s getting two additional colors: Ceramic White and Ceramic Black. And yes, those names imply true alternatives to conventional metal-and-glass builds.
While Samsung has yet to confirm that, it’s basically a guarantee that even though the basic four colors will span all three models, they may not include all six memory configurations. Even if they do that may not be the case in all markets and even if it is, Samsung is unlikely to release virtually every single memory-and-color combination in every single region.
As if that’s not enough, this year’s lineup also includes the Galaxy S10 5G whose name only reveals one of its many unique selling points. This particular handset has so far only been confirmed for the United States and South Korea but let’s return to it in a bit. First, let’s break down the Galaxy S10-series smartphones you’ll actually be able to buy and fully leverage no matter what.
Galaxy S10e: Many steps forward but one baffling step back
The Galaxy S10e is as close to an “affordable” Samsung flagship as one can expect to get in the Android era. It marks the company’s return to high-end flat screens after three years of exclusive curved-panel focus and surprisingly even downgrades the standard QHD resolution of the tech giant’s premium offerings to an FHD+ one. For added context, this is the first high-end Samsung handset not to support QHD or greater resolutions since the Galaxy S5. Yes, the display tech got much better in the meantime but still; half. A. Decade. Old.
Moving beyond the 5.8-inch display with a 19:9 aspect ratio (522ppi), the Galaxy S10 features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, or at least the models manufactured for the United States, Canada, Mexico, and China do. The rest of its variants (easily identified by model numbers ending with an “F”) use Samsung’ very own Exynos 9820. This same distinction holds true for the Galaxy S10 and S10+ as well; by most accounts, the 7nm Snapdragon silicon outperforms the new Exynos chip, though the differences between the two aren’t significant enough to suggest they’ll be noticeable during real-world use, except maybe when it comes to heavy graphics rendering.
The front camera is a 10-megapixel affair with an f/1.9 lens and pixel autofocus, whereas the system on the back uses a wide-angle 12-megapixel module with variable aperture (f/1.5-f/2.4) and a 16-megapixel (f/2.2) ultra-wide unit, both of which are optically stabilized. A 3,100mAh battery is part of the package, together with One UI, Samsung’s take on Google’s Android 9 Pie running on all Galaxy S10 devices.
It does away with the rear-planted fingerprint sensor introduced with the Galaxy S8 range in early 2017 but doesn’t replace it with cutting-edge tech used by its siblings. Instead, the Galaxy S10e sports a fingerprint sensor inside of its side-mounted power button, à la contemporary Sony phones. The handset is extremely compact due to the compromises outlined above, measuring in at just 69.9 x 142.2 x 7.9mm and tipping the scales at 150g. It lacks a rear-facing fingerprint sensor
The Galaxy S10e will be sold in 6GB/128Gb and 8GB/256GB variants, starting at $749 in the U.S. Unlike its larger counterparts, no pre-order bonuses have been mentioned alongside this particular device, not accounting for Samsung’s long-running trade-in program which allows you to save up to $550 on your next Android purchase.
Galaxy S10: The one you’ll actually buy
The model with the most vanilla name of the lot uses a curved 6.1-inch QHD+ screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio and the best pixel density in the entire family – 550ppi. Its front camera is identical to that of the Galaxy S10e, whereas the system on the back introduces a 12-megapixel camera with a telephoto lens (f/2.4), hence quadrupling the base model’s optical zooming capabilities to 2x magnification.
The Galaxy S10 is 70.4 x 149.9 x 7.8mm in size, weighs 157g, uses a 3,400mAh battery, and will provide you with a choice between 128Gb and 512GB of storage space – both options come with 8GB of RAM. Much like the S10e and S10+, the S10 has a microSD card slot accepting up to 512GB of external storage; presumably even more but Samsung never saw a point in advertising tech consumers can’t use yet.
An unlocked Galaxy S10 will start at $899.99 in the U.S. and Samsung will reward all American consumers who place a pre-order with a pair of new Galaxy Buds whose retail price is planned to amount to $129.99. The same promo applies to all S10+ pre-orders in the country.
Compared to the S10e, the S10 offers an industry-first ultrasonic fingerprint reader which is essentially guaranteed to outperform technologically inferior optical solutions from the likes of Huawei and OnePlus, both in terms of speed and accuracy, i.e. the rate of false positives or security.
Galaxy S10+: The one you’ll be seeing on all the posters
The (base iteration of the) Galaxy S10+ isn’t more expensive than the Galaxy Note 9 but Samsung appears to be on well on its way toward preparing us for that scenario in the near future. In the meantime, this is probably the best device you’ll be able to get at a $1,000 price point this spring.
The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel of the handset offers a pixel density of 438ppi in a 19:9 aspect ratio and is backed by a 4,100mAh battery. Its rear imaging setup is the same but that massive display houses an extra front sensor with an 8-megapixel resolution which sits behind a slightly narrower f/2.2 lens. As you might suspect from those specs, this is a depth module meant to help the Galaxy S10+ generate a natural bokeh for selfies and identify users in a swifter manner. No, the rumored time-of-flight sensor didn’t make the cut so AR Emoji will probably continue being horrible (there’s a “but” here but not this one – wait for it).
A move to a slightly taller aspect ratio should help consumers maintain a grip on this phablet that measures in at 74.1 x 157.6 x 7.8mm and weighs 175g, or 198g if you opt for the ceramic variant. Furthermore, if the two memory combos offered by the S10 aren’t enough, the S10+ also has a third variant with 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for a maximum overkill effect.
All three members of the Galaxy S10 family come with improved wireless charging support that’s both faster and supports Wireless PowerShare, a feature that allows you to charge gadgets as old as the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy Note 7 by simply placing them on top of Samsung’s latest Android flagships. Unfortunately, the company continues to resist the latest wired charging standards and even generation-old ones (and associated licenses), so as far as USB-C is concerned, expect Quick Charge 2.0 speeds once again.
And yes, the 3.5mm jack survived but wasn’t mentioned in any shape or form by Samsung, not even in the offiical spec sheet provided to the media. Given how the same document lists literally every other characteristic of the new range under the sun, including its ability to play .3G2 and .ASF files, the omission does appear to be telling of Samsung’s future plans, not that it’s the first sign of trouble on that front.
Galaxy S10 5G: The one that makes things really confusing
If you exist, chances are you won’t have any reliable 5G networks in your vicinity until next year at the earliest, but that surely didn’t stop Samsung from releasing a special-edition Galaxy S10 simply called the S10 5G.
Besides the ridiculous 6.7-inch (19:9) AMOLED panel offering a (W)QHD+ resolution and curved edges, this crazy piece of tech sports four rear-mounted cameras: the triple-lens system used by its (seemingly) inferior siblings and a qHVGA solution for depth-sensing. Yes, “real” three-dimensional imagery, powered by Samsung’s in-house technologies, at that.
It’s not heavier than the ceramic S10+ at 198g but it sure is larger, with its dimensions amounting to 77.1 x 162.6 x 7.94mm. That’s partly due to the inclusion of a 4,500mAh battery which itself is meant to offset some of the energy-hungry 5G connectivity that will be rolling out in select locations over the course of this year.
Another 3D sensor can be found on the front of the Galaxy S10 5G, taking the place of the RGB module used by the S10+. An ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is included as well, together with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space. That’s right, this isn’t the ultimate Galaxy S10 model after all, unless you care about everyday 5G in 2019 (you shouldn’t). Best of all, it will set you back around $1,500 and will be a timed Verizon exclusive, whereas AT&T, Spectrum Mobile, Sprint, T-Mobile and Xfinity Mobile will only start selling it in the second half of the year.
The Galaxy S10 5G is also the only one from the lot that won’t be offered with a microSD card slot and won’t have dual-SIM iterations but it will deliver 25W charging which the other models seemingly weren’t deemed worthy of. Whether Samsung ends up explaining how all these differences came to be remains to be seen but one thing is sure – you’ll be hearing a lot more about the Galaxy S10 range, what makes it tick, and how the industry will be affected by it in the coming hours, days, and months.