The Galaxy s10 is the phone that ticks all the boxes
Even-numbered devices have historically spelled big changes for Samsung, and the Galaxy S10 family is no different. Coming in three models this time around, the Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, and Galaxy S10+ all represent a fundamental change for Samsung in almost every way possible.
The basic design of the phones is similar to the past few years, but the metal and glass sandwich is now more screen than ever with an over 90% screen-to-body ratio, and Samsung’s play at using a cut-out instead of a notch is seemingly a better choice in every way. While the perspective of this review mainly comes from using a Galaxy S10+, know that the experience is essentially identical on the Galaxy S10, albeit with a 6.1-inch screen and a single camera cutout in place of the 6.4-inch screen with dual-camera cutouts on the Galaxy S10+.
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While Samsung has made some amazing advancements in hardware over the years, that’s not truly what makes the Galaxy S10 family stand out from the pack. Instead, the software is the highlight of the Galaxy S10 experience, but maybe not for the reason you initially think. Instead of the usual big headliner feature or some groundbreaking new ability, Samsung is giving users more creative freedom than ever on these phones.
Just as we highlighted in the Galaxy Note 9 review, Samsung has gone all out for the Galaxy S10 family by relaunching its Good Lock app. This is an app you have to download (from the Galaxy Apps store), but it's now a must-have for Galxy S10 owners and especially since the latest version comes with full Android 9 Pie support. To get the best experience possible from owning a Galaxy S10, Good Lock should be one of the first apps you download when setting up the device.
Arguably, the same is true for anyone currently purchasing a compatible Samsung smartphone.
Good Lock turns Samsung’s phones into the most customizable phones on the market, allowing you to change every aspect of the phone’s UI design and colors, navigational aspects, multi-tasking settings and abilities, on-the-fly custom audio changes with a robust equalizer at your fingertips, and plenty more.
The Good Lock Family, as Samsung refers to it on its store, is a full suite of tools that will almost certainly cover every niche for users looking to give their phone a unique look and feel.
It’s also important to note that Good Lock allows users to fully change parts of the UI design and operation that they don’t like, which is a must in the Android 9 Pie-powered OneUI. This is a very different design vision than we've seen in the past from Samsung and will likely throw quite a few people for a loop. While OneUI represents a beautiful change to Samsung’s design language, it’s not all positive changes and will likely irritate plenty of people if it weren’t for this app.
Right off the bat, I found myself changing out Android 9 Pie’s terrible multitasking Overview screen for one of the dozen different options Samsung provides within Good Lock. I also dropped the stock navigation bar for Samsung’s wonderful side-slide gestures in One Hand Operation+, which even provides a brand new mini task switcher that gives powerful one-hand access to switch between the last 8 running apps.
There’s even robust customization of the quick panels and the navigation bar, allowing for custom colors, icons, actions, you name it. This is particularly important since Samsung has now done away with free themes in its theme store, much to the outcry of users, and while it’s not as full-fledged as a theme would be, it’s still a better option for those who would rather not pay money for a new look.
It’s a brilliant suite of apps that are not unique to the Galaxy S10 but are a necessity all the same and perfectly augment the positives that Samsung’s new OneUI brings to the table.
Samsung fixed a lot of Android 9 Pie’s design issues with OneUI, but one of the things I’ve been happiest about is the resurgence of proper quick toggles, which provides a way to quickly access settings without needlessly navigating away from what you’re doing. Click the words under the icon, change your setting and then swipe back up to dismiss the setting to return to what you were doing.
Google ruined the idea of "quick toggles" in stock Android 9 Pie by making them overly simple 'on and off' toggles. The only way to actually select more options is to long-press these icons and navigate away from the app you're currently using, defeating the purpose of "quick toggles" in their entirety. Samsung fixed this and we're very, very happy about it.
A Glass Phone You're Less Likely to Drop
On the hardware design front, this is certainly Samsung’s sleekest phone to date, yet it draws some super interesting parallels to the 2017 LG V30 that make it a more attractive phone than last year’s S9 family. The glass back features a less slippery finish than other glass phones and feels similar to what LG uses on its glass phones. This gives the Galaxy S10 line a higher quality feel than previous Samsung designs.
Comparing it to the Note 9, you’ll find the Galaxy S10+ is thinner by a full millimeter, as well as a few dozen grams lighter despite having a slightly larger battery.
This larger battery will get you through a full day without issue, no matter how much you use the phone.
It also houses a new reverse charging wireless coil that can both accept and give a wireless charge, making it an easy way to wirelessly charge those new Galaxy Buds earphones. The charge is too low voltage to actually charge another phone, but it might be enough to keep the other phone's battery from draining at the normal rate if you're determined to try it out.
Samsung has kept the 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom, located next to the USB Type-C port and the speaker grille, giving users the full range of options for audio output. It did this, of course, despite making the phone thinner and the battery larger, flying in the face of other OEMs that claim to need the extra space for these sorts of things. We applaud Samsung for this choice as it clearly shows they're making a phone for consumers rather than for themselves.
Vibration motors are as good as ever, although not quite the most satisfying feeling on the market; that award still goes to LG and Google on its phones. Still, these are the best vibration motors Samsung has put in a phone to date and feel simply fantastic, especially compared with older, harsher motors.
The new in-glass fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S10 and S10+ replaces the rear-facing scanner and seems to come with more negatives than positive aspects, unfortunately. On a positive note, the front-facing fingerprint scanner makes it easier to unlock when the phone is sitting on a table or other surface, but I found I prefer a rear or side-mounted fingerprint scanner during normal use.
Throw Away Your TV
This is also the absolute brightest mobile display on the market with a peak brightness of 1,200 nits. You’ll never have trouble seeing this display outside, or in any light for that matter. This also means more dramatic HDR content, as bright points can be brighter than other displays, further enhancing the HDR effect.
Colors tend to favor the warmer side of the spectrum out of the box but can be adjusted in settings if this irritates you. Warm colors tend to be more attractive than cooler ones, and this sort of color temperature trend carries over to photos taken from the phone as well.
Samsung has opted for a less saturated look for the display out of the box, bucking the trend of using heavily saturated for the past several generations. This can always be adjusted in settings, if preferred, but is a welcome change when compared to the over-saturated panels on past Samsung phones as the colors are simply more realistic.
The left and right sides are also less curved than ever, continuing Samsung’s trend of reducing the angle of the curve over the years. Despite reduced curves, Samsung still offers the Edge Panels from previous galaxy phones, providing a fast way of viewing information and accessing shortcuts and contacts from a simple swipe inward from the side of your choice.
This has been one of our favorite features on Samsung phones for a few generations now and remains the fastest way to access your favorite apps and contacts on any phone to date.
Samsung has, surprisingly, created a new category of wallpaper on the Galaxy Apps Store that features wallpapers created specifically to highlight the display cut-out rather than hide it. Reddit now even has an entire sub-forum dedicated to cut-out wallpapers, and it’s pretty clear that this new display style, called Infinity-O, is being far better received than notch displays ever were.
The display cutouts are less intrusive than a notch, as they not only take up less physical space on the phone, but the fact that the screen wraps around the cutouts further helps create an illusion of less space taken up.
Samsung made a massive improvement to its speaker configuration on the Galaxy S9, and this year’s Galaxy S10 family sports even better speakers, making these some of the absolute best speakers you’ll find on any phone. Dolby Atmos is enabled out of the box and provides rich virtual surround sound from both speakers on the phone.
When watching movies or shows, in particular, these speakers are unbelievably impressive and feel like a truly viable alternative to external speakers or headphones when the situation makes sense.
What's more, Samsung has completely redesigned the audio experience within OneUI, offering up brand new ringtones, notification sounds, a nifty new charging sound and plenty more, all to fit in with the Galaxy theme of space and infinity.
It’s not often that we see this level of care on the OS level, as many OEMs now opt for a more stock Android experience. Samsung, however, is still committed to delivering a unique software experience that looks and feels uniquely Samsung without falling too out of line with current digital UI trends.
Spec hounds will certainly be pleased by the numbers Samsung has going for the Galaxy S10 family. The Galaxy S10 maxes out at 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, while the Galaxy S10+ offers configurations all the way up to 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. All models support up to half a terabyte in expandable storage via microSD card too, which is a huge bonus.
In the US you’ll pay a sizeable price across the board at launch, with the Galaxy S10e retailing for $749, the Galaxy S10 for $899, and the Galaxy S10+ for $999. Unlocked variants around the globe will offer additional options with subsequently higher prices, including a special ceramic edition of the Galaxy S10+ with extra RAM and storage.
123 Reasons You'll Want this Camera
Samsung has long had a history of having a good camera experience on its phones, and while they haven’t always been the best of the best cameras around, there have always been some very strong points to Samsung’s style. This time around the biggest changes come in the form of a new ultra-wide-angle camera, which sports an incredible 123-degree angle lens.
This new wide-angle camera is the widest field-of-view (FoV) on any smartphone and helps capture more of the entire scene at once, delivering a unique angle that Samsung fans haven’t had the privilege of using in the past. Ultra-wide cameras are a huge advantage for all sorts of different situations and can even be used for video recording at up to 4K 30FPS resolution too.
The rest of the camera experience is almost identical to what you’ll find on the Galaxy Note 9, and to a lesser extent, the Galaxy S9 Plus. Samsung has taken what it did very well on the Galaxy Note 9 and added to it, bumping the feature set up significantly while keeping the positive points intact.
Video recording is better than ever thanks to a number of advancements. The front-facing camera can now record in full 4K resolution, and the rear camera gets some significant movement smoothing options in 1080p resolution. This new Super Steady mode is absolutely amazing and will keep the frame still even when running while recording video. While it’s disappointing to see it only in 1080p, it’s probably the smoothest video we’ve ever seen shot from a phone, even when holding it by hand and running.
The Galaxy S10 can also record in 4K HDR10+ at 30FPS, joining Sony and LG as the few phones capable of recording in HDR.
Samsung is also working to make its camera software smarter ever with big tie-ins with the neural processing units (NPU) in. For instance, the camera will suggest which of the three cameras on the back to use in any given situation depending on what is detected in the scene and give you a visual cue to switch to that camera instead.
It will also suggest the best place to center the camera based on popular photography techniques that are analyzed through the AI-driven software. This includes improvements to the Scene Optimizer, which is enabled by default and will even enable Bright Night Mode when a dark scene is detected, helping to significantly illuminate the shot versus standard auto mode.
Check out the gallery on Flickr to see head-to-head comparisons between the Samsung Galaxy S10, LG V40 ThinQ, Google Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, HONOR View20, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
A Veritable Tech Paradise
All in all, the Galaxy S10 family is a clear evolution of Samsung’s modern device design that started with the Galaxy S6. There’s a distinct DNA that runs through all of these phones and it shows just how good Samsung has gotten at absolutely everything. It’s not just superb hardware and a feature set a mile long anymore, it’s also solid battery life, stylish and fast software, cutting-edge design and technology, and an ecosystem that’s continually improved over the years.
Other than the price being a barrier of entry, there’s little reason to recommend anything else on the market. This phone is a paradise of good tech, one that ticks all the boxes, and one that's most certainly worth your money this Spring.