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Samsung Galaxy S10: from budget to overkill in London

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 20.02.2019
Revision: Eva Francis
We’re in London to see Samsung presenting its three latest smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S10e is declaring war on the upper mid-range of the market. Meanwhile the Samsung Galaxy S10+ Ceramic is crushing everything that’s out there now. Then there’s the issue with the 5G phone. But let’s look at it from a bird’s eye view first.

At one time, the Tobacco Dock in London was a warehouse. And in the 18th century it was used by merchants to import and store tobacco. Fast-forward three centuries and Samsung wants this to be the place where they herald in the future of mobile phones. That might sound a bit dramatic but rumour has it the Samsung Galaxy S10 will be nothing short of revolutionary. That’s all well and good but they kind of said the same thing about the S9, and that wasn’t more than a solid upgrade.

At first glance you can tell the phone is packed with plenty more performance. But that’s not the only thing to have changed; the design is also different. For one thing, Samsung has completely done away with the notch, and it now harnesses an Infinity-O screen. Space is at a premium so they’ve used a kind of hole in the screen instead. This makes the S10 series as bezel-less as ever before.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ has swapped its notch for a punch hole in the display. It either looks like an ellipsis or a circle and it’s across the whole S10 series.
Samsung Galaxy S10+ has swapped its notch for a punch hole in the display. It either looks like an ellipsis or a circle and it’s across the whole S10 series.

3 names, 5 editions

Until now, Samsung was content with releasing two editions of each Galaxy S series. There was the standard model – always S along with a number – and a luxury version – S, insert number, Plus. But that’s a thing of the past. The S10 series boasts a mammoth four editions. They’re launching the:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10e
  • Samsung Galaxy S10
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+

I know what you’re thinking: that’s only three. However, the Galaxy S10+ is also available as a special version that packs in even more power and performance. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ Ceramic features up to a terabyte of storage and up to 12 GB inbuilt RAM. Those kinds of numbers blow the attempts of all the other gaming phones and devices straight out of the water.

To be honest, even the smaller, weaker versions of the S10 series are likely to set the bar for smartphones in 2019. That’s assuming Samsung doesn’t move the goalposts in summer with the release of a bigger, stronger version of the Galaxy S10+, namely the Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G.

  • Samsung Galaxy S10e: e is for essential

Samsung is well aware not everyone is prepared to cough up more than 1,500 Swiss francs for a Samsung Galaxy. Even the standard S10 claws uncomfortably close to 1,000. The company knew they had to come up with a solution. And that’s when the Samsung Galaxy S10e was born, where «e» stands for essential. While the specs can’t compete with those of the phone’s bigger sibling, the S10e has enough to do the job. Even aside from that, this nifty little thing looks fairly impressive.

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Hidden behind the 5.8-inch display is a Exynos 9820 system on a chip (SoC) – the same SoC as in the deluxe version and in all the other S10 models. It features 128 GB memory, 6 GB RAM and a 3100 mAh battery. Given the S10e is the budget version in the series, you have to expect sacrifices somewhere. In this case, it’s in the camera set-up and the fact the fingerprint sensor isn’t under the glass display but built into the power button.

The little S10e is the unexpected star of the event. That’s not just because it sits comfortably in your hand; it also delivers impressive performance. In terms of specs, it is fairly underwhelming. But what it lacks on the tech side of things it makes up for by setting a precedent for affordable phones with smaller screens. I wouldn’t be surprised if this little phone with its current Exynos SoC wiped the floor with the upper-mid section of the market or the lower top segment.

Samsung has also made savings on the screen. Rather than using the Infinity display with rounded edges, the S10e features a flat screen with thick edges, which is faintly reminiscent of the iPhone X.

And while we’re on the subject of casing, the S10e comes in neon yellow. Erm, OK. It’s pretty garish.

  • Samsung Galaxy S10: improved camera

On the standard version of the S10, you can see the camera set-up that’s on the front of all the models. This is what the triple camera is made of:

  1. 16 megapixel, f/2.2, ultra wide angle
  2. 12 megapixel, f/1.5, wide angle
  3. 12 megapixel, f/2.4, telescopic
According to Samsung, the three camera combo is supposed to give you professional quality photos.
According to Samsung, the three camera combo is supposed to give you professional quality photos.

The South Korean company is certainly taking every opportunity to brag about the immense camera performance and massively improved software that drives the camera system. New presets have also reportedly been added. AI now ensures you don’t press the button to take a photo too early or late. The word «stunning» gets thrown around a lot whenever the camera is mentioned. It makes me wonder why the camera doesn’t just take the shot itself. I decide to test it out on a device where the software isn’t quite complete. The camera reacts quickly – even the mode change from image to video is much faster than many other cameras. And it also copes well with contre-jour when the presets are installed.

In terms of memory, you’ve got the choice of either 128 GB or 512 GB. The battery holds almost 3400 mAh, which is 400 mAh more than the battery in its predecessor, the S9, and only 100 mAh less than that in the S9+. Given that the battery is the Achilles heel of the S9 series, these specs give us reason to be optimistic. All the more so because Samsung has also been busy on the software side of things. With improved hardware and optimised software, the phone should easily be able to last a work day. Maybe even with some battery left over. It ought to anyway.

  • Samsung Galaxy S10+: gaming phones, look out

If you’re a gamer – or like me, a heavy-duty user – things get interesting from the S10+ Ceramic upwards. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: first of all, the S10+. What with its 4100 mAh battery, a 6.4-inch screen diagonal and 8 GB RAM, you’d think it was already showing off. But the S10+ only has 128 GB memory.

The S10+ is easy to hold and sits comfortably in your hand in spite of its 6.4-inch screen diagonal.
The S10+ is easy to hold and sits comfortably in your hand in spite of its 6.4-inch screen diagonal.

What surprised me was I could actually get my paws around the whole phone even though my hands aren’t particularly big or particularly small. Why is that so important? Because it means it can be used with one hand. It’s all thanks to the new Infinity Display, which takes up 93.1% of the front of the Galaxy S10+. And as a result, the casing could be slimmed down somewhat.

But as I said before, things really start to get exciting once you reach the S10+ Ceramic.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Ceramic: 12 GB RAM, 1 TB memory – I kid you not

The S10+ Ceramic is pretty self-explanatory, as it’s made of ceramic. While this does make the device a bit more delicate, it still manages to deliver everything. And I mean everything. In fact, its capabilities can be described as «massive overkill» in the smartphone world at the moment. Basically, the S10+ Ceramic is the device I personally have my eye on. It boasts 12 GB RAM, making it the first phone to my knowledge to have such a large RAM. On top of that it comes with 1 TB memory, which, to be honest, no one will probably need in the Cloud times we live in but still… it sounds good. The downside is the phone is only available in black and white. Its texture and reflection is rather unfortunate as it looks rather like a toilet key, if you’ll excuse the crude comparison. That aside, the Ceramic is the spitting image of the S10+, what with its 10 megapixel f/1.9 double camera and 8 megapixel f/2.2 including live focus on the front, the triple camera on the back, and 4100 mAh battery.

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ Ceramic packs massive power behind the look of a toilet key
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ Ceramic packs massive power behind the look of a toilet key

At 198 grammes, the S10+ Ceramic strikes a good balance. It’s neither too light nor too heavy in your hand. If you’re looking for raw power and want to be distinctly aware of its presence then the extra 23 grammes the Ceramic has over the 175-gramme S10+ makes all the difference. Besides, I like smartphones in the 190 to 210 gramme range. I find that’s a good weight, even though it’s rare to find a manufacturer these days who has the guts to release anything over the 200 mark.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G: last but not least

In summer, Samsung will be adopting the new mobile communication standard 5G with speeds of up to a gigabit per second across the mobile network. But it’s all a bit confusing because Samsung is one of the leaders in terms of developing the standard. Read more about this (in German) here:

So why isn’t the whole S10 series 5G-ready? Or if we really want to be nitpicking, the S10e could still be a 4G phone while the next phone up in the series could be 5G. The alternative would be having the S10+ Ceramic as the 5G phone since the current Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G boasts a 6.7-inch (17.018 cm) screen diagonal. But what lets the Ceramic down are the key specs. The RAM on the 5G is less again and the memory also reduced. However, it does come with an extra camera on the back. I mean, why not?

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G does have an extra camera
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G does have an extra camera

TL;DR: the Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G is confusing and has to be able to do some things really well in order to win us over. No wonder when competition is already stiff from within its own brand this year.

You had questions; here are my answers

I put out a request in the article where I let you know I was going to London to ask if there were any burning questions you had. Here are my answers. If your question wasn’t answered, it’s not because I ignored you. It’s just that in the short space of time I had with the device, I couldn’t get an answer.

«Can you also charge the Galaxy Watch on the back of the Galaxy S10?»

Yes, the whole Galaxy S10 series supports Wireless PowerShare. That means you can charge the devices and charge up other devices without using any cables.

«Does it come with good wired headphones (analogue Samsung S8 with AKG headphones) or even the wireless version?»

It comes with a wired AKG headset – i.e. not wireless. Whether it’s good or not, I’m afraid I can’t tell you.

However, my colleague Andrea has a special offer with Galaxy Buds.

«Can you find out how often Samsung releases updates on a long-term basis?»

Like any OEM, Samsung is supposed to deliver two character updates. Security patches are also meant to be monthly.

Also, when you set the phone to one-handed use, the UI has less than a 5-inch screen diagonal.

On the subject of small screens: the Galaxy Fold features a 4.8-inch screen diagonal in folded mode.

[[quote: I’d just be interested in knowing when Samsung is finally going to delete all the unnecessary apps they force upon us…

«Can you get this great hardware without all the annoying Samsung apps – especially without Bixby?»

It’s not about to happen any time soon. According to Samsung, these apps either offer a great service or bring the retail price down through in-app sponsoring fees.

«Could you let me know/confirm that there’s also a 512 GB micro SD card in the 1 TB?»

Confirmed. Like all models in the S10 series, the S10+ Ceramic can be extended to a maximum of 512 GB via MicroSD.

«Will the S10 follow in the steps of the S9 and have a dual SIM version as standard?»

According to tech specs, the entire S10 series is dual SIM compatible.

«Will there also be a Galaxy Note 10?»

That’s a very good question. I’m wondering the same.

«Will there also be a lite version, like there is in the Huawei models?»

Yip. The Samsung Galaxy S10e is in fact the budget version in the series. It’s still not exactly cheap but it’s cheaper than the others.

«Can you alter definition manually in the camera app in video mode while the shot is being taken, as you can in LG for instance?»

The camera does have a manual mode. But whether or not you can use it for focus shifting, I couldn’t tell you as I didn’t get round to testing it. It’s a possibility.

«Is there a dedicated night mode, such as the one in Huawei smartphones?»

Samsung has had a blue light filter for ages. According to specs, Samsung has managed to lower the blue light emission by 41% thanks to the new dynamic AMOLED screen.

Or do you mean a dark menu?

So, that’s it for the whistle-stop tour of the latest Samsung S10 series. The final thing to add that puts the icing on the cake: all the S10 models feature a headphone jack. That thing is going nowhere. Nice one, Samsung.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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