Home Android Review: Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ is the right phone at the wrong time

Review: Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ is the right phone at the wrong time


Early 2019 is a particularly fraught time to be in the mobile phone market as either a buyer or a seller. Global sales are flat; it appears the world can only absorb so many smartphones. But at the same time, the industry is on the very tip of commercial deployments of 5G networks, while flashy (and pricey) foldable phones are being demoed in anticipation of hitting the market later in the year.

The eternal technology purchase question — do you buy now or wait for prices to drop and new features to emerge? — may be harder to answer for mobile phones today than at any time since 4G was first being deployed. At the cusp of the age of 5G, should you be buying the last generation of flagship 4G phones, even if you don’t know exactly what 5G speeds will truly mean or when 5G will come to you?

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that three of the four Galaxy S10 phones that Samsung debuted recently may be the right phones at precisely the wrong time.

Let me be clear: the Galaxy S10e, S10, and S10+ are all you’ve come to expect from Samsung: great build, great specs, business-oriented features. The most obvious difference among them is size (5.8-in. screen vs. 6.1-in. vs. 6.4-in.), but they differ also in screen resolution, battery size, and camera capability. (PCWorld has all the key specs.) And, of course, price: the S10e starts at $750, the S10 at $900, and the S10+ at $1,000. All three are available for pre-order now; they’ll ship March 8.

Samsung made available the top-of-the line S10+ model for this review.

Top-shelf hardware

The most obvious advance from last year’s model is the screen, which now occupies pretty much the entire front of the phone. The top and bottom bezels are about 3mm high. The side bezels are maybe half that and, because of Samsung’s characteristic screen curve, look even thinner.

galaxy s10 front Christopher Hebert/IDG

The S10+ has a big, beautiful screen with a hole in the top right for two front-facing cameras.

The S10+’s two front-facing cameras are tucked in a ½-in. by 316-in. oval near the top right edge of the screen, pushing the battery, Wi-Fi, and cell signal icons toward the center of the screen. It’s way less intrusive than the iPhone X’s notorious notch. Less functional, too, because Samsung’s backing away from face recognition (which it says is less secure) in favor of a better fingerprint unlock.

Because the phone’s face is nearly entirely screen, one might think that the company would stick with a back-mounted fingerprint sensor. Not so. Samsung’s put an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner under the screen, about ¾ in. from the bottom of the phone. The company makes elaborate security claims about how the sensor measures the depth of your fingerprints for improved authentication. We couldn’t test that. We can attest, however, that the phone can save four different prints and was reliably quick to recognize them.

In action, the Dynamic AMOLED screen is gorgeous, especially when you dig into the settings and pick Quad HD+ 3040 x 1440 resolution. (Default resolution is lower, at 2280 x 1080.) Combined with the negligible bezel, viewing media is more like looking through a window than staring at a phone. Sound is full and loud, and seems to fire through the back of the phone rather than small speakers at either end.

The phones run on top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipsets, and the review unit came with 8GM RAM and 128GB of storage (expandable by 512GB via MicroSD card). There are models with 512 GB or 1TB of built-in storage, the latter with 12GB of RAM. In terms of usage, there was nothing resembling screen lag or latency. Using the phone is a very slick experience.

Business-friendly features

The S10 line runs on Android Pie 9.0, with Samsung’s useful One UI skin. DeX, the feature that lets you plug a screen, keyboard and mouse into the phone and use it as an Android desktop, remains on the Galaxy line and is as useful as ever for those on the go. (Samsung says it’s a popular application in the first response and medical markets — places where people are only lightly attached to location.)

The Bixby assistant is here, too, but Samsung seems content to put it in the background, learning your routines and managing things like battery life and app usage as it gets to know you. That kind of thing takes time, though, and we were unable to test it by deadline. The Bixby button still lives, though, on the phone’s left edge underneath the volume button.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


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