With the Galaxy S10, Samsung celebrates its 10th anniversary Galaxy S phone by going big and bold. How bold? Each of the four new Galaxy S10 models is more impressive than the last: there’s the cheaper S10E ($750, £669), the Galaxy S10 ($900, £799), S10 Plus ($1,000, £899) and Galaxy S10 5G, the brand’s first 5G phone (price TBA, as are Australian prices for the whole range).
This is Samsung seeking to whip up excitement, roar back in sales and defend its title as the world’s top smartphone brand. But the Galaxy S10 phones also represent a quest for perfection.
What does “perfection” mean to Samsung in 2019? An edge-to-edge screen with teeny-tiny bezels. The (remarkable) ability to wirelessly charge another device. An Infinity-O display that cuts a small circle (or oval) to make room for front-facing cameras. The world’s first ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader, which unlocks the Galaxy S10 using sound waves. Up to four rear cameras. Up to 1TB of built-in storage. The all-new One UI. Android Pie. A cutting-edge Snapdragon 855 processor. And, in one case, 5G capabilities.
This is an impressive list of changes, but when I held them in my hands (except for the 5G model, which we couldn’t touch), the Galaxy S10 phones looked and felt extremely familiar. That’s not a bad thing at all. It means the camera “notch” stays out of the way, and that the edge-to-edge screen feels natural. And yes, you still get a headphone jack. Where Apple dramatically retooled the iPhone X by removing its signature home button and adding a screen notch, Samsung opted for an unbroken continuum. The Galaxy S10 simply picks up where the Galaxy S9 left off.
One thing does startle me though, and that’s the fact that none of the four new Galaxy S10 phones has 3D face unlock. The 5G model will come with a 3D depth-sensing camera on the front and back, but that will only assist with photography and AR, not with the iPhone XS-style of unlocking your phone with your face. (More on this in the fingerprint unlocking section below.)
Preorders for all but the 5G phone begin on Feb. 21, for a March 8 release date. Each preorder comes with a free set of Galaxy Buds as a gift.
Keep reading for details on the four new Galaxy S10 phones, how wireless power sharing works, some new camera features and software changes like the in-screen fingerprint reader and One UI. You’ll find the full specs comparison at the very end. Let’s go!
Galaxy S10: The baseline model ($900)
The I-hate-to-call-it-standard Galaxy S10 is a natural entry point because it is the standard-bearer of the S10 family. It all starts with a 6.1-inch screen in a relatively compact frame thanks to the slim bezels around the sides. Samsung boasts that this is the first screen to earn HDR10+ certification. HDR10+ is Samsung’s format that competes with Dolby Vision.
The S10 gets you three rear cameras — a 16-megapixel ultrawide sensor with fixed focus, a main 12-megapixel dual aperture wide-angle lens with OIS, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with OIS that can achieve 2x optical zoom. That means you’re able to take portrait photos and photos from any of the sensors, just by toggling on the screen.
For selfies, you get a 10-megapixel front-facing camera, also with dual aperture. Introduced in the Galaxy S9, dual aperture means that the camera automatically lets in more light when it senses you’re in a low-light environment.
You’ll be able to buy the S10 in 128GB or 512GB storage configurations, both with 8GB RAM. It’ll take up to 512GB in microSD storage, and battery capacity is 3,400 mAh. You get two curved screens, plus Gorilla Glass 6 on the front, and Gorilla Glass 5 on the back. The S10 phones also support Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 and Wi-Fi 6.
Colors for all: The Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and S10E will come in Flamingo Pink, Canary Yellow, Prism Green and Prism Blue, as well as Prism Black and Prism White (which a coworker misheard as “Prison White”). Not every country gets every color: US buyers will have to pine away for Canary Yellow and Prism Green, for example.
Galaxy S10 Plus: The 1TB storage king with all the things ($1,000)
No surprise here that for $100 more, you get a larger screen (6.4 inches) and a bigger battery (4,100 mAh). You’ll have the same triple-camera setup as the S10 on the back, but the S10 Plus adds a second selfie lens to augment that 10-megapixel camera — an 8-megapixel sensor that can help take depth-mode portrait selfies using hardware, rather than software algorithms.
Sure, you can get the S10 Plus in 128GB or 512GB storage options, but if you never want to worry about storage again, the 1TB version — with 12GB RAM — is the configuration for you. Samsung kicks in a supposedly more durable ceramic backing option in white and black if you buy the 512GB or 1TB models. Stay tuned for a drop test to see how tough that ceramic really is.
Galaxy S10E: The ‘value’ S10 ($750)
Think of the 5.8-inch Galaxy S10E as “compact” rather than “small.” You still get a large helping of screen on a body that’s shorter and thinner than last year’s Galaxy S9. It’s hard not to draw parallels with Apple’s iPhone XR here, which costs the same and also self-styles as the “value” iPhone XS.
For the Galaxy S10, the big trade-off is having “only” two rear cameras — the wide and ultrawide sensors, but no telephoto lens. There’s also “just” the single 10-megapixel selfie cam, just like what you get on the Galaxy S10. You also lose the curved screens (it’s flat) and in-screen fingerprint reader, but Samsung throws you a bone and inserts a sensor into the power button on the phone’s right side, which is one of my favored placements. And yes, it works just fine.
The battery’s a tad smaller at 3,100 mAh (but hey, so is the phone), and your storage options are either 128GB with 6GB RAM or 256GB with 8GB RAM. Gorilla Glass 5 adorns the front and back.
I’d like to point out that these are still extremely competitive specs on paper, especially considering that this phone uses the same Snapdragon 855 chipset as the other S10s. Samsung isn’t just going after the iPhone. It’s also aiming its harpoon at OnePlus’ traditionally cheaper flagship phones.
Galaxy S10 5G: The deluxe edition (price TBA, but likely over $1,000)
Here’s what we know about the Galaxy S10 with 5G: this model has a 6.7-inch screen, two cameras on the front and four cameras on the back. Yes, four, because the 5G model gets a 3D depth-sensing camera in addition to all the lenses on the S10 Plus. But here’s the thing. This camera is only for fancy photo tricks and AR, and not for securely scanning your face like Apple’s Face ID. Just to set your expectations.
The fun continues. The Galaxy S10 5G also has a 4,500-mAh battery and comes with 256GB of storage with 8GB RAM. This part’s important because the 5G phone is the only Galaxy S10 model that doesn’t have a microSD card slot. (Again with the expectations.)
Samsung hasn’t announced pricing yet, but we do know that in the US, it’ll come first to Verizon in Q2 — that’s as early as April — before arriving at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Xfinity Mobile later in Q2 — that is, by the end of June. Samsung will tune the Galaxy S10 5G to each carrier’s 5G bands.
Wireless PowerShare: Pretty great so far
My favorite new Galaxy S10 feature — by far — lets you use the back of a Galaxy S10 phone to charge any other wireless charging device that uses the Qi standard. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro does this too. Swipe down on the notifications shade and tap on “Wireless PowerShare.” Then turn the phone over on its face and place the back of a friend’s phone, for example, or the new Galaxy Buds in their case, onto the back of the Galaxy S10 to give it a boost.
Sharing is caring, right? But let’s not overdo it. Samsung has set a threshold so that your phone will stop giving up its reserves when it hits 30 percent.
While you’ll be a hero to friends who need a hand, the real benefit is that you can wirelessly charge your compatible accessories or a second phone without carting around a cable for each one if you’re out for a long day, or on vacation. Just keep in mind that since wireless charging is convenient, but typically much slower than wired charging, you’ll be better off using Wireless PowerShare overnight.
Up to 6 camera sensors
All the Galaxy S10 phones have at least two rear cameras and one front-facing camera, but the more you spend, the more lenses you get. (See the chart below.)
- 12-megapixel wide-angle lens: This is the main rear lens. There’s optical image stabilization (OIS), and a 77-degree field of view (FOV). It’s dual-aperture, which means it automatically lets in more light for low-light shots. Apertures are f1.5 and f2.4.
- 12-megapixel telephoto lens: 2x optical zoom, OIS, 45-degree FOV, f2.4.
- 16-megapixel ultrawide-angle lens: Fixed focus, no OIS, 123-degree FOV (close to the human eye), f2.2 aperture.
- 10-megapixel front-facing camera: f1.9 aperture.
- 8-megapixel front-facing camera for depth-sensing (f2.2) or a 3D front-facing camera (see below).
- 3D rear camera: Time-of-flight sensor, aka ToF. For depth-sensing and AR, not security.
Galaxy S10 range camera guide
|Galaxy S10E||Galaxy S10||Galaxy S10 Plus||Galaxy S10 5G|
|12-megapixel wide-angle lens (dual-aperture)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|16-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens (fixed focus)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|12-megapixel telephoto lens||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|10-megapixel front-facing camera (dual-aperture)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|8-megapixel front-facing camera||No||No||Yes||No|
|3D depth-sensing camera (rear)||No||No||No||Yes|
|3D depth-sensing camera (front)||No||No||No||Yes|
New camera tricks
When you take a selfie on the Galaxy S10 Plus: The edges around the front-facing camera light up so you know where to aim your eyes. It’s pretty clever.
Better photos with AI: Lots of phones use AI to identify photo subjects and scenes and automatically adjust the settings to get you better pictures of food, a landscape or your pets. All the S10 phones can identify 30 different scenes and adjust the settings accordingly. Samsung improves the Galaxy Note 9’s camera AI by making it easy to turn on and off in the viewfinder screen.
Shot Suggestions: Turn on this optional mode to get help lining up a photo. When it’s perfectly aligned, the camera will automatically take the shot. If you have shaky hands or take a lot of one-handed shots, that’s a good thing.
Bright Night low-light mode: Samsung says this automatically applied feature will make low-light photos crisper. Unlike the Pixel 3’s astounding Night Sight mode, this is built-in, not something you have to tap to turn on. I didn’t get a demo, but my colleagues in London did, briefly. I look forward to seeing it in action.
Video: The Galaxy S10 phones support super steady video that’s designed for action shots, like skateboarding, basketball games and so on. The phones can also shoot in HDR10 video, and both front and rear main cameras support UHD video recording.
In-screen fingerprint sensor, One UI, Bixby Routines
In-screen fingerprint reader: The first phones to use Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, this technique uses sound waves to unlock the phone. It completely replaces iris scanning as a biometric unlock option. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use my own finger during the briefing, but this is something I’ll test extensively soon. Ultrasonic sensors are supposed to be harder to trick than optical sensors, the other technology used in fingerprint unlocking.
Strangely, Samsung quietly withheld its trademark iris scanning from the S10 phones. While there’s still Google’s built-in face unlock, it isn’t secure enough for mobile payments. It’s a noteworthy change, since iris scanning has been a point of pride since the Galaxy S7. Samsung could very well be waiting for Google to fold secure face unlocking into Android, a rumored move for Android Q.
One UI over Android Pie: Samsung’s new One UI is a custom layer that runs over Google’s Android 9 Pie software. It’s already rolling out for Galaxy S9 phones, but the S10 family is the first to get One UI baked in. With it, Samsung embraces a more simplified look and feel with bigger icons that are designed to be easier to use one-handed. Note that you’ll still need to reach to the top for the notifications tray.
Bixby Routines: Opt in to the all-new Bixby Routines to set up profiles for say, driving, work, night or home. For example, a nighttime mode can save battery by turning off Wi-Fi and background apps you don’t need when you sleep. Driving mode might also turn off Wi-Fi and turn on Waze, Spotify and Do Not Disturb. In some cases the switch would happen automatically, for example, when the phone recognizes via Bluetooth that you’re in your car. The software learns your patterns for work and home, but you can manually add your own Routines.
Faster app launch: This is another form of AI that can learn what you like and adapt its behavior. It will work out which apps you typically use at certain times of day, and preload those in the background so they load faster. Later in the day, it’ll shut down those apps you typically stop using by lunchtime, for example, or bedtime. Think of it as a cycle that anticipates your needs by opening and closing apps before you do it yourself.
For gamers: The S10 phones are optimized to use the Unity gaming engine and Dolby Atmos for tuning sounds. The S10 Plus has a vapor chamber cooling system to dissipate heat during intense gameplay.
Stiff competition ahead
From the cheapest Galaxy S10E to the most advanced Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung’s phones for 2019 face challengers every step of the way. On the least pricey end of the spectrum, Galaxy S10E will contend with less expensive flagships such as the iPhone XR and the OnePlus 6T (and eventually the future OnePlus 7).
The Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are so close in price, I suspect they’ll almost compete with each other, and then with every other $1,000-ish phone or 4G flagship model, from the forthcoming LG G8 and Huawei’s next P30 and Mate phones, to whatever follows the iPhone XS and XS Max.
Then, there’s 5G. While it initially won’t be a massive seller (thanks in part to the expense), every phone maker and carrier will fight to gain a foothold in 5G as the first networks light up in the coming months, promising exponentially faster download speeds with virtually no lag connecting to the network. Samsung itself is planning multiple phones for carriers all over the world.
Samsung’s foldable phone also makes its debut. Again, high prices and limited runs are expected to make foldable phones from Samsung and other brands a cross between a beta product for developers, a status symbol for bleeding-edge adopters, and a good old-fashioned spectacle for everyone else. All eyes will be on it, which means that phones like the Galaxy S10 Plus and even the S10 5G could look ho-hum by comparison.
Together, the Galaxy S10E, S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus will shoulder the heavy burden of fending off competitors and holding people’s interest until 5G and foldable phones become much more vital to the mainstream.
Galaxy S10 specs: S10E to S10 5G
|Samsung Galaxy S10E||Samsung Galaxy S10||Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus||Samsung Galaxy S10 5G|
|Display size, resolution||5.8-inch AMOLED; 2,280×1,080 pixels||6.1-inch AMOLED; 3,040×1,440 pixels||6.4-inch AMOLED; 3,040×1,440 pixels||6.7-inch AMOLED|
|Dimensions (inches)||5.59 x 2.75 x 0.27 in||5.9 x 2.77 x 0.31 in||6.20 x 2.92 x 0.31 in||6.40 x 3.04 x 0.31 in|
|Dimensions (millimeters)||142 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm||149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm||157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm||162.6 x 77.1 x 7.94 mm|
|Weight (ounces, grams)||5.29 oz.; 150 g||5.53 oz.; 157 g||6.17 oz.; 175 g||6.98 oz.; 198 g|
|Mobile software||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI|
|Camera||16-megapixel, 12-megapixel||16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto), 3D depth (HQVGA)|
|Front-facing camera||10-megapixel||10-megapixel||10-megapixel, 8-megapixel||10-megapixel, 3D depth (HQVGA)|
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||128GB, 512GB||512GB, 1TB||256GB|
|RAM||6GB, 8GB||8GB||8GB, 12GB||8GB|
|Expandable storage||Up to 512GB||Up to 512GB||Up to 512GB||No|
|Battery||3,100 mAh||3,400 mAh||4,100 mAh||4,500 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Power button||In-screen||In-screen||TBA|
|Special features||Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0||Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0||Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0||Wireless PowerShare; 3D depth cameras (not for face unlock); water resistant (IP68); Fast Wireless Charging 2.0|
|Base price off-contract (USD, GBP)||$750, £669||$900, £799||$1,000, £899||TBA|