Samsung Galaxy S10: Hands-on first impressions with every new model
Three versions of S10 go on sale March 8, with 5G model coming later
Three versions of S10 go on sale March 8, with 5G model coming later
After an unprecedented amount of leaks - from the usual sources and even Samsung itself - the Galaxy S10 has finally arrived.
Revealed at simultaneous events in San Francisco and London, the new flagship smartphone from Samsung is actually three different handsets, with another to come later.
These are the S10 and larger S10+, as you would expect, but for this year they are newly joined by the smaller S10e. There will also be a 5G version with enhanced front and rear cameras later this year, and a pumped-up version of the S10+ is also available with a scratch-resistant ceramic back and extra performance.
This makes for a range of five distinct models of S10, plus various storage and color options for each model. It's safe to say, Samsung has gone all-in for the tenth anniversary of its Galaxy S lineup.
GearBrain has already spent some time with all members of the S10 family, and you can read about our first impressions further down this article. But first, a quick look at the specifications, and what makes each model of S10 unique.
Samsung Galaxy S10e vs S10 vs S10+ vs S10 5G: What's the difference?
First off, the Galaxy S10e starts at $749.99. It has a 5.8-inch AMOLED display with a Full HD resolution and a flat design (as opposed to the curved edges we are used to from Galaxy S handsets). The S10e has a 12-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and two lenses - one regular, and one for wide-angle shots. (Galaxy S10e is available at Best Buy.)
The front camera is a single-lens affair with a resolution of 10 megapixel. Storage options are 128GB and 256GB, with 6GB and 8GB of RAM respectively, and there's a microSD card slot which accepts up to 512GB more (as is standard on all versions of S10 apart from the 5G model). The battery has a capacity of 3,100mAh.
All models of Galaxy S10 have a new feature called Wireless PowerShare. When switched on, this lets you top up the battery of any device which works with the Qi wireless charging standard - such as smartphones, smartwatches, and the case of Samsung's new Galaxy Buds earphones.
The Galaxy S10e is the only model of the new lineup not to get a fingerprint reader embedded into the display. Instead, the S10e's reader is located on the power button, on the upper-right edge of the phone.
Ultrasonic fingerprint reader
As for the S10 and S10+, they get Samsung's new ultrasonic fingerprint reader system, which sits under the glass front and works by you simply pressing your finger against the screen. It works very well, responding almost instantly when the phone is locked and asleep - and without lighting up the screen to maximum brightness, as the OnePlus 6T does to read your print.
This is because Samsung's system does not use visible light to take an optical scan of your fingerprint. Instead, the ultrasonic system measures the tiny undulations in your fingertip caused by the print; the shape of these minuscule ridges and troughs is then used to identify you. Samsung says on-board artificial intelligence makes this system more accurate the more it is used. We had a quick play and found it worked very well indeed.
The Galaxy S10 starts at $899.99, and for that you get a handset with a 6.1-inch AMOLED display with a Quad HD resolution and curved edges, like on the Galaxy S9. The S10 has the same front-facing 16MP camera as the S10e, residing in a small hole cut out of the screen - Samsung calls this the Infinity-O Display.
Around the back, the S10 gets three lenses offering viewing angles of 123, 77 and 45 degrees. Images are 12MP or 16MP depending on which lens you use, and Samsung says the 123-degree lens offers a very similar field of view to the human eye, while the other two options offer wide angle (45 degrees) and zoom (77 degrees).
Storage options are 128GB and 512GB, both with 8GB of RAM, while the battery is 3,400 mAh.
Next up is the Galaxy S10+, which offers a larger 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with a Quad HD resolution. The S10+ has exactly the same rear camera system as the S10, but the front camera gains an 8-megapixel depth sensor to help improve the blurred background (bokeh effect) of portrait photos.
The regular Galaxy S10+ has 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, while the ceramic version (available in black or white) offers 512GB or a massive 1TB, with RAM clocking in at 8GB and 12GB respectively - the latter being a simply enormous amount for a smartphone. The battery for all models of S10+ is 4,100mAh.
Galaxy S10 5G
Finally, the Galaxy S10 5G - which will go on sale later in the year - offers a 6.7-inch AMOLED display, an improved rear camera with extra lens for greater depth sensing capabilities, and a 3D depth sensor on the front, too. Storage is 256GB and RAM is 8GB, while the battery is the largest of any S10, at 4,500mAh.
As for color options, they are green, white, black and blue for all models, plus a retina-searing 'canary yellow' for the S10e, and glossy white and black options for the ceramic S10+.
Samsung is yet to reveal how much the ceramic S10+ will cost, but rumor is it'll cost significantly more than its siblings. It also weighs slightly more, it colder to the touch, and has a subtle rose tint to its polished metal chassis.
Bixby and artificial intelligence
Samsung said relatively little about its Bixby personal voice assistant during our briefing of the S10 range. However, the company did draw attention to a new 'routines' feature, where Bixby learns when during the day you use certain applications, then keeps them open in the background accordingly.
For example, if you habitually check Twitter and Instagram when you wake up each morning (because who doesn't?) the S10 will start to notice this. It will then have these apps open in the background and ready to launch at the right time.
On the other hand, if you stop listening to Spotify when you get to work at 9am each day, then start again at 6pm on your way home, the phone will start to kill the app during those hours. The aim here is to improve performance when you need it, and save battery life when you don't.
Hands-on first impressions of the Galaxy S10
During our brief time with the S10 ahead of its launch, we can say we liked what we saw. Samsung gets a lot right with all models of the S10, from the inclusion of a headphone jack on every version, to the neat, subtle and distraction-free pinhole front cameras, to the color options.
The S10e is a great size for consumers sick of the trend for ever-expanding smartphones, while not missing out too much on the specs of its stablemates. We also like the squarer edges and flat display, as these details both help increase grip (along with the smaller overall size).
Samsung is clearly taking on the iPhone XR with the S10e, right down to it costing exactly the same price - $750.
Wireless charging of other devices is a great feature to have - especially since it is an invisible addition and doesn't affect the external design in any way - but the star of the show for us is the ultrasonic fingerprint reader of the S10 and S10+.
It feels quicker and less clunky than that of the OnePlus 6T, and worked reliably. You don't even need to wake the phone with a tap or a button press first; just press your finger in the right place (right in the middle, at the bottom of the screen) and the phone unlocks in what felt like under one second.
It seems like there is something for everyone in this lineup, and we're impressed by how the S10e feels just as premium and expensive as its siblings; buyers of this model certainly shouldn't feel like they have skimped out on the cheap option. It's a quality handset, that's for sure.
The ceramic versions of the S10+ look and feel great - and it should only be possible to scratch their backs with diamond and sapphire, so they're going to retain their good looks for longer than the glass alternative. We worry about the price though, and wonder if the ceramic may still suffer from cracks if dropped onto a hard surface.
Samsung may not have rewritten the smartphone rule book - no one has done that for a while now - but the S10 range feels like a strong upgrade from the S9, which was only a small step forward from the S8 and S7 before it. Of course, Samsung's folding smartphone will fulfil the role of revolutionary. But until that arrives, the S10 collection is a solid effort from Samsung for 2019.
The Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+ are available to pre-order now, and go on sale on March 8. Those who pre-order the S10 and S10+ (not the S10e) get a free set of Galaxy Buds wireless earphones, in white, worth $129.99.
We'll be getting our hands on an S10 again soon for an in-depth GearBrain review.