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Meet the Galaxy S10, Samsung's 10th version of its ultra-successful smartphone line. Along the way, we've seen the company launch some of the most iconic devices ever and establish itself as the world's leading smartphone manufacturer.
To celebrate ten years of the Galaxy, the company has not one, but three, new devices. Well, four actually if you count a special 5G version. Yet 2019 is shaping up to be one of the fiercest smartphone races ever. We've already seen Nokia, Sony and others launch compelling alternatives to the Galaxy S10 and in just a few weeks, Samsung will have to contend with Huawei as well.
Is a series of upgrades, a third camera and one of the nicest designs on a smartphone ever, enough in a 2019 world? This is our Galaxy S10 Plus review.
Fantastic hardware, an incredible display, premium specs and a ton of features make an excellent smartphone. Three cameras offers three times the fun, the battery lasts for days and Samsung's new software is sleek and stylish. There are a few minor downsides, but this is the best Android phone you can buy right now.
- Outstanding smartphone screen
- The best hardware
- Feature-rich software
- Versatile triple camera
- Incredible battery life
- Headphone jack
- Fingerprint sensor needs work
- Disappointing low light performance
- Cameras needed more of an upgrade
- Slow wired charging speed
- Too many false touches on the screen
Check out the MrMobile Galaxy S10 Plus review above!
Samsung Galaxy S10 Design and Display
How do you make a sexy smartphone even better? You shrink the bezels, curve the edges even more and add a couple of holes up top. The result is the Galaxy S10 Plus, and my goodness, it's gorgeous!
The Galaxy S10 Plus is almost the all-screen utopia we've been longing for.
We're almost at the all screen utopia that we've all been waiting for, and if any company is going to achieve it, it's going to be Samsung. The company that first made curved edges a thing, has pushed the boundaries even further with the Galaxy S10 Plus.
The 6.4-inch display now stretches to the top of the phone instead of just to a top bezel that housed the camera and other bits. Those cameras have moved to the right in an area cut by lasers to avoid affecting the quality of the display. When we first laid eyes on the Galaxy S10 family, that area seemed like an eyesore, but within minutes of using it, your eyes learn to glance over it. It's offset far enough to the right that you don't notice it in day-to-day usage.
Instead, it's become a fun way to customize your phone, with a host of Galaxy S10 wallpapers that make the most of that area. I've personally picked WALL-E but the options are endless. Whether it's Bender, R2D2 or even this cheeky iPhone XS as your wallpaper, the design of the camera area can be an essential part of your wallpaper. Check out more Galaxy S10 wallpapers over at Android Central!
The Galaxy S10 Plus delivers the best display ever on a smartphone.
Samsung is known for making the best smartphone displays, and this year's Dynamic AMOLED panels push it even further. DisplayMate ranks it as the best smartphone display and we're inclined to agree – whether it's colors, vibrancy, viewing angles, brightness, technical accuracy or reflections, the Galaxy S10's Dynamic AMOLED display sets the benchmark for smartphones. I absolutely love Samsung's displays and the Galaxy S10 Plus delivers the best smartphone display ever.
Pushing the screen to the curved edges and leaving minimal bezels does result in a small problem – accidental touches. When you're holding the phone in one hand, it occasionally registers your palm as a touch point. This means cursors moving to different places, the phone not responding to your actual touches, and the camera thinking you're trying to zoom when you're tapping to focus.
Moving to the back, the Galaxy S10 Plus is sleek with a glass finish that's a little slippery. The glass shimmers in the light – at least on the Prism White version we're using – and is almost mesmerizing. That said, I personally don't like the Prism White color (even though my colleagues at Android Central disagree) and would pick the Prism Blue instead if I had a choice. There are plenty of Galaxy S10 colors for you to choose from, ranging from black and white to blue, one with a green effect and even a beautiful coral hue that's been inspired by this year's Pantone color of the year.
The rear is where you'll also see a noticeable addition to the camera department: the third camera. It's new for the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus and adds a beautiful symmetry to the phone. On the Galaxy S9, the two cameras were joined by a fingerprint sensor, but Samsung has made a huge change in that department for this year's flagship.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Ultrasonic Fingerprint sensor
Until the Galaxy S8, Samsung devices were known for a home button beneath the screen, where a fingerprint sensor was built in. Then, in 2017, Samsung caught up with its rivals by moving it to the rear, albeit with a very odd placement next to the camera. The company fixed this with the S9, putting the sensor below the rear cameras.
Now we no longer have a physical sensor at all. Instead, we have an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, the first of its kind to bounce sound waves up to the screen to read your fingerprint. Unlike those of the optical kind which just look at your fingerprint, the ultrasonic version reads the individual ridges in your fingerprint and is reportedly much more secure.
The only problem? It's slower than the capacitive versions we're used to. Physical sensors work almost instantly, with most unlocking your phone in about a quarter of a second. The Galaxy S10 Plus fingerprint sensor is noticeably slower, taking closer to a second to unlock. It might not seem like a lot, but when you use it hundreds of times per day, it is definitely noticeable.
Overall, it's a little hit-and-miss but works most of the time. As long as you register your fingerprint at the right angle, it unlocks with no misfires. When setting it up, the onscreen instructions suggest you keep your finger straight, but this can result in a few failed attempts when you try and unlock. Instead, registering with your finger in a natural angle (coming from the side of your phone as you will when using it), results in a much higher success rate.
The problem is the tradeoff between the usefulness of the sensor and the stunning design of the phone. Although in-display fingerprint sensors are the eventual future we're headed to, they're just not that useful in their current state.
In-display fingerprint sensors are not that useful in their current state.
Samsung highlights the "unlock region" with a small fingerprint graphic when the display is awake (or sometimes on the Always-on-Display). The sensor does work when the display is turned off, but after two weeks with the Galaxy S10 Plus, muscle memory hasn't kicked in yet and there are more failed attempts than successful ones when the display is off.
Ultimately, the fingerprint sensor would be great if you could use it in combination with another secure method, but there's no iris scanning. There's only face detection, which just uses the front-facing camera and can easily be fooled by a photo. Relying solely on the fingerprint sensor – which admittedly will get much better with future updates – in its current state feels like a missed opportunity.
Three times the fun
Samsung Galaxy S10 Cameras
Following the lead of other manufacturers, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S10 Plus with three cameras. The standard and telephoto zoom cameras found in the Galaxy S9 and Note 9 are joined by an all-new ultra-wide-angle lens. Samsung isn't the first to opt for this exact arrangement — LG and Huawei did it first — but the implementation is better here.
The ultra-wide-angle sensor works as it does on other phones – it makes taking pictures super fun. The 123-degree field of view is considerably wider than the regular lens and lets you capture the same view as your eyes. There's also no trade-off either, as you still have the other two lenses for your main photos. The ultra-wide-angle does warp photos around the edges, but it provides the flexibility to take photos that look great and more importantly, stand out on social media.
The ultra-wide-angle provides the flexibility to take photos that look great and stand out on social media.
The two other cameras? They are dual 12MP sensors with "Dual Pixel" technology and OIS in each sensor. The main sensor features a mechanical dual aperture of f/1.7 and f/2.4, meaning the lens actually opens and closes to capture more or less light.
For the most part, photos look great, although they do lack detail when you go beyond the surface. That's little different to last year's Samsung flagships, and with so many other companies making vast improvements to their photo processing techniques, I hoped Samsung would bring a major upgrade this year.
That's not to say the cameras are bad – the Galaxy S10 Plus takes excellent photos and Samsung delivers where it knows best. The Galaxy S10 Plus is the perfect all-round smartphone camera: it captures photos quickly; the colors and dynamic range are great; and you get a usable photo in most situations.
But as the sun sets, so does the camera's capabilities. Instead of crisp photos, the Galaxy S10 Plus struggles and tries to overcompensate by brightening the shot, which brings a lot of noise. On paper the camera should deliver excellent low light photos thanks to its wide aperture, but it fails to do so. Considering the Pixel 3 manages to take outstanding low light photos using a single sensor and AI, and it's surprising that Samsung couldn't do more with three cameras.
The two regular sensors are great for Live Focus mode, which is otherwise known as Portrait Mode. New to the Galaxy S10 family is a Color Pop feature that lets you keep a subject in color and making the rest of the photo monochrome. It takes a little adjustment to get the photo looking exactly how you want, and occasionally the final photo won't look like it did in the preview, but this makes taking them so much fun.
The camera is so fast, you'll never miss a shot.
Just like last year, the Live Focus mode comes with the ability to add background blur, but now you can also add a small zoom like effect (that makes it seem like you have zoomed in a little on the subject), and a spin mode that adds a radial effect to the background. Whichever Live Focus mode you use, you can change the effect before and after capture.
If you want the camera that can handle every situation, and is so fast you won't miss a beat, the Galaxy S10 Plus delivers. However, if you want a camera that's incredible in low light or one that can capture a lot of detail, then we'd recommend looking elsewhere. In those two cases, you should feast your eyes on the Google Pixel 3 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro respectively.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Battery life and charging
The single best thing about the Galaxy S10 Plus, in my opinion, is the battery life. The monstrous 4100 mAh battery goes for days (well, two days). It reminds me of the battery life of the Galaxy Note 2, which was the last Samsung phone to actually last me through a really solid day of use.
During two weeks with the S10 Plus, not once has it died by the end of the day. During that time, I've been on planes, visited four different cities, been in a trade show with tons of RF interference and used the camera extensively. The S10 Plus has been a champ, keeping up with everything I can throw at it and then some.
The monstrous battery goes for days, and will never let you down.
In terms of the overall battery life, you can expect to see one to two days full usage on a single charge, with around 6 to 7 hours of screen on time. Using the camera and recording video can drop it, but even under the heaviest of uses, it's never failed to make it a full waking day (~7am to 1am).
That's a good thing as the one disappointment is the charging speeds. I'm used to companies like Huawei and Oppo, as well as any device powered by Qualcomm Quick Charge 3 or 4, charging rapidly. Take the Mate 20 Pro for example – a 30 min charge can add almost 60% battery life using Huawei's own SuperCharge standard.
The Galaxy S10 Plus? The slower Quick Charge 2 standard means slower charging, much slower in fact. A 30 min charge adds about 30% and a full charge takes just shy of two hours. Perhaps by design, Samsung's own Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 standard also charges the phone at close to the same speed. Wireless charging is fun, and it's great to see Samsung improve speeds in this area, but it doesn't excuse the slow wired charging.
The fun part about the Galaxy S10 Plus? You can use it to wirelessly charge other phones, accessories or headphones. It won't replace your dedicated charger, but if you have an iPhone – this has happened to me more times than I can count – the Galaxy S10 Plus can keep it running when it hits that dreaded 1% remaining mark. Where you'll use it more often is with Samsung's new headphones – the Galaxy Buds – which can also charge wirelessly off your phone, or with a smartwatch like the Galaxy Watch. It's not something you'll use every day, but it's great to have for those times in need.
Polished and sleek
Samsung Galaxy S10 Software
Sleek. Beautiful. Modern. Three words that you don't often associate with the software on Samsung phones, but Samsung's new user experience delivers on all three in abundance. The new One UI delivers an experience that's tasteful, with large buttons and simpler lines. It retains the Samsung DNA by being full of features, but also ensures it's intuitive and easy to use.
The same One UI experience came to Samsung's older phones in an update last month, and you can see Android Central's full review of One UI on the Galaxy Note 9 if you want to get into the specifics of exactly what's changed.
The key highlights are: a revamped notification shade with much larger icons; a settings menu that's been simplified so you don't need to visit five menus to find a setting; and a clean, simple app drawer that can be accessed with a swipe up or down on the home screen.
I have always loved Samsung's software for one reason – it's designed to let you customize almost everything. Want to swipe down on the home screen to access your notifications? Check. Customize your always on display to essentially make it an extension of your phone? Check. Adjust how many notifications show on the status bar? Check.
Samsung's software offers all the features you need.
To the left of the phone is a key which launches… Bixby. Samsung's personal assistant has a few new features such as Routines to control your smart home – they work great in tandem with Samsung SmartThings – but falls behind Google Assistant in areas like having a natural conversation.
We've not been able to test it, but one of the benefits of Bixby that we can see is the integration with Samsung's appliances range. Imagine being in a supermarket and wondering if you need milk (we've all been there) – Bixby can tell you, as long as you also have a Samsung Family Hub refrigerator. You'll mostly want to avoid Bixby, and thankfully you can map the key to launch something else, although you can't disable it entirely.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Hardware, Performance, Calling & more
The rest of the Galaxy S10 Plus delivers in the areas you expect: all the greatest hardware, excellent performance, and an outstanding overall package. The hardware ticks all the boxes – IP68 dust and water resistance, super-fast LTE, Dolby Atmos sound, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and a plethora of sensors.
The Snapdragon 855 processor absolutely flies through anything you throw against it. You have the option of 8GB of RAM in the standard models (with 128GB or 512GB of storage) or a wholly unnecessary 12GB of RAM if you go for the ceramic-laden version with 1TB of storage.
Gaming, in particular, is outstanding, with no noticeable dropped frames or stutter. We tried several games including Clash of Clans, Alto's Odyssey and EA Sports' FIFA 19, and the Galaxy S10 Plus handled them all without breaking a sweat. Most games apply a black border rather than cover the full display, so the front camera cut-out doesn't get in the way of gaming.
Calls are also fantastic on the Galaxy S10 Plus. If you make phone calls regularly, like I do, you'll be happy to know that cell signal is excellent, and calls are clear and crisp. Sadly, Samsung has removed the volume booster feature that used to be present in past devices, which provided a simple way to artificially amplify the volume.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Review
Check out the Android Central Galaxy S10 Plus review above!
Samsung makes fantastic devices and the Galaxy S10 Plus is no different. It takes two very good smartphones from last year and makes them better in the ways that matter, with an improved screen, even better design and excellent performance. The tertiary camera adds several new ways to enjoy the camera, and while they're a little lacking in detail, the Galaxy S10 Plus takes photos that look great on social media.
The biggest battery in a regular Galaxy S flagship ever means outstanding battery life. The ability to share your power wirelessly with other compatible phones and accessories will be a saving grace when you need it most (and is a great party trick). The best specs mean the smoothest performance you'll find, and there's a ton of other new features to keep everyone happy.
The Galaxy S10 Plus is almost the perfect smartphone, and the right phone for most people to buy.
The Galaxy S10 Plus is almost the perfect smartphone… almost. The in-display fingerprint sensor lets the overall experience down. It's a first-generation sensor which means there were always going to be issues, but for a $1,000 phone, we hoped for a little more polish. That said, it's not enough to deter away from buying the Galaxy S10 Plus.
Should you buy the Galaxy S10 Plus? It offers the best Galaxy experience, but if the slightly larger battery and display are not critical to you, the regular Galaxy S10 offers the same overall experience. Similarly, if you want almost the entire S10 Plus experience at a lower cost, the Galaxy S10e makes a few modifications and drops the price considerably further.
This is the theme of the Galaxy S10 family in general: there's a Galaxy for you. It doesn't matter which of these you buy, they ultimately offer the same consistent, and more importantly, excellent overall experience. The Galaxy S10 Plus itself? No phone is perfect, but Samsung's flagship blows it out of the park yet again.
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