Smartphones are getting bigger, and more expensive. Whether it's Apple, Samsung, Huawei or others, it's become the norm to see phones with screens pushing more than 6-inches, and price tags exceeding $1,000.
Samsung has led this trend with the Galaxy Note 9 starting at $999 with its large screen. The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus continue the trend of bigger devices as they're noticably bigger than their predecessors, and considerably more expensive as well. As prices and screen sizes move up however, it's left a gap for an affordable – at least by modern standards – phone with a smaller more compact form factor. Rather than let companies like OnePlus and Honor step in at fill that hole, Samsung made the Galaxy S10e.
It's cheaper than the Galaxy S10, and it's smaller 5.8-inch form factor, it's more comfortable in one hand. At its core, the Galaxy S10e is fundamentally a Galaxy S10, but it's also the best small phone ever made, and a real joy to use.
Samsung Galaxy S10e
The Galaxy S10e is the most affordable member of the Galaxy S10 family, but it's also the best "small" flagship phone you can buy today. It offers everything the rest of the family does at a more affordable price, and in a size that'll appeal to a lot of people. There's a few shortcomings – the higher resolution screen and excellent battery life – but these are worthy trade-offs for the overall experience.
- Offers the core Galaxy S10 experience
- Excellent, vibrant display
- Great internal hardware
- Fun ultra-wide-angle camera
- Compact size is fantastic
- The battery struggles with heavy usage
- Screen may feel cramped for some users
- No telephoto lens or depth camera
A true Galaxy
Samsung Galaxy S10e What I love
The Galaxy S10e is going to appeal to a lot of people as it's the cheapest in Samsung's new lineup, but to judge it solely based on price would be a mistake. Instead, you should look at it as the smallest of Samsung's lineup, and when you do so, it's an incredibly compelling smartphone.
The 5.8-inch display is roughly the same size as the Galaxy S9, but the phone itself it's shorter, lighter and thinner. It lacks the curved edges which mean there's no accidental touches on the side of the screen, and the phone is very comfortable in the hand. It's the perfect-sized phone for one-handed usage, and the fingerprint sensor is where you'll recognise this the most.
The S10e is the perfect size for one-handed use.
The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ fingerprint sensors are not very good, but the S10e has an incredible fingerprint sensor. As part of the trade-off for the lower price tag, Samsung has embedded the fingerprint sensor in the power button on the right of the phone, rather than using the in-display sensor of its bigger siblings.
Samsung isn't the first to use a sensor on the side – Sony has been using it for a long time on its phones – but the Galaxy S10e has the perfect position. The position of the sensor is great regardless of whether you use your left or right hand. You can also keep it enabled when the screen is turned off so just a very quick tap unlocks your phone. There is the odd failed unlocking attempt where my finger wasn't aligned fully with the sensor, but these are few and far between. It's so fast and intuitive, that I rarely see my lock screen.
Without the curved sides, you do see a little bit of screen bezel but it doesn't detract from the experience. The display is "only" 1080p resolution, but it has all the hallmarks of the excellent display on the bigger devices, despite them having 1440p resolution. The smaller screen size results in a pixel density of 435 ppi, and only the most discerning display enthusiasts will be able to spot it's not the same resolution as its siblings. Samsung makes the best smartphone displays on the market and the gap between the competition and the S10e is pronounced at this price point.
Unlike other "small" or "compact" phones, the Galaxy S10e isn't a heavily cut down version of the Galaxy S10. Instead, you get all the things that make the Galaxy S10 series, and you're not missing out on anything important.
The Snapdragon 855 processor, 128GB of storage, microSD card expansion, stereo speakers, headphone jack, fast wireless charging and IP68 dust and water resistance are all the same features as the more expensive devices. The cut-backs are few and far between, although the RAM does drop to 6GB and the battery is only 3,100mAh, the latter a necessity given the size of the S10e.
Performance wise, the Galaxy S10e delivers the excellent performance we saw in the Galaxy S10 Plus, despite having less RAM. The S10e features the same amount of RAM as last year's flagships, and it's safe to say that you're highly unlikely to suffer any performance problems, given these devices are still very capable.
The most noticeable difference against the rest of the line-ups is in the camera, where the S10e drops the telephoto camera on the rear, and the depth camera of the S10 Plus on the front. The good news is you won't miss either of these in the slightest – the S10e retains the best part of the Galaxy S10 series camera which is the ultra-wide-lens.
You get the best of the Galaxy S10 Plus, without the price tag
Samsung's digital zoom is good enough that you can use it in place of the telephoto lens but keeping the ultra-wide-angle is a master stroke. The ultra-wide lens makes taking photos fun, and you can capture some great photos as well. The Galaxy S10e offers the versatility of the rest of the S10 lineup's camera, but at a price where it's incredibly compelling.
You still get the same "Live Focus" portrait mode effects as the other Galaxy devices, and while the camera isn't on par with the Pixel 3 or other flagships, it's consistent, fast and fun. See our Galaxy S10 Plus review for tons of examples of the photos captured with the same ultra-wide lens as the S10e.
Samsung Galaxy S10e What I don't like
While I thoroughly enjoy the compact size of the S10e – it's almost identical in size to the iPhone XS for those wondering – you might find it's too small for you. Compared to the current trend of large phones, the S10e's form factor is compact even if there is a 5.8-inch screen. Similarly, after spending a few weeks with the S10 Plus, the S10e feels a little cramped.
It's funny because only a couple of years ago, 6+-inches was considered too big for a phone and now it's become the norm. If the current generation of phones is too big for you, or you want something that's easy to use in one hand, the S10e is the perfect candidate. However, if you're buying the S10e because of its price, and not because of its size, you might find it's too small, especially if you're coming from a device with a 6-inch+ display.
The other major pain point with the smaller phone is the smaller battery. The Galaxy S10 Plus has a 4,100mAh battery and it delivered incredible battery life. The S10e drops this by a whole 1,000mAh and the effect on the battery life is immediately apparent. It still comfortably delivers a full day of usage, but everyone should recognise that this is one of the biggest trade-offs with the smaller phone.
The display is smaller and lower-resolution which helps offset the loss in capacity a little. The Snapdragon 855 is very efficient and Samsung has done all it can do to negate the effect on battery life. The result is that the Galaxy S10e can easily get through a full day of usage just like the Galaxy S10 Plus did. However, while Samsung's flagship offered the confidence that it could handle anything, the Galaxy S10e does not.
To extend the battery life, we tweaked a few things like turning off the Always On Display – which actually drains a considerable amount of battery, especially when it's turned on automatically rather than when you tap the screen – and enabling power saving mode as soon as the battery hits 20%. It doesn't offer the incredible battery life of the Galaxy S10 Plus, but the Galaxy S10e's battery does deliver solid all-day battery life and Samsung's power saving mode is effective enough at extending the battery when you're in a pinch.
Samsung Galaxy S10e Should you buy it?
Much like Apple, Samsung recognized the need for a phone with a near-flagship experience at a more affordable price. The Galaxy S10e is priced identically to the iPhone XR, and certainly delivers on this mission but it does so in spectacular fashion.
It offers all of the key features of its more expensive siblings, with strategic cutbacks – such as less RAM, a slightly lower resolution display and the superfluous telephoto camera – that don't detract from the overall experience. It doesn't have the best battery life, but this is to be expected of any smaller phone. The Galaxy S10e is the best small phone ever made, and whether you buy it for the size, or because it's the cheapest Galaxy S10, you won't be disappointed.
It isn't the most exciting or attention-grabbing of the three Galaxy S10 devices, but it offers the best value for money out of the bunch. It's also the most desirable of the three, if you're looking for a smaller device. Best of all, it's a true Galaxy S10 and not a cut down version like other 'mini' or 'compact' phones – Samsung's strategic cutbacks have allowed it to offer a compact phone, and an affordable Galaxy S10 in one. It's a Galaxy S10 for a different user and if you're that user, it's the best phone in the world.
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