Samsung Galaxy S10 Review: Get the S10e instead

Samsung Galaxy S10 Packing

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is Samsung’s latest iteration of its Galaxy line. It brings the first hole punch infinity display and ultrasonic under screen fingerprint scanner to the market. With the inclusion of three rear-facing cameras and their recently refreshed One UI, the Galaxy S10 packs a ton of features. Samsung’s UI has also significantly improved with the introduction of One UI making it a real contender in stock like performance. Coupled with the exceptional hardware and specifications, the S10 on paper looks to be a great phone. But in practice, it might make more sense for you to grab its little brother the S10e. Let us take a look at why.

The Basics

  • 6.1 inch Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Hole Punch Display
  • 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Android Pie One UI
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128/512 GB Storage
  • Three Cameras on the back
    • 12 MP, f/1.5-2.4, 26mm
    • 12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm
    • 16 MP, f/2.2, 12mm
  • Single-Camera on the front
    • 10 MP, f/1.9, 26mm
  • Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner under the display
  • 3400 mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm

For more information, check out the Samsung Galaxy S10 page

What sets this device apart?

Design and Feel

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is a gorgeous device. With its tampered curve to the shimmering prism white color, the design language makes it look like something from the future. Overall, it is really hard to describe just how striking the Galaxy S10 looks until you have used it for a couple of days. The design is certainly one thing that I will greatly miss after this review.

In order to achieve this look, there were certain trade-offs that were taken. For instance, the phone is super slippery. If you are not careful, it is easy to have it slip out of your hand. This would be easily solved by getting a case or vinyl skin. But at the same time, why buy a phone made of glass if all you are going to do is put it in plastic? I would have rathered Samsung put some type of coating onto the back of the device to make it so that is wasn’t so slippery.

Infinity O Display

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is the first phones to employ a hole punch in its screen rather than a notch. I was slightly surprised to see Samsung going down the path of putting in a hole punch and not just sticking out till we found a way to put the camera under the screen.

In daily use, you won’t notice the hole punch much. Often times I forget it is even there. What I have noticed is that in some applications, the phone would move the video off-center to compensate for that hole so that it does not cover any content. This makes the video looks lopsided which was slightly distracting for me.

The screen comes set in Natural color temperature. You can go into the setting and change it to Vivid which increases the saturation to give the colors more pop. In Vivid mode, you can also change the color temperature of the device, making it either warmer or cooler. Personally, I found the screen to be on the warmer side, even with the color temperature set to the coolest.

Reverse Wireless Charging

Samsung Galaxy S10 PowerShare

Huawei first introduced this feature on their Mate 20 Pro. Samsung’s implementation is similar but offers a faster charge at 4.5 watts. Your device will also need at least 30% of battery in order to use this feature. To activate, you can simply swipe down on the notification shade and click on PowerShare from the quick settings. A blue light will then light up on the back of the device next to the cameras. Once you place down your qi wireless compatible device (in my case the Galaxy Buds) that light will turn red to let you know its charging. Once the device is done charging, the Galaxy S10 will automatically turn off PowerShare as well.

One UI

Dark Theme

One UI has brought some upcoming Android Q features to their Android Pie phones. One, in particular, is an automatic dark theme that you can set to turn on at a specific time in the day. The night mode will automatically turn any of Samsung’s built-in like the phone and messengers apps into a darker layout. Most of the apps don’t seem to use true blacks as their dark theme so don’t expect much battery saving out of using the dark theme. It is, however, great on the eyes when trying to use the device at night.

Floating Window Mode

Few OEMs these days have a window mode where you can make your apps hover over your screen. To do this, tap on the recent app button and then the app icon you want to float. There will be an option to make the app into a floating window.

Dual Bluetooth Audio

Samsung’s One UI is the first device that I have seen support dual Bluetooth audio. If you are trying to watch a movie with someone else and trying to use multiple Bluetooth headphones this is one of the few devices that allow you to do that today.

Good Lock app is crucial for this phone

If you have not downloaded the Good Lock app from the Galaxy store, I highly recommend you do. Within the application, there are tons of customization features that make using the Galaxy S10 a great experience.

One particular Good Lock app functions (which is under the family tab) is the Edge Touch. Edge Touch allows you to set up dead zones on the sides of the screen to prevent accidental touches. I would say this particular app is crucial in owning the Samsung Galaxy S10. It alleviated one of the most frustrating problems I had with the Galaxy S10, which was my palm accidentally causing random actions to happen when holding the phone.

For more info about all you can do with the Good Lock app, Android Authority has a great article on it that I definitely recommend reading.

What are the drawbacks of this device?

Bixby and Bixby Button

Bixby remapping requires you to Sign in to Bixby
Bixby Setup Page

As much as Samsung tries, Bixby is still not a good digital assistant and lags behind all of the major competitors. You may have heard that the Galaxy S10 has a Bixby button that can be remappable to other apps (just not other digital assistants). What most articles don’t mention is that Samsung forces you to accept their Bixby terms of service and sign up for a Samsung account before allowing you to remap the button.

What you are forced with is either being forced to accept Bixby’s terms of services or a useless button that sometimes can accidentally trigger the Bixby setup. This is pretty intrusive and forceful on Samsung’s part.

Crippled Do Not Disturb feature

The Samsung Galaxy S10 also comes with a less customizable Do Not Disturb functionality compared to other stock Android devices. One UI only allows you to set one particular time period where Do Not Disturb is enabled. There is no option to automatically turn on based on your calendar meetings or even adding an extra time period like work hours.

I would have liked to see Samsung enable those feature given they are supported in stock Android. Samsung’s current implementation makes it a lot less useful then it can be and not for any good reason.

The ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is slow

The accuracy and speed of the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner were disappointing. It is definitely slower than a traditional capacitive fingerprint scanner. You will notice the one second that it takes to authenticate your fingerprint.

The pressure required to press on the screen is also a lot higher than a capacitive scanner. I often get the message “Press a little harder”

The camera is good but not revolutionary

Samsung has added three cameras to the Galaxy S10. You now have an ultra-wide, regular, and 2x zoom lens. The Samsung Galaxy S10 takes decent photos under good lighting. The included Bixby vision has some nice AI features that help you align your camera for the best shot and automatically detecting the type of photo you are taking.

I did not find the 2x zoom lens all that useful. 2x really isn’t that much difference and I did not see myself using this that often. In terms of a zoom lens, I can only see some real benefits when it goes up to 5x or 10x zoom for nature shots. A 5x to 10x zoom would be great for trying to take pictures of wildlife from afar.

The ultra-wide angle lens, on the other hand, was a nice addition. This lens allows you to include a lot more of the scene in a single picture and is great for landscape photography. It does have the fisheye effect due to the nature of it being an ultra-wide, but Samsung does have some post-processing to correct for the fisheye effect.

Night mode is mediocre

There is no dedicated night mode on the Galaxy S10. Instead, the Bixby vision will automatically detect the environment you are in or scene you are taking a picture of and adjust to the correct settings. If you are in a dark environment you should see a crescent moon icon on the bottom right of the viewfinder. If that is present, you will know that night mode is enabled.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am completely spoiled by the Pixel 3’s Night Sight mode. But to see the flagship Galaxy S10’s night mode results was quite disappointing. The resulting photo was barely lit with most of the colors gone and details gone. The photo also had a yellow tint to it.

I did also try out the community ported version of Google camera to see if the night sight would result in any improvements (you can learn more about that here). You can see in the second photo that the photo is much brighter, but the resulting photo still has a yellowish tint to it.

Comparing the same photo in the same lighting condition, the Pixel 3’s night sight was able to take the photo as if the lights were on while retaining the detail and original color. This is a huge testament of just how powerful Google’s photo processing algorithm truly is. If night photography is something you care about or if you go to a lot of indoor concerts, you may want to skip the Galaxy S10.

Quarterly security update and slow software updates

Samsung has gotten a lot better when it comes to security updates over the years. Over the course of a week using the device, I did get an update that included the April security update (It was May at the time), which is only one month behind Google’s devices. When it comes to major version updates. They still do lag behind companies like Google and OnePlus. Even companies like LG and Huawei have devices that support the latest Android Q beta.

Other things to know

Battery Life is pretty good

Battery life is pretty good

The battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S10 is decent. I was able to get around 9 hrs 30 min of battery and 4 hrs 24 min of screen-on-time with 19% battery life. I could see myself easily getting 12+ hours of use and near 5 hours of screen on time with this device.

Would I recommend it?

The MSRP for the Galaxy S10 is $899.99. With tax, you could very well be looking at a thousand dollar device. With devices like the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Pixel 3a on the market, the Galaxy S10 is a hard sell. The Samsung Galaxy S10 is still one of the devices with the most amount of features and functionality. However, I would question how much those extra features do you really care about and are willing to spend the extra money on. If those features are things you are willing to spend extra on, I would just get the S10e. You will lose that curved display, a little screen real estate, telephoto lens, 2GB of RAM, a little resolution, and slightly less battery capacity. But as a result, you will gain more battery life, a more reliable fingerprint scanner, no palm rejection issues, and save yourself $150.

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