The smartphone space is a bit perplexing these days. The long-standing definition of Android flagship smartphones has changed somewhat. The traditional flagship Android phones as we knew them all along, now have competition from those that called themselves ‘flagship killers’ till a few years ago, and silently upgraded to offer flagship-experience themselves in due course of time—these are the phones around the Rs 40,000 price point. Does this mean that the more expensive traditional flagship phones may now be categorized as luxury phones? Ones that you may want to splurge on?
On the same note, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is embarking on a tough journey. It is supposed to take over from the Galaxy S9+ and is supposed to set the sales charts alight in the process. On that front, Samsung has left no stone unturned to give the Galaxy S10+ the premium personality that it requires and deserves.
For starters, how much does it cost, you might ask. Samsung is offering three variants of the Galaxy S10+ in India at this time. For Rs 73,900 you will get the entry spec variant with 128GB storage and 8GB RAM. Then there is the middle spec variant that has 512GB storage and 8GB RAM that is priced at Rs 91,900. At the very top of the pyramid sits the variant that has 1TB storage and 12GB of RAM—it is the first in both these specs and is priced at Rs 1,17,900. For most users, we suspect the entry spec with 128GB storage and 8GB RAM will be more than powerful though.
In terms of the design, it is a bit more of the same, but a lot of different as well. There is a lot happening here, so please bear with us. First up, the colorways that are being offered with each variant are different. The entry variant (128GB storage and 8GB RAM) will be available in Prism White, Prism Black and Prism Blue colour options. All these color options have a nice depth effect that you can’t ignore, as you notice how the light reflects off the back. They can all get a bit smudgy from time to time, and you’ll need to wipe it clean to get the luster back in all its glory. The mid-range spec, the 512GB/8GB option is available exclusively in the Ceramic Black finish. The top of the line 1TB/12GB can be purchased only in the Porcelain White finish.
With all that out of the way, it is important to address the elephant in the room—the Samsung Galaxy S10+ looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, at least from the back. And that is how most people will see it, as you hold it up against you ear while discussing the details of the next big financial transaction. That aside, this is surely up there in terms of a design that will wow you, much like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for instance. The Galaxy S10+ is a large phone though, and perhaps not the most comfortable when it comes to one-hand operation. It cradles well in the hand, thanks to the subtle curves on the back and the spines. The one aside though is the placement of the power key, which is now much closer to the top of the right spine (as you hold the phone) and out of the natural range of the fingers—you need to make an effort to get to that every time.
One of the reasons for the rather large footprint is the mammoth 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display. There is no way that you can ignore the pill-shaped cut-out near the top-right corner of the display, for the dual front facing cameras—this is also known as hole punch, something we have already seen albeit in different dimensions on the Honor View 20 smartphone. If you thought the notch cutouts on smartphone displays posed a learning curve, this might assuage those fears a bit. You do notice this initially but learn to block it out soon enough. And it never really gets in the way, such is the massive real estate that this Infinity O display has to offer—except perhaps when you may be watching a movie. You do have the option of hiding this, but that just leaves a thick black bar hung on the top of the display. The ‘Infinity’ part is quite true too, since this is the closest, we have come to eliminating bezels on smartphones. The display is also your gateway to the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and is certainly a technological step up compared with the fingerprint sensors on the back panels of smartphones.
There is no hiding the fact that this is an absolutely gorgeous display to look at. This is an HDR-certified, vivid AMOLED screen that packs in 3040 x 1440 pixels. The Galaxy S10+ supports the HDR 10 standard, which means HDR content from Amazon Video and YouTube is penciled in as checked—and now Netflix has also added the Galaxy S10+ (as well as the Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10e) to its HDR compatible list. In fact, if you are upgrading from one of the predecessors, you’ll probably immediately notice that the saturation levels that this display exhibits are significantly toned down and now closest to natural, compared with any Samsung Galaxy S series phone has ever been. Photos look natural, videos are a pleasure to watch and reading text is also more comfortable.
Samsung, after years of holding on to the Touchwiz wrapper around Android, has finally decided that it is time for a clean start. And what a breath of fresh air that has been. What we see in the Galaxy S10+ is what is called One UI, with Android 9 Pie providing the foundations. The layout is definitely cleaner and better to look at, there are while spaces that provide visual relief and the scaling looks perfect on a screen as big as this one. That said, the gestures still prove to be a tad too confusing—and you might end up switching back to the navigation keys. While we were reviewing the phone, Samsung rolled out a software update that now lets you reconfigure the Bixby key to open any other app which you may prefer quicker access to.
The Galaxy S10+ has a triple camera—one standard 12-megapixel wide camera (f/1.5 aperture and optically stabilized lens) and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera (f/2.4 aperture and optically stabilized lens) which we had seen in the Galaxy S9+ as well but are joined by a new 16-megapixel ultrawide camera (f/2.2 aperture). If you thought the Galaxy S9+ could take great photos, the Galaxy S10+ just takes things up a couple of notches, particularly with the wide shots. You do need to keep in mind that there might be visible distortion in wide angle photos, particularly around the edges, most visible when you have what should have been straight lines instead. The standard photography performance has evolved from last year’s phones, in the sense that image processing now deals with distortions and noise even better without hurting the detailing at all. In fact, colours are picked out very nicely, there is great contrast and detailing is pristine, to say the least. That said, some photos still lean on the side of being over-exposed, particularly for good light photos, and that can sometimes hurt colour accuracy as well as skin tones. You just need to be a bit more active while using this for photography, to ensure it is focusing on the right areas in the frame.
Unfortunately, the low light photos, at least in the current scheme of things, is a bit of a disappointment. The photos are not well detailed, exposure isn’t always great and there tends to be some smudging visible in certain photos. The Google Pixel 3 XL and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro are still doing better in this regard.
Then there is the artificial intelligence (AI) powered scene detection, which we realized hits more than it misses, but still misses in certain frames such as a typical indoor environment in offices.
If you will be recording a lot of videos on the Galaxy S10+, you will surely appreciate Samsung packing in the HDR+ Video and Dynamic Tone Mapping features for video recording. The former is most useful in keeping exposure constant, even though naturally there may be jarring variations. The latter is a second layer beyond HDR, which ensures that the colour accuracy remains as it is, by constantly analyzing parts of the frame. We noticed that the HDR feature isn’t enabled if you choose to record your video in the UHD (60fps) setting but is enabled in the UHD mode—you may want to check this in the settings once you switch to the video mode.
The Galaxy S10+ that you can buy in India runs the 8-nanometer Exynos 9820 octa core processor, while certain other countries including the US will get the version powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip. You will find this paired with 8GB RAM and 12GB RAM, depending on which version you pick. The biggest change is with the streamlined One UI interface wrapped around Android 9 Pie, which perhaps makes the biggest difference. This has so much power under the hood, it really would be a travesty (and a massive understatement) if we were to say that the performance is slick, and everything is just fine and dandy. Battery life from the 4100mAh battery is quite robust too-two days on a single charge with moderate usage and a day and a half when used for most day to day workflow apps including mails, social media and lots of voice calls.
Soon after the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the Galaxy S10+ also brings the reverse wireless charging feature to the table. What this means is that you can charge any other smartphone (which also supports wireless charging) or accessory by simply aligning it to the back of the Galaxy S10+. For Samsung, this works well since it already has an ecosystem of accompanying devices such as the Galaxy Buds wireless earphones and the Galaxy Watch smartwatch that can be simply placed on the back of this phone and topped up. You will perhaps notice that the biggest advantage of this is one less charging cable on your bedside table—plug in the Galaxy S10+ in to charge, turn it around and keep it on the table and simply place another phone or Buds on this to charge simultaneously. A peaceful night’s sleep ahead of you, and all devices getting charged with one cable. However, we wouldn’t recommend charging another smartphone this way on a regular basis, since the wear on the Galaxy S10+’s battery would be significant.
This is the tenth iteration of the Galaxy S series flagship Android phones. But things are tougher now for the Galaxy S10+, because competition is wider than ever before, including flagship phones that cost significantly lesser too.
That leads us to the big question—do you really need a luxury Android phone anymore? When you consider the likes of the OnePlus 6T and the Honor View 20, which cost almost half the price of the Samsung Galaxy S10+, and yet offer a fairly slick user experience, you do begin to wonder. It is a battle that really cannot be won. However, the Samsung Galaxy S10+’s biggest competition is the Apple iPhone and the likes of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Google Pixel 3 XL. If you are deeply intertwined with the iOS ecosystem, chances are you will stay put—but if you are looking for a wider set of features such as reverse wireless charging and perhaps an AMOLED display, then this is the Android phone to have. In the Android space, the Galaxy S10+ is better than the Pixel 3 XL in most respects, including the display and performance and runs the Mate 20 Pro close in terms of the design, the screen and the camera. However, if low light photography is an important requirement, you will still be better off with a Pixel 3 XL or the Mate 20 Pro. In the end, this the best Galaxy S flagship ever, but then again, its rivals are closer than they ever have been.