Impressive as Hell

5 Awesome Features That Vault Samsung’s Latest Smartphones to the Head of the Pack


February 20, 2019 Tech By Photo by Chase Pellerin
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Samsung’s new S10 line of Galaxy phones are a significant upgrade over last year’s S9 family. And like the latest crop of iPhones, the Galaxy S10 line now includes an even wider variety of size and price options to suit all budgets.

Beyond the expected S10 and bigger S10 Plus, the brand-new Galaxy S10e is a smaller and more affordable smartphone that’s clearly designed as the direct answer to the iPhone XR. Samsung even unveiled a fourth model, the Galaxy S10 5G, equipped with 5G connectivity, but, as there aren’t really any consumer-ready 5G networks yet, it feels more like a proof of concept smartphone than anything else.

Want to know more? We went hands-on with all the Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphones to test five cutting-edge features worth upgrading for.

Hole-Punch Displays Go Prime Time

The starkest difference from previous Galaxy smartphones is the S10’s “hole punch” display and front-facing camera system. The new “Infinity O” screen is still every bit as curved and edge-to-edge as the display on the Galaxy S9, but instead of a notch, it features a cutout for the camera that the screen wraps seamlessly around. Other important sensors are also embedded underneath the display, giving the new S10 family Samsung’s biggest screen-to-body ratio ever.

Hands-on reaction: The new front-facing camera felt smooth, very smooth. There’s no notch or camera bump. And the screen above the cameras was definitely still usable, although it was a little weird swiping down over the camera. There might be an issue of dirtying up the camera.

Which smartphones have this: Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10e

Ultrasonic Fingerprint Readers

Every iteration of the Galaxy S10 features a fingerprint reader that’s embedded directly in the screen. The readers on Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ are also ultrasonic, making them supposedly much harder to hack. That’s because unlike optical fingerprint readers which capture a static image of your thumb during setup that’s then used as a point of reference every time you put your finger down in the future, ultrasonic technology operates in real-time, similarly to sonar. Specifically, ultrasonic scanners create a three-dimensional scan of the contours of your thumb that’s much harder to spoof. The method is also much more accurate, even in poorly lit situations or when your hands are sweaty.

Hands-on reaction: I was worried that ditching the dedicated physical fingerprint scanning button would entail a steep learning curve. Surprisingly though the new system was very intuitive. It’s great that you don’t have to look at your phone to open it.

Which smartphones have this: Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+

All the new Galaxy S10 smartphones have “wireless power share” or the ability to wirelessly charge other Qi-compatible devices. When you turn the feature on it effectively turns the Galaxy S10 into a wireless charging pad. The coil is on the back of the phone, so in order to charge other smartphones (above), you need to place the back-to-back with the Galaxy S10.

An Ultra-Wide Lens to Capture Everything

For the first time, Samsung’s entire Galaxy S line is equipped with an ultra-wide camera. The new camera’s 120-degree field of view is very similar to what the human eye sees: if you can see it, the ultra-wide lens can capture it, making mobile photography even more intuitive. Another neat thing is that when using the camera app, there are icons at the bottom of the app that tells you which lens you’re using. Pretty neat.

Hands-on reaction: The ultra-wide lens is a fine feature, though not as novel as other specs on this list. That said, it’s something most casual smartphone photographers will benefit from. During our limited use, Samsung’s implementation felt like a more natural, less gimmicky version of the ‘Group Selfies’ feature found on the Pixel 3.

Which smartphones have this: Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10e

Wireless Power Sharing

In addition to wireless charging own their own, the entire Galaxy S10 line can now also wirelessly charge other Qi-compatible devices. Samsung calls this feature “wireless power share.” Using it requires tapping an icon in the notification tray, which effectively turns your Galaxy S10 smartphone into a Qi-wireless charging pad; to charge, just place the device that you want to charge on the back of the Galaxy S10. The software toggle helps prevent others from stealing your phone’s battery power, but be warned, if you forget to turn it off, your smartphone will drain more rapidly.

Hands-on reaction: This is one upgrade that’s arguably the most unique, but also the least likely to be used regularly.
It certainly works as advertised. The most promising use case in our eyes is the option of charging other wireless you use on a daily basis, like earbuds or a smartwatch.

Which smartphones have this: Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10e

What’s the Catch with the Cheap Phone?

So if you get the cheaper Galaxy S10e, what are the compromises? It’s really about size and screen. It’s smaller than the S10. And the screen has a flat edge. The camera system isn’t quite as sophisticated, either, as the Galaxy S10e doesn’t have a telephoto camera for optical zoom. Finally, there’s security. The fingerprint scanner on the S10e is optical not ultrasonic. Otherwise, the S10e features the same Qualcomm 855 processor, modem, battery performance, and features, like wireless power share, as the other S10 devices.

Hands-on reaction: If you’re somebody who likes smaller smartphones and uses Android, this is the upgrade for you. Most people won’t miss the features that it lacks compared to the other Galaxy options. And for the price, it’s a solid deal.

Other Details

Just to bring it all together, here are some final details you need to know about Samsung’s latest smartphones.

4K Video: All three Galaxy S10 devices have a 10-megapixel ultra HD front-facing camera that’s capable of recording 4K video. The S10+ has an added depth camera that’s designed to capture additional information and perform unique effects.

Headphone Jack: Yes, all the new Galaxy S10 smartphones have a headphone jack. This will likely be one of the last flagship smartphones to have one.

HDR: The entire Galaxy S10 line is made up of the first HDR+ certified devices, so compatible games, shows and movies will supposedly look even better. Additionally, Samsung claims that these devices are meant to be better for you. They reduce blue light exposure by over 42 percent, according to Samsung, so there’s less strain on the user’s eyes, and it’s done so without compromising image quality.

Storage: All three major Galaxy S10 smartphones start with base storage of 128GB. The Galaxy S10+ is available in 512GB and 1TB configurations, too. All Galaxy S10 smartphones have microSD slots, so you can add another 512GB to any of them — that’s a massive amount of storage that can fit in your pocket.

Colors: The entire line of Galaxy S10 smartphones is available in four primary colors: prism pink, prism white, prism blue, prism black. The 512GB and 1TB configurations of the Galaxy S10+ is available in ceramic white and ceramic black, which Samsung claims are more luxurious as well as scratch-resistant.

Pricing and Availability: The Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10e will be available for pre-order on February 21 and on sale March 8. The Galaxy S10e starts at $749 with 128GB. The Galaxy S10 starts at $899 and the Galaxy S10 Plus is $999. The Galaxy S10 5G will be available at the end of Q2, exclusively on Verizon, and later on with the other carriers.

New True Wireless Earbuds: In addition to the smartphones, Samsung also announced new true wireless earbuds: the Galaxy Buds. They support wireless charging and the case is 30-percent smaller than previous generations.

Pre-Order Incentive: For those who pre-order, you’ll get a pair of Galaxy Buds, Samsung’s new true wireless earbuds, for free. That’s roughly a $150 value.

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