Samsung’s flagship smartphones have always been one of the best looking Android devices out there, and the recently launched Galaxy S10 and S10+ are no exceptions. In fact, in many ways they build upon the successes of their predecessors, and improve upon many of their drawbacks. I’ve been using the Galaxy S10+ as my daily driver for well over a week now, so if you’re wondering what these phones are like, keep reading to get our detailed S10, and S10 Plus review.
Note: For the most part, everything I say in this review applies to both the S10 and the S10+. For places where this doesn’t hold true, I’ll be specifically mentioning it.
Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus Specs:
Before we take a look at the phones themselves, and their real-world performance, here’s a quick rundown of the specs these flagships are packing inside their glass and metal chassis.
|Galaxy S10||Galaxy S10 Plus|
|Display||6.1-inch WQHD+ SuperAMOLED (1440x3040)||6.4-inch WQHD+ SuperAMOLED (1440x3040)|
|Processor||Exynos 9820||Exynos 9820|
|Battery||3,400 mAh||4,100 mAh|
|Operating System||One UI based on Android 9 Pie||One UI based on Android 9 Pie|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz); Bluetooth® v 5.0||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz); Bluetooth® v 5.0|
|Price||Starts at Rs. 66,900||Starts at Rs. 73,900|
Alright, now that we have the specs out of the way, let’s move on.
Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus: What’s In the Box
First things first, the unboxing experience of the Galaxy S10 is pretty much exactly as it was with past Galaxy flagships, and you find quite a bit of stuff inside the box:
- The Galaxy S10 or S10 Plus (depending on what you bought)
- A clear case (of surprisingly good quality)
- AKG tuned earphones (with braided cables, yay!)
- A USB Type-A to USB-C cable
- 15W Adaptive Fast Charger
- Leaflets and manuals that you won’t read (or at least I didn’t)
A couple of things stood out to me in the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus box. First, the included clear case is of a really good quality, which is awesome because I didn’t mind putting it on my phone at all. Second, the included earphones have a braided cable, which is great, and not something you’d find in most other smartphones.
Design and Build
The Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus (hereafter referred to as the Galaxy S10, or S10, unless stated otherwise) are possibly the most gorgeous phones I’ve set my eyes on. Samsung went all out on the S10, and basically left no stone unturned.
The phones come in a beautiful glass and metal sandwich design, with a gorgeous curved display up front, and a curved back; both of which blend perfectly into the metal chassis. Holding these in your hand is a remarkably comfortable experience, which is all the more appreciable if you’re trying out the larger, Galaxy S10 Plus, which somehow, feels really great in the hand for a phone of its size.
The S10 uses Gorilla Glass on both the front and the back, so you don’t really need the pre-installed scratch guard, and the included back cover, but I’d suggest you use them still. The back here is protected with Gorilla Glass 5, while the front has the latest Gorilla Glass 6 to protect it from scratches and impact. As much as I love Corning for making our phones more resilient against scratches, my naked OnePlus 5 had a terrible amount of scratches on it — a fate I’d rather not repeat with my Galaxy S10.
Of course, since this is a Samsung flagship, it has IP68 rating, so you can pretty much spill anything on it, and it won’t just die on you; although I do have to tell you, taking it swimming might not be the best idea. The phone comes with all the usual buttons and ports you’d want, and one button you probably don’t want, but you can make good use of it (I’ll tell you that later). There’s a power button, which, on the S10 Plus is way too high up for my liking, there are the volume rockers, the USB-C port, the headphone jack (yes, that still survived), and there’s the Bixby button, which… well, let’s just say I can live without it.
For a phone that’s basically a hole-in-one (pun-intended), the Display is still the show stopper here. It’s a gorgeous WQHD+ SuperAMOLED display which, measured diagonally, is 6.1-inches on the S10, and 6.4-inches on the S10+, and it’s pretty much what you expect from a Samsung display. This has to be the best display I’ve seen on a smartphone so far, and even though it has all of Samsung’s quirks, like the oversaturated colors, it manages to pull it off in such great style that you won’t be able to look at another phone without feeling like those displays just aren’t as good.
Speaking of saturated colors, Samsung does include a ‘Natural’ screen mode on the phone, pushes the saturation down a bit, for anyone wanting a more natural feel on their phones, but I still stuck to the Vivid setting, because it just looks absolutely stunning; but that’s mostly just personal preference, and it’s great that Samsung is giving users the choice.
I can’t round up the display segment here without talking about the punch-hole, now can I? So here it is. Yeah, the S10 has a punch hole design, that Samsung likes to call ‘Infinity-O’, and personally I prefer this over the notches (even the teardrop ones). Now I know, people have issues with it because of symmetry and what not, and that’s fine. Like I said, it’s a personal preference, and I just feel like it gives me a better experience than I’ve had with notched phones.
Normally, I’d move to the performance or the cameras on a review, but the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus come with ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner, which, unlike the optical in-display fingerprint scanners you’d find on most phones, can work even without needing the display to turn on. That’s pretty awesome because you basically don’t need to use the power button any more. Just touch your finger on the screen and it unlocks.
Plus, it works if the phone is wet, or if your fingers are wet, and it also works with oily fingers so you can unlock your phone while stuffing yourself with fries, as I quite often find myself doing.
The only problem with the fingerprint scanner here though, is that it’s kind of slow, and kind of inconsistent. It’s not the best experience, unlocking the phone with the in-display fingerprint scanner, and you can’t be quite sure that it will unlock just because you touched it. It’s also very moody. Sometimes it opens with just a tap, other times you have to press your finger quite firmly for the phone to unlock, so it’s obviously not something you’ll enjoy using. I didn’t.
There’s also Face Unlock here, and it’s considerably faster than the fingerprint scanner. In fact, sometimes it opens so quickly it seems like the phone wasn’t even locked. However, this is a simple 2D face unlock system, unlike the 3D system you’d find on something like the Mate 20 Pro, or the iPhone XS line up. It doesn’t have an IR sensor either, so it doesn’t work in pitch darkness. However, it’s still surprisingly good at detecting faces in very low light. There’s an opt-out feature that makes the screen brighter to unlock the phone in dark conditions, and that sort of works, but it’s very uncomfortable in pitch darkness because the screen is just so bright it hurts your eyes.
There was another weird thing that happened with my Galaxy S10 unit, where, for some reason, it was unlocking with Devinder’s face as well. It stopped doing that later, so I’m not sure how it was getting the false positives, but it was and that’s just really weird. Some other reviews have mentioned the phone unlocking with photos too, but that didn’t happen on my unit at least, so I can’t confirm if that actually happens.
So yeah, the biometrics on the S10 aren’t the best of the lot, but there’s a silver lining, Samsung can easily fix at least the face unlock with a software upgrade, and I really hope they do.
In terms of performance, the S10 comes with the Exynos 9820 in India, and it’s Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship processor built in the 8nm process, so amazing performance and better battery life is pretty much guaranteed on the phone. However, the S10s retailing in the US pack in the 7nm Snapdragon 855, and while that 1nm might not a big deal, what is a big deal is the fact that the cores on these processors are clocked considerably differently.
The Snapdragon 855 inside the Galaxy S10 comes in a tri-cluster architecture, with 2 extreme performance cores clocked at 2.84GHz, two high performance cores clocked at 2.41GHz, and four high efficiency cores clocked at 1.78GHz.
On the other hand, the Exynos 9820 comes in a tri-cluster architecture too, with 2 extreme performance custom cores clocked at 2.73GHz, two high performance Cortex A75 cores clocked at 2.31GHz, and four high efficiency Cortex A55 cores clocked at 1.95GHz.
Clearly, when it comes to extremely demanding tasks (like benchmarks, and tasks like video editing), the Snapdragon 855 should be able to perform better than the Exynos 9820, and that’s evident in benchmarks.
Note: we don’t have a Snadragon 855 unit with us, so these are benchmarks taken from reliable sources.
In AnTuTu, the Snapdragon 855 powered Galaxy S10 scored 359,817 points, while the Exynos 9820 powered S10 scored just 331,245 points.
To be fair, a score of 331,245 is nothing short of awesome, but it’s a little concerning that the scores differ this much simply because of the choice of processor here.
Anyway, moving away from synthetic benchmarks, the Galaxy S10 is nothing short of amazing when it comes to performance. In all my time using the phone, I’ve not noticed any lags or stuttering whatsoever. The phone is a flagship, and it performs like one. Multi-tasking is a breeze, and I even found myself using the floating apps feature quite often and the phone still doesn’t break a sweat handling Instagram, Spotify, Gmail, and Messages at the same time. It’s just a brilliant device when it comes to performance, and it has not once let me down.
Performance in games is extremely impressive as well. Playing PUBG Mobile on the Galaxy S10 is a wonderful experience. The gorgeous display, paired with top of the line specs make up for an experience unlike any other.
As far as real world performance is concerned, the Galaxy S10 is mind-blowing, and it doesn’t feel bogged down at all.
Part of that is due to the switch from Experience UI to One UI. This new UI is just miles ahead of the older Experience UI that we were used to on Samsung’s previous gen flagships.
Not only is it lighter than Experience UI was, it also feels more refined, and it makes changes to the UI that allow for easier one handed usage as well. It still brings a bunch of interesting features, and it also brings bloatware. However, you can remove that bloatware if you want to. There are still the usual things like Edge Panels, a Game Launcher, a screen recorder for games (that you can use for other apps as well), and a bunch of cool features.
One of the biggest issues I have here, is that Samsung saves screenshots in the DCIM folder, and then they keep getting synced to Google Photos and that’s just annoying. However, we figured out a way to make the phone save the screenshots in a different folder and you can check out our how-to on that if you’re interested.
Bixby is still here, not that I was expecting it go away. I was hoping that it’d go away though, because it’s basically unusable. It’s the Siri of the Android world, and just like previous S-series flagships, it still has its very own button on the side which you will eventually press by accident and come face to face with Bixby.
However, to Samsung’s credit, the company does allow the button to be remapped. To my disappointment though, you can’t remove Bixby from the button completely. So, Samsung offers two settings for the Bixby button: a single press, and a double press. You can choose to assign the single press or double press to another app, but at least one of the two presses will be assigned to Bixby at all times. Plus, you can’t set another assistant app to launch by pressing the button. Samsung has specifically black-listed those. Along with all of that, long pressing the Bixby button will always launch Bixby no matter what.
It’s very obvious that Samsung wants us to use Bixby for our daily tasks on this phone, and so I did give it a shot. To my surprise, Bixby is a very capable virtual assistant thanks to its incredibly deep links with almost every system app and setting. It can take selfies for you, it can enable and disable alarms, lock your phone, and do so much more. Plus, Bixby Routines just make these tasks a lot easier. The only problem is, Bixby barely ever gets it right when you talk to it. It hears things incorrectly, and you have to wait for it to launch properly before you can give it a command, which makes the entire process kind of disappointing.
To be fair, even in this competitive scenario that we’re in right now with a bunch of virtual AI powered assistants all vying for our voices, Bixby could be a pretty great one, if only Samsung would fix its very glaring issues.
In terms of cameras, the Galaxy S10 brings Samsung flagships to the triple camera world. Both the phones feature three cameras on the back, and instead of making the third one a 3D TOF sensor or (even worse) a monochrome sensor, Samsung chose to put in an ultra-wide angle lens there instead, which just adds quite a lot more to what this camera can do.
The cameras here include a 12MP f/1.5-f/2.4 dual aperture lens, another 12MP f/2.4 telephoto camera, and a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens. Working together, these cameras make for some pretty impressive shots. In broad daylight, the S10 is easily one of the best camera phones out there, beat only by the Pixel 3 XL in our comparisons. The photos have ample detail, and HDR. However, they are still oversaturated, as Samsung photos usually are, and while I’m not really a fan of that, a lot of people like this.
The ultra-wide lens here is a pretty nice addition to the camera system. It allows for some unique perspectives, especially when you’re shooting pictures of a landscape, and the AI in the phone is actually smart enough to figure out when ultra-wide might look good. It actually suggests sometimes that you switch to the ultra-wide lens, and it’s usually right.
In low light, the S10 does struggle a bit, as most phones do, and the Pixel 3 XL easily beats it out, but once again, the S10 is easily the second best camera in low light too. We compared the S10 with the Pixel 3 XL, the iPhone XS, and the Mate 20 Pro for these tests, and the S10 was consistently better than the iPhone XS and the Mate 20 Pro.
On the front, the Galaxy S10 Plus comes with a dual front camera. There’s a 10MP selfie camera, along with an 8MP depth sensor for portrait mode photos. The Galaxy S10, on the other hand, comes with a single 10MP selfie camera and uses AI for depth in the portrait mode. Still, portrait selfies from both the phones are equally good, with ample detail and good colors. There’s not a lot to talk about as far as the selfie-capabilities of these phones are concerned.
As far as videos are concerned, the Galaxy S10 can shoot 4K videos at 60FPS, which is not really that big a deal even if it is a welcome feature. What is a big deal though, is that the S10 can shoot 4K HDR10+ videos, and these have some impressive colors all around. The HDR10+ recording is only available while shooting in 30FPS, though, so that’s something you should know, and it also has to be enabled. Out of the box, the S10 doesn’t record in HDR10+.
In our testing of the phone, the S10 kind of looks like the best Android phone for shooting videos (although I really want to see what the Mi 9 does in videos since it scored so high in its DxOMark tests). Even though the S10 isn’t the best at stabilisation (the Mate 20 Pro is just way better at that), it does have the best colors in videos, and was beat only by the iPhone XS Max. Still, if you’re looking for an Android phone that won’t let you down for shooting videos, the S10 is the most obvious choice I can think of.
This is again a section I usually don’t include in a review, but the S10 kind of deserves it. The phone comes with stereo-speakers, and even though the top speaker is embedded inside the really slim forehead, it gets incredibly loud. The S10 can serve as a decent music listening speaker if you want it to, and the balance between the speaker on the top and the one on the bottom is pretty great too.
Moving on to the batteries, the S10 comes with a decent-ish 3,400 mAh battery while the S10+ comes with a considerably big 4,100 mAh battery that’s a huge jump over the 3,500 mAh battery inside the Galaxy S9+.
I tested the S10+ thoroughly, and the battery life was only decent, at least for me. In casual usage, the phone lasted me over 12 hours, with a screen on time of around 3 and a half hours, which isn’t all that great. However, with heavy usage, which included playing a bunch of games, watching a ton of videos, and just overall being more active on the phone, the S10+ got a screen on time of over 5 hours, and the battery lasted around 11 and a half hours.
Note: I was using the phone on the WQHD+ resolution, which isn’t the default it comes with. You might get better battery life using it on the FullHD+ default.
The good thing is, the phone does charge decently fast enough. It’s nowhere near the competition, but it’s not something I’ve found reason to complain about. With the included 15W adaptive fast charger, the phone took exactly 90 minutes to go from 10 to 100%, and that’s only decent. In comparison, the Mate 20 Pro, with a larger 4,200 mAh battery charges from 0 to 100% in less time. So yeah, it’s disappointing when you compare it, but it’s just fast enough to not feel slow.
Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging basically starts off pretty fast, charging the phone to 50% in around 30 minutes, but then it slows down, and takes another hour to completely charge the phone. That’s probably why charging the phone in emergencies doesn’t feel too bad.
Pros and Cons
Before I conclude this review, here’s a quick look at the S10’s strong suits and short comings:
- Best looking display on a smartphone
- Headphone jack
- IP68 rating
- Amazing stereo speakers
- Versatile camera system
- Great pricing (for a $999 phone)
- In-display scanner is finicky
- 2D face unlock
- Bixby button can’t be set to other assistant apps
- 15W charger
All things considered, the Galaxy S10 is a pretty great smartphone, and in my opinion, it’s the best Android flagship you can buy right now. It has the best display on a smartphone so far, it has a gorgeous design, cameras that are right up there with the best, great video shooting capabilities, IP68 rating, a headphone jack, performance that you’d expect from a flagship in 2019, and a much improved, more streamlined software experience.
As far as competition is concerned, the Galaxy S10 easily beats almost every other phone out there. It beats the Mate 20 Pro in terms of display, design, and build quality, it beats the iPhone in terms of price, and cameras, and it beats the Pixel 3 XL in almost every single thing other than the camera. Samsung has even knocked it out of the park with its software, which has historically been the company’s achilles heel as far as smartphones are concerned. One UI is probably the best custom Android skin after Oxygen OS, and that’s a huge deal.
So if you’ve been thinking of buying a flagship in 2019, the S10 is a solid choice to go with, because it does a lot of things, and it does them very well. It’s an all around great flagship.
Buy the Galaxy S10 (starts at Rs. 66,900)
Buy the Galaxy S10 Plus (starts at Rs. 73,900)