Samsung Galaxy S10+ long-term review: The hole in one flagship

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New Delhi | Updated: April 22, 2019 7:18:36 PM

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review, Price, Specifications: Galaxy S10+ is a part of Samsung's future to overtake Apple and Google

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Review, Samsung Galaxy S10+ ReviewThe Samsung Galaxy S10+ is one of the beautiful phones out there

On my daily commute to work, I have had to entertain at least 10 introduction sessions for this conspicuously tall, white-coloured phone that I have been using for a while. I’m talking about Samsung’s Galaxy S10+, which is now over a month old in India. Considering the fanciness, Galaxy S10+ seems to have done its job. People who have, understandably, never come across any advertisements for Galaxy S10+ are intrigued to see for the first time its gaudy display that has a capsule-size cutout. Moreover, the iridescent white surface at the back is maybe what catches the eye.

Samsung has been on a winning streak with the Galaxy S flagships for quite some time now despite the sales that have not reflected the same. But that does not matter as long as the company is outdoing Apple in a volatile market like India. On the other hand, it’s still relentlessly trying to wrest its position in the premium segment back from OnePlus, which might take some time. For now, we have a device that looks like an incremental update to last year’s Galaxy S9+ but has a lot going underneath.

The Galaxy S10+ is not very much different from its prequel but still manages to break the monotony in the flagship design. There are very few aesthetic anomalies on the Galaxy S10+ but in a good way, they are enough to fend off the competitors. The Galaxy S10+ has got a tall footprint, almost as tall as the iPhone XS Max, but without the notch. Notch has been substituted by the ‘punch-hole’ setup, which, essentially, is a small area on the display specifically vacated for front cameras. But all of this does come for a price, a hefty one.

Samsung has put a price tag of Rs 73,900 for the base model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The mid-tier model with 8GB RAM and 512GB memory comes at Rs 91,900 while its insanely spacious 12GB RAM and 1TB storage variant is retailing at Rs 1,17,900 in India. With this pricing, Samsung has pinned its hopes to throw OnePlus, that high-end model of which can be bought for less than half the price of top-end Galaxy S10+, off its seat. Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S10+ that costs you a bomb? Here’s what I think:

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Design

Samsung has been making good-looking phones for the last few years and it is hitting the right spot with Galaxy S10+ as well. Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed on the Galaxy S10+ is its glossy and iridescent rear, which throws off light into rainbow colours. When you see the Galaxy S10+ against iPhone XS Max and Google Pixel 3 XL, you can literally feel the level of shimmer it has to offer. While there are two sets of material – ceramic and non-ceramic, the Porcelain White is what most of my reviewer friends asked for. The other colour variants are Prism Black, Prism White, and Prism Blue.

Of course, it is a glass back that supports wireless charging, but I will get to that later in the battery section. Apart from the material, Samsung branding and other details, including ‘Manufactured in India’ is emblazoned on the back. The cameras reside in a rounded rectangle, very similar to what we saw on the Galaxy Note 9, but with a little more area to adjust the third sensor. Initially, I had some pressing concerns for the design Samsung went with on its flagship. But it feels natural now because there is no fingerprint sensor on the back. I am no longer paining my brain to calculate the exact location I should tap my finger at to unlock the phone and it’s a relief, literally. The fingerprint is now integrated into the display.

The Galaxy S10+ has metal rims sandwiching two glass slabs but with clear precision. The metal merges with the glass at the edges so seamlessly, I did not feel any bulge whatsoever. But the metal does add to the handset’s weight. My hands felt the tension after I held Galaxy S10+ for more than one hour continuously. But you can live with that, can’t you? It has rounded edges that facilitate the grip so that one of the corners does not prod your palm. But even with well-rounded corners, the handset gets unmanageable to hold sometimes. (It’s subjective – maybe your hands are big enough for the device.) It is tall but you can go for the shorter Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10e.

One thing that makes Samsung stand out in the crowd is the love for the 3.5mm headphone jack. While iPhone XS, Google Pixel 3, and even OnePlus 6T have ditched the audio jack, Samsung is in no mood to kill it. But this joy could be short-lived – there are reports the Galaxy Note 10 will not feature a 3.5mm audio output jack. The USB Type-C port is right next to the jack, along with the primary microphone and AKG-tuned speakers caged in a grille at the bottom. At the top, you have the SIM card tray and secondary microphone.

The Power button is at the right side but its placement is a little too high. I needed at least three-four sessions to learn where to press. But that’s not my biggest concern. The left side has the Bixby button, which no one asked for the first time, much less for its fourth iteration. Bixby is still, well, Bixby but the good news is the button is now remappable. Samsung knows Bixby’s capabilities are questionable against Alexa or Google Assistant, which is why it is letting you reconfigure the button for Google Assistant or any other app for that matter. But Bixby doesn’t go easily – you can assign ‘single press’ to other apps while ‘double press’ opens Bixby and vice versa. But let’s get over Bixby – maybe one day it will finally be ‘ready for the society’.

 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Display

While it is one of the prettiest ones ever equipped into a smartphone, it is not any different from the last time. Galaxy S10+ display is super vivid – the colours have a high gamut thanks to the Super AMOLED material used. Samsung has been using edge-to-edge curved displays on the Galaxy S line for a while, which is why you can never go wrong with your decision based on its display. The viewing angles are impressive while the sunlight legibility is on par. The display can get really bright allowing you to read the text without requiring much effort.

By default, the Galaxy S10+ has the Vivid mode enabled in the ‘Screen Mode’ settings. I am not really comfortable with oversaturated colours so I switched to the Natural mode. Samsung has done some changes to the colour tones in the Natural mode – they look toned down and have a more realistic appeal for some reason. The Night Mode on the display is excellent, so much so I turned it on and never went back to the regular, white mode on my Galaxy S10+. When I was using the handset in a completely dark environment, I could not tell the blackness of Galaxy S10+ display apart from that of the room.

It’s an Infinity-O Display, where O symbolises the cutout for front cameras. Samsung says it has used the laser cutting tech to cram the camera into the display with ‘precision’. If you take a zoomed photo of the display, you can actually see the display pixels surrounding the cutout. But, sadly, I saw this first on the Honor View 20 and was fascinated by the implementation.

To some point, I was not accepting of that new implementation of the notch. Although it is very similar to the questionable notches, it makes the elements in the status bar scoot over to an asymmetrical alignment. It gets worse when you take a screenshot with that cutout leaving an odd white space at the top left. You can choose to hide the cutout by digging into the phone’s settings but it makes display’s top part look weirder. Some apps do not even support the display’s aspect ratio, leaving a black area on the status bar to deal with, aesthetically speaking.

This does not mean Samsung has not done a good job. The placement of the cutout is on the right, giving rise to a deluge of new ways to hide it. There is a wide collection of wallpapers, some of them featuring iconic characters such as Minions, available to go with the cutout. This is all fun but what happens to the entertainment quotient with this display?

Watching YouTube videos on Galaxy S10+ is bliss – there is HDR10+ support now giving you twice as much depth level for the black colour. The videos cover the entire screen where the cutout just mixes well. I never got distracted by the fact there is a small portion of the video that I cannot see at the corner. But this does not apply to the streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar. The videos are truncated from the cutout area and fit the screen right below. It plays true HD videos with HDR, when available, without any hiccups.

Apart from what I usually talk about how good the display is on a smartphone, Galaxy S10+ has an element to stretch my judgement a mile further. The Galaxy S10+ has an industry-first ultrasonic fingerprint sensor embedded into the display. As per the standards, it is supposed to be faster than the optical sensors we have been seeing on Vivo, OnePlus, and Xiaomi phones. It’s indeed faster if you learn to locate the right spot to place your finger at.

Even with totally calculated operations, the sensor requires at least two taps to recognise the print, which is annoying. It took me some time to get used to it but when I excelled in my learning, I was quite impressed. The fingerprint sensor works with water on the surface, which is a move in the right direction for Samsung if waterproofing capabilities are going to remain as one of the mainstays.

Tip: The fingerprint sensor works even faster with the protective film removed.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Performance

The Galaxy S10+ comes with the Exynos 9820 SoC in India while the US and other select markets get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 model. Some reviewers who got a hold of both the variants have claimed that the Exynos 9820 model drains the battery faster than the Snapdragon 855 variant. We practically cannot verify this but there has always been a little dispute over the processor choice for India.

That aside, the Galaxy S10+ is a powerful device. Needless to say, the flagship device can handle multitasking and the regular app juggle quite very well. There is 8GB of RAM, which means you can open as many as 10-12 apps and leave them running in the background. I had absolutely no issues with the apps. If you turn off the animation, you will see the apps opening slightly faster but I love animations and can live with that minute, negligible delay.

Gaming on Galaxy S10+ is an excellent experience. I played PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends and some such games to test the processor prowess and I was impressed. The games boot up quickly, show no lag or jitters; there are no noticeable frame drops during the gameplay. I switched between the games intermittently, only to find them up and running in the background. The smartphone begins to heat after an adequate amount of time and even then it’s moderately endurable.

The experience on the Galaxy S10+ is not different from what I got with the Galaxy S9+. Although the Exynos 9820 SoC is built using the 8-nanometre architecture, it is only marginally better than its prequel speed wise. I even tested out AR applications to find out if the processor can live up to the claims and I was not disappointed. The loading time for some of these apps on Galaxy S10+ is better than on a handful of AR-supported devices in the market.

Samsung has come a long way, learning from its past mistakes, to finally deliver good software. One UI is what Samsung should have developed the first time it ousted tall phones. It’s fluid, easy, and, most importantly, soothing to eyes. I found the white spaces at the top of native apps beautiful, to say the least. Not only it gives a breather to the congestion Android as a mobile OS has been criticised for, but it also brings about subtleness to how different elements in a particular app look. I personally like One UI, and Galaxy S10+ just compliments its features.

One UI is based on Android 9 Pie, which is available at the hand, but it will not take long for me to bring back the dreadful question of regular Android updates. Samsung has never been punctual with Android versions – most of 2019 handsets still run on Android Oreo. With Android Q almost reaching the launch date at the I/O, it will be interesting to see how much time Samsung takes to implement the next Android update.

Samsung has kept most Android 9 Pie features intact on One UI – Digital Wellbeing is one of them. I could track the daily habits of my interaction with my phone so that I can be wary of overuse. The gestures are supported too, but it’s not so good. Navigation buttons are the easiest way to use the phone but if you happen to go for gestures, you are in for a bumpy ride.

First of all, the gestures are confusing – on any screen, the swipe up from the centre brings you to the home screen but if you have a pop-up widget open on the home screen, the swipe-up will open the app drawer. Either you assign an app drawer icon for that, or just learn to swipe up on the right side for going back. The left side is for recent menu and that’s about it. I managed to train my brain and did not switch back to navigation buttons. But everyone’s not that lucky.

Coming to the bare essentials, voice calling on the Galaxy S10+ is regular. There are Samsung features such as extra volume that you can trigger by pressing the volume up button in case the caller is not properly audible. Samsung Galaxy S10+ has a continuity feature that lets you continue with calls and SMSes on any activated device. I used this feature a lot.

Galaxy S10+ also comes with a face unlock system but a lot has been traded off for the cutout this time. The iris scanner is no longer a part of the facial scanning system, leaving you with the vanilla biometric solution that is not nearly as secure as Apple’s Face ID. Galaxy S10+ will record your face while registering for face unlock and use it to match every time you bring the front cameras near your face. It’s fast but not reliable – I often ended up unlocking the phone using the traditional passcode lock because neither face unlock nor fingerprint sensor would work. Samsung may have a plan to bring back the iris scanner for some security on sequels but until then, it’s a shoddy job on the company’s part.

I personally liked the Galaxy S10+ speakers a lot. They are loud and distinctive, thanks to Samsung’s pool of AKG tech that it has used for the primary speakers at the bottom. The earpiece doubles as the second set of speakers to create the stereo effect.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Cameras

On the Galaxy S10+, you see one extra camera sitting next to the ones that are exactly similar to the Galaxy S9+ cameras. There is a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel wide-angle sensor with dual apertures – f/1.5 and f/2.4 – and OIS, another 12-megapixel telephoto sensor with f/2.4 aperture, and a new 16-megapixel ultra-wide sensor with an aperture of f/2.2. Practically, you have a lot of choices in terms of how you want to shoot your subject but it’s nowhere near the level Google Pixel 3 has set.

First up is the new member – the 16-megapixel ultra-wide sensor that is now becoming ubiquitous on many phones. Samsung’s low-end phones also come with the ultra-wide sensor now. The idea is to capture as many as elements in a single frame as you can. Normally, I found myself using the ultra-wide sensor when I am strolling and have picturesque landscapes to shoot. Other than this, the only time I used the sensor for when I had to click a group photo. The results are above average, with satisfactory levels of detail but there is barrel distortion in the photos. You can correct the aberration in the Gallery app to some extent.

The regular sensors – wide and telephoto – are the same as before. The photos are impressive, have astonishing details, and pack a good amount of colours. But many photos under bright conditions end up looking overexposed. You can edit the photos but it’s something Samsung should have rectified especially that it is using a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) now. The cameras are quick to lock the frame, which you can manually change too. I was happy with the performance as the cameras capture photos really quick.

I also found the Galaxy S10+ adding warm tones to many shots, which, I think, could have been done away with considering the Galaxy S9+ did the same. The HDR shots are quite good as compared to Google Pixel 3. I liked how Galaxy S10+ balances out the light on the subject against the light source if it’s not overexposing.

Samsung is touting 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom on the Galaxy S10+. I found the 2x optical zoom really handy especially during presentations when I am sitting afar from the display and have to click a clear picture. When zooming in further, the details begin to get distorted but the photos are still doable. Companies such as Huawei and Oppo are already offering cameras on their smartphones with bewildering up to 50x zoom capacity but Samsung might take some time.

The Scene Optimiser comes handy in situations when you are not sure of the settings you are supposed to apply for a particular shot. The feature detects objects to adjust settings automatically so that I did not have to fret manually doing it. Scene Optimiser can detect drinks, food items, regular objects such as chairs, tables, buildings, sunny landscape, scenery, and humans of course. There is Bright Night feature available as well but you could not manually trigger it unless the darkness levels are way too high.

I have been using the Galaxy S10+ for quite some time, enough to receive the April update that brings a dedicated Night mode. I can simply switch to the Night mode in cameras and click the photo that admits more light than usual. Photos clicked using the Night mode are impressive but there is room for improvement. I clicked a photo in the complete dark using the Night mode and the result was quite similar to the one shot in bright light. Although, there are warm tones in the photos. There is still a lot wanting when the Galaxy S10+ is pitted against the Huawei P30 Pro, which has the best Night mode by far.

But when not using the Night mode, Galaxy S10+ clicks grainy and smooth photos in low light. Smoothing skin colour is another problem that does not go away even with the Beauty mode off. I would have liked natural-looking photos more instead of seeing aggressive smoothing applied to the photos.

There are two cameras on the front, inside the display cutout – a 10-megapixel sensor for regular close-up selfies and an 8-megapixel sensor for wide-angle selfies. In my usage, I could not figure out why the latter exists – because when I switched to the group selfie mode, all I saw was a marginally larger frame served to me in the name of the wide-angle shot. But the shots are really impressive and detailed – I sometimes used it as a replacement for mirror thanks to the clarity the photos have. Selfies have a little warmth to them, even with Beauty mode off. The portrait mode is like any other – the camera detects edges well until it does not. I had to calculate the distance between my face and the camera to find the best portrait shot, which is, again, tiring.

Galaxy S10+ supports up to 4K 60fps videos with HDR on the rear cameras and 4K 30fps videos on front cameras. There is Super Steady mode that I found on par with Google’s nifty feature on Pixel 3. The videos are stabilised to satisfactory levels but I had to trade off the 4K resolution for 1080p in order to be able to activate Super Steady. Most video enhancement features do not work with 60fps videos, so I had to eventually tone down my ambitions for videography. The sound is recorded in stereo in videos, which quite impressed me.

Samsung’s animated emojis – AR Emoji – is still half-baked and needs a lot of enhancements. There are new Portrait mode effects on the Galaxy S10+ as well – the regular background blur, a swirling blur in the background with the subject in focus, radial blur, and a monochrome blur while the subject is in colour. The last one is really tricky to use – unless you have a person standing, the camera will not apply the colour/de-colour effect, which means you cannot effectively use it on objects. But it’s worth your pastime.

Here are the camera samples:

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Battery

Samsung has been upping its game as far as the battery life is concerned. The Galaxy Note 9 was the first flagship to come with a 4000mAh battery and with Galaxy S10+, the battery capacity has been upgraded to 4100mAh. That’s quite a lot of juice for the Galaxy S10+ – I could last up to one day on Galaxy S10+ with normal usage that included few hours of browsing the Internet and scrolling through social media apps, some photography, and some gaming. Samsung has bundled a 15W fast-charging adapter with the Galaxy S10+ that takes from 0 to 100 per cent within two hours.

The Galaxy S10+ comes with wireless charging, as well as reverse wireless charging that we saw on Huawei Mate 20 Pro first. I could even charge iPhone XS by slapping its back onto Galaxy S10+ rear, let alone charging the recommended products such as Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Watch Active. The charging is extremely slow but I am not nitpicking a feature that still seems a novelty. Also, I am not certain how helpful reverse charging is going to be. For all it’s worth, it is useful in those odd situations when your friend needs to borrow some power for their dying phone.

Verdict

It’s an ambitious future where Samsung seems to be catching up with iPhone and Pixel phones and everything lies on the shoulders of Galaxy S and Galaxy Note phones. Galaxy S10+ is an incremental yet significant update to bolster Samsung’s position on the global pedestal. OnePlus may still have an edge over it in India owing to the pricing but Samsung has a loyal fanbase that knows there are many features the latter has to offer in the premium segment.

If you are an iPhone user, you have a lot more than just deciding between the iPhone XS and Galaxy S10+. You have to leave iOS for the Android experience that is customised with Samsung’s own nifty features. If you are willing to do that, Galaxy S10+ is a perfect choice. Pixel users have to make peace with the fact that the Android updates will not be as regular. But if that’s not something that pokes you, Galaxy S10+ is the right choice.

Also, if the size of the Galaxy S10+ is a put-off, you can go for the Galaxy S10 that is fairly tall and the Galaxy S10e that is not only Samsung’s answer to the iPhone XR but it also might end being the most profitable handset of the lot.

Galaxy S10+ is an impressive phone to be in your wishlist and you might expedite on that with all the bank offers and cash backs in India. To maximise your Galaxy experience, you may as well consider buying Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Watch Active.

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