Samsung Galaxy S10e review, four months later: The little powerhouse that I can’t just let go of

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New Delhi | Updated: Aug 06, 2019 6:42 PM

Never have I ever loved a phone as much as I love the Samsung Galaxy S10e. Period.

Having used a flurry of tall smartphones for quite a while, I was borderline annoyed at the stagnancy of the mobile phone industry in this basic area. Although, there are many phone makers that have gone ahead with the thought of shaving off reasonable amount of thickness from smartphones (I’m also including the workarounds to reduce bezels to the minimum) but none appealed to my idea of a petite yet powerful smartphone. When Samsung launched the Galaxy S10e, I was optimistic, not because it’s a phone from a flagship line specifically made for masses, but due to its size and design. I have been using the Galaxy S10e for about four months now, and still don’t want to replace it with the newer models.

Just to give a backgrounder to what led to the inception of this third phone in the flagship Galaxy S series, I would say Samsung took a page out of Apple’s book. The iPhone maker was seeing an incessant slump in iPhone sales, owing to high pricing that is not favourable for the users in countries such as India. This is when Apple realised it has to cater to a consumer base beyond the periphery of its ‘premium’ brand while still delivering top-notch features, hence, iPhone XR. Galaxy S10e is a mere derivation of this strategy, but it was more fruitful for Samsung than it was for Apple.

Samsung reported an overwhelming response for its Galaxy S10 phones, largely because of the presence of a tapered off variant. You get the top-class Exynos 9820 processor, same cameras (although fewer), and the flagship-level experience with the Galaxy S10e. Let’s jump to what I have reckoned with my experience with the Galaxy S10e and why I think it’s a phone done right.

First off, the design of the Galaxy S10e is on par with any flagship phone that you will find in the market. It does not have those trippy patterns or superfluous gradients that most devices in this price range usually boast of. There is a shiny yet gorgeous finish on the back of the Galaxy S10e that gives off a premium feel with a metallic finish, which I am impressed with. It is a fingerprint magnet, though – but it does not bother me because I use a mobile case, which anyone would sanely do for phones with glass back. The camera island is carved at the dead centre in harmony with the design on the rest of Galaxy S10 phones.

The biggest advantage Galaxy S10 phones have over the rivals is the 3.5mm audio jack. My habit of plugging in headphones, earphones instinctively was well taken care of by the phone – although it was not something that bothered me much because I use wireless headphones mostly. As much tempting as the 3.5mm headphone jack on Galaxy S10e is, I’m fan of the size of the phone, which has compelled me to resist the flagship devices that came out recently. Its build quality is also quite impressive – I dropped the phone more than once but it survived with little scrapes.

Samsung Galaxy S10e has a size that is just perfect for my hands – it’s neither too large nor too small nor too heavy – although it emanates daintiness abundantly. I never have to stretch my thumb to reach the top corners of the phone. Samsung’s UI makes it easy to pull the notification drawer down with a swipe-down gesture on the home screen but for when you are inside an app, you will have to settle for the conventional (and sometimes annoying) method. With Galaxy S10e, it is so much easier to go around the screen without straining the fingers. The corners of the phone are curvy, which makes it even easier for me to hold the phone longer than normal – but it can become slippery sometimes owing to Delhi’s weather during the review period (fine, I just have sweaty palms).

If its shimmering body wasn’t enough for me to rave about Galaxy S10e, its display spoilt me. It’s a Full-HD Super AMOLED display (1080×2280 pixels) from Samsung, which has been revered for producing rich colours. Samsung fans would come up with multiple reasons to justify the display’s quality, even when there’s no criticism. For me, there is one though – the super vividness of the display. By default, the colours appear artificial and need to be toned down. The colours are beautifully produced, especially when looking at some content with dark shades in it. Although the resolution does not max out at Quad-HD+ much like Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, it’s a pretty good reason why the battery life is on par. The other two models have higher battery capacities than Galaxy S10e, but so is their display resolution.

Needless to say, consuming media on Galaxy S10e is one pleasure that I completely overlooked the display size for. Of course, Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ have richer and larger displays, but they are too large (and weighty). It is an HDR10+ display, which means better-looking Netflix and Amazon Prime Video content.

One thing that’s missing on the Galaxy S10e’s display is the fingerprint sensor underneath. Its bigger siblings have it but it hardly makes a difference to my usage. I would rather wait for in-display fingerprint sensors to get more responsive and refined before I totally dismiss the conventional, physical fingerprint sensors for their easiness. Galaxy S10e has one on the power button – quite handy and reachable but with an inevitable flaw. If I just want to take a glance at the screen for the notifications I have received and, for some reason, am pressing the power button, I would unlock the phone. It’s a small gripe I have with fingerprint sensors on the power button – something I can totally live with.

Let’s talk about the punch-hole on the display – my two cents – it’s not distracting at all. A lot of discerning users have lauded the punch-holes for their ability to assimilate to the rest of the display. But while I am raving the punch-hole, the stickler in me wants to point out that the elements on the status needed to be scooched over to make place for the punch-hole – which is not satisfying aesthetically to me.

The hardware of the Galaxy S10e is top-notch – it has got an 8nm Exynos 9820 octa-core processor clocked at up to 2.73GHz. Having used phones with Snapdragon 855, I can deduce that Exynos 9820 is a tad bit slower than the Snapdragon counterpart. I tried toning down the animation scale to .5x, by navigating to developer settings, in a hope to make the operation speedier on the Galaxy S10e. I was successful to some extent, which is the basis to what I think about the performance.

The performance is rock-solid. I had no issues juggling multiple apps on the Galaxy S10e. The phone’s response to multitasking is impeccable but it’s sometimes bogged down by the software. For instance, jumping to the recent menu has this entire set of animations that consume marginally more time than the same functionality would take on OnePlus 7. One UI is great, intuitive, and soothing to eyes but not really on par with OnePlus’s OxygenOS.

That aside, One UI is something that Samsung should be proud of, especially after Samsung Experience UI and the ugly-looking TouchWiz. Its Dark Mode brings just the right amount of blackness that, in my opinion, is ideal for dark modes on phones. The apps and settings interface on Galaxy S10e is beautiful too. The stereo speakers are Dolby Atmos-tuned, which is also one of the reasons I would prefer it.

Now, let’s talk about the battery on the Galaxy S10e. It’s way smaller than the one on the top-end model Galaxy S10+. Galaxy S10e has a 3100mAh battery that is rated to last about a day. Well, I found my Galaxy S10e lasting for about 17 – 18 hours on full charge initially before dropping to about 14-15 hours over time. I had to plug the bundled 15W charger into the phone at around 9 pm. The phone takes around 2 hours to fully charge via the charger.

Samsung provided me with its new wireless power bank to test its performance. I tried it with the Galaxy S10e to see how much difference it is going to make. Firstly, the power bank supports 9W fast wireless charging, which is significantly less 15W that wired charger delivers. The phone would show the estimated time to fully charge as soon as I slapped the phone’s back on the power bank’s rubber coil. It shows a time of around 2 hours 40 minutes to completely charge the phone.

Wirelessly charging the phone is still a novelty, according to me. I have to carry the power bank along with the phone, which becomes uncomfortably heavy when texting or using the Internet. The charging stops during calls, which makes sense as you would not practically hold the power bank next to your ear. The charging is slow, of course, but it’s nice to have a substitute for wires. Also, Galaxy S10e can be charged via reverse charging on Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, just in case.

Samsung’s cameras on its flagship phones have been receiving mixed reviews – they are still not on par with Google’s incredible cameras on Pixel that are driven by the AI and ML. Cameras (a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel wide-angle sensor and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide sensor) on Galaxy S10e are top-class, click well-detailed photos with impressive HDR but add a warm tone, nonetheless. That’s the case with Samsung’s sensor that has not been fixed even with an NPU. Its cameras are well equipped to adapt to different shooting scenarios, including low light environment. But I had to shoot photos in the dedicated Night Mode to bring out photos that are more visually aggressive than the ones shot automatically.

Galaxy S10e loses out on one telephoto sensor (a 12-megapixel sensor) that its bigger siblings have – not something bothering. Not many people use the telephoto lens usually but if you one of those who would rather like taking zoomed in photos, Galaxy S10e may disappoint you. I don’t click many such photos, which is why I didn’t miss the third sensor. But otherwise, the performance of the cameras is what I found on par with most flagship phones.

The Galaxy S10e also misses out on the heart-rate and SpO2 sensors at the back, next to the cameras. It’s actually good to have sensors to measure your heart rate and stress level on a phone, but wouldn’t you rather wear a fitness band or a smartwatch that can record heart rate patterns? For me, the latter is more convenient than placing my finger awkwardly for some time to get the heart rate readings.

Over four months, I also saw Galaxy S10e giving issue with the vibration motor. The vibration motor would act up, skipping haptic feedback for functions such as a long press or a swipe-up gesture. I took this issue up with Samsung, to which they replied that the retail unit is different from the review unit. Well, I quelled my concerns after that.

Over my continuous and rigorous usage for four months, I never felt the reason to give up on the Galaxy S10e, even if I was being held back by some trivial issues that I wouldn’t have faced with Galaxy S10+. My primary reason behind sticking to Galaxy S10e, that costs Rs 50,900, is its immaculate design that I prefer over a bunch of phones. I switched to different phones during this time and found myself coming back to Galaxy S10e. That being said, the South Korean-company will not abandon its plans to keep manufacturing tall phones, the latest example of which is the upcoming Galaxy Note 10 device.

Samsung is gearing up for the launch of Galaxy Note 10 on August 7, which will introduce us with what new things the company has up its sleeves to redefine the term flagship. A lot about the Galaxy Note 10 is already out in the open, leaving nothing to the imagination. It is being speculated that the Galaxy Note 10 will cost in line with its predecessor Galaxy Note 9. But the most shocking (and perhaps disappointing) part about the Galaxy Note 9, as per leaks, is the death of the 3.5mm headphone jack. The device will mark the beginning of a new era for sound output method on Samsung’s flagship phones.

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