What has Samsung done to set the S10 apart from the rest?
Smartphone sales are plateauing, as buyers are seeing less incentive to upgrade each year for minimal changes.
So, Samsung went all out and released a phone that folds in half, including the screen! Sadly, the Samsung Fold was mostly a tease as it’s incredibly expensive and not likely to be launched in New Zealand.
What we do have is the latest versions of the Galaxy S range. So what has Samsung done to set this latest effort apart from the rest?
The latest models come in three types: the S10, the S10e and the S10+. The 10e is a smaller (5.8”), lighter version of the phones, while the 10+ is the bigger (6.4”) version that comes with some added extras, such as dual front cameras and a larger 4100mAh battery.
I’ve been using the standard (6.1”) S10 for a few weeks now and, as with most phones, there are a few things I really like about it and things I don’t.
The screen, as is often the case with Samsung’s products, is gorgeous. The dynamic AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) screen is the first to have the HDR10+ standard, making it as good for showing images as an HDR TV.
To maximise the screen space, the front-facing camera (or cameras in the case of the S10+) is behind a small circular hole in the screen. This is Samsung’s version of the “notch” or “teardrop” other phone companies use. I found it less intrusive than those other versions and it was out of the way on every app I used.
The screen has a weird quirk though. All mobile phone screens are polarised to reduce glare. However, the S10’s screen polarisation made the screen unreadable, and all the colours seem wrong, while I was wearing polarised sunglasses.
And if you’re worried about breaking that pretty screen, Samsung is offering a free screen replacement up to one year after you buy a new S10, S10e or S10+. It doesn’t cover other types of damage though, so you still need to be careful.
The S10 and S10+ have a fingerprint sensor built into the screen. This uses ultrasonic vibrations to detect your fingerprint, which Samsung claims is faster and more reliable than light-based scanners in other phones. I wasn’t able to verify the reliability against Huawei and Oppo phones with similar tech, but it’s a cool feature and it makes more room for the screen. On the S10e, the fingerprint sensor is on the side and doubles as the power button.
The number of cameras on the back has increased to three (except for the 10e which has two): a 12MP telephoto, 12MP wide-angle and a 16MP ultra-wide. The ultra-wide has a field of view of 123° (the same as the human eye).
The three cameras do the usual job of combining to provide depth and detail to your photos, but Samsung have added a simple set of icons to the cameras app, so you can choose a single camera instead.
There’s also a feature that helps compose the photo. When turned on, the “shot suggestions” function shows a white dot with a line. If you line the camera up with that dot, the phone automatically takes the shot without needing to hit the shutter button.
Some functions won’t work with the telephoto or ultra-wide lens. I found this when accidently trying macro shots using telephoto.
The phone also supports wireless power sharing, so you can charge other devices (that have wireless charging) from your phone. I find this useful for accessories such as smartwatches or headphones, but it did work with other phones. The biggest improvement is you can plug the phone in and then use it as a wireless charging pad for your watch, so you don’t have to carry around another plug and cable.
While the S10 phones are an improvement on the previous generation, the biggest leap forward is with Bixby, Samsung’s virtual assistant. Bixby can now run routines – a series of tasks – that can change how you use the phone at a given time.
These routines are set by you. For example, you can tell Bixby you’re at work and it’ll add work-related apps to the lock screen; or maybe you tell it you’re about to start exercising and it’ll open Spotify and start the fitness tracker program. This can also be extended to tasks such as turning the brightness down, turning off mobile data, or restricting access to certain apps.
Bixby learns your daily activities and can suggest certain routines to you. For example, if you always commute in the morning or evening, it’ll suggest a routine that opens maps, while turning on hands-free functionality.
The annoying thing about Bixby is it always pops up. I was dismissing notifications all day. It got worse when I paired it with a Samsung Gear Watch, as Bixby knew even more about my day from that. The left side of the phone has a dedicated Bixby button – hitting it loads the assistant’s main screen. You can’t turn it off, but you can make it a double tap instead of single to avoid accidental pressings.
Finally, and this may sound like a small thing, the S10 has a headphone jack, and it’s great. While most of my headphones are Bluetooth, the connector in my car is not and having to use a dongle as an intermediary is getting ridiculous.
Is this all enough to make you rush out and upgrade your old phone? It depends a lot on how old your phone is. If you love Samsung’s phones then this is definitely the phone to get, but if you aren’t fussed about brands, then I’d shop around a bit.
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This telephone was loaned to the writer by Samsung.