During the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2019 keynote, at least at the UK launch, there was not a great deal of fanfare for the brand new Samsung Galaxy S10e. The device is set to be a slightly cheaper S10 model that includes much of the same internal specs, but with a few exclusions to help lower that entry price.

Simply comparing the S10e directly to the Galaxy S10 and S10+ doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense — although it is still part of that line at the end of the day. Instead, this is most definitely Samsung’s attempt to tackle the iPhone XR head-on. The pricing, size and color options reek of this desire to capture a portion of the ‘affordable flagship’ market too.

The thing is, I genuinely think that this could be the go-to S10 handset for those who aren’t really interested in spending the best part of $1,000 on a new phone and are willing to miss out on only a few — mostly minor — hardware features. Color us intrigued by this handset.


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Design and Hardware

At first glance — at least from the front — it’s difficult to distinguish from the standard Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10e. Get (or look) a little closer and you can see a few slight hardware differences that might be seen as benefits (or drawbacks).

The display has no soft curved edges that adorn the higher-priced S10 models. I can’t honestly say which I prefer as I like both in different ways, but fans of flat displays might prefer the S10e flat screen. Having a curved display doesn’t really have much of a real-world benefit as far as I can discern, but it does make the usability experience feel a lot more immersive.

Being a smaller, cheaper handset means that it has a much smaller footprint. With large hands, I have no problem with S10 and 10+ but I really enjoyed the smaller form factor of the S10e. From a one-handed usage perspective. It is easily one of the best options I’ve tried. One UI is also designed with one-handed usage in mind for an even better overall experience.

Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10, and S10+

That isn’t to say it’s a really small handset. At 5.8-inches, I wouldn’t call it small by any stretch. It just looks and feels like a dinky phone in a world of oversized phablets and massive displays.

I gravitated towards the multi-colored handsets at the launch event — especially the green and yellow models. They are instantly more striking from afar and catch your eye in a manner that the standard Galaxy S10 and S10+ simply do not.

The base internal specifications of the Galaxy S10e are the exact same as the S10 and S10+. That means even at a lower price, you get the Snapdragon 855 chipset, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage out of the box. For a slightly cheaper handset, you can expect superb performance from the get-go.

Samsung Galaxy S10 lineup

The side-mounted fingerprint reader is much better in my opinion than the Ultrasonic in-display option. I had issues with getting the former to work at the launch event but — somewhat embarrassingly — that was mainly due to my clammy fingers and thumb.

I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail about the battery, as at 3,100mAh it does seem pretty small considering the S10 has a 3,400mAh cell packed inside. Naturally, only having a short amount of time with the handset at an event showcase gives no clues as to what to expect. I am hoping that it can withstand a heavy day of usage, but we will save judgement until then.

It’s also worth noting that the S10e still retains the wireless powersharing features found on the S10 and S10+. Another reason that the hardware does not really leave you wanting in my opinion.

For me, the hardware was easily the biggest draw. It has all the same base internal specifications as the more expensive S10 models but in a package that is instantly neater in my eyes.

Software

There are no differences between what ships with the S10 and the S10e, save a few camera modes. Having the exact same chipset meant that the device just flew through the basic apps and games installed on the device in much the same way that the S10 and S10+ did.

What I will say is that the one-handed design of One UI lends itself perfectly to this more compact form factor. It’s amazing to think that just a reduction of around less than an inch from the largest S10 device to this can have such a drastic effect on how easy they are to wield.

Everything else feels identical to the bigger brethren. I didn’t expect there to be any discernible difference — and again — why would there be?

Samsung Galaxy S10e software

Although it was snappy, it would have been interesting to have pitted it against a device such as the OnePlus 6T to see if the new chipset (Exynos 9820 on the UK model) and RAM increase has helped One UI catch up to Oxygen OS. I foresee that being a test for another day.

Camera

In any hands-on session post-launch event, it’s difficult to really give any camera even a basic test without hiccups, issues and annoyances. With the Galaxy S10e, it was no different.

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera

What I will say is that the dual camera setup is well thought through in my opinion. The inclusion of the 16-megapixel f/2.2 123-degree super-wide angle lens will no doubt be more useful to the average smartphone photographer than a telephoto zoom lens, although I’m sure some of you out there will disagree.

Personally, I’m not all that fussed about the inclusion of the dual aperture mode. I felt it was gimmicky on the Galaxy S9 and the Note 9 and I stand by that. Although that might be due to my lack of time and effort in the Pro modes found on the camera — which I will try and master before the main review if possible.

Samsung has also been making solid dual camera setups on devices now for some time. Much like Apple, there is no doubt that even with a lower entry price model, the quality of the photography modes will be exceptional and at least on par with previous flagships in the Galaxy S line — most notably the S9 and S9+.

Initial Verdict

In my opinion, the Galaxy S10e is arguably the most interesting of all of the devices announced at Unpacked 2019 — apart from the Galaxy S10 5G. On paper and in person it really doesn’t feel like much a downgrade over the other 2019 Galaxy S devices.

The camera hardware offers much of the same benefits but with a couple of omissions that won’t really affect the overall day-to-day experience. It’s the internal hardware that will help the Galaxy S10e feel like it punches above its weight when compared to similarly priced handsets or even handsets at the bottom of a flagship lineup.

If you would have asked me what device to suggest to someone who wants a new device or an upgrade, but doesn’t want to spend a fortune on a carrier contract a couple of months ago; then I would have said the Galaxy S9 or S9+ offer amazing value for money. The Galaxy S10e has now managed to shoehorn itself into that bracket in my opinion.

Much like Apple has done with the iPhone XR, Samsung’s ‘affordable’ smartphone might go to the very top of many smartphone shopping lists. Unlike the iPhone XR, the minor compromises of the S10e feel easy to bear.

More on Unpacked 2019:

Samsung Galaxy S10 cases

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