At the point of release, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ was one of the most anticipated phones of 2019. Leaks, leaks and more leaks showcased the S10+ in its entirety before it was even unveiled — but it still didn’t dull the public appetite for this top-tier device.
During the early stages of 2019, there weren’t too many new challengers on the scene tackling the dominance of the 2018 cohort. The tail end of last year was a bumper end for smartphones, with no less than six of the most popular devices of the previous 12 months hitting the market — Samsung’s own Galaxy Note 9 included.
None of those handsets could possibly boast the spec sheet of the Galaxy S10+ though — given the Snapdragon 855 was not commercially available until early 2019.
Now the dust has settled, rivals launched, and even prices dropped; just how well does the Samsung Galaxy S10+ hold up in the face of growing competition? Short answer: It’s still arguably the best all-rounder and it probably will be for some time to come.
Hardware & Design
Simply the best
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is light, thin, comfortable, assured in the hand and, in short, simply gorgeous. The accents and little touches highlight the strides that Samsung has made since the plastic-dominated days of the Galaxy S5. Every facet is up there with the very best in the business. I would go so far as to say it is the best in the business.
I have waxed lyrical about the comfort of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a but Samsung has taken it to another level with the Galaxy S10+. It’s thin, light, big and comfortable all at once. The edges bleed into your palm without any discomfort. I will say I think the sleep-wake button is a little too high up the right side but everywhere else this thing feels supreme.
The silver band reminds of older iPhone devices but the rest of the unibody design is totally seamless. From the edges to the gorgeous Prism White backplate that catches light in unique ways so that when fondled feels like a slightly different color from different angles and in different lighting.
It’s its simplicity that has struck me the most. It’s a fusion of form and function, thin phone, and large footprint that allows it to pack in so much in a svelte frame without sacrificing capabilities that we all take for granted.
I’m becoming less and less of a headphone port user, but I appreciated Samsung thumbing their nose to the industry by insisting on supporting it — even if rumors are circulating of the Note 10 dropping support. It’s also really nice to be able to charge my phone and still have audio out when driving, as I still don’t have a Bluetooth car stereo just yet!
The visor that houses the triple camera setup is also well laid out and doesn’t stick out so far that the phone wobbles when laid face up on a desk. That is an odd but satisfying extra design detail that will likely go unnoticed by many who pick the device up.
I’ll reel off some of the internal specifications for those that are interested — although these are all available online already. Inside you’ll find either the Exynos 9820 or the Snapdragon 855, 8 or 12GB of RAM and 128, 512 or a massive 1TB of internal expandable storage. My unit has 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage for reference.
That spec sheet is great and all but it means nothing if the performance is not up to scratch. Luckily, around 95% of the time it is exceptional — but more on this later on.
One area that will divide opinion with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ will involve a certain display addition. For the past couple of years, Samsung has simply avoided the notch trend on their flagship smartphone. Often openly deriding the decision of Apple in ads and marketing material to a lot a display cutout.
Either in a bit of defiance or simply to save face somewhat, Samsung opted to implement what they are calling the “Infinity-O” camera cut out — the punch-hole notch to you and me. If I’m completely honest, I love it.
While some will say the lack of symmetry in the status bar is horrendous, it’s much less abrasive in my opinion when consuming media as it cuts out less important aspects of what you are viewing. I like to think of it as like a TV network icon and that makes it feel way less intrusive as it’s in the periphery of your movie rather than cutting out the middle portions of your main viewing plane.
Where I find it is annoying is when taking selfies, you naturally have to account for the slight right placement and adjust your hand accordingly. That said, it isn’t a problem per se, more like something to note and shouldn’t be a reason not to buy the phone.
The display is genuinely the best I’ve ever used on a smartphone. It improves upon the gorgeous panel found on the Galaxy Note 9 too. In almost all lighting it’s crisp, incredibly clear and is just a joy to interact with on a daily basis. Everything about it is a triumph and it is no secret that Samsung are the go-to for smartphone displays — they just save the best for their own flagships.
Another area that I feel the S10+ excels is in audio. The stereo speaker setup is pretty darn good considering it consists of a bottom-firing option and the earpiece. It manages to be crisp and clear even at high volume.
Software & Performance
Slick, smooth but a little bloated
One UI is a breath of fresh air, at least as Samsung devices are concerned. Yes, TouchWiz was bad but that was a different time. What can’t be forgiven is the unnecessary bloat like the Game Launcher, Gallery, Galaxy Store and more. Samsung used to tack on Instagram, Facebook and Spotify but at least they now give you the choice at start-up. They should really do the same for these apps too.
Now I will concede that Bixby works well on Samsung devices, that is great for those that use it. Just allow the rest of us to disable during the initial set-up phase and opt for Google Assitant or whatever your preferred option happens to be. It isn’t as big a deal as I’m making out though, as you can dip into the Settings app and change it to launch any app of your choosing — you still need to setup Bixby first though.
While I complain about the bloat, it doesn’t seem to hinder the overall experience. Everything is fast, smooth and instant. I’ve yet to notice any lag although I can’t say I’ve really pushed the device to its limits.
It’s elsewhere that I have problems with One UI, as it feels a little over-organised. What I mean by that is things like the Settings menu seemingly hide things away in an attempt to be neat but instead just makes finding core areas confusing and frustrating.
Trying to find the Battery section, for instance, has you head to the Device Care section, which I personally would never associate it with. Luckily the search function is very good, otherwise, this would be a bigger issue. While a third-party launcher helps with the general home screen look and feel, it can’t help here and it does hinder the phone somewhat in my experience.
Additions like the native Dark or Night Mode are stellar and work across the myriad of duplicate apps that I have lamented already. For me, the issues with One UI will likely not be issues for most people. So please take my uniquely explicit gripes with a grain of salt.
One pretty major gripe, unfortunately, is the in-display Ultrasonic fingerprint reader. It’s just so hit-and-miss. Often I have to press my finger on the phone multiple times to get it to register. Sometimes it simply doesn’t work at all. It’s not the worst by any stretch of the imagination, it just isn’t all that reliable. When it does work though it is pretty quick, it’s not quite as fast as the OnePlus 7 Pro’s optical reader though.
Up with the best but can’t quite hang
The triple camera setup on the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is arguably one of the finest the company has produced. They offer a solid, if boosted, alternative to the more accurate, muted results on offer from the iPhone and even the Pixel 3. The camera is undoubtedly good, it just that it falls short in a few areas, nighttime photography is one of those such sore points.
I cannot fault the fantastic array of lenses though. The ultra-wide angle option giving you that extra room for manoeuvre in tight spots whilst simultaneously giving you the ability to capture just that bit extra in more traditional open landscape shots with a soft fish eye look and feel.
One thing I did note: I’m not sure if it’s just my device but the dual aperture — while being a massive gimmick — also does make quite the racket. It makes quite an audible click when switching between cameras on my model. While this isn’t exactly ideal it is sort of expected with an aperture that opens and closes — I have heard reports of others experiencing the same audible clicking but it isn’t a major issue.
In video, the S10+ remains at the very top of the tree. With all lenses, the quality is simply stellar. Crisp, clear, excellent stabilization and color reproduction. The 4K 60fps mode is also one of the best I’ve ever experienced. You aren’t able to record 4K 60fps with the ultra-wide angle lens though — which is a real disappointment.
There is even 4K selfie camera action, with the dual pixel autofocus doing a fine job at retaining focus on your face when recording in this mode. There is a little bit of a zoom due to the fixed-focus nature of the selfie camera but a long arm or a selfie stick will fix this issue if you are insistent on filming yourself via the front-facing camera.
For fans of slow-mo the increase in ability to record 960fps to 0.4 seconds. I personally haven’t even found a use for the slow-motion modes, only as often the thing I want to capture is done before I even get the camera app loaded. That’s not to say the camera app takes an age to load, as it is actually the fastest camera app I’ve ever used.
Double tapping from the lock screen into your camera application is almost instant. It puts all other challengers I’ve tried to shame. This combined with zero shutter lag makes it a superb overall camera experience that is only really lacking in one specific area — low-light performance.
A beast but not quite the Apex predator
With such a large battery the Samsung Galaxy S10+ should be vying for the ‘Battery King’ crown but there is some let down here. I’ve found I have been left wanting just a little bit as it doesn’t quite match my own lofty expectations. While it can easily outlast the OnePlus 7 Pro, I just expected a tiny bit more juice to be left at the end of the day.
The battery is one area we’ve seemingly had to learn to settle with for some time and while the battery on the S10+ is great, it isn’t quite exceptional in the same way the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is for instance. My usage sees me end the typical day with around 30 to 35% battery remaining on average. I am slightly jealous of the Snapdragon 855 owners though and their massive 10+ hours of screen on time you see regularly shared on the /r/GalaxyS10 subreddit.
We Exynos users have to settle for slightly lesser battery life, although we do get software updates a little faster, so there is that. In my experience, I tend to expect around five to six hours of screen on time from my Galaxy S10+.
The support for 15W wireless fast charging is a nice addition, and although there is support for reverse wireless charging, it feels like a parlour trick rather than a truly useful addition — much like on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Although it does make more sense as a way to charge the superb Samsung Galaxy Buds but you are much better off charging separately.
What is less forgivable is the relatively slow 15W fast charger in the box. It’s so far behind the pace with other many other flagships in that regard — the Pixel 3 and iPhone XS being notable exceptions. I’m less inclined to plug the device into a wall outlet when I know that my wireless charger is almost as quick and is much less fuss.
Arguably the best all-around Android
There is a reason that Samsung is often seen as the go-to brand when people think of Android. For me, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is arguably the best all-around Android phone on the market. It excels in the right areas but like any smartphone out there does have a few compromises — the night photography mode being one.
While I am a fan of the hardware and One UI is a massive step up over older Samsung Android skins, it does feel like quite the departure from my usual stock Android or Oxygen OS. It’s only for that reason that I tend not to feel quite at home, even though the experience is still very good.
I’d love to see Samsung tone things down with the duplicate apps. I find myself having to change my defaults for way too many core applications and it is a little frustrating but by no means a dealbreaker. I’m a stickler for Nova Launcher, so it is often the first thing I install and usually, that is enough for me to simply hide the duplicates.
While the night shooting modes aren’t particularly brilliant, the rest of the camera experience and indeed the end results in both photo and video are up there with the very best available.
Everywhere else the Samsung Galaxy S10+ just ticks all the boxes off the checklist of ‘killer smartphone’. The display and hardware are almost unrivaled in the space. Even with the OnePlus 7 Pro offering no notch, the dual punch-hole notch found on the S10+ doesn’t detract from the best-looking panel on the market — something even the gorgeous 90Hz 7 Pro display can’t compete with.
Now that the S10+ has been available for over a quarter of a year, it has come down substantially in price. Meaning you can get one of the best designed, feature-packed smartphones of 2019 for much less than at launch.
If you want a no-nonsense smartphone that makes little compromise then this is still the smartphone to beat. It’s because of that reason, that when most non-tech literate people ask me which Android phone to buy, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is the first name out of my mouth.
Should you still buy the Samsung Galaxy S10+?
Of course, you should still pick up the Galaxy S10+. As we have mentioned, the cost has come down quite significantly if you are happy to opt for a new device via your carrier. It’s even cheaper on auction sites like eBay, where devices can be as low as $650 unlocked. Buying unlocked from online retailers like Amazon still runs you closer to the $999 suggested retail price. B&H Photo is currently offering $100 off on unlocked S10+ models with a coupon. As for carrier deals, it will vary depending on your network.