There's no such thing as a perfect smartphone. At best, there can be a best phone for x, y or z scenario – like the best-looking phone, or the phone with the best display, or the best camera phone, or the phone with the best user experience. But no, there’s no such thing as a perfect smartphone – even though smartphone makers will go to great lengths to prove otherwise. Then there’s Samsung and its new Galaxy S10+ - which I believe is the most complete flagship smartphone that money can buy today, full stop.
The Galaxy S10+ marks ten years of the Galaxy but while Apple took ten years of the iPhone as a cue to tap into uncharted territory with the iPhone X, Samsung is holding on to what it does best – building a no-compromise Android smartphone that tries to do everything better. Rather than trying to be the best (and failing).
While it isn’t as crazy futuristic as its foldable phone, the Galaxy S10+ is future-proof in its own subtle but effective way. The Galaxy S10+ is a phone designed for the masses - the Galaxy S10+ is a phone that people will buy at the drop of a hat, without having to invest extra in a factor of anxiety, should they invest in a device like the Galaxy Fold. And the Galaxy S10+ will serve that customer well.
The Galaxy S10+ is so hallmark Samsung, I don’t even have to write a whole thesis to state the obvious – the Galaxy S10+ is the phone to buy right now if you’re not an iPhone person. And even if you are an iPhone person, you should consider the Galaxy S10+ if you’re looking to buy a new high-end phone - simply because of the sheer number of options (colours/prices) that Samsung is offering this year as opposed to last year, or the year before. Unlike the Apple iPhone that costs gazillions more, Samsung has launched the Galaxy S10E in India at Rs 55,900, the Galaxy S10 at Rs 66,900 and the Galaxy S10+ at Rs 73,900 – something that compensates for the fact that the vanilla Galaxy S10/Galaxy S10+ are Samsung’s most expensive Galaxy S phones ever.
Now I know, money may not necessarily be a concern for flagship buyers – but it surely won’t hurt to save some (an argument that falls well in line with OnePlus phones). It doesn’t matter if you’re buying the Galaxy S10E, Galaxy S10 or Galaxy S10+. All of them share the same glass and metal design language with near edge-to-edge screens courtesy Samsung’s new punch-hole Infinity-O display, the processor inside all of them stays the same as well – which is Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 (in India), so is the software, which is Android 9 Pie-based One UI – which is without a doubt Samsung’s most well though-out software to date.
The Galaxy S10+ is the phone to buy right now if you’re not an iPhone person
All the three phones also pack the same dual aperture primary rear cameras and 10MP primary front camera. All of them can record UHD videos using both the rear and front cameras, and HDR10+ videos with the rear camera. Fast wireless charging and reverse wireless charging (Samsung is calling it PowerShare) are also standard across the board, as is Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, IP68-certification and micro-SD storage expansion. The Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10E keep the headphone jack too!
The Galaxy S10+ is of course at the pinnacle of Samsung’s cutting-edge tech this year but the Galaxy S10 is also not very far behind. I will have more to say about the Galaxy S10E in a separate review.
The Galaxy S10+ is a very familiar phone, and yet it somehow feels different – better. It’s like Samsung took the best bits from the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 and mixed the two in equal measure. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 seemed like two different breeds of devices (because well, they were two different breeds of devices) having their own positives and negatives – the Galaxy S9 was drop-dead gorgeous but it was also dangerously curvaceous (call it a health hazard, if you may), the Galaxy Note 9 was boxier but it was also quite heavy. The Galaxy S10+ is both a looker and a doer – it has the form as well as the function.
It is still all-glass and metal though, which means it still needs to be handled with some care (it is still prone to smudge and fingerprints on the fly as well) - but that’s part and parcel of being an all-glass and metal phone anyway. The Galaxy S10+ is still a big phone, and the Galaxy S10 is still ridiculously small (in comparison) – but that’s what we have come to expect from the lineup after the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9. And Samsung is still not letting go of the dedicated Bixby hardware key – although it does allow you to remap it to open nearly any other app now (still no third-party voice assistants are supported).
What’s new really is the bevy of colours that Samsung has on offer - Prism Black, Prism White and Prism Blue (all of them come with unique light-bending paintjobs), and a new build material – ceramic, for those willing to splurge.
Like clockwork, Samsung’s signature AMOLED screens keep charting new benchmarks each year when it comes to all-round display quality – but they’ve been far from perfect. The Galaxy S10+ changes that and a lot of this has to with Samsung’s new Dynamic tech that the company has put in this year. The result – the Galaxy S10+ not only has the best smartphone display ever, it is also the most accurate (something that is also corroborated by analysis firm DisplayMate).
Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED display boasts of a very high colour accuracy – both in terms of contrast as well as in terms of intensity. The new panel is also brighter than the one on its predecessor, the Galaxy S9 - chalking a whopping 1,200 nits of peak brightness. Viewing angles are also best in-class with minimal colour and white shifting.
The Galaxy S10+ has a 6.4-inch screen with QHD+ resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection (Galaxy S10 has a 6.1-inch screen while the Galaxy S10E has the smallest 5.8-inch display with 1080p+ resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 5) - this is the first time that a Galaxy S phone has had a neutral/soothing colour pallet out-of-the-box, but there is also an option to pump out Samsung’s signature over-contrast through the settings.
As is customary with every new high-end Galaxy phone, the Galaxy S10+ display also packs an ace up its sleeve – it is claimed to be the world’s first HDR10+-ready phone. Which is a simple way of saying, supported content from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will look even more cinematic than before.
Also new is the hole-punch – which is what you’ll have to get used to, to appreciate that display. Even more so in the Galaxy S10+ which houses an even bigger hole-punch. The setup, although largely unobtrusive, pushes notification icons closer towards the left because Samsung, for some reason, decided to put the hole-punch on the right and not the center – RIP symmetry.
What’ll take even more time getting used to though is the Galaxy S10+’ new ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner. While the idea is novel – it is supposedly faster and safer than the optical solution found in the OnePlus 6T, it doesn’t require you to wake the screen, and it works with greasy/sweaty fingers as well. While most of that is true, the in-display fingerprint reader on-board the Galaxy S10+, is way slower and more finicky than what Samsung will have you believe – to the extent of being frustrating. But it’s nothing that a proper software update can’t fix - Samsung has pushed out an update on the review unit that I have been using and it has made life little more bearable – hopefully more will follow.
Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S10+ is one of the fastest Android phones that money can buy right now – this is true for even the Exynos 9820-based Galaxy S10+ that Samsung will sell in India (the phone is powered by an even more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in the US). It may not always feel that way – with Samsung’s skin and all but rest assured – this is one of the most powerful phones in the market today.
If that wasn’t enough, Samsung is also offering a host of RAM/ROM options just in case – with the top-tier version packing a borderline insane 12GB RAM and 1TB storage. Even the base version comes with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage (this is true for the Galaxy S10 as well) - so that’s a plenty.
All that hardware means nothing if software/user experience is bad – remember TouchWiz? Samsung did indeed get the memo which is why it started on a redemption spree with Experience and with One UI, it is taking things forward – in a good way. With features like a system-wide dark mode and an emphasis on faster and seamless use on large-screen devices, One UI (which is based on Android 9 Pie) is without a doubt the best piece of software that Samsung has ever built.
It is cleaner, smoother and much more user friendly – although its big, cartoonish icons may need some time getting used to. There is also an option to tone them down further – Samsung offers tons of customization options on top of Android. What’s impressive is that even though Samsung hasn’t necessarily cut down on fancy animations from the get-go (and there are still a truck-load of duplicate apps here), the whole UI still feels faster than any of its past software iterations. Hopefully, it holds up – and hopefully Samsung shows the same intent with updates as well.
All the optimization that Samsung has been able to pull off, also results in good battery life across the board – the 4,100mAh battery in the Galaxy S10+ (it is 3,400mAh in the Galaxy S10) can easily last for a whole day with heavy usage (I have been getting 6-7 hours of screen on time) while toning things down further can stretch things to one and a half days.
The Galaxy S10+ supports what Samsung is calling PowerShare – which means the phone will be able to act as a wireless charging mat for other Qi compatible devices like smartwatches and smartphones. We’ve already seen Huawei toy around with reverse wireless charging in its premiere Mate 20 Pro, and while it is still pretty much a gimmick (you’ll probably use to show off to begin with, only to forget all about it later), Samsung’s PowerShare is faster – something that is good for bragging rights.
While there’s been a growing debate around how the megapixel race is making a comeback this year, Samsung seems content being out of that race for now. Instead, it is taking the foundation it laid down with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 and refining it further in the Galaxy S10+. Offering greater versatility along the way – the Galaxy S10+ has the most versatile camera system on a Galaxy phone ever.
Let’s start with the specs. The Galaxy S10+ has a primary 12MP wide (77-degree field of view) sensor with variable f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture and dual pixel OIS. Dual aperture will allow the Galaxy S10 (like the Galaxy S9 before it, although Samsung says it is using a new sensor) to shoot photos with more detail in low light (f/1.5), and photos without any metering issues when lighting is more than adequate (f/2.4). It is paired with a 12MP telephoto sensor with OIS (again like the Galaxy S9) for 2X optical zoom.
Samsung is throwing in an additional 16MP ultra-wide (123-degree field of view) sensor with f/2.2 aperture and fixed focus in the Galaxy S10+ - which is a first for any high-end Galaxy phone.
On the front, the Galaxy S10+ has two cameras embedded into the display - one 10MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and a secondary 8MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture for depth sensing.
While all the versatility is appreciated – it is also a joy to play around with, the question is, does the Galaxy S10+ hold up against the Google Pixel 3, or the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Well, not really. Especially when it comes to still photography.
Even if you are an iPhone person, you should consider the Galaxy S10+ if you’re looking to buy a new high-end phone
Don’t mind me, the cameras in the Galaxy S10+ are an improvement over the cameras in the Galaxy S9 – Samsung seems to be using new algorithms so all-round result is warmer and more pleasing to the eyes with great dynamic range as well, as opposed to say the Galaxy S9 which was notorious for over-saturating/over-sharpening the colours, often entailing in artificial-looking photos. The Galaxy S10+ photos are truer to life.
(Samsung Galaxy S10+ standard)
But metering issues still exist – Galaxy S10+ photos almost always end up being overexposed no matter the lighting conditions.
Wide-angle shots taken with the Galaxy S10+ have noticeable distortion/fish-eye effect - a software update should help.
Low light photos meanwhile appear soft and mushy because of Samsung’s highly aggressive noise reduction in such situations – this results in loss of detail something that is accentuated further by the lack of a dedicated manual night mode (a night mode is apparently on the way through a software update) something that has been the USP of Google’s Pixel 3.
(Samsung Galaxy S10+ telephoto)
The same story continues in the front camera department as well – the Galaxy S10+ can shoot good-enough selfies with lots of detail in good light but low-light selfies (and portraits) are nowhere close to what you get on the Pixel 3 – the Galaxy S10+’s dual front cameras try to recreate wide-angle effects by cropping in and out (possibly through software) but again, results are nowhere close to what the Pixel 3’s dual front cameras can achieve.
(Samsung Galaxy S10+ wide-angle)
But where the Galaxy S10+ cameras falter at stills, it more than compensates for through best in-class video recording – the Galaxy S10+ videos are sharper, with more detail, and much more stabilization (including good all-round audio) than say the iPhone – which has been the go-to standard for many V-loggers.
So, coming to the million-dollar question, should you buy the Galaxy S10+? Yes and no. The Galaxy S10+ is not the phone to buy if you’re an existing Galaxy S8/Galaxy S9 user – you should wait, because the next big thing is just around the corner (hopefully). For everybody else, I have already said this in my introduction – the Galaxy S10+ is the phone to buy right now if you’re not an iPhone person. And even if you are an iPhone person, you should consider the Galaxy S10+ if you’re looking to buy a new high-end phone.
The Galaxy S10+ has a sleek design, a great display, fast performance, good battery life and versatile cameras that particularly excel at videos – which is a standard for most high-end phones these days. It is all the other things (the basics) – the headphone jack, the micro-SD, the dual stereo speakers (that get loud and offer good stereo separation), the IP68-rating, that set the Galaxy S10+ apart from rivals.
The Galaxy S10+ is a complete phone, and that is what makes it different. It’s not perfect, but then, no smartphone is.