Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review
Smartphones | Review | Samsung
Samsung has come a long way in the recent years and it has been a while since I last owned one of their phones. I decided it was time to return to the brand with the S10+, but what are my thoughts after a few months of use?
After an interesting ride with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro (you can read my review here) I felt the need to try going back to Samsung now that they had done some major design changes both hardware and software wise.
On March 9, 2019, I packed up my Huawei and took the bus to my local electronics store. If I recall correctly it was the launch day, but they didn't have the S10 lineup on display just yet. I decided to pick up the black variant with 128GB of storage. Nothing crazy and over the top like the ceramic version which sports 1TB of storage and 12GB of ram, hah.
With no time to lose I walked to my workplace to see if it lived up to the hype. After a lot of drooling during the Samsung Unpacked event I was thrilled to have it in my hands. I was eager to give it a spin as my daily driver and get to know its quirks and features. Without further ado it's time to unbox this bad boy.
Unboxing and first impression
The S10+ comes in a box that is black and sleek. It features bold and shiny letters on the front and a very minimalistic look. The top of the box slowly lets go of the bottom when you lift it up. The first thing you see is the front of the device. Your eyes automatically jumps to the camera cutout and you quickly realize how tiny the bezels are on this phone. The phone comes with a plastic screen protector and I don't recommend removing it even though it may slow down the fingerprint reader. This is the shiniest the phone will ever be as the black glass piece quickly attracts dust and fingerprints. When you pick it up the first thing you feel is how premium the build quality is while being impressively sleek at the same time. The next thing you will find is the power brick, USB C to A adapter, AKG earbuds, SIM card ejector tool, USB A to C charging cable and then quite a bit of paperwork. All in all a pleasing unboxing experience that complements the phone very well.
Design, build quality and feel in the hand
Like I mentioned earlier, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ has very premium feel. The phone feels great in the hand and has a nice heft to it. The materials are nicely blended together and the phone is rock solid as a result. I chose the black finish and I really like the tone of the black. It looks great in all lighting scenarios and it reflects very nicely. It does however come with a ton of fingerprints, but that is to be expected. The front of the phone has very tiny bezels and due to the curved screen it basically doesn't have side bezels. I'm not a huge fan of the curved screen as I often accidentally touch stuff I don't mean to touch, but I do recognize why Samsung is obsessed with curved screens. The S10+ has two front cameras, but they are not a part of a regular bezel. The cameras live on an island a little under the top bezel, which looks great and I much prefer this approach over a notch. The top bezel also features a speaker which can be impossible to spot. Very clean and nicely integrated.
The back of the phone is also very slick. It features some text at the bottom that is very difficult to see unless in direct light which I really like. the Samsung logo is a little above the middle of the phone and doesn't look flashy or over the top. Above the logo we have the camera cutout. It is a rectangle shape with rounded corners and hosts no less than three cameras. There is also a flash and a few different sensors. Definitely a camera cutout that goes nicely with a design language that flows nicely with the rest of the phone. Additionally, the S10+ features a power button on one side and a volume rocker on the other side. Firms buttons with a tactile feel that is pleasant to click. It also features a Bixby button that can be reassigned, which is a nice addition. It also has the SIM tray at the top of the phone, speaker grill at the bottom and even a headphone jack. Very nice!
Overall a beautifully crafted phone that is both premium and comfortable to use. Samsung really knows how hardware should be done!
Specifications and features
Next segment up is the specifications and the features. Like always, Samsung flagships are absolutely filled with awesome technology and innovative features. Let's take a look!
- Android 9.0 with OneUI 1.0
- 128GB storage (or 512GB/1TB)
- 6.4" 1440x3040p AMOLED screen
- 175 g weight
- 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm
- Exynos 9820, 8nm and a Mali G76 MP12
- Corning Gorilla Glass 6
- IP68 dust and water resistant
- 8GB RAM (or 12GB)
- microSD slot
- 4100 mAh
- 12MP, f/1.5, 26mm wide camera
- 16MP, f/2.2, 12mm ultrawide camera
- 12MP, f/2.4, 52mm telephoto camera
- 10MP, f/1.9, 26mm selfie camera
- 8MP, f/2.2, 22mm depth sensor
- EIS and OIS
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 15W fast charging
- 15W wireless charging
- Reverse wireless charging
- Facial unlock
- Ultrasonic fingerprint reader under the display
- Stereo speakers
The S10+ only supports 15W charging. I wish it supported faster charging.
Wireless powershare let's you charge other devices.
Facial recognition. Secure and effortless unlocking. Works great, even in the dark.
The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is accurate and very fast. It is also more secure than the optical one. Very pleasant to use and I prefer this over the facial unlock.
The next segment is the one I have been looking forward to the most. We are going to tackle the camera system. The S10+ features three rear facing cameras and two front facing cameras. This brings the total to 5 cameras. Pretty crazy, huh? Let's take a deeper dive into the cameras!
New from the Samsung Galaxy S9, the S10 sports an ultrawide lens that helps you capture even more from the scene. I am a huge sucker for the ultrawide camera and find it so entertaining to shoot with. Not only does the S10+ have an ultrawide lens, but it also has a telephoto that helps preserve camera quality when you need to zoom in on a subject. The zoom range on the S10+ ranges from 0.5x to 10x which isn't class leading, but it is plenty for most users. I will take a closer look at the camera application and all the different shooting modes and features later on in this review, so stay tuned for that.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the sample photos! All the photos below are shot in auto mode and they have not been edited in post.
The three different rear lenses works in harmony which results in a very versatile focal length range. 0.5x is extremely wide and 10x gets you very close to the subject. I'm very happy that Samsung chose this camera configuration instead of opting for a monochrome lens, depth camera or some other gimmick.
Let's take a look at a few more photos I shot the same day!
As you clearly can see, the S10+ is a very capable shooter with a versatile camera system that helps you get the perfect shot in every scenario. During my use with the S10+ I had a ton of fun snapping pictures. The photos always came out looking great and it really shined during sunset and sunrise scenes. Samsung has come a long way in image processing and I recognize that when I see how far the HDR has come. I am very pleased with the vibrant colors and crisp quality, but I did sometimes notice that the pictures were a little too vibrant and I sometimes also saw some oversharpening. The phone did however perform great in darker scenarios. Night mode is as always impressive and I love the pro mode. All-in-all a magnificent shooter that helped me feel confident when snapping away. Great job Samsung!
When it comes to video shooting the S10+ is also very capable here. Unlike the Google Pixel 4 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the S10+ actually shoots in 4K at 60FPS. This is something that I love seeing and I have had so much fun shooting with the S10+ using a gimbal. The result has been crisp and ultra smooth videos.
Setup and software
Next up is the setup and software experience on the S10+. Personally, software is maybe the most important part of a smartphone. The software is what you are going to be interacting with on a daily basis. The software ties together the hardware and features. If I don't enjoy the software experience on a phone, the cameras and other goodies doesn't matter as much. In the recent years I have been daily driving stock Android phones and never really looked back. I tried the Huawei Mate 20 Pro as a daily driver so I have some experience with EMUI as well.
It will be very interesting to see how far Samsung has come with their software in the recent years. Back when I owned Samsung phones such as the S2 and Galaxy Alpha, the software was called "TouchWiz". It eventually got rebranded to "Samsung Experience" and then came the "OneUI" update.
Let's get cracking with the setup!
Step 1: Chose language
Step 3: Chose if you want to import data
Step 4: Connect to a network
Step 5: checking for updates/info
Step 6: Sign into Google
Step 7: Getting Google account info
Step 8: Chose if you want to restore a backup
Step 9: Setting up device protection
Step 10: Setting up Google Assistant
Step 11: Accept Google services
Step 12: Choose if you want to install additional apps
Step 13: Choose if you want to install recommended apps (this didn't work and just skipped over it)
Step 14: Setting up your Samsung account
Step 16: Choose if you want to restore a Samsung Cloud backup
Step 16: All done and ready to go
Like most Android phones there are quite a few steps to set it up. Some may argue that some steps are unnecessary and could be skipped, but I think it is nice to give users a choice. This also gives you greater control over what data you share. All in all a very clean and straightforward setup process.
Next we are jumping to the look and feel of the S10+ right as you get it out of the box and finishes the setup. We are going to take a look at stock applications, stock launcher and stock settings. Here's a gallery highlighting OneUI 1.0:
The OneUI Home launcher
Page two on the OneUI launcher
Notification menu and tiles
Second page of the settings
Phone manager application
Similarly to EMUI, the UI is curved and follows the theme of Android 9.0 Pie. It is very minimalistic and simple while being easy on the eyes and easy to read and navigate. It has a playful splash of colors as well. There are a few Samsung applications right off the bat as well as some from Microsoft. Samsung is known for customization and OneUI home does not disappoint at all. There is a ton of customization that can be done. Grids, icon badges, sizes, layout, swiping and much more can be changed to your preferences.
OneUI also features a system wide dark theme which looks very nice:
Now we are going to take a deeper dive into the phone to find out what is hiding under the skin. Let's take a look!
Backup and restore
Security & privacy
Text & display size
This was just a handful of the settings pages in OneUI and it is no surprise that Samsung packs a ton of customization and features. I'll be very surprised if there is something you feel like you are missing. Very nice to see this level of tweaking and tinkering. Nicely done Samsung!
Additionally, you can also hide the hole-punch and switch to a gesture based navigation system.
You can choose if you want the hole-punch or a black bar along the top
You can also choose if you want to use button navigation or gestures
Sadly, to my disappointment, the gestures absolutely suck in OneUI 1.0. I would argue that this flimsy integration can't be called gestures. The animations are lackluster and smooth is nowhere to be found. I actually had to disable them just a few days after enabling them, just because of how bad they are. It made the whole phone feel like a cheap china copycat. With that being said, the gestures are supposed to be wildly improved with OneUI 2.0, but it's an embarrassment that Samsung shipped OneUI with these gestures. Using the stock Android Pie gestures would've been a million times better.
Next we are going to take a look at the first party applications that comes preinstalled with the phone. Let's hop in.
Compared to Huawei, there are very few pre-installed applications. Samsung gives you the choice while setting up the phone if you want more Samsung applications. You can then chose to not install them like I have done. By doing this, you will only get the essential apps. You can download a ton more Samsung apps using the Galaxy Store if you want to. I love this approach and it helps minimize the amount of bloatware. Comparing Samsung and Huawei, the difference is mind boggling.
All of the apps follows the same design language and it matches the design used in OneUI. Very neat. They also follows the guidelines of the visibility area and interaction area. Superb stuff!
Now we are going to take a look at the lockscreen. It features two buttons to open the dialer and the camera and you can turn them off if you don't like them. Overall a very minimalistic lockscreen which I greatly appreciate. You can also swipe the clock to change music and interact with Bixby routines.
Swipe to open camera/dialer
Now it is time to look at the camera application. As per usual it is by far one of the apps I have used the most other than third party apps. It is absolutely jam packed with features, shooting modes and settings. You can also customize what modes are on the homescreen and Bixby is an optional feature baked into the camera app.
Bixby vision analyzes the scene and them applies a "scene optimizer" to the shot. It is a little like beauty mode where it can change the vibrance or contrast. I prefer shooting with this option off, but I can see why some may leave it on. It also does a good job at recognising subjects. Neat feature!
The camera app comes with shot suggestions, flaw detection, QR code scanner HDR and HDR10+ video. It obviously also comes with assistive grid, timer, GPS tag and many other features. Unlike the Huawei M20P, the S10+ shoots in 4k at 60fps, yummy!
A very versatile range from 0.5x to 10x
Real time video filters
Live focus video which creates a blur around the subject in real time
The camera application may be a little bloated, but I find it nicely organized and easy to find what you are looking for. You can also hide the stuff that may be less relevant to you. You can also turn off Bixby and the AR stuff is optional. Overall a nice camera app. It is easy to switch between modes and you don't have to dig deep in settings to change stuff.
The S10+ does come with quite a few applications pre installed, but like I mentioned earlier, it is miles better than Huawei. You can also disable a majority of it. I don't like seeing apps like Facebook preinstalled and I wish you could completely remove it instead of just disabling. I do understand that there are some Microsoft applications pre installed given their partnership with Samsung.
Let's take a close look at the apps that comes bundled with the S10+ out of the box.
These are the default applications that comes bundled with the phone right out of the box. As you can see, there are quite a few, but it's not a disaster. You can also disable pretty much all of them.
What I really disliked was that I experienced more bloatware being added via a software update. Stuff like AR sticker, AR doodle and other weird stuff was added and sometimes even appeared in my app drawer, without the option to disable. That's not cool.
However, overall it isn't too bad, but there is definitely room for improvement. There should be a screen during the setup that asks you if you want to install the Samsung apps and the Facebook app.
Display & battery
An area where the S10+ really excels is the display. It is no secret that Samsung knows how to make displays and it is no different here. There is a reason why they supply Apple with displays for the iPhones.
The display is incredible beautiful and it is such a delight to look at. The colors are spot on and can be tuned to your liking if you are into that. The brightness is superb and I have absolutely no issues seeing the content on the phone even in direct sunlight. The stunning edge-to-edge design of the phone makes the display stand out even more. What really impresses me is the design behind the camera cutout. The amount of precisions needed to do a cutout like that is crazy. The display is set to FHD+ out of the box, so it's a shame some users will never experience the crispy QHD+ quality since that has to be turned on in settings. Overall an A++ display which I love looking at. It makes everything look good and it is such an awesome experience to watch movies and YouTube videos on it. Wow!
The 4100mAh battery on the S10+ complements the stunning display in a very nice way. The size is decent, but it could have been a little bit bigger. While running the S10+ as my daily driver I never really ran into an issue with the battery not lasting me the entire day, but there were times I wished it lasted a little bit more. It could've been easier to swallow if the phone recharged faster than 15W, but oh well. I guess they have to spare something for the Note 10, right?
There were also some debate regarding the chipset on the phone. Phones in the US, Canada, China, Japan and latin america comes with the Qualcomm processor while phones in the rest of the world comes with the Exynos processor. Many people reported marginally better battery life on the Qualcomm processor, so I'm a little bummed the Exynos isn't as optimized as the Qualcomm counterpart when it comes to battery. Overall the battery life on the S10+ was great even though there are room for improvement.
I'm going to be honest. This was the sole reason why I got the S10+, hehe.
Let's pretend you didn't see this...
To sum up my experience with the Samsung I can say that it has been a mostly positive ride. I used it as my daily driver for way longer than I did with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and I thoroughly enjoyed the phone. Yep, the S10+ has been a much more pleasant ownership than the M20P. It is literally better on almost every aspect ranging from software to cameras. I have to admit that I eventually had to crawl back to using my trusty Pixel as my daily driver, but I still used the S10+ actively and often brought it with me when doing stuff. I know I'm weird, choosing a 2016 phone over a 2019 flagship, but stock Android is so incredible. This however, doesn't mean that the S10+ was a complete flop for me.
On paper this phone is definitely a beast and that is also for the most part reflected in the real-world. OneUI however does need some more refinement, because I didn't really experience it as smooth as I expected it would be. It is very fast though. Apps opens quickly and it flies through menus and apps. 8GB of RAM helps keeping stuff in memory and it never really slows down. I absolutely love how versatile the cameras are. Ultra wide angle is a must have on any smartphone (ahem.. Google..). I had so much fun shooting with the S10+ and I was often surprised over how good some of the photos came out. Without a doubt a very capable shooter that has a ton of features such as 4K60fps, ultra slow motion, pro mode, and much more. Samsung does a good job on the processing and they have improved it several times via software updates, but there is still some work to do in order to catch up with Apple and Google. With that being said, Samsung does a much better job than Huawei. The night mode is also good, but the real deal is the pro mode. This is a killer feature that the Pixel lineup needs to adopt ASAP. Being able to shoot 10 second (30 seconds with OneUI 2.0) exposures on a smartphone can produce some very nice looking results. I also love the ultrasmooth 4k60fps video and coupled with a gimbal it looks superb. It is not as crisp as Apple, but at least it shoots in 60fps. Again, another feature the Pixel lineup so dearly needs to adopt. Overall very very satisfied with the cameras! Magnificent job Samsung.
Like I mentioned earlier, the software wasn't my cup of tea. It is alright and I recognise how far Samsung has come, but there are still some work left. The animations are a bit dull, there is some unnecessary bloatware. The settings and menus are hard to navigate, with a ton of sub-menus and hidden settings. I also received notifications telling me to enable anti-spam calls and anti virus. I had made sure to disable marketing junk so this was a little unpleasant, especially after receiving them multiple times without finding a way to stop it. I also read that some users had gotten Note 10 advertisements when the Note 10 was released. Ehh..
Performance of the Exynos chip has been excellent and I don't have any complaints here. There are some stuttering and lag/dropped frames, but for the most part it was unproblematic. Very pleased in that department. It also handled heavy tasks such as 4K60fps with ease. I did notice that the phone got pretty heated once in a while though. This happened especially when using apps with a ton of videos for an extended period of time. It made the phone a little uncomfortable to use, but it's not a big deal as most phones do this. The ultrasonic fingerprint reader was also very pleasant to use and it made unlocking the phone a breeze. The speakers sounds great and gets plenty loud.
I was a little annoyed with the moisture detection feature as it sometimes falsely triggered this loud alarm sound when I tried to charge. I also found the S10+ very picky with the chargers it liked. It would often complain about slow charge speeds when other phones had no problem. This made charging from my computer a very slow process. The phone is pretty comfortable in the hand and definitely has a very premium build. I do however hate the curved edges as I always tap stuff I don't mean to. This happened a ton in the camera app and I have missed a few shots because of it. Hate that design trend, even though it makes it look like the phone doesn't have side bezels. Sexy, but not very practical. Maybe the smaller size and lack of curved edges on the S10e would have been a better fit for me? I do wish I got a little more out of the battery and that it supported more than 15W charging. Last but not least I also have to commend Samsung for keeping the headphone jack. Way to go Samsung!
All in all I had fun using this phone. It served me very well and it is a rock solid phone. However, I do prefer the smoothness, ease of use and design of stock Android. Imagine if you could have this hardware with Pixels software... oh my *drool*. I'm very happy I traded in the Huawei Mate 20 Pro for this and I'm also happy that I had a much more enjoyable experience with this phone. The S10+ does a lot of things very well. Bravo Samsung!
Thank you so much for reading my very long, personal and detailed review of the Galaxy S10+! Do you agree with my opinions or do you think I am a moron? Let me know down below!