Samsung launches new flagship Galaxy S models at the start of every year. This year, a lot was expected from the Korean manufacturer, especially as we were eager to see what design direction it would take. Ever since the Samsung Galaxy S8 (Review), Samsung has stuck with its tall Infinity displays, clearly showing no intention of going for the same notches as everyone else. Its last flagship-class smartphone, the Galaxy Note 9 (Review), also still had its front cameras above the display, but the Galaxy S10 series are the first phones to launch with a more modern look that finally gets rid of all the borders around the screen. The Galaxy S10 series, launched in San Francisco just ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, marked the debut of Samsung's new Infinity-O screens which stretch to all corners of the front of these phones and have punch-holes for the front cameras.
Samsung launched three smartphones, namely the Galaxy S10e, the Galaxy S10, and the Galaxy S10+ at the same time. Unlike the Galaxy S9 (Review) and Galaxy S9+ (Review) which had different rear camera setups, the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ have the same three cameras at the back. Where they differ (apart from screen size and battery capacity) is their selfie cameras. The Galaxy S10+ has two front cameras, while the Galaxy S10 has to do with a single selfie shooter.
In a way, the Galaxy S10+ is the best smartphone that Samsung has to offer at this time. Is it good enough to fight off the iPhone XS Max (Review), Google Pixel 3 XL (Review) and Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Review)? We review to find out.
Samsung is known for interesting designs. While every other Android manufacturer was looking at adopting a display notch, Samsung resisted the move and stuck with the traditional rectangular display format. The new Samsung Galaxy S10 lineup can be seen as the company's attempt to maximise display size and minimise borders.
The Galaxy S10+ comes in five finishes in India and uses two different materials for the back panel. If you opt for the base configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, you can choose between Prism White, Prism Black, and Prism Blue. If you want the ceramic finishes, you can buy this phone with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage in Ceramic Black, or pick the top-end Ceramic White option with a whopping 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. That's the case at the time of publishing this review; it isn't known whether Samsung will make different configurations available in different finishes in the future. We had the Prism White unit for review, and we liked the way it shifts colour when light hits it at different angles.
Pick the phone up and it is evident that the bezels are super thin at the top and the sides, helping it look like a bezel-less phone. The bottom chin is comparatively thicker. Above the display, the earpiece grille is moved towards the frame, which liberates some screen space. The oval-shaped hole is in the upper right corner of the screen houses a dual camera setup. It is more easily noticeable here than on the Honor View 20 (Review), which has a smaller hole for its single selfie camera. Samsung refers to this as the Infinity-O display and it is rounded at the edges.
Samsung has curved the sides of this phone's frame which makes it easy to hold, and at the same time helps the display and the glass back merge seamlessly. You will barely feel the transition from the frame to the glass back when you run your fingers across the surfaces.
At the back, there are three cameras arranged in a horizontal strip, similar to the dual-camera arrangement on the Galaxy Note 9. The heart rate and oxygen saturation sensors are placed in the same module alongside the LED flash. This camera module has a slightly raised metal rim. It isn't significant enough to cause the phone to rock when placed on a flat surface.
You won't find a traditional fingerprint scanner at the back of this smartphone like with the Galaxy S9 or Galaxy Note 9. Instead, Samsung has gone for an ultrasonic in-display sensor. This is the first Samsung smartphone to have such a feature and it is positioned towards the bottom of the display, above the on-screen home button. The placement is convenient and the sensor area can be reached easily when holding the phone in one hand.
We found the power button placement to be a little too high on the right side of the Galaxy S10+ and it was a bit hard to reach. Just like other recent Galaxy S series smartphones, there's a dedicated Bixby button placed below the volume buttons on the left. All the buttons are made out of metal and have a reassuring click when pressed.
The top of the phone has a microphone and the SIM tray. If you want a 3.5mm headphone jack on your smartphone, you'll be happy that Samsung has retained it on the Galaxy S10+. It is at the bottom, along with a USB Type-C port and a loudspeaker grille. The Galaxy S10+ also features an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.
Samsung has managed to pack a 4100mAh into the slim 7.8mm body while keeping the weight down to 175g (195g for the Ceramic options). This phone feels light in the hand compared to some of the other Galaxy smartphones we have used in the past. You get a fast charger and a pair of AKG earphones in the box, along with a few other accessories.
Samsung ships a case with Indian retail units, which we didn't receive with our review unit. Samsung also told Gadgets 360 that it will be shipping the Galaxy S10 and S10+ with pre-applied screen protectors to prevent aftermarket screen protectors from interfering with the in-display fingerprint scanner.
There is no denying that the 6.4-inch AMOLED display on the Galaxy S10+ is absolutely gorgeous. It has Quad HD+ (1440x3040 pixels) resolution but is set to full-HD+ (1080x2280 pixels) by default and you can change it manually. There are multiple tweaks you can make to customise the display. There are two modes to choose from, Vivid and Natural. As the name suggests, the Vivid mode bumps the contrast up making colours pop more on the display. When in Vivid mode, you get a slider for white balance and the option to tweak colour levels. The natural mode seems more, well, natural.
The Galaxy S10+ definitely has one of the brightest display panels in the market at 1200nits. We could easily read anything even when outdoors. The phone offers a night mode which switches to a dark theme that is easy on the eyes. You have the option to toggle it manually or set it to automatically turn on at sunset or at a scheduled time. This gorgeous display has Corning Gorilla Glass 6 for protection, which should help it resist scratches in day-to-day use.
Now let's address the hole-punch display. Yes, it does cut out a small portion of the display in the top-right corner of the phone, but it isn't distracting. The smaller hole on the Galaxy S10 might be able to go unnoticed, but the S10+ can't do the same thing. Samsung has tried to reduce the impact by using wallpapers that have a darker top right corner. We didn't have an issue with the hole, and got used to the display very quickly. You can also mask it by enabling a Hide Front Camera option in the display settings. This puts a thick black band across the top of the display .
The AMOLED panel is so good that when this option is enabled it is hard to distinguish the bezel from the display. This panel is also certified and capable of HDR10+ video playback in supported apps. The Galaxy S10+ has a stereo speaker setup where the earpiece doubles up as a speaker when playing audio. There is support for Dolby Atmos, which makes a noticeable difference when enabled.
The iris scanner that was present on previous Samsung flagships including the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 series has been dumped, and the Galaxy S10+ relies on its selfie camera for face recognition. This worked well for us in most lighting conditions and was quick to scan and unlock the phone. In low light, it bumped the screen brightness up to get a face scan. The Galaxy S10+ also gives you the option to unlock the phone and go straight to the home screen or wait at the lock screen. This can be toggled from the Face Recognition settings.
The traditional fingerprint scanner which was on the back of recent Galaxy S series smartphones has also been shown the way out. The replacement is an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner. This is a better technology compared to the optical CMOS sensors that all other smartphone manufacturers have used for in-display fingerprint scanning.
The ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is fast and does not require a firm press. It also does not need the AMOLED display to light up the area around the sensor to scan a fingerprint. In fact, it works even when the display is completely off. Samsung still lights up the portion where the sensor is placed to help you find the scanner. We were impressed with the speed, as it could scan and verify our fingerprints even with a light tap, which is something most other in-display scanners can't do.
Samsung has picked its own new Exynos 9820 SoC to power the Galaxy S10+ here in India. The variant we tested had 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Higher variants of the Galaxy S10+ are available that offer 8GB of RAM with 512GB of storage and 12GB of RAM with 1TB of storage space. The Galaxy S10+ has a hybrid dual-SIM tray which allows for storage expansion but only at the cost of a second SIM. If you aren't interested in expanding storage, you can use two Nano-SIMs. There is support for 4G as well as VoLTE on both slots.
There is support for Bluetooth 5, WiFi 6, ANT+, NFC, and four satellite positioning systems. Wireless charging is available, and the device is also capable of reverse wireless charging. We tried this out by enabling the Wireless PowerShare toggle in the notification shade and placing the Samsung Galaxy Buds on this device. The S10+ could wirelessly charge the Galaxy Buds case. It also worked when we placed a Google Pixel 3 (Review) on top of this phone. This feature is quite handy to charge other devices with. We noticed that the S10+ disables this feature automatically when its own battery level drops below 30 percent.
On the software front, Samsung ships the Galaxy S10+ with its new OneUI on top of Android 9 Pie. We got our first look at OneUI when Samsung launched it on the Galaxy Note 9. The software is polished and is designed to facilitate one-handed use. Overall, we prefer this over the Samsung Experience UI which has shipped with the past few generations of Samsung smartphones.
A quick swipe up brings up the app drawer which is convenient. Swipe right from the home screen and you are taken to the Bixby Home screen. You can choose to swipe downwards anywhere on the home screen to pull down the notification shade, and the toggles have been moved lower so they're within reach. When we started reviewing the smartphone it was running the January 2019 security patch but soon received its first software update which included the February security patch.
This software update also brought the ability to remap the Bixby button on the smartphone. Long pressing the Bixby button still summons Bixby Assistant. However, you can now invoke different actions when for single or double pressing the button, though at least one of them still needs to be set to open Bixby. The other can be set up to launch another app, like WhatsApp or Google Maps, or a Bixby-related action or quick command. Additionally, there are some limitations, like not being able to summon the Google Assistant.
We used Bixby to see how far it has come along. In our experience, voice recognition was not as good as the Google Assistant. It is still good at performing on device tasks like changing the screen brightness or toggling Wi-Fi. But ask it to navigate to a place or say "I'm hungry" and it is clueless as to what to do — such tasks are best left to Google Assistant on the Galaxy S10+.
The preinstalled apps include Samsung's own Galaxy Store, My Galaxy, Samsung Pass, and Galaxy Wearable. We found My Galaxy to be a little annoying as it kept sending push notifications. Microsoft apps including Office Mobile, OneDrive, and LinkedIn, along with a suite of Google apps, are also installed on the smartphone by default. Samsung has reduced the amount of bloat that used to come with earlier devices, giving you the option to download the apps you want from the Galaxy Store instead.
Game Launcher clubs all your installed games together. It lets you choose between “Focus on Power Saving”, “Balanced”, and “Focus on Performance” for all games, or set a level for each game individually. Game tools are available when a game is launched, letting you minimise caller notifications, stop notifications, and even block Bixby while gaming. You can also enable Dolby Atmos for gaming and put the stereo speakers to good use.
Since OneUI is based on Android Pie, you get the Digital Wellbeing feature which gives you detailed information about the amount of time you've spent on the smartphone. You also get the option to set timers for apps, after which the phone locks them down for the rest of the day. Gesture navigation replaces the traditional navigation buttons with three tabs on which you can swipe upwards to perform the corresponding button's action. Since this didn't feel any more efficient, we stuck with the traditional buttons.
There are a few other gestures including double-tap to wake, lift to wake, and a palm swipe for taking a screenshot. The Smart Stay feature keeps the display awake when you are looking at it, and is super useful. Samsung also has a pop-up panel option which lets you have apps like Messages or Whatsapp hover on top of a game to facilitate multitasking.
Powered by the Exynos 9820, the most powerful chip Samsung has on offer, there is absolutely nothing that slows the Galaxy S10+ down. We never noticed any lag or stuttering while using this smartphone, and it could effortlessly handle all the load of OneUI's slick animations. You do have the option to tone down these animations in the advanced settings if you prefer. With 8GB of RAM onboard we could easily multitask without having apps killed in the background. The Galaxy S10+ also keeps games running in the background, simply because it can without compromising on performance.
We ran our standard set of benchmarks to see how the Galaxy S10+ performs vis-a-vis other Android smartphones. Unsurprisingly, it topped the charts in most of the benchmarks we ran. In AnTuTu, the Exynos 9820-powered Galaxy S10+ clocked 3,38,538 which is considerably higher than the 2,86,580 and 2,90,293 scored by the Apple iPhone XS (Review) and iPhone XS Max (Review) respectively. In PCMark Work 2.0, the S10+ scored 7,791 which is slightly lower than the 8121 clocked by the Asus ROG phone (Review).
This phone scored 4,406 and 10,358 in Geekbench 4's single-core and multi-core tests respectively. In comparison, the OnePlus 6T (Review) clocked 2,378 and 8,775 in these tests, while the LG V40 ThinQ (Review) clocked 2,406 and 8,582 respectively. The Galaxy S10+ managed to score 4,514 in 3DMark Slingshot Extreme and 4,424 in 3DMark Slingshot. In the GFXBench T-Rex benchmark, it managed to hit 60fps while the Car Chase test returned 40fps.
We tried playing popular games including PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends. We couldn't find Asphalt 9 on the Google Play Store but could find the game and download it via the Galaxy Apps store. PUBG Mobile defaulted to the High setting which sets the Graphics to HD and Frame Rate to High. The game also ran with a black bar at the top hiding the camera hole. We played a few matches at Full HD+ resolution with these settings and the phone could handle it without heating up. The battery drain was 11 percent after 40 minutes of gaming.
We played Asphalt 9 at High Quality at the FHD+ resolution and found that the S10+ ran this game in fullscreen mode leading to an immersive experience. The camera hole did cause us to lose out on a small portion of the display, but it didn't bother us or affect gameplay in any manner. Graphics were smooth and the phone could handle this game without heating.
Samsung has bumped the battery capacity up, and the Galaxy S10+ gets a 4100mAh unit. We ran our HD video loop test on the smartphone while set to the Full HD+ resolution and it managed to run for 16 hours and 25 minutes. While it ran longer than the Samsung Galaxy S9+, it still couldn't run as long as the Galaxy Note 9, despite the slightly bigger battery.
With our heavy usage which involved playing PUBG Mobile for 40 minutes, an hour of navigation using Google Maps, an active WhatsApp account, and a few benchmarks, the phone has 25 percent left in the battery at the end of 24 hours. Battery life is very good at the default settings, but you can extend it by lowering the display resolution down to HD+ and using one of the power saving modes available in the Settings app.
Charging is quick, and the supplied 15W fast charger is capable of topping this phone up quickly. It charged to 41 percent in 30 minutes, and up to 79 percent in an hour. A full charge took just 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Samsung has opted for a triple camera setup on the Galaxy S10+ consisting of a 12-megapixel camera with a telephoto lens, OIS and PDAF; a 12-megapixel main camera with a wide-angle lens, dual pixel autofocus and a variable aperture between f/2.4 and f/1.5; and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera. The variable aperture was seen on the Galaxy Note 9 as well, and you can see the physical aperture changing when you look at the camera. The telephoto lens gives you 2x optical zoom, while the ultra-wide angle sensor has a 123-degree field of view for landscapes or group shots.
The camera app is well laid out and has plenty of modes to choose from. The first thing you'll notice is a set of floating icons towards the bottom of the screen that let you switch between the three cameras at the back. You get Super Slow-mo (960fps), Slow Motion, Hyperlapse Video, Live Focus, Panorama, AR Emoji, Bixby Vision, and Pro modes.
Live focus is for taking portrait shots, and it lets you adjust the level of blur and even add a few blur effects. The Pro mode lets you control the ISO, aperture, autofocus, white balance, and exposure, as well as tweak to contrast, highlights, and shadows.
When using the regular photo modem there are quick toggles for beautification as well as a scene optimiser which is claimed to be able to recognise what it the camera is pointed towards and make tweaks accordingly. We observed that photos taken with the scene optimiser enabled had slightly boosted contrast compared to those shot without it.
The AR Emoji mode lets you use AR stickers which can mimic your facial movements. There is a Food mode as well, which you can use while taking shots of food. It adds a radial blur and lets you change the colour temperature.
Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ were impressive and had a lot of detail. The scene optimiser is enabled by default and helps the camera set the scene up accordingly. When taking photos during the day, the Galaxy S10+ metered light correctly and enabled HDR when the scene required it. Even objects at a distance had good details.
We took photos using the telephoto as well as the ultra-wide-angle cameras. Photos taken with the telephoto camera had good detail but very fine grain was visible. The ultra-wide angle camera has a fixed focus and should ideally be used when taking landscape shots, but there is some barrel distortion at the edges.
When taking macro shots, the Galaxy S10+ was quick to lock focus and the photos turned out really well. It managed good separation between the subject and the background. These macro shots also had well-defined edges. Life Focus mode managed excellent edge detection. You can change the level of blur or the effect you had applied even after taking portrait shots.
Photos taken at night were bright and had good amounts of detail. Even objects at a distance were recognisable, and text was legible. There was very little noise in photos shot with a light source nearby, but in darker environments the output had visible grain.
Within the punch-hole on the front of this phone are a 10-megapixel selfie camera and an 8-megapixel depth sensor. When taking selfies, beautification is enabled by default but thankfully it isn't too aggressive. You can change the level of beautification and also switch it off completely. Selfies taken with the Galaxy S10+ were sharp and had good detail. In Live Focus mode, it puts the depth sensor to use, and portrait shots had good edge detection.
Video recording maxes out at 4K at 60fps for the primary camera and 4K at 30fps for the selfie camera. Image stabilisation is available is most modes except 4K60fps. Stabilisation is excellent, and the phone managed to handle shakes very well.
There is a super steady mode as well, which managed to stabilise footage even when we were running. In this mode, the Galaxy S10+ uses the wide-angle sensor and crops video resulting in a stable shot. We also tried the HDR10+ video recording mode, which seems to be in beta at the moment. This mode offered much better dynamic range when shooting against the light.
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is a brilliant smartphone with a powerful processor and a stunning display. The new hole-punch design from Samsung allows for a big display in a relatively small body. Samsung has also managed to price the Galaxy S10 series well with respect to the competition, giving these phones an edge.
The Galaxy S10+ is priced at Rs. 73,900 for the base variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Samsung has priced the 8GB RAM / 512GB storage variant at Rs. 91,900, and the 12GB RAM / 1TB storage variant at Rs. 1,17,900. At the launch price, the base variant of the Galaxy S10+ competes with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which is priced at Rs. 69,990. You could also opt for the less expensive Samsung Galaxy S10 and you wouldn't be losing out on much.
For a slight premium over the Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Review), you get a more powerful processor and a better display. The Galaxy S10+ also has a few nifty features when it comes to the camera, especially super-steady and HDR10+ video recording. That said, the Infinity-O design with the hole-punch display might not appeal to everyone and might be a reason for a few buyers to consider other options.
If you are in the market for a smartphone that stands tall among its peers, then the Galaxy S10+ is the one to pick. It looks futuristic, has the software to back up its powerful hardware, and tops that off with good, versatile cameras.
Is Samsung Galaxy S10+ the best Android flagship overall? Are Samsung Galaxy Buds the best truly wireless headphones in India? We discussed these things on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.