It was difficult to properly test the speakers in the room, but from what I could hear the Dolby Atmos sounded very good. Still not an appropriate replacement for headphones, but absolutely better than most phone speakers I’ve heard in the past.
The front selfie camera is crystal clear and uses even smarter AI to make photos better, while the rear three cameras manage an ultra-wide angle of 123°, which lets you get more people into your group shot at the restaurant (or crowded hands on room), without having to move back too far. It’s also the first phone to be able to record video in HDR10+.
On the security front, you can still unlock your phone using your fingerprint, but now you can do it on the lower part of the screen itself. Instead of using a capacitive sensor like the 10e and older iPhones, it uses an ultrasonic sensor to be even more difficult for someone to break into your phone without your permission. In my tests, it unlocked the phone pretty quickly, and supposedly it can still read fingerprints on wet hands and hot days. That’s not great news for those who use screen protectors, as most aren’t likely to be compatible with the ultrasonic sensor, aside from Samsung’s own line of screen protectors. However, if fingerprints aren’t your jam, you can also unlock the phone with your face.
It felt pretty good in the hand. A little slippery, perhaps, as is the way of Samsung Galaxy phones, but nice and smooth, and just the right size to hold. It did not fit properly in any of my front pockets, but was comfortably light in a back pocket and coat pocket.
At the cheaper end of the scale lies the 10e, with its slightly smaller form factor and fewer cameras. At 5.8 inches, it’s the same screen size as last year’s Galaxy S9 and feels nice and light, only weighing 150g. Plus, it fit reasonably well into a front pocket, meaning it won’t purely be relegated to the back pocket and risk being sat on.
This one doesn’t have the ultrasonic sensor. Instead you unlock it using the regular capacitive sensor you’re used to, only now it’s on the lock button, which makes a lot more sense, but obviously covers less surface area. It was easy to set up, but took a tiny bit longer to unlock than the ultrasonic sensor.
As well as only having one camera on the front like the 10, it “only” has two cameras on the back, still allowing it to do everything its more expensive siblings can do, except for those ultra-wide photos, and it only digitally zooms 8X instead of 10X like the others.
The Plus model has everything the regular S10 has, but with some extra screen real estate (6.3-inches vs 6.1), an extra selfie camera for portrait mode selfies and a bigger battery.
Despite all the added extras, it’s still a bit smaller and lighter than the Note 9. You can actually notice the 26g weight difference, which is unexpected. But the ceramic version weighs basically the same while being marginally smaller at all dimensions.
The battery size of 4100mAh is big, more than the Note’s 4000, S10’s 3400 or the iPhone XS Max’s 3174mAh. Which is good, because one of the big selling points of the entire new range is that you can charge other things (like a friend’s phone, a Samsung watch, or your fancy new Galaxy Buds) on the back of your phone as though it were a charging pad.
Overall, the three phones that we could get hands on with before launch don’t have ground-breaking new features, but they do offer solid specs and are an excellent step up from last year’s models (and have the price tags to prove it). Plus, they’re attractive and it’s great to see a smartphone manufacturer think beyond the notch without adding the bulk of a bezel.
The author travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Samsung.
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.