We knew they were coming, we suspected there’d be reverse wireless charging and new Galaxy earbuds to show it off with, but now we’ve had everything confirmed (without having to learn Norwegian). Tonight (or this morning, in San Francisco where the launch event took place) Samsung took the wrappers off its first folding phone, the $2,000 Galaxy Fold, and not one, not two, but three new Galaxy S10 handsets. Named the S10, S10 Plus, and S10e, this is what you need to know about them.
[UPDATE: We’ve had pricing confirmed so we’ve added it to the bottom of this story, and we can confirm all three new devices will go on sale on 8 March.]
While Samsung will sell more of the cheaper S10 or S10e models than it does the priciest S10 Plus, it’s the one that gets all of the most interesting features, so we’re going to start there. First up there’s Samsung’s new 6.4in Edge Infinity-O display. The O refers to the hole punch in the pretty much edge-to-edge display for the front-facing camera. Well, double hole punch, in the case of the Plus, which gets two front-facing cameras.
Around the rear, meanwhile, there are three snappers, an ultra-wide angle, a wide angle (or what we’d call ‘regular’) and a telephoto. It’s an arrangement we adore on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, so we’re expecting to love Samsung’s go at it, too (especially if Samsung’s more judicious with its sharpening during image processing). Specs wise, the ultra-wide (123-degree field of view) is a 16MP f/2.2 camera, the wide-angle (or regular) camera is a 12MP with a variable aperture of f/1.5 or f/2.4 (like the one found on the S9 and S9+), and the telephoto camera is a 12MP f2.4 (capable of 2x optical zoom). Both the regular and telephoto cameras include optical image stabilisation (OIS).
Samsung’s also added a feature it calls Super Steady Action Cam, that automagically crops the margins of videos to compensate for and mitigate camera shake. It sounds a bit like the jiggery pokery GoPro uses for stabilisation in its latest action cams. We’ll have to try it out before we can weigh in on whether it’s actually useful (like an ultra-wide angle camera) or a gimmick (like 960fps slow-mo video).
Then there’s a refined version of the automatic scene optimiser we saw on the S9/S9 Plus and a new composition guide, which is essential an artificial-intelligence powered backseat photographer that’ll hopefully help you avoid cutting people foreheads off in photos or committing other photographic cardinal sins.
As expected, there’s also an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which means the rear cover is now devoid of one. That should also mean fewer smudgy fingerprints on the multiple camera lenses. Samsung says the ‘ultrasonic’ scanner maps fingerprints in 3D and will even work when wet. So fear not, no one’s going to unlock your phone with a high-res photo of your fingerprint while they’re in a jacuzzi.
Next up, there’s Wireless PowerShare… which is exactly what it sounds like. With the tap of a shortcut you can turn your S10 Plus into a wireless charging power bank. It’ll work with any device using the Qi standard, including Samsung’s own, new Galaxy Earbuds (an update to the IconX wireless buds) and its new Galaxy Watch Active.
Tall (still full fat)
The regular, non-plus-sized S10 is the one you’re going to see talked about most, whether it’s in Samsung’s own marketing campaigns or in the press. And there’s plenty to talk about. It gets almost all of the features of the Plus, with a few exceptions. For starters, the display is a smaller 6.1in version, and has a circular hole punch for the front-facing camera rather than the oblong one the Plus needs for its double camera. Around the back, though, there’s the same triple camera setup as the one found on the Plus.
That’s a real boon, as previously Samsung’s tended to keep its multi-camera setups for the Plus and Note devices alone. It also means that unless you really want the bigger display or secondary selfie cam of the Plus you might well be better off getting the regular S10 and, say, spending the difference on a case (or those lovely looking Galaxy Earbuds or new Galaxy wearables).
Like the Plus, the S10 also gets intelligent battery management and Samsung’s latest in-phone audio tech, which it calls ‘Cinematic Sound’. In terms of battery capacity, the S10e gets a 3,100mAh cell, the S10 a 3,400mAh one, and the S10+ a 4,100mAh. All three handsets start with a base capacity of 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, with the S10+ also available in 512GB/8GB and 1TB/12GB iterations. All three can also support microSD cards of up to 512GB… which means you could, conceivably, be walking around with 1.5TB of storage in your pocket.
Short (skinny but not decaf)
In addition to the usual regular and jumbo handsets, Samsung’s released the S10e, a smaller, cheaper, pared-down version of its larger siblings. It’s the Huawei Lite of Samsung’s range, and considering the pressure on South African consumers’ pockets, it could prove to be hugely successful (like the Lite range has).
Aside from being available in canary yellow, the biggest difference between the S10e and its bulkier (and costlier) brethren is the loss of the third camera around the back. S10e owners will have to make do with two (ultra-wide and regular) and the same single selfie snapper as the S10.
There’s also no in-display fingerprint sensor in the 5.8in Flat (rather than ‘Edge’) Infinity-O display. Instead, the fingerprint sensor is built into the power/lock button on the right-hand edge of the phone.
Sure, Samsung’s curved edges are aesthetically pleasing, but we’ve never found them particularly useful… so we’re not sad to see them missing from the S10e. Moreover, the lack of curves should mean a broken S10e screen is a whole lot cheaper to replace.
Take our order already
The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and S10e go on sale in South Africa on 8 March and preorders open with operators this evening. Consumers who preorder the S10 or S10+ will get a pair of Galaxy Buds (valued at R3,000) for free. Look out for full-blown reviews of all the new kit in coming weeks once we’ve had some proper quality time with the new jewels in Samsung Mobile’s crown. In the meantime, you can check out our first impressions video over here.
[UPDATE: Recommended retail pricing starts at R16,000 for the S10e, R19,000 for the S10, and R21,000 for the S10+. If you want the 512GB version of the S10+ it’ll set you back R26,000, while the 1TB edition will cost R36,000].