Samsung Galaxy S10+ Hands-On Review: Marking a decade of Samsung’s Galaxy Series

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Did you know that this year, 2019 marked a decade of Samsung’s Galaxy Series? Coming into the year the pressure to give something great and innovative from Samsung was quite high. Samsung’s flagship smartphones have always been among the best looking Android devices out there, and the recently launched Galaxy S10e (Review), S10 and S10+ are no exceptions.

In fact, in many ways they build upon the successes of their predecessors, and improve upon many of their drawbacks. I’ve been using the Galaxy S10+ as my daily driver for well over a week now. The device is both mind-blowing and revolutionary. It may not be perfect, but there’s something so satisfying about a product that’s well thought out and done right, and excellent in every aspect and angle.

The official color of our review unit is Prism White, and it has this pearlescent quality to it which changes from an iridescent blue to pink depending on the light. It’s really beautiful.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Specifications

ModelSamsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Display6.4-inch, 1440 x 3040 pixels (QHD+), AMOLEDHDR 10, Gorilla Glass 6
ProcessorExynos 9820 Octa (8 nm) Octa-core2×2.7 GHz Mongoose M4 + 2×2.3 GHz Cortex-A75 + 4×1.9 GHz Cortex-A55Qualcomm SDM855 Snapdragon 8551×2.8 GHz Kryo 485 + 3×2.4 GHz Kryo 485 + 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 485
RAM12GB/8GB
Internal Storage 1TB/ 512GB/128GB, 512GB Expandable (Hybrid slot)
SoftwareAndroid 9.0 Pie based One UI
Rear CameraPrimary: 12 MP, f/1.5-2.4, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OISTelephoto: 12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm, AF, OIS, 2x optical zoomUltrawide: 16 MP, f/2.2, 12mm
Front Camera10 MP, f/1.9, Dual Pixel PDAF8 MP, f/2.2, depth sensor
Dimension & Weight157.3 x 74.7 x 8.2 mm, 185 grams
OthersUltrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor, Bluetooth 5.0, Dolby Atmos, Dual-band Wi-Fi
Battery4100mAh, Fast charging, Wireless Charging, Reverse wireless charging

Galaxy S10 Plus Price in Kenya
Kes. 105, 999/-

Colors

Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Ceramic White, Ceramic Black, Prism Green, Flamingo Pink

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review: Price, Design and Display

Price

Painfully so but the truth which needs to be said, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is butt clenchingly expensive, Kes. 105,999/- ($1,059).
To cast those prices in a more positive light, they are more reasonable overall than what Apple is asking for its iPhone Xs Max ($1,099 for 64GB, $1,249 for 256GB and $1,449 for the 512GB) and you do get a more generous allocation of storage for that money. (You can check out our comparison between the S10+ and XS Max to see more on what we are talking about.)

Where Samsung gets into trouble, however, is when you start looking at the rest of the opposition. Like the recently launched Huawei P30 Pro which is probably the closest comparison in the Kenyan market at the moment. It has has four cameras on the rear and a 6.47in display. The big difference is that it’s cost is a mere Kes. 99,999/- ($1000). And if you compare them further to the smaller variants, Samsung Galaxy S10e which is Kes. 78,999/- as compared to the Huawei P30 Lite which is just Kes. 29,999/-.

There’s a S10 Plus variant that Samsung calls the ‘Ultimate Performance Edition’. It packs in a mammoth 12GB of RAM and huge 1TB of storage, and comes with an equally monstrous price tag of $1,599.

Although this special-edition variant isn’t widely available through retailers, you may need to do a little bit of hunting to find it e.g. ordering it directly from Samsung’s website.

Design

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus isn’t the prettiest smartphone I’ve ever laid eyes on but there’s a pleasing sense of symmetry to the horizontally-arranged triple camera array on the rear that was sorely lacking on the Samsung Galaxy S9+. There’s also a neat elegance to the dual hole-punch camera on the front.

The phone is available in a variety of different finishes, all of which look pretty good to my eye. There are four of the prism colours to choose from – white, green, blue and black; each of which has an attractive pearlescent appearance. There are also two ceramic-backed models in white and black. We have the prism white model as a review unit, although it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I like the way it picks up a bluish pink to orange glow when light reflects off it.

There is a host of elegant touches that elevate the S10+ above the competition. I particularly like the animated “snake” that chases its tail around the perimeter of the hole-punch camera to indicate it’s looking for a face to unlock itself with.

On the Samsung Galaxy S10+, there’s a glass front and a glass back. The long edges of both glass panels curve to meet a shiny metal band around the sides. The display curves along with the glass panel, distorting the edges of the screen somewhat. Like most glass backs, if you’ve got greasy or sweaty palms, the rear panel is a huge fingerprint magnet that gets slimy pretty much the second you take it out of the box. I briefly considered photographing it while wearing silk gloves just to keep it all shiny and clean.

Measuring 6.2 x 2.91 x 0.3 inches and weighing 6.17 ounces, the Galaxy S10 Plus is not a one-handed phone, at least not for me. I had to shift the device in my hand as tried to reach the Recent Apps button on the left side with my thumb. But you can engage one-handed mode by swiping diagonally up and to the left from the bottom right of the screen.

There’s a slightly bigger issue with the design, the power button is so high up on the phone and the curve on the display which is not a new problem. Since the screen is curved and it goes from edge to edge I accidentally pressed things i didn’t mean to press as I was simply holding the device.

Along the sides there’s not much change from past models. The bottom still has a USB-C port, along with a bottom-firing speaker teaming up with the earpiece for stereo sound. There’s still a Bixby-launching hardware button, combo SIM card, and MicroSD slot.

On the bottom of the Galaxy S10+, there is still a headphone jack (Thank Heavens!), which makes it one of the only flagship smartphones still packing the universally compatible analog audio port. This is a good thing because it spares headphone-jack users from a lifetime of misplaced dongles and the choice between charging and listening to music. I don’t know about you but I am grateful to Samsung for keeping this port.

Display

The Galaxy S10+ measures 6.4in across the diagonal, has an aspect ratio of 19:9 and uses AMOLED tech to ensure effectively perfect contrast.
The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus makes this the biggest S phone screen to date. It’s resolution is 3,040 x 1,440 but the phone comes set to display in 1,080 x 2,280 by default, which is a setting I’d recommend leaving it in for optimum performance and battery life.

Samsung has found a way to fit more pixels across a tighter body. This also means a reduction in the size of the already-slender bezels above and below the display with its 93.1% screen-to-body ratio.

Many manufacturers have been using a display with a notch cut out of it to house components such as the selfie cameras, but Samsung is taking a slightly different approach and cutting a camera hole right out of the display.
Samsung has drilled a hole into it. Dubbed, the “Infinity O”. This cut-out is technically very impressive, and its position in the top-right corner means it looks neater than the centrally-located notch.

This ‘punch-hole’ display on Samsung’s biggest phone includes two front-facing cameras. The second RGB camera is used to take better portrait selfies than the single-lens front-facing Galaxy S10 and S10e cameras. This means the punch-hole on the S10+ takes up a little more space than on other handsets. 

The unique aspect of the hole punch design over a notch is that you get pixels all the way around the camera cutout. Samsung uses this for one unique flare: if you switch to the front camera in the camera app, you’ll get a quick swirl of white pixels around the camera hole (That’s the snake i’d spoken about earlier that’s chasing it’s own tail) . Third-party apps have come up with all sorts of cute uses for the camera. There are already some sites and apps dedicated to cleverly hiding or highlighting the hole punch with various wallpaper designs. There are even apps that wrap a battery indicator or a notification ring around the hole punch.

Samsung’s fingerprint sensor returns to the front of its flagships, but this time it’s embedded under the glass of the display, thanks to Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint technology. The ultrasonic technology also means the sensor will continue to work even if your finger, or the screen, is wet or cold. A downside to the fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy S10+ is speed. Unfortunately, it’s not as quick to recognize your print as optical readers located outside of a display.
The displays also have improved blue light control Samsung claims reduces eye strain by 42 percent.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review: Software, Hardware and Battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • 8GB – 12GB of RAM
  • 128GB – 1TB storage
  • 4,100mAh battery
  • Headphone jack
  • Wireless charging
  • IP68 water and dust resistance

The Galaxy S10 ships with Android 9 Pie and Samsung’s Android skin, formerly called “TouchWiz,” then “Samsung Experience,” and now dubbed “One UI.” This has to be the best software Samsung has ever put on any of its smartphones. I say that because it’s packed with nice little details. This is from the animated highlighting that surrounds the front-facing camera momentarily when you switch to the front-facing camera or when using face unlock, to the sheer customisability of much of the interface.

Samsung has revamped its UI along with the release of Android 9 Pie, and it seems like Samsung has made some progress with putting controls in reachable areas.
A change I noticed immediately is that many of Samsung’s apps put tabs at the bottom. For apps like the clock, phone, messages, and Galaxy Store, the tabs at the bottom make it easy to switch sections.

Another up-and-coming Android trend that Samsung is ahead on is a working, system-wide dark mode. The dark mode works in plenty of places on the S10, changing to a white-text-on-dark background for the settings, notifications, and numerous built-in apps like the clock, phone, messages, and more.

Samsung’s One UI is not only clever, it also has a cleaner look than previous generations of Samsung’s phone UI and a sense of immediacy and snappiness that makes the phone feel as good as it looks. It even makes it possible to adjust the intensity of vibrations at different levels for calls, notifications and touch interactions.

Although, Samsung remains insistent on pre-installing its own version of apps that Google has perfectly good software for. For instance, Samsung’s email, calendar, web browser and gallery. A downer for me was that, after transferring software across, I had to dig around in the settings to organise the app drawer alphabetically because the app icons were scattered around all over the place. Not all of you will relate to this, but if you know the need for order, you’ll understand my frustration.

Gesture control is present too, letting you ditch the typical on-screen navigation keys for a series of swipes.

From a hardware perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is one of the first with Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 855 chipset, it rocks 8GB of RAM (with options up to a whopping 12GB), and storage starts at 128GB with options up to a full terabyte. The battery is even bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 9’s, with a capacity of 4,100mAh.

This battery is life. I no longer have to worry about having a powerbank or a charger always at hand! It’s not just the 4100 mAh module that gives this smartphone fantastic battery life, but also the new SoC and the AI help and software optimization it provides. This is a phone that has comfortably made it through a day of hard use with room to spare. I’ve not yet had to top up the charge before bedtime on most nights.   
Although, Samsung may have improved battery life but forgot to do the same for its fast charging technology. It once again supports up to 18W of power.

That extra battery comes in handy thanks to a new feature called Wireless PowerShare that allows owners to top-up any device capable of wireless charging using the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. The new feature is enabled in the settings, then you simply flip over the phone and place any Qi-compatible gadget on the case to start charging.

Samsung’s reverse wireless charging seems easier to set up than Huawei’s, and while its ultrasonic behind-the-glass sensor takes getting used to, and isn’t flawless, it’s better than all of the optical sensors out there. 

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review: Cameras

The 2019 trend on cameras looks to me focused on having a lot of cameras on smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ has not been left behind on that as it has five, to be precise, with three on the rear and two on the front.

On the front, you have a 10MP selfie camera and an 8MP RGB depth camera. The Galaxy S10 Plus, which is the only model in the S10 range with dual front-facing cameras, is the only device capable of shooting Live Focus selfies. These photographs add an adjustable, artificial bokeh-style blur to the background behind the subject. 

Selfie taken using the live focus’ colour point tool.

Samsung has also added a number of extra effects to its Live Focus feature this year “Colour Point”. The feature turns the background greyscale so that only the subject is left in colour, while “Zoom Bokeh” and “Spin Bokeh” make it look like you’re racing towards the camera or speeding around on a roundabout, respectively. 
Colour Point” has easily become my favorite and produces some really nice shots and could make for a fun Instagram post.

On the back, you have a main 12MP sensor with an aperture that can shift between f/1.5 for night shots and f/2.4 for the day. a 12MP 2x telephoto, and a 16MP wide-angle camera which offers a field of view of 123 degrees. Of the three, it’s the ultra-wide sensor that’s the new addition.

I really like the versatility these cameras offer, giving you numerous options for creative shots in multiple situations. For instance, the wide is great for landscapes, while the tele is ideal for sporting events, when you want to get closer to the action. Photos from the ultrawide and tele cameras are superb, and I’ve found myself experimenting far more with shots I wouldn’t usually take.

Samsung has expanded the range of scenarios that its scene optimizer is able to recognize on the S10+, reaching a total of 30 scenarios. Digging through the settings you can also find the Bright Night mode that was mentioned multiple times in leaks of the camera app. It should improve performance automatically in low light conditions.

For video capabilities, which is another area where the S10 Plus excels. It’s able not only to shoot stabilised footage in 4K resolution at 60fps but also capture HDR10+ clips for video with improved dynamic range and ultra slow-motion footage, as well.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review: Is it worth buying?

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is not only an elegant and well-considered design; a thing you actively want to pick up, to physically touch and hold – but it’s also a phone that begs to be used. From the camera interface to simple and easy-to-understand settings menu, the S10 Plus is, quite simply, a joy to use.

This year the Galaxy S10+ has one more camera than the previous generation. The camera is undeniably good. Not perfect or the best, but good for both stills and video The display is sumptuous, the battery life impressive in its longevity and the performance as quick as a demanding modern smartphone user and gaming addict could possibly require.
Wireless PowerShare is also a handy addition and means you can help-out a friend in need who has forgotten to pack an external battery pack and USB charging cable on a night-out.

Another great thing is that Samsung has seen fit to cling on to those critical, old-school features users love: the 3.5mm jack, dual-SIM and storage expansion capabilities. The one and only critical stumbling block for the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is the price. As I’ve pointed out, is so much more expensive than it’s rivals in the Kenyan market, like the Huawei P30 Pro.
But if you are a die-hard Samsung fan and can afford it, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is something you can consider getting.