Last year's Galaxy S9 was good but it was just an incremental upgrade over the excellent Galaxy S8. But with the reveal of the Galaxy S10 lineup, Samsung appears to have gone for a proper step up from the Galaxy S9.
Much like the past several generations of Galaxy phones, there are two handsets to pick from; the standard S10 and the larger S10+. Both are pretty much the same, though we'd say the Galaxy S10+ is the phone to focus on and likely the flagship Sammy will use to drive its advertising with.
We got some hands-on time with all three of Samsung's new Galaxy S10 models, as well as the more budget-orientated S10e.
Given the Galaxy S8 and S9 were very lovely looking phones, it's no surprise the both the S10 and S10+ are also pretty attractive handsets.
Measuring in at 149.9x70.4x7.8mm, the Galaxy S10 is a lovely rounded rectangle of glass and metal, feeling a little larger than a Pixel 3 but still compact and lightweight enough for single hand use.
The S10+, naturally, has a bigger footprint with dimensions of 157.6x 74.1x7.8mm and a weight of 175g, which is about the size of a OnePlus 6T but lighter.
The use of a pretty much bezel-less Infinity Display with neatly curved sides catches the eye first and foremost and allows Samsung to fit in more screen space without making either phone comically big; you'll want a Note 9 for that.
But the rest of the S10 and S10+ is pretty lovely, with a glass back to facilitate wireless charging and allow the phones to share power with other handsets and peripherals, such as the Galaxy Watch, that have wireless charging chops. Colours range from bright white to midnight black and glossy shades of green and blue in, all of which look pretty damn good, though the likes of Ceramic Black and Ceramic White are exclusive to the top-spec S10+ models.
We particularly like the silver metal sides, which some might argue are a bit iPhone XS-like, not that that's a bad thing at all; Cupertino does have a knack for design after all.
On the sides, you'll find the standard suite of power and volume rockers, as well as the less-than-loved Bixby button. Samsung didn't say if it would allow for more flexible remapping of the latter button, but we're keeping our fingers crossed.
Speaking of fingers, there's no rear fingerprint scanner. Instead, Samsung has gone for an under-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader.
The use of ultrasonics rather than 2D image-based fingerprint recognition, such as that in the OnePlus 6T, means the S10 handset should be better at detecting fingerprints even in situations like wet weather. AI will learn how you interact with the fingerprint scanner too, so it can figure out the difference between a fake press and a real one.
On the bottom of both handsets there's a small speaker grille, USB-C port, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack (remember those). The analogue jack is a neat touch; we know many people are moving to wireless headphones, but having a bit of legacy support, for the time being, is much appreciated. And through that jack, as well as wireless connections, the new Galaxy can pipe Dolby Atmos audio, much like the S9.
Speaking of appreciated things, 2D face recognition, Knox security, and Gigabit LTE support are all present and correct, and both phones come with IP68 water and dust resistance, which is useful, along with Gorilla Glass 6 to protect the display.
You'll want that display to remain looking as good as possible, because Samsung has taken the Infinity Display and given it a refresh.
The so-called Infinity Display O, uses a 'Dynamic AMOLED' panel that not only runs edge-to-edge with an aspect ratio of 19:9 on both phones and support for HDR10+.
Essentially, Samsung's take on high dynamic range, HDR10+ is usually found in Sammy's rather excellent 4K TVs and delivers displays with punchy colours contrast and deep blacks. The Galaxy S9 already supported HDR and that had an excellent display, so we'd need more time and content to play the S10 an S10+ to see if HDR10+ compatibility is a big step up for the Infinity Display.
Regardless, from our first impressions, the Infinity Display O is very nice, with strong colours, contrast and brightness. That's to be expected from AMOLED displays, especially those from Samsung; we'd say the S10 and S10+'s screens are at least as good as the excellent OLED display of the iPhone XS, but then Samsung makes those for Apple, so go figure.
The S10's display measures in at 6.1in, while the S10+ has a 6.4in panel; both have a suitably crisp WQHD+ resolution, though FHD+ is set as default to preserve battery life. Both resolutions are perfectly sharp and clear, though the WQHD+ setting is likely to be better for using the S10 and S10+ with a virtual reality headset.
While Samsung may have shunned the display notch with it's previous phones, it has embraced the holepunch/pinhole/cutout camera, hence the O suffix on the Infinity Display. On the S10 a single lens camera sits in the display in the top right hand corner, while on the S10+ the cutout holds a dual lens array.
Samsung isn't the first off the blocks with an in-display camera cutout, but it has implemented it pretty nicely in the new S10 models.
As it sits in a section of the screen that's only really used for battery and signal info, which has now been pushed more into the middle of the top of the screen, the pinhole cutout isn't as immediately noticeable or intrusive to the eye as some display notches; at least not on the S10.
How well apps and user interfaces will adapt to working round such display holepunches has yet to be seen. But in our brief hands-on, we found it to be a neat way of having as much screen real-estate as possible without sacrificing a front-facing camera.
When it comes to smartphone photography, Samsung's flagship Galaxy phones have been some of the best around. And that looks to be the same story with the S10 and S10+.
Both sport a trio of cameras on their rear; a 16MP ultrawide lens with a F2.2 aperture, a dual pixel wide angle 12MP telephoto lens with optical image stabilisation and apertures of F1.5 and F 2.4, and a dual pixel 12MP lens with an f1.9 aperture.
That trio of lenses allows for all manner of photography, from rather slick wide-angle shots, to the now obligatory 'portrait' shots with stylish blurred backgrounds, and slow-mo video.
From our first impressions, the rear camera produces some very nice shots, with plenty of detail, colour and contrast. Given we had no chance to blow up the images on a monitor, we can't really say anything definitive about the new Galaxys' camera setup other than it delivered impressive results when viewed on the Infinity Display O.
We're not sure it's a night-and-day upgrade over the S9's rear cameras when it comes to general smartphone snapping, but then we'd need more time with the phones to state that with any intent.
The other notable feature of the S10 and S10+'s camera capabilities is the smart software that sits behind it. Tapping into AI power the cameras can be told to automatically serve up shot suggestions for the best possible shot of a subject, once the AI tech has had a brief scan and a think.
On paper this sounded great; in practise, it seemed a little slow and hit-and-miss to get running straight away. We suspect this is because it's early days for the software, and when we finally saw it in action, the results were pretty decent. No doubt Samsung will refine this when the S10 models are out in the wild.
On the front, the S10 has a single dual pixel 10MP camera with an f1.9 aperture. It snapped a thoroughly decent selfie, but didn't blow us away, though front-facing cameras rarely do. The S10+ add another lens into the mix for a dual array consisting of the 10MP lens and a 8MP F2.2 aperture lens for depth-sensing, which should allow for nicer self-shot portrait pics and other selfie wizardry, if your into that.
In short, the cameras on the S10 and S10+ look pretty promising, and with its added AI smarts and image processing, it could be the thing that sees the Galaxy phone cameras rival the simply excellent photography chops of the Pixel 3.
Performance and battery
Samsung has kept pretty tight-tipped on the actual processor the S10 and S10+ uses, other than stating it's an octa-core SoC. We expect that could be a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in the US and Sammy's own Exynos 9820 for European handsets. But for the time being that's all speculation.
Either way, there's an eight-core chip paired with 8GB of RAM, which is plenty to make a smartphone fly. There's an option for 12GB of RAM in the S10+, which frankly seems like overkill.
In practice, both phones felt very slick and nippy to use, especially now that Samsung is making use of its One UI skin, which trims some of the fat Samsung used to add on top of Android and make even the S10+ more easily navigated with one hand.
Some might still bemoan the lack of stock Android, but in terms of performance, the S10 models seem to have enough grunt to keep the UI from getting sluggish.
Samsung did tout other AI capabilities sitting behind the software and in the phones' guts, which makes us suspect it's pushing either or both the Snapdragon 855's AI Engine and the Exynos 9280's neural processing unit quite hard.
The phones will learn how you use them, say if you listen to Spotify in the morning, the app will be ready for you to quickly fire up when you finally drag yourself out of bed; if your at work and don't use your phone much then the S10 and S10+ will shutdown the apps to conserve battery power.
Speaking of battery power, we couldn't really test battery life during out hands-on, but the S10 rocks a 3,400mAh battery pack, while the S10+ has a 4,100mAh capacity. Those batteries should deliver a good day's worth of proper phone use, and perhaps more if the AI smarts can really carry out some clever battery optimisation.
When it comes to storage, both S10 models have your back. The S10 comes in 128GB and 512GB options, and the S10+ tops out at 1TB of storage. Both phones can be expanded by an additional 512GB of SSD storage thanks to the use if a microSD card slot; such a feature should definitely put a smile on old school Android fans.
Flagship Samsung Galaxy phones have always been critically-acclaimed and often touted as the best Android phones around. With the Galaxy S10 and S10+, history seems to be repeating itself yet again.
Granted, both handsets don't really offer anything we haven't seen before, from under-display fingerprint scanner to the in-display camera cutout and triple lens rear-camera array. But it combines all these features and more, including all the good stuff from the S9, into one very neat and good-looking package.
Samsung is clearly onto a winner here, but we'll need more time before we crown a new Android king. µ