Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: hands down, the best Android phone right now

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 15

Overall rating: 9.2/10

Pros:

  • Best display on a smartphone yet
  • Excellent, lag-free performance
  • Refined and super premium design
  • Superb sound quality through wired and wireless headphones
  • One UI is impressive
  • Incredible video recording chops

Cons:

  • Facebook cannot be uninstalled
  • Night photography could’ve been better
  • Battery life is not as good as the SD855 variant
  • There’s still no use for Bixby

Introduction

It is not an easy job to impress reviewers like myself who use different phones day in and day out. And it becomes tougher for a phone like the Galaxy S10 — which, for all intents and purposes — feels like an incremental update to the Galaxy S9, at least on paper. 

But, here’s the twist in the tale. I am loving the Galaxy S10+ and firmly believe that it is the best Android phone in the market right now. 

Welcome to our Galaxy S10+ review. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 1

Samsung Galaxy S10+ design: exquisite and premium

The Galaxy S10+ carries forward the same design IP that it started with the Galaxy S7. Only this time, it has flattened out the panel and the edges are not very curved. This is unlike the Huawei Mate 20 Pro which has a more pronounced curvature. Honestly, it looks more like a Note device than a Galaxy S flagship. Is Samsung trying to tell us something?

The flat, wide display panel and the rear both blend into the thin aluminium frame, making the phone look and feel super premium. Also adding to the premium feel is the incredible looking Prism White colour that bounces light off in a unique fashion making the entire rear look iridescent and shiny. Moving on, the camera module extends outwards from the rear slightly, creating a really non-negligible bump. What’s even more surprising is that despite being a big phone, almost as big as the Note 9, the S10+ is slimmer and lighter too. It is an ergonomic marvel. Moreover, the phone is IP68-certified meaning it is now waterproof. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 11

Coming back to the design, I am glad that Samsung is sticking to its guns with the 3.5mm port. But the placement of the power button is a little too high. And yes, the Bixby button continues to exist on the left edge. Thankfully, Samsung now gives you the option to remap the Bixby button to any app of your choice…but wait for it…you cannot remap it to any other Voice Assistant like Google Assistant. Very smart move, Samsung. 

But the design is not without its flaws. For one, it keeps slipping out of the hand easily. Thankfully, you get a bundled case which should help with the grip. If not, you can use this sturdy case from Rhinoshield. This tough Kevlar is one of my favourites and it will definitely protect your phone from any serious damage in case of a fall. Moving on, my second issue, and a very minor nitpick is the ports at the bottom are not aligned properly which breaks the symmetry. And, the third and final issue is the Hybrid SIM card tray seems super flimsy. It is made out of a flexible plastic unlike the very sturdy metal tray used by the iPhone XS Max. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 14

Obviously, these issues are tiny and won’t really bother you in the long run. All in all, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is a stunning smartphone that is bound to grab people’s attention. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ display: the best, yet again

Including a good display on a flagship is an unsaid commandment from the Bible of smartphones.  And Samsung, like every year, dazzles yet again with a 6.4-inch Quad-HD+ Dynamic AMOLED panel. This panel is a stunner with up to 1200 nits of brightness levels. You cannot find any faults with it and if you do, get your eyes checked.

Now, coming to the most important new addition — or should I say deletion? — to the display – the hole punch for the dual selfie cameras on the front. This pill-shaped cutout is placed on the top right corner and honestly, you won’t notice it after the first couple of hours. It becomes a part of your peripheral vision even faster than the notch does. The clock, the battery indicator, the network indicators, and the incoming notifications are all pushed slightly left. Again, not an issue. But, what is an issue is that most apps automatically cut the notch in the landscape mode. You can choose to run them in fullscreen as well but the pill-shaped cutout eats into UI elements in games and even in an app like Netflix. I don’t know if app makers are going to code the UI elements around the hole punch.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 3

While we wait for some creativity from app makers, there are already some wallpapers out there with some incredibly creative ways to incorporate the notch. I am sure you guys have already seen these. 

Another new addition to the S10+ is the inclusion of an in-display fingerprint scanner. Unlike the optical fingerprint scanner we’ve seen in phones like the OnePlus 6T and the Vivo V15 Pro, Samsung uses an ultrasonic solution. This solution enables you to unlock the phone even without switching on the display, therefore saving more energy. It is fairly fast and responsive as per my experience. 

What makes a premium smartphone a premium smartphone is snappy haptic feedback from the vibration engine, and the S10+ doesn’t disappoint here. It is almost as good as the sophisticated vibration hardware inside the iPhone XS Max or the Pixel 3 XL.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 4 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ multimedia: a visual treat for the eyes

The S10+’s great display means that watching videos on this phone is a visual treat. Samsung has added support for HDR10+ playback as well and all HDR content looks incredible on this phone. I caught up with episodes of Russian Doll on Netflix on the phone itself instead of using my TV. The bright and colourful display definitely entices you to watch more videos. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 2

And the dual stereo speaker, where the earpiece acts as the second speaker, is crisp and loud too. I still think the Pixel’s front firing dual speakers are the best sounding of all the stereo speakers on smartphones, but the S10+’s quality comes tantalisingly close. It doesn’t hurt that Samsung has added support for Dolby Atmos as well. 

As far as the headphone jack quality is concerned, I found it to be excellent. It is no Vivo Nex or LG V40 ThinQ but the audio quality through wired headphones was definitely flagship-grade. I heard a dynamic and detailed sound through a pair of KZ-AS06 earphones. By the way, Samsung also bundles a pair of AKG earphones in the box, which is possibly the best-bundled deal you can get in the market now. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 9

Samsung Galaxy S10+ software: One UI is Samsung listening to feedback

After years of getting flak for TouchWiz, Samsung has finally found its footing with One UI based on Android 9. Honestly, this is one of the best custom builds of the Android operating system out there. It is lightweight, nifty, and extremely responsive on the S10+’s capable hardware. The best thing about One UI, apart from being optimised well, is the fact that I faced no bugs at all in my time with the phone. 

 

The design language of One UI is one that favours single-handed usage because Samsung mostly makes big phones. The interaction points in the notification shade and the first-party apps are pulled down to the bottom. It makes it easy to operate a massive phone like the S10+ with one hand. Although, everyone seems to be suggesting that app icons inside folders in One UI should’ve moved lower, as well, and even the app drawer for that matter. It is a great design suggestion that could help Samsung’s software developers in future updates. 

 

You also have icons with rounded corners and rounded notification cards. This design language sits in nicely with the whole curved edge look of the S10+. Additionally, the new Night mode that makes the whole UI dark looks incredible on the inky black AMOLED panel. You can also change the icon pack to one of your choices and edit the size of the icons as well. The gestures implemented on One UI are very basic that just mimics the capacitive buttons. What’s good is that it is super responsive and becomes second nature. Let’s not forget the already existing cool and familiar features like the Edge Lighting and the Edge Panels as well. 

There are only a few things that I don’t like about One UI:

  1. The Facebook app still cannot be uninstalled and there is a smattering of other third-party apps. 
  2. Bixby, despite all of Samsung’s R&D efforts, is still very average. I like the fact that you can use Bixby Voice to do system commands like switch on Bluetooth. But beyond that, the use of Bixby is very limited. There are the new Bixby Routines as well to take on Apple’s Siri Shortcuts, in case you want to bring in some automation into your life. 

All in all, One UI feels sufficiently premium and blends in perfectly with the S10+’s whole hardware aesthetic. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ camera: standout wide-angle camera and HDR10+ video 

For the first time on a Samsung flagship, the brand has introduced a triple camera setup on the rear. The Galaxy S10+ has a 12MP primary camera sensor with a pixel size of 1.4-microns and a variable aperture that goes from f/2.4 to f/1.5. Then you get a 12MP secondary telephoto camera attached to a 52mm lens. You get OIS on both these lenses. And finally, you have the new 12MP wide-angle camera. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 6

The wide-angle camera on the S10+ is where Samsung has clearly invested a lot of time in. The quality of pictures from this camera looks great in daylight. Yes, you get the typical over-exposure and really bright images that you also get on the regular camera, but I quite like the colours and the crispness on offer. Moreover, the low light performance of the wide-angle camera is not too bad either. But what’s even more incredible is that you can shoot 4K videos — without stabilisation — and 1080p videos with at least EIS using the wide camera. These videos also look great. This is probably the best wide-angle camera experience you can get on any phone right now. 

Regular

Wide angle

The regular camera takes good pictures too but with a slight bit of over-sharpening. The colours are poppy and look great on the AMOLED panel. One of the coolest additions to the camera is the fact that you can now capture HDR10+ video. I am not even kidding, this is probably the best addition to smartphone photography in a long time. So, I shot a few videos in the format and my editor exported it to Premiere. And it looked all washed out but then he realised that he could pull out so much colour, details, and dynamic range that it is not even funny. The sound recording is excellent too. I am convinced that S10+ is the best smartphone for capturing videos. Even the stabilisation is at another level altogether. 

 

Both the pictures were auto-edited using the Samsung Gallery edit app

Best part, the front camera can also shoot 4K! Trust me, you can use the S10+ to capture professional-quality videos. In fact, if you want a phone for shooting vlogs on your YouTube channel, the S10 will definitely serve your purpose. While we are on the topic of the selfie camera on the S10+, it has been upgraded to a 10MP sensor. And, there is a secondary 8MP depth sensor. It does take great pictures with a serviceable portrait too. But I would have ideally liked a dedicated wide-angle secondary selfie camera. Yes, there is an option to go wide but that is just the normal selfie camera. In regular selfies, Samsung actually crops in on the main sensor. That’s just a weird implementation in my opinion. 

 

My only concern with the S10+’s camera is the low light performance is not Pixel-grade and that is where Samsung lags behind. Yes, the Scene Optimiser setting can detect low light scenarios and capture a good night shot but it is not as good as the Pixel 3. There’s also a new Best Shot feature that helps you frame the right picture. I used it for the entire duration of my review but it doesn’t frame the best picture always. That said, the S10+’s camera app is feature rich and probably the most intuitive camera app on an Android phone I’ve used till date. I really like the Pro mode too and it helps you capture in RAW as well. Oh, and there is a dedicated Instagram mode now that lets you take pictures from the camera app and upload it directly to the social network. 

The Samsung Galaxy S10+’s camera is so versatile and feature-rich that it is easy to forgive the over-exposure issues in shots. In fact, I have a suggestion. Shoot the image and go into the Gallery app to edit the photo. Use the auto edit feature, and you will immediately see a picture that looks extremely attractive and dramatic, something that the Pixel 3 does from the get-go. 

More full resolutions samples for download here. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ performance: reliable but not as powerful as SD855

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ in India runs on Samsung’s homegrown Exynos 9820 SoC. This 8nm octa-core SoC has a Mali-G76 MP12. For all the details on benchmarks and gaming performance, we have a convenient article for you guys

Apart from benchmark numbers, I can tell you that the Galaxy S10+ didn’t stutter once in my entire time with the phone. It is super responsive, and just belts through opening apps and multitasking. If the S10+ was a superhero, it would be Krissh. Oh, so you guys don’t think Krissh is cool? You will only watch Marvel and DC superheroes. Posh fellows. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 8

Anyway, moving on, our S10+ unit has 8 gigs of RAM, which is the default now. It also has 128GB of storage, which is the base variant now. Samsung has really upped the game this time around. This storage is of the UFS 2.1 kind and is super fast as well. You can also go up to 1 TB of storage and 12 gigs of RAM on the ceramic variant. That’s just nuts. 

All said and done, there are confirmed reports that the SD855 variant is more powerful than the Exynos variant that we get in India. But I doubt most folks will care or figure out the performance delta in daily usage. Because, I used it to play a ton of Guns of Boom, PUBG, and Asphalt 9 on the phone in my free time. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ battery life: will last you a day

The Galaxy S10+ has a slightly larger 4,100mAh battery compared to the 4,000mAh battery inside the Galaxy Note 9. This battery gave me an average screen on time of over 5 hours and 30 minutes. This is not bad at all because I was using the phone in QHD+ resolution, and with the edge screen lighting on and Always-On display on. So, that is a lot of stress on the battery because my usage is also otherwise very heavy. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 12

One of the most interesting new additions to the S10+ is the Wireless PowerShare feature. This is essentially the same wireless reverse charging that was also present on the Mate 20 Pro. And, it continues to be a useless feature for reverse charging phones. But Samsung has another kickass plan. Which is, to charge accessories like the Galaxy Buds and the Galaxy Watch, on the phone. Yes, these two new accessories come with wireless charging enabled. This helps Samsung upsell it’s accessories as well, especially at the discounted cost that you are getting at. And honestly, the collective experience of using the Buds with the Galaxy S10+ is so good that I can hardly complain about that business tactic.

Apart from this, in the box, you get a 15W fast charger that can charge the phone from 0 to 100 in 1 hour and 50 minutes, which is great. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ network performance: top of the line

As far as call quality goes, I had no problems with the Galaxy S10+ as such except for the slightly average noise cancellation. There were times when I heard a lot of noise from the other side through the earpiece slit. But, network stability was incredible. Also, the 4G and Wi-Fi performance was great too. The Galaxy S10+ is also the first phone to come with the Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax standard in-built. In fact, this new standard increases throughput and speed through even 2.4GHz networks. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 13

While it won’t matter much in India, if you are abroad your S10+ will be the first to catch a Wi-Fi signal at public hotspots thanks to the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. 

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S10+?

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is not just the best Samsung flagship ever, it is also the best Android phone in 2019, thus far. It is a well-rounded and cohesive smartphone experience that will satisfy Samsung loyalists and Android users alike. I have no complaints about the phone, and even if I do, all of these problems can easily be overlooked; like the fact that Facebook can’t be uninstalled or pictures from the camera are not the absolute best out there. 

Obviously, when you do consider buying the S10+, there are other options that could come into your consideration. Let’s take a look at how the competition fares. 

Pixel 3 XL

Also read: Google Pixel 3 XL review: shoots drool-worthy images that will persuade you to make a switch

Google’s Pixel 3 XL is a camera beast and the stock Android experience is also well-suited for purists. But, I have been using this phone for a long time now, and the notch is still irritating and the battery life is really not up to the mark even after multiple updates. Buy it over the S10+ only if all you want is a kickass camera and nothing else. 

Pixel 3 XL 10

Mate 20 Pro

Also read: Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: you’ll fall in love with this phone like I did

The Mate 20 Pro is Huawei’s best device yet. I had such a fun time using the phone. It is yet another well-rounded device that comes really close to giving the Galaxy S10+ a tough time. But, I think the S10+ has a better display and a cleaner design. I am sure the Mate 20 Pro will still find a few takers. 

Huawei Mate 20 Pro 7

iPhone XS Max

Also read: Apple iPhone XS Max review: big, bold, and bloody expensive

The one battle that is never ending: iOS vs Android. Is the best iPhone better than the best Android has to offer? Honestly, I am not even going down there. This one shouldn’t even be a battle because it is a fight of philosophies more than anything else. If you have always been a part of the Apple ecosystem buy the iPhone XS Max. There is no incentive for you on this side. Android will always feel like an unrefined experience. And, if you have always been on the side of Android and Samsung’s premium experiences, then the S10+ is the best right now. Apple’s closed-wall approach will only make you feel more stifled. 

iPhone XS Max 7

So, are you guys going to buy the Galaxy S10+? Do let us know in the comments section below. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?