Learning never exhausts the mind

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This is an honest, unbiased review of the Samsung Galaxy S10 from an owner after 4 months of using the phone.

My iPhone 6 battery died. Rather than spend out on a new battery then working out how to change the battery without breaking the screen, I decided to get a new phone. I wasn't too happy about how restrictive the iOS can be, especially requiring to use the dreadful iTunes on Windows to transfer music, and I really wanted to go back to Android so I looked around at some of the best Android phones on the market and compared them with my requirements for a smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10

As a photographer a high-quality camera was essential and I was particularly drawn to the Samsung Galaxy S10's three-camera arrangement. I also wanted to be sure that my device would receive regular updates and that there was a way to root the device after the updates stop being provided. I usually keep a smartphone device well past the end of support (typically two years after release). Storage is also another key consideration for me. I need enough storage for all the apps and games to be installed, my music collection and to copy TV and movies that I can watch on the train as I commute to work. An external microSD card is essential.

There were several phones I looked at:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10/S10e/S10+
  • OnePlus 7T
  • Huawei P30 Pro
  • Honor View 20
  • Sony Xperia 1
  • Google Pixel 3a

The first to be ruled out was the Huawei, which is unfortunate because it is a great phone, but with the US trade war on Huawei meaning that future Huawei phones can no longer run Android and updates are likely to be affected by the ban as well. I'm not willing on forking out £700 for a phone which may not receive any updates or support in the future so I scrubbed it off my list.

Next off the list was the OnePlus 7T. The phone gets great reviews, but the camera is OK at best, despite being a massive 48-megapixels. Reviews and sample photos from multiple sites report that colours are lacking, images suffer hazing effects, images have poor dynamic range and low light performance is bad. For a photographer, these are deal-breakers.

Next off the table were the Honor View 20 and Google Pixel 3a. Although good phones the cameras are still not as good as the S10 and I just didn't like the designs or the way they felt.

That left the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Sony Xperia 1. Both phones are great and I played with each one for several hours over the course of a week. For me, Sony really shines with videos, both in playback and recording. The phone is really geared up for vloggers and video content producers. The still camera functions are lacking behind the Samsung, the battery life was better on the Samsung, the Samsung just felt better to hold. Overall I couldn't justify spending the extra on the Sony so I went with the Samsung S10.

I chose the S10 over the S10e and S10+ quite easily. The S10e does not have the three rear cameras and the S10+ only differs in a very slight increase in size, larger battery and an extra selfie camera. I'm not interested in the selfie camera and the price difference did not warrant the extra battery or screen size, so the S10 won me over.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Screen

The Galaxy S10 sports a 6.1-inch display running at a resolution of 3040x1440. In battery saving modes you can change this to 2280x1080 or 1520x720. I've not really noticed much difference between the screen modes and mine has been on 1520x720 for a while.

Samsung Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10

The screen looks gorgeous, very bright and colours and fills the whole front area. No bezels, no notch, just a "hole-punch" in the corner for the camera. This isn't very distracting, it's only noticeable when surfing the web, emails or watching full-screen videos. The rest of the time it just blends in and you don't notice it. There are several wallpaper backgrounds below which you can use to further hide the hole punch on the home screen.

Edge lighting is a nifty feature that allows notifications to flash the screen edge which sounds good in theory, but for some reason, it only works when the screen is on. Once the display turns off, edge notifications do not show. This to me makes the whole feature worthless. Hopefully, they release a fix for this. On a related note, there are the edge panels which offer a convenient quick launch toolbar by swiping in from the screen edge. This is a handy function as it allows you to launch apps from other apps.

Samsung Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10

The curved glass may look good, and it does feel good to hold, however, it also makes it too easy to accidentally press something simply because you were holding the device. You need to be especially careful when handling the edges else you can tap buttons or menus by accident.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Holepunch Wallpapers

Samsung Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10

In order to hide the hole punch for the camera, Samsung and several creative people have designed clever wallpapers which hide the hole punch in creative ways. There are a few images below you can download, or simply Googling "S10 hole punch wallpaper" you can find hundreds more.

These are a few of my favourite wallpapers for the Samsung Galaxy S10.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Performance

This is Samsung's flagship model for 2019 so you'd expect it to be a high performer. It does not disappoint. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and 6GB of RAM make this one of the fastest phones currently on the market. Everything on the phone is slick and smooth, I've not found any game, benchmark, demo or tool which shows noticeable lag or dropped frames.

Battery life is really good. I can get at least 12 hours of intensive use, including gaming, before needing to charge. Fast charging mode with the included adaptor gives a full charge in around 1.5 hours. Wireless charging is slower as you'd expect, but still pretty speedy. Plus, any device supporting the Qi wireless charging standard can be charged by being placed on the rear of the S10 once the feature is enabled in the notification menu.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Camera

On the rear of the phone are three cameras, a standard 28mm lens, a wide-angle 11mm and a 52mm optical zoom lens. All three are 16-megapixels.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S10 Cameras

The wide-angle lens has a fixed f/2.2 aperture and fixed focus, the normal lens dual aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4, autofocus and optical image stabilisation. The telephoto lens also has a fixed aperture of f/2.4, autofocus and optical image stabilisation.

The wide-angle lens has a field of view of around 123° This is enough to capture great shots indoors and panoramas in one shot. There is a substantial amount of distortion around the sides, but that is to be expected with such a wide-angle. There are built-in distortion reduction features, but when I tested it, it didn't seem to do much.

The default camera app lets you switch between cameras with ease and configure them. Pinching to zoom automatically switches to the optimal lens which makes zooming in much easier, although be careful not to engage digital zoom as the quality rapidly falls off.

The camera features a scene optimiser which helps composition and adjusts settings according to what you are photographing. Flaw detection is really handy as it detects and reminds you if there are smudges or fingerprints on the lens, something which saved me a few times!

The live view focus system works really well allowing you to be more selective around what is in focus, and you can even separate the background and foreground with bokeh and greyscale effects.

Finally, there is HDR10+ video recording which works really well to create detailed, high dynamic range videos. On the subject of the video camera, I absolutely love the super slow motion camera able to shoot 1 second of 720p video at 960fps or 12 seconds at 480fps. Check them out in the video below.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Sample Photos

Here are a few images (click for full size) taken in Glasgow to show the difference between the wide-angle, normal and telephoto lens.

Glasgow City Chambers, Samsung Galaxy S10 Wide-Angle Lens Camera Test

Glasgow City Chambers, Samsung Galaxy S10 Wide-Angle Lens Camera Test

Glasgow City Chambers, Samsung Galaxy S10 Standard Lens Camera Test

Glasgow City Chambers, Samsung Galaxy S10 Standard Lens Camera Test

Glasgow City Chambers, Samsung Galaxy S10 2x Telephoto Lens Camera Test

Glasgow City Chambers, Samsung Galaxy S10 2x Telephoto Lens Camera Test

Here are a few sample photos I took on a recent holiday in Spain which show off the colours and brightness of the photos.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Design and Usability

There isn't anything outstanding in the design of the phone. Nothing really stands out except the bezel-less, punch hold display.

The feel of the phone is very thin, light and the glass material its made from is quite slippery. I'd definitely recommend getting a case if only to provide some grip so it does not slip out of your hands.

As I said above, the curved display can be too easy to tap something by mistake.

Downsides

There are a few downsides, or niggles, that I have with the Samsung Galaxy S10 and these are all software related.

First, there is as usual a ton of bloatware installed which you cannot remove. Some you can disable but others like the Samsung Apps cannot.

Themes and visual styles can be applied to the phone, but they must be purchased from the Samsung Store. Nothing is free there. Pay £800 for a high-end phone then you have to pay £2 per theme. Hate that.

Bixby is Samsungs "AI" equivalent to Google Assistant, Alexa and so on. It cannot be disabled or uninstalled.

The Bixby hardware button can be customised to launch any application or perform functions, but only if you register for a Samsung account and accept all the privacy-invading T&C's.

I tried to set up Bixby Routines so that I can manage whether WiFi or mobile data is active - Wifi in the office and at home, and mobile data everywhere else. This wasn't as easy as the instructions lead me to believe. In theory, all I had to do was create a rule for leaving a location which disabled one and enabled the other. Similarly for entering the zone. I did this for home and work so that when I leave home, WiFi is disabled, the mobile network is enabled. When I get to the office, disable mobile data and enable WiFi again. Simple task, but for some reason, this is beyond Bixby. It would quite often disable wifi at home (and not enable mobile) so I was missing notifications and emails, it would not disable mobile networks or wifi, and generally get confused. It would randomly enable wifi on the train while disabling mobile data. It was far too unreliable for me so I deleted the rules and disabled Bixby Routines.

Aside from that, there is very little else wrong with the phone, and once the phone is out of warranty I'll be rooting and installing a custom firmware so that should solve all the above downsides.

Conclusions

Overall this is a great phone and if you are considering buying one I'd definitely recommend it to you.

Pros
  • Great screen, bright, vibrant colours
  • Great cameras
  • Performance
  • Battery life great
Cons
  • Curved display makes accidentally pressing things too easy
  • Distortion on wide-angle camera
  • No notification LED and edge notifications do not work if the screen is turned off

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