A short review of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Smartphones continue to mature, making us wonder whether it’s worth releasing yearly iterations.

I’ve been testing out the new Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus since it was announced at Samsung UNPACKED 2019 in February.

Since we don’t review devices super often (but do make exceptions), I’ll keep this brief, offering my thoughts on new and old features that stood out to me, as well as mention the enterprise to justify this review to Jack.

It’s time to get nitpicky

I want to preface this section by saying that any complaints I have are small potatoes and I think the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is a solid device that Android users will like. It just doesn’t offer enough new features that would get me to upgrade from an S9, necessarily. The Galaxy line has matured and, much like the iPhone, each iteration isn’t a big enough departure to get everyone excited. 

All that said, the S10 Plus is a snazzy-looking phone. It is slimmer than the iPhone XS Max (the iOS equivalent model), but still provides users with a screen nearly the same size (6.4 vs 6.5 inches). It remains an attractive option for those who want an expensive device but get sweaty and nervous at the idea of paying the Apple tax for an iPhone XS Max and for whom OS doesn’t matter.

Infinity Display
The first thing most will notice about the S10 Plus is how minimal the bezels are with its Infinity Display, which wraps the screen around the sides of the phone. It’s very good looking, but I don’t like it. Too often I would accidentally type something and hit Enter without even knowing I did so. I tried creating a password when first starting it up and didn’t even notice it had accepted some random combination of letters I didn’t consciously select and was waiting for me to repeat it again. It doesn’t add too much to the device; you can swipe left and bring up an additional menu, but that doesn’t really justify the screen’s existence.

Front-facing camera design
The Galaxy S10 Plus has another interesting design quirk: a hole-punch camera design on the front. Or, that’s what I’ve seen people deciding to call it. People got grumpy about the iPhone X notch and Samsung did their best to avoid it. I’m not entirely sure they’re all that successful (though providing home screen images that help hide the cameras is a nice touch), but I will say I’m not one who cares. I got over the iPhone notch really quickly and Samsung’s design doesn’t bother me much either. I have a feeling it won’t be much of a deal breaker for too many potential buyers, either.

Three rear-facing cameras
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus has three cameras on the back, with the new one offering an ultra-wide FOV more akin to what our eyes naturally see. I may not be much of a photographer, but I really enjoyed the pictures it took. It has some picture modes, like food, that Instagram-heavy users will particularly enjoy.

Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner
I like the attempt to move the fingerprint scanner from the back to the front of the device again, while still retaining a nearly bezel-less design. Unfortunately, it’s just not entirely successful. I never loved the scanner on the back of the S9, but it also never bothered me much. The new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is neat in concept, but flawed in execution (hopefully will get better in later iterations, if kept). You still have to press down in a specific spot on the bottom of the screen and it’s not the most responsive feature ever. Waking up the Galaxy S10 Plus can take too long for me and my lack of patience.

Samsung lets you make choices still
Unlike with the iPhone, The Galaxy S10 still retains the headphone jack and has a slot for expandable memory. These two features alone will sway some people looking for their next phone but can’t decide between an iPhone and a Galaxy. The expandable memory option is something I continue to be a fan of, but having a headphone jack doesn’t matter to me. I went wireless headphones years ago due to commuting not being easy on cords, but not everyone loves the audio quality of many Bluetooth headphones.

New use cases in the enterprise?

Every use case that the S9 could do, the S10 can do as well, but it doesn’t really add anything new. In my review of the iPhone XS Max, I noted how I liked the size of the device for reading ebooks during my commute and taking notes for work; the same holds true for the Galaxy S10 Plus. I tested it out during RSA 2019, taking notes during a couple Expo Hall meetings. I like how the main keyboard option includes numbers alongside letters, making it just a tiny bit quicker to write more expansive notes that I’ll actually understand later.

We like Samsung Knox, and Samsung added OEMConfig support at Mobile World Congress 2019. Samsung Knox continues to be a success and provides excellent protection for users. Given all the steps forward Samsung makes around security, it’s curious that they took a step back with the face scanner. The Galaxy used to have an iris scanner, but likely unable to find a way to minimize the front-facing cameras and keep it, it’s just a simple 2-D face scanner now. It is susceptible to replay attacks. Only allowing the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner as your biometric authenticator is an option. But moving away from iris scanning that older devices could do also means that the S10 can’t use face scanning for mobile payments.

Given how much power there now is under the hood and the ability to have over 1TB of storage (through built-in and expandable), the Galaxy is getting closer and closer to being viable as a laptop replacement. With DeX, you could make the argument that the S10 is all you need for work (depending on your job of course). Have a DeX setup at work and at home and you’re good to go. However, I still don’t see it being useful for travel. You can get DeX as basically a cord now instead of the larger peripheral, but still need a monitor and a keyboard—you’re not typing on the S10 for long periods. It’s still just easier to carry around a laptop if you travel a lot. However, Wireless Powershare does make it possible to pack lighter as you can use the S10 as a wireless charging device for your peripherals (and if you have two phones).

It’s new, it’s fancy, it doesn’t stand apart

To quickly recap, I like the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, just not enough to honestly consider the jump from iOS to Android. But, at this point, both iPhone and Galaxy are very similar from a device perspective—so I don’t think you can go wrong selecting either. I think your OS preference will decide which to buy—if you’re looking for a new phone.

Now to wait for more on the Galaxy Fold; this could get me to foolishly open my wallet, because I’m a sucker for new, unproven tech.

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