The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, and though its closest rivals on paper are Android phones like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the iPhone XS is still very much worth considering especially as it’s six months till we’ll get a successor.
So which ‘ten’ will come out on top? We’ve only had chance to play around with the Galaxy S10, S10e and S10 Plus for less than an hour at this stage, so consider this an early comparison and not a tested head-to-head. Still, decisions aren’t always made on performance, so here’s what you can expect from the new Galaxy S10 series in terms of design, features and specs, as stacked up to the iPhone XS and XS Max.
Samsung knows how to put together a flagship phone but never more so than in recent years, the S10 and its siblings look the part with minimal bezels on the front and rounded edges on the displays of all models apart from the S10e. Around the back, the new camera array is made into more of a statement, which admittedly looks slightly retro next to the rear of an iPhone XS or XS Max. The S10 will be available in green, white, black and blue with a canary yellow S10e finish and ceramic black and white models of the S10 Plus.
Each one of the new Samsungs, with perhaps the exception of the S10 Plus, feels compact, well made and manageable in the hand with slim profiles at 7.8mm thick or in the case of the S10e 7.9mm. They’re light to hold too without feeling cheap: the Galaxy S10 weighs 157g, the S10 Plus is 175g, the S10e just 150g.
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Smartphone design in 2019, however, is all about those screens. The Samsung Galaxy S10 series features its Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED displays with circular ‘punch holes’ in the top right corner for the front-facing cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S10e and S10, and a slightly larger punch hole for the dual front-facing camera on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus.
First seen, for Samsung, on the Galaxy A8 and also recently on the Honor View 20, we tend to think the punch hole looks slicker than a notch, so if you’re looking for a phone that screams 2019, the S10 will do the job nicely. In geek speak, it also allows for a 93.1 per cent screen-to-body ratio.
All the S10 models have a tall 19:9 aspect ratio, but the screens come in different sizes and resolutions. The S10 has a 6.1-inch Quad HD display, the S10 Plus has a 6.4-inch Quad HD display, the S10e has a 5.8-inch Full HD display and the upcoming S10 5G has a big 6.7-inch Quad HD display. Samsung says that all its smartphone screens will produce 16 million colours, go up to 1,200 nits at peak brightness and handle HDR10+ video and movies. In our short time with the S10s, the displays prodcued vivid colours and good contrast on the stock images we could view.
As for the iPhone XS and XS Max, you get a choice of 5.8-inch or 6.5-inch 458ppi Super Retina OLED displays which both feature a wide notch at the top of the screen. These displays also max out at 625 cd/m2 (= 625 nits) at peak brightness, handle HDR 10 content with Dolby Vision. The iPhone XS has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and an 82.9 per cent screen-to-body ratio; the iPhone XS Max meanwhile has the same 19.5:9 screen aspect ratio and an 84.4 per cent screen-to-body ratio.
As usual, the Android here offers more lenses than the iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy S10 itself has a main 12-megapixel camera, a 12-megapixel zoom camera and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera on the rear, all with optical image stabilisation, and a dual 10-megapixel front-facer which is only capable of 2D face recognition.
Camera features on the S10 line include the ability to switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture, shoot HDR10+ video and there’s also ten new scenes for pets and the like. From our quick play with it, it’s fast in use and looks to be as versatile as you’d expect, though we’ll reserve a real verdict on the camera for the Galaxy S10 review.
The S10e misses out on the telephoto capability, but otherwise everything else is present and correct.
In our iPhone XS and XS Max review, and in comparisons to flagship Androids, we’ve found the dual 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto lens setup to be reliable and detailed with excellent optical image stabilisation. Its Smart HDR feature is very capable for scenes with both bright sun and shadow, and the ability to play around with the depth of field after you’ve taken the shot is fun, if not DSLR-quality. Apple’s TrueDepth camera on the front allows for more secure, 3D facial recognition.
The one area in which the Galaxy S10 is likely to best the iPhones, though, is low-light photography. This was improved for the XS line, but Apple still lags behind the competition slightly here.
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Features and software
One of Samsung’s new features for the S10 is its ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, made by Qualcomm, which appears on the S10 and S10 Plus. (The S10e slums it with a capacitive fingerprint scanner on the side of the phone). Samsung says the ultrasonic scanner is suitable for all weather conditions and the tech, which works by bouncing soundwaves off your finger or thumb, will read every ridge of your print to protect against spoofing. Apple’s tactic for the iPhone XS, meanwhile, was to ditch the fingerprint sensor altogether in favour of its excellent Face ID unlock.
Samsung has also given its UI a new name, One UI. It’s built on top of Android 9 Pie and from first impressions, it’s set to be the best of the Android bunch. It’s added some extras such as faster app launch for apps you use frequently at certain times of day, Bixby Routines and Dolby Atmos for gaming.
We’ll stick to how the Samsung Galaxy S10 and iPhone XS stack up on paper at this pre-review stage. The Galaxy S10 is powered by an 8-nanometer Exynos 9820 chipset in the UK and the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 elsewhere, with an assist from 8GB of RAM.
The S10 Plus, meanwhile, comes in 8GB RAM and 12GB RAM variants. Samsung points out the S10 range is now Unity Game Engine optimised and the new phones are also Wi-Fi 6 ready.
Battery and wireless charging
It’s too soon to make a judgement on the Galaxy S10’s battery life, but it’s worth noting the differing units on offer here depending on screen size and connectivity. The Galaxy S10 itself has 3,400mAh battery, the S10e has a 3,100mAh unit, the S10 Plus has a larger 4,100mAh battery and the S10 5G, due in the summer, a thumping great 4,500mAh battery. All feature Samsung’s fast wireless charging 2.0 apart from the S10 5G which also offers ‘Super Fast’ wired 25W charging. They also all offer Wireless PowerShare so you can charge any Qi device (including the Galaxy Buds etc) using your Galaxy S10’s juice – very cool.
If you aren’t already firmly in either the iPhone camp or the Samsung Galaxy camp, or you’re thinking about switching from iOS, chances are some of the Galaxy S10 features will look mighty tempting: the Infinity-O displays with the punch hole, the promising, versatile camera setup, wireless charging power sharing, 1TB of storage.
While Samsung has done just enough to stay on par with what Huawei has been doing in smartphones, the result of this is that it has nudged the iPhone XS and XS Max even further behind. That doesn’t mean the iPhone XS duo has nothing to recommend it, though. Far from it, in fact, because in real life these are still fantastic phones to live with.