Samsung has made a tradition of releasing two flagship Galaxy S smartphones simultaneously each year, but in 2019, we’re getting three: the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10E. (If you count the S10 5G that’s coming out in a few months, it’s actually four.)
How are consumers supposed to make sense of the new lineup and find the option best for them? The most important thing to know is that these phones are all very similar when it comes to the fundamentals. Buying the $750 Galaxy S10E doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing any of the crucial improvements and hardware upgrades. But there are perks to going all out and dropping $1,000 on the S10 Plus.
What do the S10E, S10, and S10 Plus have in common?
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor
- Base storage of 128GB
- Expandable microSD storage
- Dynamic AMOLED screen with reduced blue light and HDR10+ wide color gamut
- Compatible with new, faster Wi-Fi 6
- Wireless PowerShare: you can charge other devices by resting them on the S10’s back
- IP68 water resistance
- Fast wireless charging
All of the Galaxy S10 models also share at least two cameras:
1. Primary dual-aperture (f/1.5 or f/2.4) 12-megapixel camera
2. Ultra wide (123-degree field of view) 16-megapixel camera
The S10E, S10, and S10 Plus can all record 4K video on both their rear and front-facing cameras, they each have a “super steady” mode that dramatically stabilizes videos shot with the ultra wide camera, and all three can capture 960 fps super slow-mo video. For stills, Samsung gives all of them its Pro Assist AI-based scene recognition, which automatically adjusts camera settings based on your subject. Like the Note 9 before it, the S10 will also tell you when it detects if a pic you just took was blurry or if someone in the shot blinked.
Pick the Galaxy S10 if you want the flagship but don’t want to pay $1,000
128GB | 8GB: $899.99
6.1-inch Quad HD+ curved OLED display | 3,800mAh battery
The Galaxy S10 has all of Samsung’s latest tech for under a grand. It’s got a hole-punch camera cutout that, to me, seems much less noticeable than a notch cutting into the screen. It’s powered by the latest generation Snapdragon 855 processor. The screen is Samsung’s best OLED panel yet, and the camera system includes a trio of rear cameras that basically puts an entire lens kit on your phone, including a telephoto / portrait lens.
There’s also the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor built into the display, which promises to be more accurate than the optical in-screen fingerprint sensors we’ve seen from OnePlus and others. The screen is smaller than the S10 Plus’, but it’s the same resolution and overall quality. The S10 also has a significantly larger battery than last year’s S9, so combined with Android 9 Pie’s battery-saving tricks, it should last a good bit longer.
Pick the Galaxy S10 Plus if you want the biggest screen and absolute best specs
128GB | 8GB: $999.99
6.4-inch Quad HD+ curved OLED display | 4,100mAh battery
The S10 Plus has a larger display, bigger battery, and it can be configured with more storage and RAM than the regular S10. It also beats out the S10 5G on storage and memory. This is the phone for the spec heads. You can buy it with up to 1TB of storage and 12GB of RAM, which should future-proof the phone for years to come.
It’s available with a ceramic black or white back if you opt for the higher-end 512GB or 1TB models, which isn’t offered on the standard S10. The S10 Plus also has an RGB depth camera on the front that improves portrait shots and selfie effects. The S10 and S10E can do this through software, but Samsung’s own camera page acknowledges that their “results are varied.”
The S10 Plus’ 4,100mAh battery is a higher capacity than the Note 9’s, which was already a great, all-day phone. This is the only S10 that I’d really consider using Wireless PowerShare with since it’s got enough juice to charge up a friend’s phone in a pinch without leaving you looking for a charger yourself.
Pick the Galaxy S10E if you want the best value and more color options
128GB | 6GB: $749.99
5.8-inch Full HD+ OLED display | 3,100mAh battery
As the most affordable phone in Samsung’s new lineup, the Galaxy S10E still offers a lot of what’s best about the pricier devices. It has the same Snapdragon 855 processor as the standard S10 and S10 Plus. The base model has slightly less RAM (6GB), but you can get 8GB if you choose the model with 256GB of storage. Even if you don’t bother, 6GB should be enough for this upgrade cycle.
Its 5.8-inch screen is the smallest of the bunch, and it drops the resolution down a bit, but that also means it’s easier to manage in one hand. It has all the enhancements of Samsung’s latest-generation “dynamic” OLED screen, like reduced blue light and an even wider HDR color palette. The display is flat, unlike the curved S10 and S10 Plus. Apple went with a lower-res (but still high-quality) LCD for the iPhone XR, but I think Samsung’s S10E might have bested the XR in this category.
With the S10E, you’re getting the same primary (wide), ultra wide, and selfie cameras as on the S10. There’s no telephoto camera, however, so if you’re someone who finds yourself taking a ton of portrait shots, this is something to consider. And the fingerprint sensor is a traditional capacitive scanner integrated with the power button, so you lose out on the cool, all-new ultrasonic technology the more premium S10s get.
The main downside of the S10E, though, is its 3,100mAh battery. Will that be enough juice to carry this high-powered phone through an entire day? It’s more than the Galaxy S9 had last year, but the S9 wasn’t known for great endurance on a charge.