Samsung has introduced its new lineup of Galaxy S10 phones with all the razzle-dazzle that can be expected from a major manufacturer. If you’re already the owner of a Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, S9, or S9 Plus, it’s time to sit down, take a breath, and think hard — is it time to trade in your old phone for a new one?
When you’re considering upgrading, there are always a variety of factors to look at. Are the design and display of the new phone demonstrably better than your current model? Will your photos look better? How is your battery life now compared to what you’ll get? Are there new features that you really don’t want to do without?
For this comparison, I’m looking at the new Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus to see what they offer compared to previous models. (There is also now a low-end model, the Galaxy S10E, which doesn’t really have an equivalent, but which may also be worth checking out if you’re a Samsung fan with a limited budget.)
Note that these are only comparisons based on specs; we will be following up with a full review soon. However, with any luck, this can go some way toward helping you decide whether you want to invest in a spanking new phone — or are satisfied enough with what you already have.
How to choose between the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10E
Samsung Galaxy S10E vs. iPhone XR: two budget flagships compared
How the Samsung Galaxy S10 measures up against the iPhone XS and the Pixel 3
Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Pixel 3: how do you choose?
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review: the anti-iPhone
Do you want a larger display? Time to upgrade.
When the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus were introduced, they premiered Samsung’s “Infinity Display,” which featured an 18.5:9 aspect ratio on 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch displays, respectively. The screens were curved so the phones were narrower and easier to hold. When the S9 and S9 Plus phones debuted, the dimensions of the screens, and the phones, were basically the same.
The displays of the new Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, on the other hand, are considerably bigger. The S10 has a 6.1-inch diagonal display — nearly as large as the previous Plus models — with a 19:9 aspect ratio. The S10 Plus screen is an impressive 6.4 inches.
Not big enough? If you really want a large display, wait for the upcoming S10 5G, which will boast a 6.7-inch display. (Unlike the S10 and S10 Plus, which will ship on March 8th, the S10 5G will ship sometime in the first half of this year.) Or you can go all out with the new Galaxy Fold, which folds out to a whopping 7.3 inches; it will be available April 26th.
While the displays are larger, the actual dimensions of the phones aren’t much different — largely because there’s now hardly any bezel to be seen. In fact, at 5.9 x 2.77 x 0.30 inches (S10) and 6.20 x 2.91 x 0.30 inches (S10 Plus), the phones are nearly the same size as the S8 and S8 Plus and only slightly larger than the S9 and S9 Plus. In addition, the weight of the new phones is actually slightly less than their predecessors, from 5.75 to 5.53 oz for the S9 to the S10, and from 6.67 to 6.17 oz. for the S9 Plus to the S10 Plus.
The resolutions of the new displays have kept pace with the screen size. While the S8 and S9 lines featured resolutions of 2960 x 1440, the S10 and S10 Plus will feature 3040 x 1440 QHD+ resolution.
So if you’re looking for a larger screen, you’re definitely going to be interested.
Do you want a nicer design? It’s here.
Samsung has consistently produced good-looking devices, and the Galaxy S10 line is no different. Like the S9 phones, both S10 devices have curved top and bottom bezels, sloping 3D glass sides, USB-C charging ports, and (thankfully) 3.5mm headphone jacks. The dedicated Bixby button is also, less thankfully, still there — although it is now reprogrammable. However, there are a few major design changes.
In both the Galaxy S8 and S9 phones, the fingerprint scanner was located on the back. In the S8 and S8 Plus, the scanner was placed so close to the camera lens that there were complaints and so it was dropped slightly down in the S9. However, the S10 has eliminated the back-located fingerprint scanner entirely; the new ultrasonic scanner has been built into the front display — and may set a standard for both efficiency and artistic phone unlocking.
Samsung was one of the few phone manufacturers able to push the size of its screens without adding the much-bewailed notch to make room for the front-facing camera. It continues that policy with the S10 line by using what it calls the Infinity-O hole-punch, which comes directly through the screen. If the presence of even that hole offends you, you may want to stick with your older phone.
Do you want more storage? You’ll get it.
Need a lot of storage? You’ve come to the right place. If you’ve still got the S8 or S9 phones (or the Plus versions), you’ve been working with 64GB of storage and may have been spending the last few months juggling apps to make space. (Unless you’ve installed a microSD card.) The S10 starts with a minimum of 128GB of storage and has a 512GB version. The S10 Plus also offers those two iterations, plus one with an astounding 1TB of storage.
The performance of the latest phones should also improve. The S8’s Octa-core processor came with 4GB of RAM, as did the S9 (the S9 Plus offered 6GB of RAM). The S10 and S10 plus all come with 8GB of RAM, all except the 1TB version of the S10 Plus, which pushes the RAM up to 12GB.
All that power needs a good battery. If you own an S8 or S9, your phone came with a 3,000mAh battery; your S8 Plus or S9 Plus had a 3,500mAh. The S10 offers a somewhat heftier 3,400mAh battery, while the S10 Plus comes with a powerful 4,100mAh battery. However, if you’re thinking of upgrading, it’s a good idea to think about how your battery is currently doing after a year or more of use. If your phone isn’t lasting through the day without a recharge, then a new phone should probably be on your radar.
Speaking of charging: the new S10 phones add reverse wireless charging — you can charge your earbuds or other devices directly from the phone. This isn’t exactly a good reason by itself to upgrade, but it would certainly be nice to have.
Do you want a better camera? Well, there are improvements.
A good reason for many people to upgrade is for improvements in a phone’s camera hardware and software. Samsung’s previous rear-facing cameras were well regarded. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus featured a single 12-megapixel dual-pixel camera with an f/1.7 aperture. The Galaxy S9 Plus introduced a dual-camera system that included the 12-megapixel wide-angle lens with dual f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures and the 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto lens.
This year, Samsung has made some improvements, especially if you’re considering the S10 rather than the S10 Plus. If you bought a Galaxy S9, you didn’t get the dual-camera system that came with the Plus. This year, both the S10 and the S10 Plus offer Samsung’s new triple-camera system: a 12-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel f/1.5 wide lens, and a 16-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide lens. Both also have a front-facing 10-megapixel f/1.9 lens, with the S10 Plus adding an extra 8-megapixel f/2.2 lens.
In short, the new phones offer a variety of new hardware that photography buffs will want to look at in more detail.
So should you upgrade?
If you want a bigger screen, more storage, and a generally superior phone, the answer is probably yes. But be aware: you’re going to pay for it.
These are premium phones and they are being sold for premium prices. The Galaxy S10 will be available from Sprint for a suggested retail price of $899.99 ($37.40 per month for 18 payments), while the Galaxy S10 Plus will start at $999.99 ($41.67 per month) for the 128GB version. At AT&T, you’ll be paying $30 per month ($38.34 per month for the 512GB version) for 30 months for the Galaxy S10, while the S10 Plus will grab $33.34 per month ($41.67 per month for the 512GB model, $53.34 per month for the 1TB model). Do the math — that can run into big bucks.
Speaking of big bucks: if you’re really ambitious, you can invest in the innovative Galaxy Fold, which will be available on April 26th for a mere $1,980.
If those prices have your teeth on edge, check to see what your trade-in possibilities are — eligible devices could save you up to $550 from Samsung (or up to $650 from Best Buy). Or take a look at the Galaxy S10E, a smaller and less turbo-charged phone with a 5.8-inch display, two rear-facing cameras, a 3,100mAh battery and either 128GB or 256GB of storage. Sprint will be selling it for a starting price of $749.99 ($31.25 per month), while AT&T is charging $25 per month for the 128GB model and $28.34 per month for the 256GB model (essentially, the same price).
If you’re still undecided, you may want to wait for our full hands-on reviews, which will be coming in a week or two. At that point, if the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus phones live up to everything that Samsung promises, then the choice as to whether to upgrade will be a lot easier to make.
Correction, March 1, 2019 at 9:15 AM ET: The S8 was not the first Samsung phone with a curved screen (as originally written); that honor goes to the Galaxy S6 Edge and the S6 Edge Plus.
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