Samsung Unpacked is only a few days away where the company will reveal the Galaxy S10 to the world. There has been no shortage of leaks over the past few weeks to a point where almost every detail about the device is already known. So much so, that before it’s announced, Samsung is letting people pre-order the S10.
Despite the inevitable hype that surrounds a Galaxy release, I’m left underwhelmed at what I know about the S10 and here are ten reasons why the S10 will be the first time in four years that I don’t buy the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
1. That hole-punch
In 2018, OEM’s pushed the boundaries of screen real-estate by reducing bezels to a point where there was nowhere left to house the front-facing camera and sensors. It wasn’t a problem the S9 or Note 9 had since Samsung retained a small bezel at the top of the device. Most other Android smartphones cut a notch into the display – a lazy but effective solution. This created an unnecessary problem that saw the manufacturers scramble for an answer; while some chose sliding mechanisms, Samsung decided to build a display with a hole-punch. Called the Infinity-O display, it is a full-screen edge-to-edge display with a hole cut out of the top right of the device for the camera.
Unlike the waterdrop notch on the OnePlus 6T, which can be hidden, lost in the wallpaper, or easily ignored or designed around, the hole-punch cannot be unseen. Not only has Samsung not kept the distance from the top and right bezel equal, but it now also hides elements of the Android software. At least with a notch, it was centralized and placed in a position covering a section of the status bar that was unused. The hole-punch, however, covers where the battery and time typically sit. It is a step in the wrong direction to eliminate the problem of using a notch.
2. In-display fingerprint sensor
Samsung isn’t the first company to put a fingerprint sensor within the display of a smartphone. We’ve seen the implementation successfully done on the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro, as well as many others. Typically the in-display fingerprint sensor uses optical sensors to read your fingerprint through pixels in the display. If the rumors are to be believed, Samsung will be adopting the Qualcomm mechanism that uses ultrasound. This new mechanism would be faster and more secure, but would also require the finger to be in contact directly with the display, which presumably renders the use of a screen-protector incompatible. There was nothing wrong with the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, assuming Samsung placed it in an ergonomically pleasing place (unlike the Note 8), so it seems the use of the in-display sensor is more of a case to show that Samsung can, rather than should.
3. Software updates
While not confined to the Galaxy S10, it is a problem the new devices will inherit. Samsung has been notoriously bad at rolling out timely updates to its devices. The situation was helped when monthly security updates became a thing, and Samsung has done a pretty good job at keeping up with these, but still hasn’t been able to get major versions of Android out quickly. For example, my Galaxy Note 9 only received the Android 9.0 Pie release last month, while my wife’s Pixel 3 has had Pie since last year.
In Samsung’s defense, its software overlay that provides much of the added functionality that makes a Samsung device what it is requires extensive testing before being distributed to the masses. I’m just saying – OnePlus seemed to do it ok with OxygenOS. In fact, OnePlus was one of a few companies involved with the Android Pie Beta. With the price that Samsung commands for its devices, it needs to do better.
4. Glass design
Every Samsung device that I have owned has been a fragile slab of two pieces of glass sandwiching together internals. The Galaxy S10 is not likely to change that so the device will need to be wrapped in a case to protect it from, well, everything. With the resale price of Android pretty bad as is (Pixels aside), any slight damage snowballs the value of your device.
I have always admired and been drawn to the design of Samsung’s devices, but I like to show that design off and not have to protect it with a case amid fear that one tiny slip and it will be game over.
5. Screen-protector support
A victim of the new technology used in the Qualcomm in-display fingerprint sensor, the feedback accompanying the leaked images of the S10 is that because the sensor needs contact with your fingerprint to detect it, screen-protectors will not work. Early images to workaround this has seen a cutout where the fingerprint sensor resides, which just looks ugly and will likely result in a poor user experience.
As I said above – if this is the solution, the S10 should have just left the fingerprint reader on the rear.
6. The price
We can thank Apple for the new normal of smartphone pricing to exceed $1000. However, the Galaxy S9 started at $720, with the S9 Plus set at $840. This was similar pricing to the Galaxy S8 the previous year so has avoided the push towards the $1000 mark but prices are expected to be bumped this year with the S10. The ceramic Galaxy S10+, for example, is expected to be well above $1000 thanks to its premium material. At this price, it’s hard to justify an upgrade each year without losing a ton of money. Samsung does offer the Upgrade Program, which is a great way to get the latest Samsung device each year but does lock you into the manufacturer.
The emergence of 5G will begin to take off in 2019 and Samsung is set to lead the way with compatible handsets. The company is expected to launch an S10 model with 5G support outside of the devices unveiled at Samsung Unpacked. So if you want to test out the latest and greatest 5G connectivity, then you’ll need to skip the initial S10 range that launches next week.
8. Battery life
With larger displays comes a bigger drain on the battery. The 3000mAh battery wasn’t big enough in the S10, which made a single charge for a full day of use a challenge. The S10 is expected to get a bump in the battery department to 3500mAh, which is a sizable improvement, but still won’t see it compete with the likes of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and its 4200mAh capacity.
9. One UI
While Samsung has toned down the custom skin it applied on Android over the years and rebranded to One UI, it is still a far departure from a stock Android experience. The level of customization, while offering some good features, is still too far in the wrong direction.
10. Foldable Galaxy
Samsung has made no secret that it plans on revealing a foldable Galaxy smartphone at Samsung Unpacked. If executed correctly, it could be a game changer and will see the S10 pale into insignificance in comparison. It’ll likely have a few flaws that will need to be dealt with, but the Samsung Galaxy S10 will likely not be Samsung’s “it” product for 2019.
We’re sure some of you agree with some of the points highlighted here, but we know there is a huge audience that will still be buying a Galaxy S10 when the new phones hit the market in the coming weeks. We’re curious if you’ll be picking up a new Glaaxy S10 this year or if you’ll be passing like I am.