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Brilliance refined, and then refined again

Ten years of the Galaxy smartphone from Samsung have seen the top-end flagship iterated and refined until it has evolved into the complete smartphone it is today.

The S10+ includes a number of world firsts that you may not be able to use immediately — such as Wi-Fi 6 readiness — and some that you may not use often — such as reverse wireless charging — but it’s a comprehensive all-rounder that leaves very little for an Android user to desire.

The Samsung flagship has grown up from its old days of plastic to become a glamorous looking piece. The overall direction of the design on the S10 series continues from recent generations, except now there are some interesting colours and a prismatic effect that reflects light in a way that is hard to describe or photograph. Sadly, we don’t get all the colours here in India, but there’s a Prism White that people instantly like, a Prism Blue and a Prism Black.

The S10+ is all glass (unless one has a ceramic variant) so you get a translucent cover, which manages not to interfere with the phone’s good looks. As ever, Samsung manages to make a phone that is essentially big seem small and easy to grip. I’ve even heard someone complain that it’s too light though I find it a well-balanced weight.

One the ergonomics front there’s one flaw. The power button is placed so high up on the right edge that I always have to feel for it between the opening on the plastic case. On the left side too, I end up pressing the Bixby assistant button before I get to the volume button, especially if I try to capture a photo. We’ll have to see how that feels long-term.

Stunning screen

The screen is gorgeous. The phone’s display has been voted by many as being the absolute best available on a smartphone. The 6.4-inch D-AMOLED HDR+ 1440×3040 Infinity O, QHD, Gorilla Glass 6 protected display has brilliant brightness and colours and a rich depth only really found on Samsung’s displays. You can make adjustments to tone down or up the vividity and resolution. It has great sunlight legibility.

The most talked-about feature on the display is the dual camera cut-out on the top right of the screen — a workaround to using a notch. It’s actually almost as big as the smallest notches but feels different because it’s off to one side and not tethered to the top edge. For many, including me, the cut-out is a bit distracting and takes a little getting used to. I often find it irritating to look up to check battery status and encounter the black patch that somehow seems in the way. It does show when you’re using full-screen for videos as well because there’s nowhere to banish it except to hide it with a black bar in Settings. Amusingly, Samsung’s wallpapers have dark areas on the top right, hiding the cut-out. From this, a whole collection of very clever and funny wallpapers has sprung up on Reddit — it seems like users have good-naturedly accepted the cut-out and are having a little fun with it. The cut-out exists because there are two selfie cameras on the front, but perhaps this wasn’t worth the trouble.

Sound security

Samsung has a new type of in-display fingerprint sensor on the S10+ and S10. Ultrasonic waves are used to unlock the device. With the earlier iris scanner now gone, this is said to be the most secure way to get into the phone as it isn’t just an image but a 3D reader, though there’s no proof of that. At first I found it took a really long, hard press to unlock and there were many no-match-found results. This improved after a software update. It still takes a little longer than the regular scanners but not by very much. A great tip from YouTuber Lewis Hilsenteger who runs the channel Unbox Therapy was to register another copy or two of the same fingerprint, giving the sensor more accurate data. I found this trick improves speed and accuracy a lot more and you soon get used to how to press for a quick unlock. Mismatches have also vanished.

There’s a face unlock and also the usual pattern, pin, etc, giving you whatever level of security you want. There’s plenty of talk on whether screen protectors interfere with the in-display sensor. It’s possible and best advised to stick with protectors from Samsung. Another question is whether noisy environments interfere with the ultrasonic sensor. I haven’t found that to be the case.

Powerful package

The S10+ has top-end specs with options that vary the RAM and storage — at a hefty cost. The variant we’re checking out has 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. In India, we don’t get the Qualcomm 855 but the Samsung equivalent Exynos 9820 chip. The phone runs Android Pie and Samsung’s revamped interface, OneUI. The interface is by no means perfect and one will need to dig through the extensive settings to smoothen out usage. If you set the phone to respond to navigation gestures instead of the usual on-screen buttons, for instance, you’ll find that anything but intuitive, so much so that they had to build in hints on how to swipe. The phone still has too many pre-installed apps, especially considering it is the more tech savvy user who can use this device and will be quite capable of making his or her own choices with apps. The Galaxy Store is also a little annoying though not as much as on less expensive Samsung phones.

Overall performance is nevertheless great including for gaming. Benchmarks also show the S10+ to be a performance beast. It is supported by a 4,100 mAh battery that does well through the day and can be fast-charged to full in about one-and-a-half hours.

Wide wide world

The Samsung flagship has had a great camera for some years now. With the S10+, it’s still one of the top three globally though it’s not good at absolutely everything and it’s not hugely different from before — and one may argue that it doesn’t need to be. Clarity, colours, dynamic range and detail are all really good. The one big addition on the S10+ is a 16 MP wide-angle lens now along with the standard and telephoto. The wide-angle shoots at a 123-degree span and is really fun if you want to capture a beautiful landscape. But it takes some figuring out how not to end up with distortions to the image. Other than this, the camera set-up of the wide angle lens and the two 12 MP main and telephoto lens, many of the features present before are still here including variable aperture, live focus, OIS, and PDAF. Set in an intuitive camera app, the cameras make for easy and very enjoyable photography. Video shooting is also superb. If there’s one disappointment however, it’s that nothing special has been done for low-light photography. Samsung could have used some software boosting like the Pixel 3 and other phones after it. Although the images are artificially boosted in a sense, there’s no harm in that as it’s still preferable to noisy or blurred photos.

Though the S10+ is fairly expensive, it looks as though it’s the one being picked up the most out of the three variants. No doubt, on top of the knowledge that they’re getting value for what they’re spending, Indian users also trust the Samsung brand for almost two decades now.

Price: ₹73,900 for 8 GB/128 GB, ₹91,900 for 8 GB/512 GB, ₹1,17,900 for 12 GB/1TB

Pros: Gold standard screen, beautiful look and build, top-end specs, wide-angle lens enjoyable, feature-filled and future-proof

Cons: Very expensive, no notification LED, no stabilisation for 4K video, inconvenient button placements, disappointing low light photography, very slippery, curved edges result in accidental touches

Source: The Hindu