Samsung’s three S10 phones — the Galaxy S10E,and the standard — are excellent overall. I love the screens, the design and the overall camera photography. You can read my ode to the here. But — and you knew this was coming — not every feature or design element is smooth sailing. This doesn’t just affect Samsung. All phones have their trade-offs.
The difference here, and the reason for the extra scrutiny, is that Samsung is trying to keep its crown as the top phone-maker in the world. Competitors are fierce, and advancing., for example, is trying to take on the Galaxy S10 Plus’ camera array, and there’s always Google and Apple to look ahead to, with the and ( ), respectively.
Even before those premium rivals emerge, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 family will have to face rivals from within their own ranks, like theand , and the , plus . So any “mistake” that Samsung makes is an opportunity for you to buy another phone. (Although if it’s one of Samsung’s pricier models, the company might not mind!)
So, while the Galaxy S10 phones’ biggest flaws may not keep you from buying one, you should make sure you can live with the “worst” features before you commit. There will be many more worthy options down the road.
The GS10 phones are extremely slippery
I’ve been using at least one of the Galaxy S10s since they first launched in February, and I can’t tell you how many times they’ve slid off a desk or table or fumbled from my grasp. In fact, the Galaxy S10 Plus recently squeezed out of my back pocket like a tube of toothpaste and shattered its backing on my friend’s concrete backyard. (It was entirely my fault for not putting a case on it sooner, but I do like to review phones as they come right out of the box.)
The S10E, which is the smallest model and has a flat screen with straighter sides, is easiest to hold, but still glides away on its glossy surface. These phones are undoubtedly prettier without a case, but you’ll probably want one just to keep them from clattering to the ground.
Mispresses are too easy to make
I’ve lost count of the number of times per day that I’ve opened an app or changed screens when I didn’t mean to. Getting out of the wrong screen is easy enough: you just tap the home button or turn off the screen. But why does it happen in the first place?
While unintentional tapping happens on every phone, the Galaxy S10 phones’ slimmer bezels leave less buffer room for your grip. This is in service of giving you more screen, but your hands still have to go somewhere. Samsung’s software is meant to resist accidental presses like this, but there’s only so much it can do.
The curved sides of the S10 and S10 Plus are beautiful, but those rounded edges tend to connect with your fingertips more easily. The straight-sided Galaxy S10E avoids this problem. Either way, a case might be your best defense once again.
No secure iris or face unlock
Something strange occurred with the Galaxy S10 phones. Samsung removed the iris scanner that it’s used since the Galaxy S7. This is a biometric feature that scans your eyeballs to unlock your phone and authorize mobile payments.
You might think this would happen because Samsung intended to switch out iris scanning for a secure face unlock system, like the iPhone X family’s Face ID. If that’s still the plan, it hasn’t happened yet. So if your fingerprint reader doesn’t work the first few times, you’ll need to fall back on a password, pattern or PIN.
No dedicated camera night mode
One of the best things about the Pixel 3 and Huawei’s P30 phones is that these Galaxy S10 rivals have a separate night mode on the camera.
Fire it up and you get some unbelievably clear, bright and detailed shots of otherwise dark scenes. It takes about 5 seconds to process, so you won’t take every picture this way. When you do, you can achieve a level of photography that’d be previously difficult to reach without keeping the phone absolutely still on a tripod.
The fact that the Galaxy S10 phones don’t have this doesn’t make them bad by any means. But it’s a missed opportunity that opens the door for other brands to pass Samsung in low-light photography.
And in case you’re wondering, the answer to the question above is that the S10 Plus is on the right.
In-screen fingerprint reader is hit or miss
My biggest disappointment so far is the in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, or FPS as it’s often called, in the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. The S10E uses a different reader that I’ll talk about below.
Some of that letdown stems from the fact that I was so excited about it in the first place.
Using Qualcomm’s technology, the ultrasonic FPS uses sound waves to capture details of your print. It’s meant to quickly work through water and grease, and claims to have higher security than the alternative optical reader, which essentially takes a photo of your print.
But even after two software updates I get more rejected reads than not. I can always get into my Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus review unit, but I do use my backup PIN a lot more often than I expected and it doesn’t appear to work very well after I wash my hands or pop finger food into my mouth.
It’s still not too late for Samsung or Qualcomm, or perhaps the two working together, to fix this. A future software push could potentially improve this fingerprint reader’s accuracy.
The Galaxy S10E’s fingerprint reader, on the other hand, is integrated into the power button and unlocks the phone much more often on the first try.
Bonus round: What about the hole-punch selfie camera?
The placement of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 camera is hotly debated. The Infinity-O display leaves a cutout for the front-facing camera lens in the top right corner of the screen, a look some find unattractive and others have embraced with clever wallpapers that.
Personally, I love the wallpaper creativity and most of the time the hole punch doesn’t distract me, even on the S10 Plus, which has a larger cutout for two cameras rather than one. I’m also not one to be enraged by an eyebrow notch. Phone brands are still working through the best way to balance an uninterrupted screen with the need for front-facing cameras.
Originally published April 1.
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