Samsung Galaxy S10
There's a 'hole' new look about Samsung's Galaxy S10.
The camera on Samsung's new flagship smartphone literally punches right through the screen, doing away with the need for borders, notches or other weird cutouts. There's a fingerprint reader in the screen, too, hidden behind the pixels. Flip the screen over and it becomes a wireless charging station for headphones - or a friend's dying phone battery.
The new details for the Galaxy Fold, its flip phone that opens up to the size of a 7.3-inch tablet. It arrives in April for an eyebrow-raising $1,980 (roughly Rs. 1.4 lakhs).
But in the meantime, the S10 succeeds at making a statement. Samsung hasn't ever had Apple's luxury sensibility, even though this year's model is available in high-end ceramic finishes at prices well over $1,000. Samsung's advantage is hardware engineering - doing awesomely strange things with screens and squeezing more tech into less space.
That punch-hole screen is a statement: Look what we can do. Many phones now have two cameras on the back, so the S10 comes with up to four. The S10 packs more processing power than some gaming laptops. And its battery weighs in at up to 4,500 mAh, one of the largest I've seen in a flagship phone.
The question is whether any of these hardware evolutions are enough to reignite a smartphone market that's as mature as a Friends rerun. People are holding on to phones for three, four or five years now, and with good reason. Old Samsung and Apple phones hold up pretty well, and the tech giants haven't done a great job of addressing more fundamental concerns, like uncrackable screens and distracting, privacy-invading software.
Come April, the Galaxy Fold promises to offer a phone that's both more comfortable to carry, and offers a big surface to watch video or do work. It's a technological accomplishment, but it has challenges as a product. Apps from Google, Microsoft and others have been tweaked to let you start on the smaller exterior display and open up into tablet mode to continue working. That interior screen also lets you run up to three apps at once.
Samsung's biggest innovations are in the screen. Forget the notch that Apple uses to hide front cameras - Samsung laser cut circles for its front-facing cameras. The usable screen goes pretty much all the way to the edge on all four sides, so Samsung can finally declare victory in its decade-long war on phone bezels.
The biggest reason to celebrate is the triumphant return of the fingerprint reader. To go for a full-screen design, Samsung banished the reader to the back of the phone in 2017; Apple got rid of it entirely for FaceID. But on the S10 and S10 +, the fingerprint reader comes back on front where it belongs, buried inside the screen with no visible button. Samsung's Chinese rivals did this trick first, but Samsung's version uses some ultrasonic tech that should be more reliable. (Just note, if you like screen protectors, you'll need a special compatible one.)
Apple and Samsung fans with undoubtedly bicker over whether a fingerprint reader or Face ID is a superior way to unlock a phone. I conducted a few unlocking duels, and it was a tie.
For everyone not interested in spending $2,000 on a smartphone, Samsung's strategy is making S10 at many sizes, and prices. There are enough variations to overwhelm Goldilocks:
- The S10e is the $750 entry-level option, priced to compete with Apple's iPhone XR. It measures 5.8 inches on the diagonal, and cuts a few corners such as a fingerprint reader that's built into the side power button.
- The S10 is the $900 (roughly Rs. 64,000) standard option, measuring 6.1 inches and comes with three back cameras. (More on them below.)
- The S10 + costs $1,000,and measures 6.4 inches. It adds a second front-facing camera.
- The S10 5G measures 6.7 inches, supports next-generation networks (that have yet to arrive most places) and adds a fourth camera on the back. Its price hasn't been announced and it won't arrive until some point later in the year.
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