Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is the most expensive of the all-new Galaxy S10 range. Like previous Plus entries in the Galaxy S series it has a larger screen, better camera, and higher price tag.
It supplants the Galaxy S9 Plus, which we heralded as the “best phone Samsung offers” in our review last year, and brings a glut of new features including an Infinity-O display, ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, rear-mounted triple-camera, and wireless power-sharing, to name a few.
The Galaxy S10 Plus is brimming with new features. And has a price tag to match. Samsung’s productivity-focused Galaxy Note 9 made waves when it launched in August last year with a £999 sticker price, but that's nothing compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. Although the Galaxy S10 Plus starts at a comparatively reasonable £899 price for the 128GB model, that rises to £1,099 for 512GB, and spirals to an eye-watering £1,399 for the maxed-out model with 12GB of RAM and 1TB of built-in storage. The latter, which can be combined with a 512GB MicroSD card so you’re carrying more storage in your pocket than most high-end laptops, is referred to as the "Ultimate Performance Edition" by Samsung which seems like a fitting description for a smartphone with such beefy specs.
So, is it worth it? Read our in-depth Galaxy S10 review to find out …
SAMSUNG S10 PLUS REVIEW: SCREEN AND HARDWARE
The Galaxy S10 Plus marks the tenth anniversary of the hugely-successful Galaxy S. Since the launch of the Galaxy S in June 2010, Samsung has moved from a 4-inch AMOLED display, plastic case, and 5MP rear camera to a 6.4-inch curved AMOLED with an embedded fingerprint scanner, glass and aluminium case, rear-mounted triple-camera and dual-selfie cameras.
Appropriately, the Galaxy S10 Plus feels like a culmination of everything Samsung has achieved over the last decade. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which looks like the first, tentative step in the next decade of innovation, the Galaxy S10 Plus feels more predictable, but more refined.
If you’ve owned any Samsung flagship phone launched since the Galaxy S6 Edge in March 2015 then you’ll know what to expect with the Galaxy S10. The hardware feels incredibly well-built. The curvaceous front and back glass feels solid in the hand and while the aluminium band doesn’t have quite the same premium heft as the stainless steel on the similarly-priced iPhone XS, that’s a tiny nitpick in an otherwise outstanding piece of hardware. Although Google Pixel handsets price-match the Galaxy range, they can’t hold a candle to Samsung in terms of build quality.
The first thing you notice about the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is the expansive 6.4-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display. Although there is a small bezel around the display, it really feels like the screen fills every available corner of the handset.
The 6.4-inch panel isn’t too much of a step-up from the 6.2-inch screen on the Galaxy S9 Plus, but does mean the Galaxy S10 Plus matches the Note 9. Until now, Samsung has always used its Galaxy Note series to offer customers more screen real estate in the name of productivity, so the Galaxy S10 marks an intriguing shift for the South Korean company.
Size aside, the OLED panel on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is absolutely stunning. It’s bright, with gorgeous colours and cavernous blacks. It’s a genuine joy to behold. It’s a delight to gorge on a boxset during your commute on that astonishing screen.
Samsung offers two settings for the display – Vivid and Natural. The latter is the default and is a little more subdued than some of the previous entries in the Galaxy S series. As the name suggests, setting the display to Vivid cranks up everything until the colours are zingy and oversaturated. It’s an acquired taste, and we’d firmly recommend turning it off.
Despite its pocket-stretching screen size, the Galaxy S10 Plus is physically smaller than its predecessor – 157.6mm vs 158.1mm, for all you stat-hounds. Clearly, you don't need to be a member of the Magic Circle to work out the secret behind this trick is Samsung’s all-new Infinity-O display, which rehouses the front-facing selfie camera – typically found in the bezel above the screen – into a small hole-punch in the top right-hand corner of the panel. The proximity and ambient light sensors are also embedded underneath the screen.
Although Samsung debuted the Infinity-O design with the mid-range Galaxy A8s, this is the first handset to use the design with a Quad HD+ AMOLED panel.
The new display design does an outstanding job of making a smartphone with a 6.4-inch screen feel manageable in the hand. The dual-curved edges mean the Galaxy S10 Plus isn’t as wide as rivals like the iPhone XS Max, so typing one-handed while juggling a takeaway coffee isn’t impossible, although it does take some practice. However, the Infinity-O isn’t the prettiest design and does take some getting used to. Samsung does a pretty good job of obscuring the hole-punch camera with some aggressive shading in the top right-hand corner of its preinstalled wallpapers.
However, when you’re presented with a bright white screen – like every time you launch the Messages app – the pill-shaped cut-out for the dual front-facing is a real cycloptic eyesore. It also means the battery life, WiFi, and 4G signal icons are shifted into an asymmetrical position close to the centre of the screen, which looks pretty awful.
Samsung has publicly mocked rival smartphone manufacturers for including a notched display in their smartphones to house the selfie camera, speaker and sensors in an all-screen design – we’d take the design of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro or OnePlus 6T any day over the off-centre lanyard cut-out sitting at the top of the otherwise gorgeous Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10 PLUS REVIEW: CAMERA
What the dual selfie cameras on the new Samsung flagship lack in beauty, they more than make up for with functionality. The Galaxy S10 Plus, which is the only model in the S10 range with dual front-facing cameras, is the only device capable of shooting Live Focus selfies. These photographs add an adjustable, artificial bokeh-style blur to the background behind the subject.
While this is commonplace on almost all flagship smartphones, Samsung has added a number of extra effects to its Live Focus feature this year. “Colour Point” turns the background greyscale so that only the subject is left in colour, while “Zoom Bokeh” and “Spin Bokeh” make it look like you’re racing towards the camera or speeding around on a roundabout, respectively.
“Colour Point” is easily our favourite and produces some really nice shots – even with our admittedly clumsy selfie skills. “Zoom Bokeh” and “Spin Bokeh” could make for a fun Instagram post, but won’t be anything we’ll be going back to after an initial snap.
Samsung deserves some praise for trying something completely original and not blindly copying the Portrait Lighting feature introduced with the iPhone XS as so many Android manufacturers have done (here's looking at you OnePlus and Honor). The new Live Focus modes produce usable shots more reliably than Portrait Lighting, too.
And if wacky effects and bokeh aren’t your bag, you’ll be pleased to know the standard selfies on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus camera look great. While the photos aren’t quite as sharp and detail-packed as those shot on the rival Google Pixel 3, we don’t necessarily feel the need to see each individual hair and pore – so are perfectly happy with the results from the Galaxy S10 Plus.
Flip over the Galaxy S10 Plus and you’ll find the new triple-camera. This new rear-mounted system includes a 12MP wide-angle camera with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and a variable aperture that can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4. It’s the same system introduced with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus last year and still works just as well. Although the variable aperture on the S10 Plus doesn’t work quite as well as the latest software solutions, like Night Sight on the Google Pixel 3 which picks out details and colours barely visible with the human eye in darkness.
Alongside the main camera, you’ll find a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor and a 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.4. Using the new triple-camera, Samsung has enabled 0.5x wide-angle shots, the same as those seen on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, as well as 2x optical zoom. Both new modes are a cinch to access thanks to a small pop-up that appears in the default camera mode (tap the icon of the forest to zoom out, and the icon of the leaf to zoom-in). While Samsung once had an – admittedly, well-earned – reputation for saddling its smartphones with gimmicky features that you'd never use after the demo on the shop floor, but these new additions are genuinely useful.
In particular the ultra-wide can produce some really striking photos. The 0.5x zoom is also incredibly useful when trying to take photographs of skyscrapers and architecture that would normally require you to retreat to the other side of the road to fit into the viewfinder. The 2x optical zoom is likely to be popular with those who take photos at concerts and want to give the impression they were in the front row, whilst simultaneously avoiding the squeeze.
Those who are worried that Samsung has neglected to add any superfluous features into the Galaxy S10 Plus – don’t panic! The all-new Shot Suggestions feature is a gimmicky new addition that uses AI to suggest the best composition for whatever you’re lining up in the viewfinder. Samsung adds a spirit-level line that cuts across the entire screen, which is pretty useful, but there’s also a dot that Samsung believes should be in the centre of the shot. Samsung says it has analysed 100 million high-quality photos to create the rules used by Shot Suggestions, but it seemed to basically boil down to the simple rule-of-thirds and always wanting Wes Anderson-esque straight angles everywhere. Thankfully, it’s not switched on by default.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10 PLUS REVIEW: ULTRASONIC FINGERPRINT SCANNER
With the Galaxy S10 Plus, Samsung has finally ditched the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, which will be music to the ears of anyone still using the Galaxy S8 Plus and its teeth-grindingly finicky sensor placed beside the camera lens. Instead, the biometric sensor is now found underneath the AMOLED display. We have always preferred front-facing fingerprint scanners – not least because it means you can unlock the phone and authenticate secure apps when the handset is resting on your desk or charging without having to pick it up.
Unlike the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T, which use an optical in-display fingerprint scanner, Samsung has opted for an ultrasonic sensor – the first to do in a smartphone. The Seoul-based company claims its ultrasonic scanner is more reliable than rival solutions since it uses soundwaves instead of light, which means it can continue to work in tough weather conditions, including heavy rain. Samsung says it’s more secure than optical scanners since it’s capable of recording every single ridge on your fingertip.
While we can’t vouch for exactly how many of the ridges in our fingerprint the ultrasonic scanner managed to record, Samsung’s claims about the ultrasonic sensor working in a downfall is absolutely not hyperbole. Unlike previous Galaxy S handsets, the fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S10 doesn’t even break a sweat when the glass is wet, meaning you’ll be able to unlock the handset when you’re in the middle of the washing-up, working out in the gym, or clammy handed walking to a job interview without issue.
That’s not to say the ultrasonic scanner is infallible though. Samsung highlights the area of the screen above the sensor with a fingerprint icon. However, you have to be fairly precise with the placement of your digit.
Absent-mindedly pulling out the phone and trying to unlock it while navigating pavements bustling with weekend shoppers lead to the phone telling us to “cover the entire fingerprint sensor” a fair few times.
Overall, we’ve been impressed with the new ultrasonic and prefer it to the small physical sensors nestled next to the cameras on the last two generations of Galaxy S smartphones.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10 PLUS REVIEW: SOFTWARE, BATTERY, AND OTHER FEATURES
The Galaxy S10 Plus runs the phenomenal, Samsung-designed One UI mobile operating system, which is based on Android 9.0 Pie. In the past, the words “phenomenal” and “Samsung-designed mobile operating system” would never have been found in the same sentence – but the South Korean company has really pulled it out of the bag with its latest reimagining of Android.
The new mobile software acknowledges that while we all want massive screens on our smartphones, massive smartphones are annoying to use, especially one-handed while walking or squished into the carriage of a train a morning commute. To solve the headache of using an expansive 6.4-inch display, One UI shifts all the elements of the user interface that you’ll actually need to tap into the lower-third of the touchscreen where they are within easy reach.
It’s a bit like the Reachability feature that Apple introduced a few years back, which temporarily drops the entire screen into the lower-half of the display, but applied across an entire user interface. Even swiping on the notification shade drops the quick action toggles far enough down the display that you won’t need to perform thumb-gymnastics to hit the right icon.
Samsung fills the top of the display with comically-large menu titles. When you first pick up the Galaxy S10 Plus, it looks very odd. But as soon as you start using the 6.4-inch smartphone, it all makes sense. For those accustomed to the TouchWiz operating system that powered older Galaxy S handsets, One UI is going to take some serious getting used to. But it’s worth it.
Not everything about One UI is perfect. Some of the default Samsung application icons are a little gaudy, and there are still some duplicates between Samsung and Google apps – why do I need two stores and two calendars? There’s also a question mark over whether Samsung will keep One UI updated as quickly as rivals like Motorola and OnePlus, which just about keep pace with Google and its Pixel-branded smartphone when it comes to Android OS updates and security patches. Until now, Samsung has always dragged its feet, but fingers crossed that changes with its new-look software.
Fuelling the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is a 4,100mAh battery cell. For comparison, that’s bigger than the battery in the Galaxy Note 9, despite its larger footprint. In our time with the Galaxy S10 Plus that mammoth battery was more than enough to keep the device powering through a full-day of heavy usage. With some restraint, it’s easy to eke out a day and a half between charges.
That extra battery comes in handy thanks to a new feature called Wireless PowerShare that allows owners to top-up any device capable of wireless charging using the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. The new feature is enabled in the settings, then you simply flip over the phone and place any Qi-compatible gadget on the case to start charging. If that sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because Huawei first introduced this feature with the Mate 20 Pro last year. Wireless PowerShare on the Galaxy S10 Plus is a little finicky to find the exact spot on the uniform glass case to activate the charge, but after a few tries we got pretty good at locating it.
Granted, Wireless PowerShare is not going to be the feature that pushes you to upgrade from an older Galaxy S model, but it’s a handy addition and means you can help-out a friend in need who has forgotten to pack an external battery pack and USB charging cable on a night-out. It also works phenomenally well with the Galaxy Buds – the new AirPod rivalling Gear IconX successors announced alongside the S10. You can place these on the back of the Galaxy S10 Plus while it’s on charge to refuel both gadgets with a single USB-C cable – useful it you want to travel light.
Contrary to the rumours in the months ahead of the launch of the Galaxy S10 Plus, the 3.5mm headphone port remains intact so there’s no need to throw-out your wired cans or cough-up for a 3.5mm-to-USB-C dongle. Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S10 Plus is rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, which means it’ll withstand a swim in 1.5metres of water for half an hour.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S10 PLUS REVIEW: VERDICT
The Galaxy S10 Plus boasts the same premium build quality and stunning fit-and-finish we've come to expect from Samsung, but now sports a bigger display, bigger battery and faster internals. There’s also new camera features you won’t find on anywhere else in the Galaxy S10 range and while some are undeniably gimmicky, others are decidedly not.
If you’re looking for the ultimate Samsung Galaxy S10, look no further. But if you’ve never been a fan of mammoth smartphone displays, the new Infinity-O display and new One UI software tweak probably aren’t enough to convince you to reconsider.
• Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus starts from £899 and is available in Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Green, Prism Blue, Ceramic White, and Ceramic Black
• The Galaxy S10 range launches worldwide on March 8, 2019