Launch around the a few days before the world's biggest mobile show was the ultimate movement of big dogs. Samsung celebrated the 10th anniversary of its flagship phone line by launching its latest device on Apple's sometimes bustling grounds at the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco.
The timing was less than ideal for all of us, jet lagged gadget critics, but the effect clearly paid off. Dozens of critics among the most famous in the world roam the streets of Barcelona with the S10 hand and Galaxy Buds listening. You can not pay for this kind of advertising.
And, of course, none of us wanted to test these new photo features in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
But the Galaxy's 10th anniversary comes at a time of transition for Samsung – and for the entire industry. In recent years, smart phone sales have hit a plateau for the first time since everyone began tracking these numbers, and big companies such as Samsung and Apple are not immune.
This kind of existential crisis has led to one of the most hectic congresses on the planet Mobile World, companies seeking to shake the slump of a stagnant market. This also led Samsung to open last week's Unpacked event with the Galaxy Fold – first the cryptic product video and then the product unveiling.
It's a hell of a lot ahead and, quite frankly, a recipe for disappointment. Here is a glimpse of the future. Let's talk about the present now. Several people saw that I was carrying a new Samsung device, were enthusiastic and were finally disappointed by the fact that I could not unfold the thing.
None of this is a reflection on the quality of the S10 as a device, which I would like to say is a great satisfaction. But unlike the iPhone X, Apple's 10th anniversary handset, the new Galaxy is not a radical departure attempt. Instead, it's the culmination of 10 years of phone development, with new tips.
The Galaxy S10 does not offer the same glimpse of the future as the Fold. But he firmly claims the best Android smartphone of the moment. Starting at $ 1,000, it will cost you a lot, but if you think about it, tomorrow's smartphones could do the trick for Samsung.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 + is my daily driver for a week now. He has joined me during an international road trip, through several product unveils of the competition and is responsible for all the images of this message. Sometimes the best camera is the one in your pocket, as the saying goes.
Like other flagship products from Samsung, it will be difficult to give up at the end of the evaluation process. It's a product that does a lot of things. As Samsung often does, it tends to tend as much as possible towards a product, as opposed to the approach of Apple's main competitor.
But in the case of the Galaxy line, everything is going very well. The S10 does not represent a radical stylistic break from its predecessor: it retains the same curved design language that allows the company to store many phones in a relatively small footprint, including a screen rate / body 93.4%. S10 +.
This means that you can hold the handset in one hand, despite the impressive screen size of 6.4 inches. This is partly due to the curved edges of the screen, which have been a trademark of Samsung for a few generations now. He also helped the Infinity-O design screen, a laser cut in the upper right corner of the screen, to install the front camera in as little space as possible. In the case of the S10 +, it looks more like an Infinity-OOO screen.
Samsung would have to yield sooner or later to the trend in cutting, choosing to continue and avoid the whole situation of the cut. The result is a largely unobtrusive cut on the screen. As a reminder, the phone's default wallpapers have increasingly dark gradients that obscure the unused cut.
But if the overall agreement without a screen is usually a good thing, there is a marked disadvantage. I happened to accidentally trigger contacts on the sides of the screen with the edge of the palm of my hand, especially when using the device with one hand. This problem has been known for some time, of course.
Oh, and there is another key aspect to help the S10 + go full screen.
Put your finger on it
Like many features, Samsung can not claim to be the first to own the fingerprint sensor under display. OnePlus, in a rare attempt to be the first on the market, added a similar technology to the 6T, which arrived last fall. But the Samsung app goes even further.
The S10 and all its variants are among the first to implement the fingerprint technology announced by Qualcomm at the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii last year. The main differentiator is an extra level of security. If the OnePlus fingerprint sensor looks like your standard face unlock, it's more like what you get on the latest iPhone or LG phone.
The ability to detect depth brings another layer of security to the product – literally. This is how Qualcomm describes it:
Combining smartphone display and fingerprint reader for seamless and elegant rendering, 3D Sonic uses advanced technology and acoustics (sound waves) to scan the user's finger pores for an extremely 3D image. precise. An ultra-thin (0.2mm) sensor allows for advanced formats, such as full-length glass-to-edge displays, and can be widely used with flexible OLED displays.
The configuration has proven a bit more complex than the standard physical fingerprint button. Once everything is set, the player is actually quite responsive: it records a wave animation and unlocks the phone in about a second.
Getting your finger / thumb in the right place can take a few tries at first, but after that, it's muscle memory. A small fingerprint guide also appears on the lock screen to help you. This can always be a little tricky when you are not looking directly at the display or moving from one hand to the other.
It is also worth noting that unlocking can be tricky with some screen protectors. Samsung will work with accessory manufacturers to design compatible ones, but choosing the wrong company could severely hamper the unlock function.
In some respects, however, the built-in fingerprint reader beats the unlocking of the face. I tend to put my device next to my keyboard when I work. Raising the phone to my eyes so I can read the notifications is a bit painful. It's the same when I have to check messages in bed. Here you can simply touch, view notifications and continue your life.
Ports in a storm
Around the edge is a group of mirrored metal that houses the power button on one side and the rocker volume and the dedicated Bixby button on the other. Yes, the Bixby button is back. And no, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Samsung is fully dedicated to the intelligent assistant and the company's mobile devices are the ones that Bixby currently orders.
The complaint about the Bixby button comes mainly from the fact that the assistant was, in all honesty, rather useless at launch – especially compared to the default Android wizard. In fact, when Google announced this week at Mobile World Congress the upcoming arrival of Assistant buttons on third-party devices, the news has generally been well received by the Android crowd.
Samsung, meanwhile, is fooled about the Bixby button, as if its inclusion was a way to impose its wizard on users. Again, Samsung has given way, giving users the ability to remap the button in order to launch specific apps instead. This has played over and over again with the latest Galaxy devices.
The fact is that after a relatively difficult start, Bixby slowly improves, function after feature. But the assistant has yet to catch up with the headset of Google and really does not give many reasons to choose the option offered by Android. Samsung has certainly made great promises lately, associated with the imminent arrival of the Galaxy Home Hub.
Of course, this device was announced more than six months ago and, on arrival, it will probably be prohibitively expensive. Beyond that, Bixby is currently the kingdom of Samsung refrigerators and washing machines. None of this fits with a particularly compelling strategy for a multi-million dollar AI offering that has become a kind of inside joke in the industry.
But Samsung is sticking to its weapons, for better or for worse. Sometimes it means Bixby, and sometimes it means you hang on to the headphone jack. It turns out that if you avoid a trend long enough, you can become a pioneer in your own way – or at least a respite from the delirious crowd.
It's been a few years since the beginning of the end came for the jack, and the whole thing still leaves a lot of users with a bitter taste. Even Google, once rebellious, gave way quickly and dropped the grip. Samsung, however, resisted and the decision paid off. What was ubiquitous now is a differentiator, and even if the company sells another pair of Bluetooth headphones, it stays here.
The back of the device, as well as the front, is covered with Gorilla Glass 6. The latest in Corning, which debuted during the summer, promises to survive 'until 39'. 15 drops. But do not try this at home with your new $ 1,000 Smartphone Smartphone, as your results may vary.
This hardware also facilitates the most compelling new feature of the device: Wireless PowerShare. Samsung is not the first company to offer this feature. Huawei introduced it on the Mate 20 Pro last year. Still, it's an interesting feature and, perhaps most importantly, it has beaten Apple in the foreground.
The feature must be activated manually, sliding down in the notifications (it will also turn off automatically when it is not used). From there, tap Wireless PowerShare to open a dialog box telling you that the feature is ready for us. Place the phone face down on a table and place a compatible phone on top, face up, and the S10 will go to work to charge it.
Placement can be a bit difficult to get the first few times. The trick is to make sure both devices are centered. Once everything is where it should be, you will hear a quick notification and the phone will register as supported. In the case of the new Galaxy Buds, the sound is accompanied by the lighting of the charging indicator of the case.
It's a nice feature, of course. I can certainly imagine lending a poorly prepared friend some juice at the bar one night. I would not like to throw my bank of power at the moment. On the one hand, one of the phones must be face-down all the time. On the other hand, the wireless charge is not as fast as its wired counterpart. Therefore, beyond the initial novelty of the feature, you may not use much of it.
And, of course, you are actively draining the battery from the power of sharing the phone. It's a bit like a Giving Tree scenario, but with the lowest stakes out there. Fortunately, the handsets all have rather robust batteries. In the case of the S10 +, it is a power of 4,100 mAh (the 5G model reaching 4,500 mAh).
It is clear that the warnings about battery induced by note 7 of Samsung were well behind, thanks to the numerous battery tests carried out by the company following a seemingly endless nightmare in public relations. As it stands, I was able to travel for a full day and two hours in standard use while walking the streets and halls of the Barcelona Congress Center. That means you should not have to worry about running out of energy at the end of the day – and you may even have some free bread before it's all over.
You already know the exercise, Samsung and Apple offer a new flagship smartphone, which quickly ranks at the top of the camera ranking of DxOMark. The cycle repeats itself once again – with one essential difference: it is a three-way tie.
[Left: Standard, Right: Full zoom]
In fact, the situation of the smartphone industry in 2019 is no better than this one. The latest iPhone, now half a year old, is now a favorite, with a tie for Samsung. The other two main devices are Huawei's two handsets. This is a record year for the Chinese handset manufacturer on a number of fronts and this must leave the apples and Samsung of the world a little nervous, in all and for all.
For now, there is a lot to like here … 109 points, actually. The latest generations of camera races have resulted in really well balanced camera equipment. It's a setup that makes it difficult to take bad pictures (difficult, but barely impossible, mind), with the combination of hardware and software / AI improvements we've seen over the past few devices.
The configuration of the camera varies from one device to another, so we will focus on the S10 + – the camera we spent last week with (although, of course, the 5G camera deserves its own writing). The plus model features a set of three horizontally oriented cameras in a configuration that has nothing more in mind than the original Microsoft Kinect.
[Left: Samsung S10+, Right: Pixel 2]
It's fascinating to see surveillance companies determine the best use of a multi-camera package. Take Nokia's new five-camera system, which essentially combines everything in a super-high-resolution shot. Here, however, the three lenses capture three different images. They are as follows:
Large (standard): 12 MP, 26mm
telephoto: 12 MP, 52mm
ultrawide: 16 MP, 12mm
The system is configured to allow you to seamlessly switch between lenses to capture a photo in a given situation. The telephoto lens can take two shots, while the ultra-flat takes 123-degree views. The 5G model, meanwhile, adds 3D cameras to the front and back, which is a pretty clear indication of the direction that Samsung plans to take from now on.
That said, the current configuration is still quite capable of performing interesting depth tricks. This is not better illustrated than by the Live Focus feature, which applies a Portrait style bokeh effect around the objects you choose. The effect is not perfect, but it's rather convincing. Above, a snapshot that I took in the MWC showroom and that I used in the lead role for a report on the HTC Vive.
There are also some fun tricks, like the Color Point effect above. I do not know how often I will use it, but hey, if it does not look cool.
All of this, combined with new keys such as widescreen panning and recent advances such as super slow motion and low light shooting, provide an extremely complete camera experience. Ditto for the identification of the scene, which allows to determine the differences between, for example, a salad and a tree, and adjust the shooting parameters accordingly.
Oh, and a quiet solid upgrade here are the improved AR Emojis, as seen above. They are 1000 times less scary than the originals. I mean, I'm still not going to share them with people without irony or anything, but certainly a step in the right direction.
The galaxy of today
The present moment is exciting for the mobile industry. There were glimmers of promise all over the MWC show and a week before at the Samsung event. A stagnant industry has led the major players to be creative and some long-promised technologies are about to become real.
The Samsung Fold gives the impression of taking a look at the future of one of the main players in the industry. It is therefore quite natural that such an ad removes a little wind in its veil.
The S10 is not the smartphone of the future. Instead, it's the culmination of 10 years of groundbreaking work on smartphones, making it one of the strongest mobile devices today.