Samsung's three S10 phones — the Galaxy S10E, Galaxy S10 Plus and the standard Galaxy S10 — are excellent overall. I love the screens, the design and the overall camera photography. You can read my ode to the Galaxy S10's five best features 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. Huawei's P30 Pro, 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 Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 (or whatever it'll be called), respectively.
Even before those premium rivals emerge, Samsung's Galaxy S10 family will have to face rivals from within their own ranks, like the Galaxy S10 5G and other 5G phones, and the Galaxy Fold, plus other foldable designs. 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.
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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
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.
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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.