The Galaxy S10+ is a pragmatic, practical and nearly perfect phone

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Mon March 4, 2019

Story highlights

  • The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is available for preorder now starting at $999.

Samsung is excitingly celebrating 10 years of Galaxy smartphones with the S10e, S10 and S10+. And today we're bringing you our review of the Galaxy S10+, the biggest and most flagship of the latest devices. It's not the cheapest with a starting price of $999, but it's a practically perfect smartphone.

Ultimately, we have to realize that it's 2019 and that pretty much all the flagship devices are on the same level. In years past, Samsung has battled between hardware and software, and this year, the company has a better handle on all of it. None of the features feel like gimmicks or impressive efforts that fall short. There's now a fingerprint sensor in the display which makes it easy to unlock the device and you have three cameras on the back to help snap a great shot.

Screenwise, you get a very vibrant and impressive Super AMOLED, and Samsung once again found a way to avoid the notch. While all of this sounds repetitive and standard, Samsung has managed to package it quite nicely. Let's dive into the Galaxy S10+.

In-screen fingerprint scanner, 'Infinity-O' display

Samsung's always had a great display and AMOLEDs were the ones to beat, but the company is mixing things up this year. The S10+ has a 6.4-inch quad HD+ curved dynamic AMOLED. The difference is the two cameras lenses in the top right-hand corner.

All the S10s have a hole punch display, or as Samsung calls it, the "Infinity-O" display. Instead of a notch, you get one or two laser cut camera lenses. It's a proprietary process and doesn't interfere with extending the display nearly to the edges. The center is clean and the top bar is pushed to the left a bit. Things like your cell signal, battery level and sound preferences are slightly moved over.

Like the notch on iPhones, it goes away after a few days of use. Moreover, in time applications will update to correct it, if on the off chance the camera is blocking something important. It's a unique approach, it doesn't contain face-scanning tech, but it does take great photos.

The significant change is an embedded ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. About an inch up from the bottom of the display is the integrated scanner, and it displays as a fingerprint graphic. Setting it up is pretty simple: You place your finger on it and push it down until you feel a few vibrations. While the S10+ will tell you to set it straight, it's essential to use this in a more comfortable and natural position. You'll want the scanner to catch the sides and all aspects of your fingerprint so that you can access it quickly and smoothly.

In my testing, it takes a second or two to unlock, which is a bit slower than Face ID on an iPhone XS Max and previous Android devices that use physical fingerprints. I received one over the air update during my review period that sped up the process (This will be pre-installed on consumer ordered phones.). Samsung is also pre-installing a screen protector on the S10+ (and S10) as not all protectors are equal since they need to work with the fingerprint scanning tech.

The fingerprint scanner isn't a gimmick. It's a useful feature, one that will leave many people happy. It's certainly more accessible than the Iris scanner that Samsung previously used. Those familiar with previous Samsung devices will be impressed. This Curved AMOLED delivers accurate color reproduction in a classic ultra vibrant form. It uses similar technology to Samsung's flagship TVs and brings it down to a smaller size. The end results is accurate color reproduction, dark blacks that deliver clear contrast and the ability to get really bright.

Three cameras are better than two

The other big change for the S10+ is three rear-facing cameras. A 16-megapixel ultra wide lens, a 12-megapixel wide lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens. So you guessed it. All of them can work together or separately. It's similar to how the LG V40 handled it. The bottom of the camera app has three buttons representing a standard shot, a wide shot and 2X zoom shot. You can also scroll between them for the perfect distance.

It's a big upgrade and lets you carry a powerhouse of a camera in your pocket. While Samsung includes a plethora of extra modes like Pro, the S10+ is just as good in a quick shoot function. You won't need to make customizations on the fly to get a great shot. The S10+ is definitely in the same field as Google's Pixel 3 and Apple's iPhone XS when it comes to optics.

Each of these have their quirks, and Samsung still tends to overexpose and warm up the photo. Even with this, it still captures plenty of details. For the Instagram obsessed, you can also easily share to your core feed or the story function from within the camera or gallery app.

The only place it let me down was with low light shots, and even with additional intelligent software features working behind the scenes, it wasn't the strongest in dark environments. I much prefer results from an iPhone XS or the Pixel 3.

Intelligence shines much brighter with shot suggestions. These will appear as an overlay in the camera app and help you to correctly compose a shot. For instance, if you have freshly cooked pancakes on a table, it will suggest how to center the frame. Same goes for funny poses among friends and the oh-so-challenging action shots.

Unlike the S10 or S10e, the S10+ has two cameras on the front. A 10-megapixel selfie cam and an 8-megapixel RGB depth camera. Both of these working together allow you to capture wider and portrait shots, and as expected, performance is great.

Smooth performance in everyday use

As expected for a 2019 flagship, the Galaxy S10+ performs well. It would be quite shocking if it didn't. Samsung packed in the latest and greatest like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. Additionally, the base model is 128 GB of storage with 8 GB of RAM for processing. That's plenty. It also has a microSD card slot for storage expansion.

The Galaxy S10+ (and the other two) are running Samsung's One UI, which is a new approach that takes away many junk apps, cleans up the interface and makes it more colorful. You'll also notice the app icons are more prominent and the swipe-down setting bar is sleeker. Samsung also completely reorganized the settings app. I like the new One UI and think that previous and new Galaxy owners will enjoy the improvements.

If anything, it lets you dive into whatever you want to make the phone quicker. Although I was using an unlocked version, carrier variants will likely look slightly different and have more pre-loaded items.

Battery life on the S10+ is good as well. With lighter usage I was able to stretch it for two light days and one busy day that featured incoming photos, streaming, emails, texts and calls. This is expected and I have a feeling the 4,100 mAh battery will be plenty good for most users. It also has fast wireless charging through the included power brick and with eligible wireless chargers.

Oh, Samsung added the Wireless PowerShare, which lets you charge other devices like an iPhone or Galaxy Buds on the back of the S10+. It's a neat feature, albeit one that feels like a gimmick. Truth be told, you'll probably show it off more than find it useful, and a big reason for that is the fact that it's a slow charging experience.

You'll like the S10+

The Galaxy S10+ is a great phone. Samsung has checked the boxes for a what a phone needs to do and has done an excellent job of explaining the why to consumers. It feels like the first year that I can wholeheartedly recommend a Galaxy. Its price is justified.

You're getting a set of three rear cameras that perform well, an embedded fingerprint sensor in a vibrant and bright display and excellent performance. Just make sure you're good with a big phone since the S10+ has a 6.4-inch screen. Otherwise, you'll want to look at the S10, or more affordable S10e, that has fewer features.

Samsung is taking preorders for the Galaxy S10+ now and the device officially launches on March 8. It starts at $999 for 128GB, $1249 for 512GB and $1499 for 1TB. For those who can't live without iMessage or FaceTime I wouldn't recommend making the jump just yet. But for those who can live without it or who already have been, the Galaxy S10+ is an excellent device that certainly meets the hardware standards.

Either way, it's been a wild 10 years for the S10e, S10, and S10+. I'm happy with these three, but am eager to see where they go next.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.