Hands-On, MWC 2019, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G Hands-On: We’re Not Ready for This Phone

MWC 2019 is now in full swing, so expect a lot of smartphone-related news – as well as hands-on – over the next few days. I was going through the MWC show floor when I saw one phone (to my surprise) was showcased at Samsung’s booth: the Galaxy S10 5G.

As its name suggests, this device is the only one in the Galaxy S10 series to come with 5G connectivity. While the S10 5G probably won’t be available in the majority of markets – the availability of 5G network is still very limited – it’s quite an interesting device with some distinct differences here and there.

But is the Galaxy S10 5G a phone worth getting excited over? Hardly, for a number of good reasons. Well, let’s get to it.

Like the other devices in the series, the Galaxy S10 5G is also powered by an Exynos 9820 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset (depending on the market) paired with 8GB of RAM. Besides that, it also has a 6.7-inch 1440p curved Dynamic AMOLED display, which is noticeably bigger than the S10+’s already sizeable 6.4-inch screen.

Oddly enough, the Galaxy S10 5G does not have a microSD card slot, so you’ll have to make do with the phone’s existing 256GB of internal storage. It’s still a large capacity, of course, but it’s an odd omission nonetheless.

Not surprisingly, the Galaxy S10 5G has the largest battery capacity in the series at 4,500mAh. However, it’s hard to say if this will directly translate to better battery life than, say, the Galaxy S10+ (4,100mAh cell). After all, it remains to be seen just how power-hungry 5G connectivity is.

If you think the Galaxy S10+’s triple camera system is plenty already, you’re in for a surprise: the S10 5G has four different shooter on the back. See, this phone has a similar camera configuration as the S10+, but it has an additional time-of-flight (ToF) sensor to capture depth information. This, in turn, gives the S10 5G better augmented reality performance, among other things.

Oh, the phone’s front-facing camera is different too. Complementing the existing 10MP selfie camera is another ToF sensor.

Okay, with the S10 5G’s specifications out of the way, how is it like to hold? Well, to my surprise, it feels…not as premium as I would’ve thought. Now, the back of the phone still has a nice, pearlescent finish, but it feels a lot like plastic. This is in stark contrast to the other Galaxy S10 devices with rear glass panels.

I was very intrigued with the build material of the S10 5G’s back panel, and when I asked a Samsung spokesperson about it, he said he cannot comment on this. Obviously, I’m even more convinced now it is made of plastic.

Sporting a 6.7-inch display, the Galaxy S10 5G is unmistakably a large smartphone. I wouldn’t say it’s unwieldy, but it’s not the most ergonomically friendly device either. Reaching for the top of the display with one hand is nigh impossible, and trying to tap on the navigation buttons (especially the farthest one) with my thumb is equally challenging.

What about the camera system? I reckon the S10 5G will have very similar – if not identical – camera performance as the Galaxy S10 and S10+. I’m excluding the S10e simply because it doesn’t have a telephoto sensor.

The only meaningful difference between the S10 5G’s camera system and the S10 is the former’s ToF sensors on the front and back, which may (keyword: may) offer slightly better camera performance. As the ToF sensors capture depth information, it will only come in handy if you’re taking portrait shots with bokeh effects.

Basically, you’re looking at marginally better camera performance – at best.

So what makes the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G a “better” device than the rest of the S10 phones? It doesn’t feel as premium, it may be too large for most users’ liking, and it has similar, if not identical camera performance as the Galaxy S10 and S10+.

Well. It’s 5G capability. That’s it. That’s what makes the S10 5G a more compelling device than the rest of the S10 phones. On paper, it’s a legitimate advantage. Not only can you play cloud games with almost no latency, it will be possible to make video calls in 4K quality.

But as impressive as these may be, 5G connectivity is not widely available yet. As much as every phone maker is pushing for 5G technology, we’re simply not ready yet – it’s merely a spec race at this point in time. On top of that, it’s almost a given the S10 5G will carry a premium price tag.

If you don’t care about 5G-enabled smartphones, the rest of the Galaxy S10 smartphones would serve you better than the S10 5G. That is, until 5G connectivity is more widely available, which would make the phone a lot more relevant.