More than ever, Samsung’s position as the world’s top phone-maker is in peril. Slow phone sales are troublesome enough, but increased pressure from China’s Huawei, which ousted Apple to take the No. 2 slot, should cause alarm within Samsung’s ranks.
Although Huawei phones are no longer sold in the US amid the government’s security concerns, the phone-maker has increased global sales without America’s help, and has released state-of-the-art phones like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Samsung needs to counter Huawei’s advance with everything it’s got.
Rumors paint a picture of the Galaxy S10 as a series of three phones packed to the gills with the biggest mobile trends. Here’s what we think we know about the upcoming S10.
The Galaxy S10 is not the same as the Galaxy X
The Galaxy X is one rumored name for Samsung’s foldable phone, and as far as we know, it and the Galaxy S10 are separate devices. This makes perfect sense. The Galaxy S is a tried and true phone series, and Samsung wouldn’t miss an enormous opportunity to crow about a special 10th anniversary edition.
Meanwhile, a foldable phone is an untested concept that’s just getting its footing. As of today, there’s one foldable phone on the market, the Royole FlexPai, and a lot of intentions from Huawei, LG and others. Samsung and other phone-makers will want to tread cautiously to see how buyers respond before bringing a foldable design into the mainstream Galaxy S lineup.
Plus, if you believe the rumors, the Galaxy S10 code name is “Beyond.” The Galaxy X reportedly has the moniker of “Winner.”
Galaxy S10 might come in 5G, Plus, budget models
The Galaxy S10 is rumored to come in three configurations:
- A standard model about the same size as today’s Galaxy S9, but with even slimmer bezels.
- A larger Plus variant like the Galaxy S9 Plus.
- A budget version modeled on the iPhone XR that has fewer hardware embellishments, like straight edges instead of the two curved sides, and no fancy in-screen fingerprint reader (more on that below). There’s also a suggestion the budget Galaxy S10 could lose the headphone jack.
The rumors suggest that the Plus version (said to be code-named “Beyond X”) will have 5G capabilities, most likely as a way to differentiate the device other than its size. The current Galaxy S9 Plus, for example, has two rear cameras while the standard S9 has one.
Don’t hold your breath for the Galaxy S10 to be Samsung’s first 5G phone. Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told Korean reporters in November that a separate device launching in March on Korean carriers will be its first 5G phone instead. (Here’s what you need to know about 5G on phones.)
Six cameras for the Galaxy S10?
Fours cameras will adorn the back of the Galaxy S10, according to one report, and two will sit up front. Multiple rear cameras have the ability to offer more zoom options, more fine detail (especially if one camera is monochrome), and depth mapping for portrait mode (the “bokeh effect”) and AR.
The rumor is further bolstered by the existence of the Galaxy A9, a phone with four rear cameras that Samsung announced in October for Asian markets. Samsung could be using the A9 as a testbed for the design and software, before implementing refinements in the all-important Galaxy S10. However, frequent Twitter leaker Evan Blass has suggested there will be three rear cameras on the Galaxy S10, not four.
Galaxy S10 Plus could have a 6.7-inch screen… and what about a notch?
We could see the larger S10 Plus sized with a 6.7-inch screen, according to one rumor. To achieve such a large screen, Samsung could shrink the bezels further could potentially expand the usable screen space without increasing the size of the phone.
At this point, a screen notch — where the screen divots to make room for a front-facing camera and other sensors — seems inevitable. Samsung even showed off notched screen styles for its Infinity Display at its developer conference in November, the Infinity-U (a U-shaped notch), Infinity V (you guessed it, a V-shaped notch) and Infinity-O (like someone took a hole punch to the corner of the screen).
Samsung is clearly ready to embrace the design in the name of screen edges that stretch clear to the phone’s shoulders.
The selfie camera could peer out of a punch-hole screen design
So which notch would the Galaxy S10 use? Evan Blass says it’s the Infinity-O, with a hole punched out of it for at least one camera lens. Fellow Twitter leaker Ice Universe also supports the theory with an image of a screen that could be the Infinity-O.
Will the Galaxy S10 toss out the iris scanner and finally get 3D ‘Face ID’?
When the Galaxy S9 first arrived, we were disappointed it didn’t use secure 3D depth-mapping technology to unlock the phone like the iPhone’s Face ID. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip inside the S9 supports mapping with 50,000 infrared dots, compared to Apple’s 30,000 infrared dots. Instead, the Galaxy S9 retained Samsung’s secure iris unlocking and unsecure face unlock, the latter a staple on Android phones.
Now might be the time for Samsung to step up its face unlocking game. Rumors point to both the Galaxy S10 losing the iris scanner and gaining a rival to Face ID.
In addition to unlocking the phone securely with a face scan, a depth mapping selfie cam could enable better AR apps and effects, like the disastrously creepy AR Emoji, a rival that predated Apple’s much more skillfully executed Memoji.
Fingerprint sensor should be in-screen and ‘ultrasonic’
In-screen fingerprint sensors are ramping up as a must-have feature in high-end phones. The OnePlus 6T beat Samsung to become the first US carrier phone to have one. But rumors reaching as far back as the Galaxy S9 have pegged the feature for a Galaxy.
Not only will the Galaxy S10 reportedly get an in-screen fingerprint sensor, it will apparently also use ultrasonic technology, which uses sound to capture the ridges and valleys of your unique fingerprint in order to unlock the phone. We’ve seen this technology under development for years — the video below shows it in action.
The Galaxy S10 will run Samsung’s One UI interface on top of Android 9
Samsung confirmed to CNET that all future phones, including the foldable phone, will use the new One UI interface that Samsung unveiled at its November Developer Conference. The One UI interface design declutters the current Samsung Experience and tries to group icons for easier one-handed use. It’ll work with Android Pie, version 9 of Google’s mobile software, but not with earlier versions of Android.
Possible February launch and a March release date?
Samsung typically announces Galaxy S phones in the last days of February at the annual Mobile World Congress, or within the weeks following. However, the foldable Galaxy X is also rumored to appear in March.
I’m skeptical of Samsung announcing both phones at the same time. A foldable phone would quickly overshadow the Galaxy S10. Based on Samsung’s release patterns, an MWC reveal of the Galaxy S10 makes sense, with a teaser video for a Galaxy X launch event held later in March in New York. Samsung could have a busy spring.
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