Representing the tenth anniversary of the Galaxy line, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is not a radical reinvention of the smartphone. (That would be the flexible Galaxy Fold.) But Samsung’s new flagship is not lacking in innovation or ambition.

The S10 Plus is the world’s first phone with an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor built into Samsung’s new 6.4-inch Infinity-O display, and it’s also the first Galaxy S phone with five cameras, including an ultra-wide shooter on the back.

With Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 processor under the hood, this is the fastest Android yet. I also like the PowerShare feature that lets you use the back of the S10 Plus to wirelessly charge other phones and gadgets–and the epic 12.5 hours of battery life. Is all that worth $999? I’ll get to that here in a bit.

Before I dive completely into the review, let me start off by saying a huge THANK YOU to Verizon Wireless for always hooking me up with the latest mobile devices. They have sent me many devices over the last couple of years or so and this Samsung Galaxy S10+ came from them as well.

Galaxy S10 Plus Cheat Sheet: What You Need To Know

  • The in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor works well provided you press and hold your finger on the screen briefly instead of a quick tap.
  • The S10 Plus’ 4,100 mAh battery lasted an epic 12 hours and 35 minutes on our web surfing test, beating every major flagship phone in the last year.
  • The Infinity-O display looks great, but the two punch holes for the front cameras can be distracting. You can hide them if you want.
  • Wireless PowerShare lets you charge other phones using the back of the S10 Plus and Galaxy Buds.
  • This is the fastest Android phone yet, thanks to the Snapdragon 855 processor.
  • The new ultra-wide camera produces impressive results, but the Pixel 3 offers better image quality in low light.

Beautiful Device, Yet Very Slippery

Samsung is partial to glossy finishes that reflect light in unusual ways. My review unit is the 128GB version in Prism Black. Flamingo Pink, Canary Yellow, Prism Green and Prism Blue are bolder — there’s Prism White as well.

Right away I noticed that the S10 Plus has a tendency to slip out of hands and off surfaces, especially if they’re not perfectly level. It’s shot out from between my fingers numerous times, usually landing on a table or my lap. It also slid off my nightstand, a couch, a chair, but has emerged unscathed so far. I like to review phones the way they emerge from the box, but I’m going to want a case for this one.

What About That Notch?

The Galaxy S10 Plus has an Infinity-O “notch” that’s really a hole cut in the display to make room for two cameras. Its oval shape attracts more attention than the single lens of the Galaxy S10 and S10E, but I’m not really a stickler about notches anyway. 

More to the point is the feeling of having a large screen with slim bezels. Most of the time, it sort of blends into the background, not calling too much attention to itself. But when the screen is brightly lit, like with a white background, the asymmetry of a pill-shape cut-out becomes more noticeable. I wonder if the Infinity-U display, like the one Samsung put on the mid range Galaxy A50 and A30, would look better, though it’d also look more like an eyebrow-style notch than this. The solution to the all-screen dilemma may be out there yet.

The screen itself is gorgeous, with a 6.4-inch AMOLED display and 3,040 x 1,440-pixel resolution. Outdoor readability is fantastic. When I wake up in the middle of the night and read the phone to fall back asleep, the screen is actually too bright, even with the brightness turned low and the blue-light filter on. Heck, it’s even too bright using Android’s Wind Down mode that shifts colors to grayscale.

It’s All About One UI

There are two words to describe the One UI design: big and bubbly. Icons are large, flat circles that take a while to get used to since many of the designs have changed, from the color of the Gallery icon to the shape of the Galaxy Notes app. 

I mean it: these icons are huge. Using them on the home screen made me feel like a kid. I immediately switched to a smaller icon size (therefore, a larger app grid on the home screen) to fit in more of my go-to apps without digging through folders or swiping extra screens.

Even though I like my screen icons smaller, seeing the larger icons in the app drawer was fine — they are easier targets to hit. I also liked that some larger app menus and “cards” are easier to read without craning your neck or squinting. This is especially noticeable in Bixby Home, which you access by swiping to the left of the home screen.

Over the years I’ve not been a fan of Samsung’s TouchWiz or anything similar, but I can say now that things have greatly improved as far as looking at the device. Under the hood, things are slightly different, but that’s because I work for a very large Android app in the Google Play Store, Nova Launcher, and handling customer support I see how messy things are with their code and such. But that’s another article for another time.

Bixby Routines: I’m not a huge Bixby fan and I only call it up by accident, but Bixby Routines could change my mind. I was impressed with the IFTTT-like flexibility to set up routines, and the presets are easy enough for novices to get their feet wet. 

For example, I set up a morning routine that starts at 6 a.m. and turns on the Always-On display (yes, you can turn it off), surfaces specific lock screen shortcuts and turns off the blue-light filter I’ll turn on for a bedtime routine.

Gesture Navigation: Navigation buttons are turned on by default, but you can unlock even more screen space by turning on gesture navigation in the quick settings menu. Turn it on and the bottom of the display expands, leaving you with three horizontal dashes in place of the buttons. To navigate, you lightly flick up to use them (they “bounce” back down). It’s not a difficult adjustment, and it’s always nice to have alternatives.

Kids Home: There’s a new a mode in the notifications setting called Kids Home, which opens a parent-protected profile/walled garden for kids to take photos and download apps. Young kids, that is. Older ones would roll their eyes and scoff, then find out the password and change all your language settings.

What’s This Wireless PowerShare?

I love this feature, which will charge any other Qi-enabled device when you place it on the Galaxy S10’s back. Samsung isn’t the first to implement this, but it’s a real asset, especially for topping up accessories, or giving your friend’s phone a boost. Wireless charging isn’t as fast or efficient as wired charging, but this does allow you to leave more cables at home, especially for short jaunts. I can see a scenario where you charge your phone overnight and charge up a second device on top of it.

Your phone will automatically turn it off when your phone hits 30 percent. Since battery life is so good, that should be plenty to get you through the rest of your day. Note that Wireless PowerShare won’t work if you have under 30 percent battery life remaining.

Ultrasonic In-Screen Fingerprint Scanner

This is biometric security made easy. The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S10 Plus is embedded into the display and is easy to set up and use. Unlike Apple’s Face ID, you don’t have to stare at your phone and swipe up to unlock the device; you simply hold your finger on the designated area of the screen and—boom—you’re in.

Unlike the 2D optical fingerprint sensors found on other phones like the OnePlus 6T, the ultrasonic reader on the S10 Plus creates a 3D map of your finger, which is more secure. It’s also plenty fast, as I never waited more than a second to log in.

I did encounter a few false negative “No Match” messages during my initial testing. But I enjoyed much more consistent results once I remapped my finger and made sure to position my thumb from multiple angles during the registration process. Since then, I have logged in successfully almost every time. Sometimes, I get an alert that says “keep your finger on the sensor a little longer.” So it’s important to just press and hold briefly when unlocking the S10+.

I also tried unlocking the Galaxy S10+ with a wet finger; I ran my hand under the sink and then placed my thumb on the display and I unlocked the phone. The ultrasonic fingerprint reader even worked after I smushed some potato chip crumbs between my fingers.

The Galaxy S10+ offers facial recognition, but the default fast scanning mode makes it all too easy for someone to unlock with a photo or video of you, which we have confirmed in testing. We suggest that you toggle the fast scanning option off or simply use the fingerprint reader.

Time To Talk About The Camera

Testing a camera is a massive undertaking in itself, and Samsung has added a lot of elements. There are three cameras on the S10 Plus’ back (12-megapixel, 12-megapixel telephoto, 16-megapixel ultrawide-angle) and two on the front (10- and 8-megapixel, respectively). 

Photo quality is very good overall, but I have some complaints about low-light mode in a section below. We’ll have plenty of deep dive camera shootouts and comparisons in the coming days, but here’s my general assessment for now.

You can take a photo using any of the three lenses just by tapping the on-screen icon. I mainly shoot with the standard 12-megapixel lens, switching to the telephoto to go close up (2x) on a faraway detail, like the statue on top of a fountain, or to the ultrawide lens to fit more of my friends or the scene into the shot. Ultrawide angle has a 123-degree field of view, so it does distort the image slightly and you might notice that your friends look a little stretched.

Better Portrait Mode Shots: Called Live Focus, portrait mode photos get three more effects on the Galaxy S10+. In addition to the regular blur slider, you can also apply spot color, and effects called “Zoom” and “Spin.” Best yet, you can adjust the intensity of these effects before or after you take the shot, even switching to a different effect. There are still minor issues. Spot color doesn’t always work smoothly and flyaway hairs can still get blurred out in these portrait shots, but images are nice on the whole, and the effects can be striking. Unlike last year’s Galaxy S9, the S10+ only saves the Live Focus shot, not the portrait mode and standard photo.

Scene Optimizer: The S10’s camera AI can recognize 30 scenes and auto adjust settings to improve the pic. You can tap the on-screen control to turn it on and off, especially if you don’t like the preset result. Note that you won’t be able to use the dedicated night mode with scene optimizer turned off.

Shot Suggestions: This is a menu setting that will guide you to line up the shot and focus area, then automatically take the photo when it’s all aligned. I liked it when taking photos of buildings and street scenes, because it meant I didn’t have to hold the phone with one hand and press the shutter with the other. 

Other times, the feature took more photos than I wanted, or took them before I was ready. You have to keep going back into the menu to turn it on and off if you sometimes want more control. An on-screen toggle would make this much more convenient.

Quick GIF-Maker: If you change a camera setting, you can record a short GIF when you press and hold the shutter button. The playback isn’t totally smooth, and the quality isn’t as good as shaving a GIF from a video, but it’s easy to do and gets the point across for a quick tweet.

Instagram Mode: Samsung hasn’t pushed this out yet, but I did get a demo on the S10 5G. If you have an account, you can flip it on to use the same filters and post directly to Instagram without leaving the app.

Low Light Photos

Like last year’s Galaxy S9, all the S10 phones have a 12-megapixel dual aperture lens. That means the aperture automatically adjusts from f2.4 to f1.5, to let in more light. As a rule, more light = better photos. 

The S10 phones also get a new Bright Night Shot mode that aims to take clearer, brighter photos in very low light conditions. Unlike the Pixel 3’s Night Sight and the Huawei Mate 20’s dedicated nighttime mode, Bright Night Shot is integrated into the native camera and kicks itself into gear as long as Scene Optimizer is toggled on.

This difference isn’t enough to wave off most phone buyers, but you’re not going to win any low-light photography arguments with fervent fans of those other phones. 

While I like that it’s integrated, it also means you have less control over when the feature comes into play. The only indication it’s on is the tiny icon of a crescent moon, and maybe an on-screen tip to hold the camera steady a while longer. I had to work pretty hard to find conditions that brought me that crescent moon icon. Oftentimes, even in a very dark bar, the scene optimizer algorithm chose other settings, like people, architecture and so on.

When I finally got one that worked — a shot of some street lights, there was only one real difference between the two shots. With Scene Optimizer on, the street lights look starry.

In general, low-light photography isn’t getting the boost I really wanted. Most low-light performance is the same as on the Galaxy S9, and I’m really missing the dramatic results of Google and Huawei’s phones. It’s very clear in side-by-side comparisons that the S10’s shots are on average mushier than on those competitor phones. 

This difference isn’t enough to wave off most phone buyers, but you’re not going to win any low-light photography arguments with fervent fans of those other phones. 

Battery Life

Battery life is phenomenal on the Galaxy S10 Plus’ 4,100-mAh ticker. I’ve used the phone for long days of uploads, downloads, maps navigation and tethering to my laptop as a mobile hotspot, an activity that’s sure to suck much life out of my year-old Galaxy S9 Plus review phone. 

The S10 Plus kept me going from early morning to the small hours of the night, often with some reserves to spare. I never worried about running low, and that’s not something I could say about last year’s Galaxy S9 even when it was fresh out of the box. It also lasted an average of just over 21 hours in our looping video drain test in airplane mode, which is excellent. In comparison, the Pixel 3 lasted 15 hours, the Galaxy Note 9 went for roughly 19 and a half hours and the S9 Plus for about 17 hours. The iPhone XS Max went for 17 and a half hours.

It’s expected for battery life to shorten over time, so a year from now, you may need to rely on your charger more. But starting at a higher bar gives me hope that the S10 Plus’ power management will do well by you over a typical two-year lifespan, if not longer.

Performance on the S10 Plus is solid and seamless, using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor (some countries get the Galaxy Exynos 9820 chipset). Gameplay was nice and sensitive on my baseline testing game, Riptide Renegade — very detailed, and I didn’t suck as much as I usually do. I’m not the world’s best gamer, so I handed the phone to CNET editor Roger Cheng, who is. He gives the S10 Plus two thumbs up and said that the punch hole notch wasn’t as distracting as he thought it would be.

Galaxy S10 Plus Image 1

Final Thoughts

Last year I was pretty well impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ that Verizon Wireless had sent me. This year though, I feel the S10+ is much bigger improvement over last years model in so many ways.

The in-screen fingerprint scanner is certainly a winner in my books. While it’s still newer technology and currently it can be a bit slow, it’s first generation and this will likely improve considerably over the next couple of major Galaxy releases that we see.

Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S10+ is phenomenal to say the least. This is exactly how a mobile device battery should be.

Price is around what you would expect at $999.99 and to some that’s going to be super expensive. Today, it’s just where these devices are priced and it gets you what you pay for compared to those cheaper devices.

At Verizon Wireless however, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ will cost you $41.66 a month for the 128GB model so if you’re a customer of theirs or thinking about becoming one, that’s definitely something to look at when it comes to getting yourself a top of the line mobile device.

About the author

Cliff Wade

Founder and Chief Editor of TechDissected. I'm an avid Linux user, that's addicted to music, electronics, the internet, computers, Android, iOS and everything tech related! Rocking a Google Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max and several other devices that go beep. Lover of #Cheeseburgers #Android #Penguins #Tech and the #HoustonTexans. Gadgets and Gizmos are my specialty. Customer Suppport Specialist and Social Media Manager for TeslaCoilSW, the makers of Nova Launcher, Nova Launcher Prime and TeslaUnread. If you have any questions just ask as I'm always happy to help.