The Galaxy S10e is one of the more interesting announcements to come out of Samsung's Unpacked event. Not that it was a surprise, with rumors as far back as October signaling its existence. Nor is it actually that unexpected. Product prices are inflating, sales are slowing down and meaningful innovations are few and far between. But none of this is news. The most notable thing about the S10e is Samsung's acknowledgment that it's once again time to mix things up -- that the S10 and S10+ won't meet everyone's needs.
A similar scenario played out over at Apple last fall. If the S10 and S10+ are the equivalents of the iPhone XS and XS Max, then the S10e is the iPhone XR in this comparison. They represent compromise, while also being up-to-date enough to be the next best thing to an actual flagship, not that the definition is particularly clear these days. In the S10e's case, its shortcomings are fairly nominal. It lacks a third rear camera, for example, and the fancy ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader. It's also the smallest S10 of the lot with a 5.8-inch display.
Samsung says the "e" stands for "essential," in that it has all the essential, premium S10 features crammed into a more compact body. The word essential reads to me like "value" or "budget." Furthermore, I didn't think a smaller size was a big selling point anymore -- for reference, the S10 is only a bit larger than the S10e at 6.1 inches -- what with the 4-inch iPhone SE and circa 5-inch Sony Compact devices on indefinite hiatus. Also, remember Apple said it chose to size the XR at 6.1 inches, between the XS and XS Max, to give it the broadest appeal.
I imagine Samsung's marketeers are just doing their best, though. "Look, it's an S10 with a few features missing at a significantly cheaper price" probably wouldn't fly in a pitch meeting, even if that's the truth of the matter. And that is the reason the S10e exists, and the iPhone XR, too. I don't think it's even that we're becoming more price-conscious. When companies like Samsung and Apple begin making four-figure demands, you bet that's just naturally going to create a more price-sensitive public. At $750 for the S10e, of course plenty of people are going to prefer that number to the $900 starting price of the S10.