"Intelligent" performance and battery
Samsung continues to borrow features from Huawei with something it calls Intelligent performance. The new flagships pack the Snapdragon 855 chipset, and over time it will learn which apps you tend to use and kill the ones you don't need running in the background. Much like the Mate 20 Pro, the S10 is also supposed to optimize the CPU and resources like RAM by preparing apps it predicts you'll use, speeding up launch times and leading to smoother performance overall. It will also allegedly allow the S10s to squeeze over 24 hours of life out of their batteries, but we'll believe it when we see it.
Another so-called intelligent feature is the new Bixby Routines, which Samsung believes can make your life easier by using contextual clues to pre-emptively launch apps and settings you need. For example, when you get into your car, Bixby could turn on Do Not Disturb and open up Waze or Spotify. But, since these routines only kick in after you've spent some time with the phone and Bixby learns a bit about your patterns, we couldn't test it during our preview.
There's plenty about the S10 and S10+ that we'll need to wait till a full review to check out -- like the new Wireless Powershare feature. It basically lets you turn the S10 into a wireless charging pad for Qi-compatible devices. This also works with the new Galaxy Buds, but be aware that if you use Powershare with a phone case on, it might introduce some friction there and affect the speed of your charge. It's worth noting that this is yet another feature that appears to be inspired by Huawei.
The S10s also run Samsung's new One UI -- an updated software overlay that's supposed to look cleaner and make big phones easier to use with one hand. Some of you with older Galaxy flagships like the S9 and Note 9 may already know what this looks like, and on the S10s I found the interface refreshingly clean. I'll have to explore the software more deeply to see if it's indeed easier to use in one hand, though.
As with most recent Galaxy flagships, the S10s are rated IP68 for water resistance and offer microSD support for up to 512GB of storage expansion. They'll start with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM, and you can go up to 512GB of storage on the smaller handset and 1TB on the plus. The larger phone also goes up to 12GB of RAM.
Both phones will support WiFi 6 for faster internet speeds, as well as gigabit LTE with their Snapdragon X20 modems. If you were looking for 5G (despite the networks likely not being widely available this year), you'll have to spring for the super high-end S10 that I mentioned before. It has a larger 6.7-inch screen, a bigger 4,500mAh battery and is about the same size as the Note 9. This souped up model comes with 256GB of storage, but ditches a microSD card slot, presumably to make room for the antenna arrays required for mmWaves that are a key part of 5G.
The 5G S10 has a similar camera setup as its smaller brothers but adds a 3D depth camera on the front and back, with time of flight technology for better augmented reality and portrait effects. Because we weren't allowed to even hold it ourselves during our preview, I can't really tell you how it feels or performs.
Colors, materials, price and availability
For those keeping score, we're currently up to four S10s: the S10, S10+, S10e and S10 5G. But because it's never enough to just offer one or two color options anymore, Samsung's also making different build materials available for the S10+. If you splurge and get the 512GB or the 1TB options of the S10+, you can pick from ceramic white or ceramic black flavors. The material offers better scratch resistance than aluminum and just feels classier.
Those of us here in the US who don't need more storage and can bear the relative shame of an aluminum phone can choose between Prism black, blue, white or Flamingo Pink. The last shade is inspired by the Pantone color of the year -- "Living Coral" -- and looks more orange than pink. The Prism finishes have a slight gradient on them that catch and reflect light in an almost iridescent way that's quite pretty.
It's been ten whole generations of Galaxy S, and boy, have we come far. Samsung's flagship phone series has planted the company firmly in our minds as one of the -- if not the -- best Android device maker. We've come to expect excellence from the Galaxy S series: great design, performance, cameras and displays are pretty much table stakes now. On those criteria, the new flagships seem to deliver.
But the Galaxy S10 doesn't feel like a monumental shift the way the iPhone X did. It's not a reimagination of what an entire lineup of flagships should look like. In many ways, it's Samsung playing catch-up to its Chinese rivals. If you weren't hoping for a big change with Samsung's tenth flagship, the S10 and S10+ are likely to meet those expectations. Those of us yearning for something more exciting may just have to wait for that foldable phone to arrive.
Update (on 2/22 at 11:23pm ET): This article was corrected to say it's Apple's latest iPhones that use the Dolby Vision HDR format, not Sony's Xperia XZ flagships.