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Samsung makes too many damn phones

Making sense of the company's confusing array of flagships.
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Chris Velazco / Engadget

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Samsung unveiled three flagships this week: the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. It also showed off a new foldable called the Z Flip, which honestly looks and feels far superior to the incredibly similar Motorola Razr. That's four entirely new handsets that the company just unleashed.

At the same time, Samsung broke tradition. Instead of phasing out last year's flagships, it's cutting the prices for the S10s, so they now start at $599 instead of $899.99. That means you can continue to buy the S10e, S10 and S10+, which are still great phones.

In fact, the company's Senior Manager of Smartphone Product Strategy, Caleb Slavin, told Engadget, "The S10 is going to be our new entry point into the flagship lineup." He added, "It's a great way for a consumer to get a premium device at an accessible price point."

Let's not forget though: Samsung also unveiled a pair of so-called Lite phones at CES. The S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite are high-powered smartphones at affordable prices, with small compromises on cameras and chipsets. They're not available in the US yet, but in the right regions, this means you have two more phones to choose from.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Then there's the Galaxy Fold, which may or may not be going away depending on what carriers decide to do. Not to mention the Note 10 and Note 10+.

So let's recap. Here are all the Galaxy phones you can buy from Samsung (*deep breath*). The S10e, S10, S10+, S20, S20+, S20 Ultra, Note 10, Note 10+, Galaxy Fold, Z Flip, Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite. But wait! There's also the A series, which is a midrange version of the S series and tends to get features from the flagship line about a year later. That's at least 13 phones in total. And we're not counting the S10 5G or limited editions like the Thom Browne Z Flip.

This is all part of Samsung's smartphone strategy. Slavin said, "We wanted to have an option in our portfolio for every consumer." That's nice, but what does the decision-making process look like if you're shopping for a Samsung phone? Let's work it out together.

Slavin said your first criteria is probably going to be price. Fair point. If your budget is below $1,000, you're definitely not going to get a foldable flagship or one of the S20s or Notes. In that case, your next factor is likely screen size. Here's where it all gets more confusing.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

The S10 and S10+ have 6.1-inch and 6.4-inch panels, respectively, while the S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite both sport 6.7-inch panels. If you want a stylus in this price range, you'll likely pick the Note 10 Lite. Those who prefer a smaller phone will probably choose the S10. Between the S10+ and S10 Lite, it appears to boil down to price, camera setup and availability. If you're looking to save even more money, the A series will usually cost even less with an eligible trade-in or carrier subsidy -- you'll just have to live with less-powerful processors and cameras.

Things don't get easier if you have more money to spare either. Which high-end handset should you spring for if you're not in the market for a folding screen? Stylus fans are likely to stay with the Note while those more interested in ultra-sharp cameras will find a suitable option in the S20 series.

Whew. The myriad options and forks in the road made that decision-making process feel far more overwhelming than necessary. As someone who's often called on to give smartphone-buying advice, I can already imagine how my conversations with Samsung shoppers will go:

"You want to buy a Samsung phone? How much time and money do you have? Not much of either? Just go buy a Pixel."

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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