I tried Samsung’s $750 Galaxy S10e, and I'm convinced it could be the Android phone to beat


galaxy s10 s10 plus s10 e

  • At $750, the Galaxy S10e costs significantly less than Samsung’s other Galaxy S10 devices, while offering many of the same features.
  • The S10e features a large, attractive screen in a form factor that’s more compact than most of its rivals, and its ultra wide-angle camera captures great shots.
  • But when it comes to overall camera performance and display quality, it’s about on par with competitors like the iPhone Xr and Google Pixel 3. 

Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 lineup represents a few firsts for the South Korean electronics giant.

The $900 Galaxy S10 and $1,000 S10+ are the company’s first flagship phones to come with an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor embedded in the display, whereas previous phones included capacitive fingerprint scanners on their back panels. They’re also Samsung’s first phones to come with a whopping three rear-facing cameras instead of the now-standard two.

But the entry-level $750 Galaxy S10e doesn’t have either of those features — and it doesn’t need them.

Despite its lower price, Samsung’s more budget-friendly Galaxy device doesn’t compromise on the characteristics that matter like battery life and screen quality while also retaining some of the pricier S10’s marquee features like its wide-angle camera. And most importantly, the company’s new “Infinity O” screen design delivers a display that’s just as large as the iPhone Xr’s in a form factor that’s more compact and ergonomic than most of its rivals, making it a joy to use.

Here’s a closer look at what it’s been like use the Galaxy S10e.

Anyone who has purchased a new smartphone in the last two years has probably noticed that edge-to-edge screens have become the new norm. And while these new designs bring the benefit of a larger screen without making the phone bigger and more cumbersome to hold, they’ve also created a dilemma for smartphone makers.

Companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google among others have had to find creative ways to keep the selfie camera and facial recognition sensors positioned on the front of the device while also eliminating the bezel to make additional space for more screen. Apple has done this by putting the iPhone’s camera sensors in a “notch” near the top of the device, which drew some criticism when the iPhone X launched in 2017. But fast forward to 2019, and “notches” can be found on almost every new Android phone, from the OnePlus 6 to LG’s G8 and Google’s Pixel 3 XL.

Samsung has found the best way to work around this predicament so far with the Galaxy S10’s “Infinity O” display, which can be found on the S10, S10+, and S10e. Rather than carving a cutout in the display, it looks like Samsung has essentially punched a hole in the Galaxy S10e’s screen for the camera; a choice that results in a much cleaner and more elegant design.

It just feels much more like the full-screen design all of these companies are working toward than any alternative I’ve used yet, even despite the fact that it lacks the curved screen found on the more expensive Galaxy S10 phones. But perhaps the Galaxy S10e’s best physical trait is its size — it’s more comfortable to operate with one hand than any new smartphone I’ve used in recent years.

There is one downside to the Galaxy S10e’s design, however: The glossy mirror-like rear panel picks up fingerprint smudges easily. I prefer the matte back panel on Google’s Pixel 3.

The Galaxy S10e has a 2280 x 1080 resolution active matrix organic light emitting diode (AMOLED) screen that’s capable of displaying rich and vibrant colors whether you’re watching videos, browsing photos, or reading. But it does face stiff competition from Apple and Google, both of which have outfitted their latest smartphones with screens that are just about as eye-catching.

In a side-by-side comparison, I found that although the Galaxy S10e provided better contrast and bolder colors than the iPhone Xr’s liquid crystal display (LCD) in many cases, photos on Apple’s smartphone and the Google Pixel 3 looked about as detailed as they did on Samsung’s phone. In certain images, it also looked like the iPhone Xr depicted skin tones more naturally than Samsung and Google.

The Galaxy S10e is the smallest phone in Samsung’s new lineup, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on battery life. After a full day of usage that consisted of answering emails and messages throughout the day, streaming music for about an hour and video for roughly 40 minutes, and web browsing among other tasks, the Galaxy S10e still had 65% of its battery left. I was able to get about a day and a half’s worth of usage out of the device, but battery life will always vary depending on how you use your phone.

Samsung’s least expensive new Galaxy phone is lacking the in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor found on the pricier Galaxy S10 and S10+, but unlike the iPhone, Samsung still offers two methods of biometric authentication. The S10e’s fingerprint sensor is embedded in the power button along the side of the phone, which feels natural to reach and keeps the back of the phone looking neat and sleek.

This capacitive fingerprint sensor is also more reliable than the S10’s ultrasonic scanner, according to my colleague who reviewed Samsung’s other new devices. I didn’t find myself using the Galaxy S10e’s fingerprint scanner much regardless considering its facial recognition system worked consistently well during my time with the phone.

Many of today’s new smartphones feel iterative more than revolutionary, as new models launched in recent years usually offer little more than faster processors and slightly larger screen sizes. As such, the camera has emerged as being one of the few smartphone features that’s still ripe for innovation. Some of the most memorable new additions in recent years have all been driven by the camera, such as portrait mode (or “live focus,” as Samsung calls it) and facial recognition, for example.

galaxy s10 e blue

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Samsung has introduced yet another new capability to the Galaxy S10’s camera: ultra-wide angle capture. The Galaxy S10e has a dual camera on its rear that consists of a 12-megapixel wide angle lens and a 16-megapixel ultra wide angle lens capable capturing a 123-degree image. That’s a notable expansion from the 77-degree perspective the S10e’s other lens offers, and it gives Samsung’s phone the ability to capture shots that other phones simply can’t. The Galaxy S10 and S10+, by comparison, also come with a third 12-megapixel telephoto lens as well.

Take a look at the two photos below to see the difference between standard photo mode and ultra wide photo mode on the Galaxy S10e.


Galaxy S10e Non Wide Angle Photo

Ultra-Wide Angle

Galaxy S10e Ultra Wide Angle Photo

When it comes to overall camera performance otherwise, the Galaxy S10e is about on par with the Google Pixel 3 and iPhone Xr. All three cameras were capable of capturing rich color and detail, with the Galaxy S10e outperforming the iPhone and Google in some cases and it falling behind in others. In one batch of test shots shown below, for example, the Galaxy S10e’s image of a bouquet of flowers looked the most vibrant and sharp. But in another test, photos taken with Google’s and Apple’s phones depicted a deeper shade of red than Samsung’s device. 

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Galaxy S10e Flower Sample Shot

Apple iPhone Xr

iPhone Xr Flowers Sample Shot

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 Flowers Sample Shot

I also felt that the Galaxy S10e’s Live Focus photo looked a bit dull compared to the portrait mode images taken with the Google Pixel 3 and iPhone Xr. The blue sky in the backdrop of my test shot looked much more vivid in the Phone Xr’s photo, and the bokeh effect is strongest and most noticeable in the image taken on Google’s phone.

The Galaxy S10e proves that simpler can indeed be better. The S10e doesn’t need the extra flourishes that Samsung’s high-end phones offer in order to stand out — it does that with its ease of use, elegant design, and gorgeous screen. It’s a treat to use and is well worth the price for those looking to spend less than $900 on a new smartphone.

That being said, it doesn’t perform meaningfully better than the iPhone Xr or Google Pixel 3 when it comes to features like display quality and photography, so if you’re already an iPhone loyalist the S10e’s eye-popping nearly all-screen design may not be enough to sway you.

The Google Pixel 3 is also worth considering for Android fans. It doesn’t have as large of a screen as the S10e and like the iPhone it also lacks ultra wide-angle photo capture, but it’s nearly as compact as the S10e and is capable of taking stunning photos regardless. 

Overall, the S10e is the right phone for you if you’re looking for a large-screened Android phone that still manages to feel compact and more portable than other options. In an era in which smaller-sized phones have become increasingly challenging to find, Samsung provides a promising option with the Galaxy S10e.

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