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Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Better biometrics and ergonomics than the S10 Plus at the cost of battery life

Pros

  • ✓Gorgeous display with no curved edges
  • ✓Small, pocketable form factor
  • ✓Capable dual rear cameras
  • ✓microSD, 3.5mm headset jack, wireless charging
  • ✓Wireless PowerShare capability
  • ✓Responsive side capacitive fingerprint scanner

Cons

  • ✕Average battery life

On the heels of the Google Pixel 3a and OnePlus 7 Pro launches, it is appropriate to consider whether spending $1,000+ on a smartphone is a justifiable purchase. Before making the leap to a Galaxy S10 Plus at $1,000, you could save $200 and go with a Galaxy S10e.

The Galaxy S10 Plus went back to Samsung after a month in my hand, and I did not run to the store to buy one. The Galaxy S10e has been powering my primary T-Mobile SIM for a couple of weeks, and if I was going to purchase a new Samsung Galaxy phone, then the S10e would be my first choice for a few reasons.

The Pixel 3a starts at $399 and the OnePlus 7 Pro at $669. One is clearly a mid-level phone and the other is a flagship that can directly compete with the Galaxy S10e at $649. The S10e is much more compact than the OnePlus 7 Pro, and it feels like the iPhone X/XS of the Android market. Regular readers know I am smitten by the size of the iPhone X/XS, so will understand my preference for the S10e.

Also: Galaxy S10 Plus review: Long battery life, shareable wireless charging, and Samsung’s One UI make this a leading business phone

After reading my full Galaxy S10 Plus review, then you will know just about everything there is to know about the S10e. The differences between the S10e and S10 Plus include the following:

  • Display: 5.8 vs 6.4 inches
  • Rear cameras: S10e is missing the telephoto camera
  • Fingerprint sensor: Side in the power button vs under the display
  • Battery: 3100 vs 4100 mAh
  • Price: $749 vs $999

The S10e is basically the same as the S10 and S10 Plus with physical size requiring a smaller display and battery capacity. The telephoto camera is one notable change in design and the value of a 2x telephoto lens is debatable, solved by something like a Moment external lens. Something that may actually be an advantage for the S10e is the side-mounted fingerprint sensor found in the power button as opposed to the ultrasonic sensor positioned under the display on the S10 Plus.

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Another reason I like the S10e over the S10 and S10 Plus is the use of a flat display rather than one with curved edges. I experienced many errant screen presses with the S10 Plus, but have yet to see a single issue with the S10e.

Also: Galaxy S10: Which model should you buy?

Hardware

While I understand that Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is very secure and a primary feature on the S10 and S10 Plus, I was seeing about 60 to 70% success with it so it was often frustrating. Apple’s Face Unlock works very well, but we don’t yet have that security option on Android. The face unlock available is a convenience feature, but not as secure as a fingerprint scanner.

Samsung went with a fingerprint scanner embedded into the power button positioned on the right side near the top. This works well for right-handed people, but may present a challenge for lefties. Sony had this on devices outside the US for a couple of years, and I like this implementation for the most part. At times, double-pressing it to launch the camera can be a bit awkward, because the button is indented from the side.

Also: The 10 best not-so-new phones: Why last year’s models make great deals 

Samsung heavily advertises the Infinity-O display, and it is pretty special. However, I saw a lot of inadvertent screen presses on the S10 Plus, even more so than on my Note 9. Thus, I was very pleased to see a flat display on the S10e and would honestly be perfectly happy with a Note 10 that had a flat screen.

The S10e gives up the telephoto rear camera, but still has two cameras on the back. One offers an ultra-wide perspective of 123 degrees, which is what Samsung says is equivalent to what the human eye can see, and the other is a standard shooter. The software lets you easily switch between the two cameras with a tap or a simple pinch and zoom on the viewfinder.

You will still find a couple of rarities on the S10e, thankfully, including a 3.5mm headset jack at the bottom and a microSD card slot. A USB-C port is also on the bottom for charging up your phone. The Bixby and volume buttons on the left. The Bixby button can be reprogrammed with options to customize a single and double press of the button. Make sure to first check out Bixby Quick Commands before you give up on Bixby.

Also: Samsung’s Bixby gets a little smarter 

One new feature we have only seen from Huawei so far is the ability to charge up other accessories and phones with the S10e itself. Wireless PowerShare may end up being one of my favorite features, especially with the new sleek Galaxy Buds in hand. I used this feature twice to top off the Galaxy Buds, but did not yet use it for other devices.

Galaxy S10e Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core
  • Display: 5.8 inch, 2280 x 1080 pixels resolution Super AMOLED 19:9 ratio (438 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 9.0 Pie with One UI
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 128/512GB or 1TB (ceramic) internal with microSD expansion card slot
  • Cameras: 16 megapixel ultra-wide (123 degrees) f/2.2, 12 megapixel rear f/1.5 and f/2.4 super speed dual pixel OIS cameras. 10 megapixel f/1.9 dual pixel front-facing camera
  • Water resistance: IP68 water and dust rating
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz), VHT80 MU-MIMO, 1024QAM, Bluetooth 5.0 BLE, ANT+, GPS/Galileo/Glonass/BeiDou, NFC, FM radio
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Heart Rate Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
  • Battery: 3,100mAh non-removable with fast wireless charging 2.0 and Wireless PowerShare
  • Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm and 150 grams
  • Colors: Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Blue, Flamingo Pink

See it now

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S10e launches with Android 9 Pie and has the new Samsung One UI installed. I’ve been using this now on my Note 9 and like the One UI, likely my favorite Android interface to be honest.

Thankfully, Samsung still includes its own email, calendar, contacts, image gallery, and web browser software — all of which offer more than the stock Google apps. While other Android vendors move to purely stock Google apps, these Samsung applications offer significantly more value, especially for enterprise users. These apps have all been updated too, and I am loving my work’s Outlook 365 email in Samsung’s email app.

I turned on some of the intelligence in the camera app, powered by the integrated NPU, including the shot suggestions, flaw detection, and scene optimizer. Samsung provides optimization for more than 30 scenes, which is more than we have seen from Huawei and others trying to add intelligence to the camera experience.

CNET: Galaxy S10 Plus: Killer screen, triple cameras and battery life make Samsung’s phone a hit

Bixby Routines have also been added in the S10 Plus, but Samsung said it takes about three to five days of use before the phone starts suggesting these routines and helping you set them up for your daily life. I’m still working through these routines, but you can check out my post detailing how these can help improve the efficiency of your life.

There is also a Night mode that gives your phone a dark theme and I have that set for later at night to make it a bit better on my eyes. Improved blue light filtration is also present on the S10e.

Google’s Digital Wellbeing apps also present on the Galaxy S10e, which is something I have only seen on a Pixel 3 XL before. This utility gives you data on screen and app usage times and more to help you manage your life, or lack of it.

I am more productive using Samsung devices because of the way I can have incoming messages appear in pop-up windows, so I can respond to conversations and then get right back into the work I was conducting. The edge panels are also useful for accessing regular apps quickly and easily. Compared to my use of the iPhone XS, Samsung devices help me be more efficient with my time and is something to consider for businesses.

The S10e starts at $749.99 and has a few differences to justify the price where it competes with the iPhone XR. I’ve seen the S10e on T-Mobile and from other carriers for $649, so keep an eye out for special offers and deals on the phone.

Daily usage and experiences

The unique front-facing camera hole isn’t really bugging me; the display is gorgeous; the side fingerprint scanner has combined with the power button may be my favorite method; the various cameras perform well; the device has superb fit and finish; and I am thoroughly enjoying Samsung One UI. The S10e is the best compact Android smartphone available today, but I personally still prefer the iPhone XS in large part due to the quality of the applications.

With affordable Android phones satisfying the masses, it’s getting harder to justify the $1,000 smartphone. It’s awesome to see Samsung offering the power of the S10 Plus in a much more compact form factor with very little compromise at a price hundreds less than the flagship. If you want a pocketable Android phone that has all of the latest technology, along with old tech like a 3.5mm headset jack and microSD card slot, you can’t beat the S10e.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page. Neither the author nor ZDNet were compensated for this independent review.

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