With just about two weeks to go until Samsung’s Feb. 20 Unpacked event, we know a few things for sure. The forthcoming flagship will be called the Galaxy S10. It will run the company’s One UI on top of Android. And Samsung desperately needs it to be a hit.
The company made the Galaxy S10 name it official in a statement released on Wednesday that also outlined a dramatic drop in sales and profits. And though companies often predict that next-generation products will bolster sales, according to the rumors, Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S10 (and its siblings) have a legitimate chance to capture both popular attention and market share with a handful of distinctive features and breakthrough technologies.
It’s looking increasingly likely that the company may use the upcoming event to debut its first foldable phone, possibly called the Galaxy X, Galaxy Fold, Galaxy Flex — or, um, the Galaxy F. According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung will have a foldable phone on hand that’s ‘fully functional’ on Feb. 20. If true, it may help the company head off competitors like Xiaomi, which recently posted a video of what it says is its own foldable phone, and Huawei, which will unveil its own at Mobile World Congress next month.
As usual, we have a persistent stream of leaked images and renders — including a number that show variations of the phone’s rumored hole-punch camera. And then there’s the rumors from CES, where Samsung showed off a 5G prototype phone capable of connecting to the next-generation cellular network.
Whether or not the foldable or 5G phones actually make an appearance then, Samsung has a lot riding on the 10th edition of its flagship Galaxy S series. And based on the known facts and the rumors, it may well live up to the hype.
The Snapdragon 855 chipset that will power Samsung’s next flagship looks like an absolute beast. Our preliminary benchmarking results suggest it will be a speedy performer that leaves the Galaxy S9 and LG V40 in the dust.
Performance aside, the analysts, pundits and leakers are painting a picture of a Galaxy S10 jam-packed with potentially extraordinary features, including an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, the company’s own take on Face ID, an Infinity-O display and computer-sized amounts of storage capacity. If even some of these rumors are accurate, Samsung could have a hit — and secure its place at the top of the smartphone heap.
If not, the road ahead could be difficult. The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, introduced in February last year, haven’t sold particularly well. Slowing phone sales are now a threat to every brand. And China’s Huawei, which ousted Apple to take the No. 2 slot, is putting increasing pressure on Samsung. Despite its own problems — which include growing hostility from governments in the US and around the world — Huawei continues to drive sales on the strength of innovative products such as the Mate 20 Pro. In the final days of December, in fact, Huawei announced that it sold 200 million phones in 2018.
The stakes are high, and with less than four weeks to go until the big unveiling, new rumors and hints continue to bubble up. We’ll continue to collect and evaluate them here, so check back often.
Confirmed: Galaxy S10 to launch Feb. 20 in San Francisco
Samsung interrupted CES 2019 with the announcement of the launch date and location for its next Unpacked event and we now know that the forthcoming flagship will be called the Galaxy S10. The event will take place Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. PT at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. CNET will be on the ground to cover the announcements live.
Though we had thought that Samsung would save the launch of its foldable ‘Galaxy X’ phone for MWC the following week, the company may offer at least a sneak preview of it at the Feb. 20 event, according to the Wall Street Journal. Regardless, the flagship Galaxy S10 will likely start shipping in March, according to the Journal and an earlier report by Gizmodo UK.
Rumor: Three Galaxy S10 phones, including Plus and Lite models
The Galaxy S10 is rumored to come in three configurations:
Galaxy S10: The name is official but nearly everything else remains a rumor. This model is said to be the same size as today’s Galaxy S9, but with even slimmer bezels. It’s expected to have a 6.1-inch screen and, perhaps, according to Twitter leaker Ice Universe, a total of three cameras.
Galaxy S10 Plus: Possibly code-named Beyond X or Beyond 2, this will be the successor to the Galaxy S9 Plus. It will have the largest screen — perhaps a 6.4-inch display — and up to four rear cameras, two front-facing cameras and a big battery. Ice Universe claims that the Galaxy S10 Plus will be 7.8 mm thick and have a 4,000-mAh battery.
Galaxy S10 E: Formerly known as the Galaxy S10 Lite, and possibly code-named Beyond 0. Modeled on the iPhone XR, this could be a smaller, less expensive device with a 5.8-inch display and fewer hardware embellishments. Other rumors include straight edges instead of two curved sides, no fancy in-screen fingerprint reader and no headphone jack.
Rumor: And maybe the ‘Galaxy X’ foldable phone, too
The Feb. 20 event may also feature Samsung’s first foldable phone, according to the Wall Street Journal. This would likely be a more developed version than the prototype Samsung teased at its annual developer conference in Nov. 2018. Rumored to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex, the company’s foldable phone is slated to arrive in the first half of 2019.
Many companies are talking about foldable phones — including Huawei, LG and others — but, so far, there’s just one on the market today, the Royole FlexPai. Though we know more now than we did back in November when Samsung’s foldable phone became real, what we’ve seen of the device so far has raised more questions than answers.
Rumor: Samsung’s first 5G phone will be called the Galaxy S10 X
Korean site Electronic News has reported that Samsung will bring out a variant of the Galaxy S10 that supports 5G. Known as the Galaxy S10 X, the phone will launch in Korea in March for 800,000 to 900,000 won, which converts to approximately $715 to $800 (AU$990 to AU$1,115 or £555 to £625). In addition to 5G connectivity, the rumored phone has some serious specs: four rear cams and two in front; 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display; 5,000-mAh battery; 10GB of RAM; and up to 1TB of storage.
The potential overlap between the Galaxy S10 expected for Feb. 20 and Samsung’s 5G phone remains unclear. Though phones were not a focus of his remarks at CES, HS Kim, who leads Samsung’s Consumer Electronics Division, mentioned that his company was the first to get FCC approval for its commercial 5G equipment. He also promised that the technology will come to consumers in the US during the first half of 2019.
Samsung has committed to bringing out four 5G phones in 2019 — two for AT&T and one each for Verizon and Sprint. Still, despite persistent rumors to the contrary, we don’t expect the Galaxy S10 phones due on Feb. 20 to support 5G. Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told Korean reporters in November that a separate device launching in March on Korean carriers will be its first 5G phone instead. That could be the Galaxy S10 X.
Rumor: The Galaxy S10 will support WiFi 6
Leave it to the hotshots at the FCC to leak yet another detail about the Galaxy S10. According to the organization’s certification database, the next batch of Galaxy phones will support the latest lower-power-faster-more secure Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ax (aka WiFi 6). Spotted by Droid Life, and confirmed by CNET, the phones are listed as A3LSMG975U, A3LSMG973U and A3LSMG970U in the database.
Rumor: Massive storage capacity coming to the Galaxy S10
Samsung is upping the smartphone storage stakes. The company has announced that it’s started mass producing 1TB drives that will populate future smartphones — which could very well include the Galaxy S10. The new Universal Flash Storage (eUFS) modules double the capacity of the previous generation while maintaining the same footprint — an innovation Samsung has claimed is an industry first.
With 1TB of storage built-in, the company says users could store up to 260 10-minute videos at 4K resolution. That’s compared to 13 videos of the same size that can be stored on the 64GB flash storage ‘widely used in many current high-end smartphones,’ Samsung says.
Rumor: Computational photography upgrades from Samsung acquisition
Israel’s Globes reports that Samsung may be in talks to acquire Corephotonics, the company that has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple related to its computational photography technology. Samsung is already an investor in the company.
Samsung has been working on ways to enhance the quality of photos shot in dark conditions using computational photography. Still, given that the company is still in the ‘advanced negotiations’ phase, it’s unlikely that the Galaxy S10 would have any direct benefits stemming from the potential purchase. That noted, there are plenty of rumors that the forthcoming flagship has a variety of new camera hardware and software features. More on that below.
Rumor: The Galaxy S10 will have an integrated crypto wallet
Photos tweeted by leaker Ice Universe on Wednesday purport to show the Samsung Galaxy S10 with support for cryptocurrencies and sporting a Blockchain KeyStore. Text on the handset’s screen calls the KeyStore a ‘secure and convenient place for your cryptocurrency.’
Rumor: Screen protector blocks ultrasonic fingerprint scanner
In-screen fingerprint sensors — which can accurately and securely identify your print through water and grime — are now a thing. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T both have them and we expect to see the feature come to mainstream phones in 2019.
Given that Qualcomm has announced that the Snapdragon 855 chipset will support an ultrasonic variation of the technology, there’s a strong chance that the Galaxy S10 will have one. Phone case manufacturer Armadillotek has corroborated that rumor but added a twist, suggesting that the the scanner won’t be able to read prints through tempered glass or PET screen protectors. As a result, the company says its Galaxy S10 case won’t have a screen protector.
Rumor: Six cameras, including double hole-punch on the S10 Plus
For months, we’ve heard about the numerous cameras coming to the Galaxy S10 — including up to four on the back, and two more on the front, at least on the Plus model. (The ‘regular’ Galaxy S10 is expected to have just one front-facing lens and three rear cameras.) Now we’ve seen multiple images that show what the elongated hole punch array could look like on the larger model.
Dutch site AllAboutSamsung.de has posted a series of photos that it says are Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus prototypes. This follows last week’s post by Reddit user @hissick27, which ostensibly showed a Galaxy S10 Plus with two circular cameras in the upper-right-hand corner of the display.
Rumor: ‘Bright Night’ mode for low-light photos
Google captured the title of best Android phone of 2018 with its Pixel 3 — based largely on the strength of its exceptional camera technology, which produces remarkable photos even in low-light conditions. Now, XDA Developers has unearthed evidence that Samsung may be cooking up its own version of Google’s Night Sight feature — called, flatteringly, ‘Bright Night’ — which could debut on the Galaxy S10.
Based on clues found in the code of the recent One UI release — more on that below — Samsung has ostensibly developed a way to produce bright photos in very dark conditions using computational photography. If true, this could help the Galaxy S10 redress one of the Galaxy S9’s biggest shortcomings — and put it on better footing with the best phones for taking photos in 2019.
Rumor: New models with bigger screens
Two days before Christmas, Ice Universe tweeted out screen dimensions for five forthcoming Samsung phones — including a 5G version of the Galaxy S10 (more on that below) and the Note 10. The tweet corroborates earlier information, and, if accurate, suggests that price will not be the only thing to increase in 2019.
At 6.11 inches diagonal, the Galaxy S10’s display would be roughly 5 percent larger than the Galaxy S9’s, and a 6.44-inch S10 Plus display would be about 4 percent larger than its predecessor. The Note 10 also appears set for a 5 percent larger screen. The rumored Galaxy S10 E’s display is expected to be more or less the same size as the one on today’s Galaxy S9.
Rumor: Prices are going up, will range from $845 to $1,765
Samsung is poised to follow Apple’s lead and jack up the prices of its next series of flagship phones. Gizmodo UK reports that a new entry-level Galaxy S10, possibly the S10 E, equipped with 128GB of storage, will start at £669 — which converts to about $845. Prices only go up from there for the standard S10 and S10 Plus, which may include superior camera technology and other higher-end features.
Here’s an overview of the rumored pricing for each model and storage tier. Bear in mind UK prices include 20 percent tax, so the dollar equivalents would not be direct conversions, even if these are accurate:
- Galaxy S10 E, 128GB: £669
- Galaxy S10, 128GB: £799
- Galaxy S10, 512GB: £999
- Galaxy S10 Plus, 128GB: £899
- Galaxy S10 Plus, 512GB: £1,099
- Galaxy S10 Plus, 1TB: £1,399
Rumor: The S10’s headphone jack stays put for now
Before you cast off the headphone jack as a given, take note. Samsung’s Galaxy A8S doesn’t have one. But it does have a screen that’s expected to come to the Galaxy S10 (see below). In October, Korean outlet ET News reported that Samsung could ditch the headphone jack in the Galaxy Note 10 or Galaxy S11.
For now, though, the headphone jack appears to be safe. A case that’s been linked to the Galaxy S10 has a hole for a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s reason enough for prolific leaker Ice Universe to tweet a short video of the clear plastic case. Of course, without knowing anything about the case maker or how this company got its information, there’s no way to independently verify the accuracy of the design. Notice also the wide horizontal window on the back where multiple cameras could go.
Will the Galaxy S10 bring portrait mode to video?
Qualcomm put support for portrait mode videos into its Snapdragon 855 chip for 2019 phones and beyond, but that’s no guarantee that Samsung will take advantage of the technology.
If it does, you might be applying a depth-sensing bokeh effect to subjects in video as well as photos. Qualcomm said that you’d be able to swap out the blurred backgrounds in these 4K films for other scenes from a library of choices.
More about the selfie camera’s Infinity-O punch-hole ‘notch’
Although Samsung told the world it was working on three new notch designs for future phones, the company never committed to the Infinity-V, Infinity-U or Infinity-O designs for its Galaxy S10.
At this point, we’d be shocked if we saw anything other than the Infinity-O display, which has a hole punched out of one corner for at least one camera lens. Samsung has made the design official in the newly announced Galaxy A8S, a phone for China, but it’s likely that Samsung would release the design on a less important phone in case issues come up that the designers could address, rather than take a risk on its most important phone of the year.
Renders show the selfie camera’s ‘hole punch’ on either side, but more recent rumors insist it’ll be on the right as you look at the phone face. Blass suggests that the Infinity-O will come to the Galaxy S10.
Will the Galaxy S10 toss out the iris scanner and finally get 3D ‘Face ID’?
When the Galaxy S9 first arrived, we were disappointed it didn’t use secure 3D depth-mapping technology to unlock the phone like the iPhone’s Face ID. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, released in 2017, supports mapping with 50,000 infrared dots, compared to Apple’s 30,000 infrared dots. Instead, the Galaxy S9 retained Samsung’s secure iris unlocking and insecure face unlock, the latter a staple on Android phones.
Now might be the time for Samsung to step up its face-unlocking game. Rumors point to both the Galaxy S10 losing the iris scanner and gaining a rival to Face ID. Qualcomm’s newest chip supports another kind of face-mapping technology that’s also secure enough for mobile payments, called Sense ID 3D Face Authentication. Perhaps it’s this sensor that could power Samsung’s take on Face ID.
In addition to unlocking the phone securely with a face scan, a depth-mapping selfie cam could enable better AR apps and effects, like the disastrously creepy AR Emoji, a rival that predated Apple’s much more skillfully executed Memoji.
Fact: The Galaxy S10 will run Samsung One UI interface atop Android 9
Samsung confirmed to CNET that all future phones, including the foldable phone, will use the new One UI interface that Samsung has now released in the US, after unveiling it at its November Developer Conference. The One UI interface design declutters the current Samsung Experience and tries to group icons for easier one-handed use. It’ll work with Android Pie, the ninth version of Google’s mobile software, but not with earlier versions of Android.