Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G is the first integrated 5G phone available in the US. It’s the biggest member of the Galaxy S10 family, and at $1,399 and up, it’s the most expensive.
The reason you’re most likely to be interested in it is the 5G, of course. That’s available right now with Verizon in Chicago and Minneapolis. But this summer, the three other carriers will have this phone out in whichever cities they have 5G.
The phone has some key features to keep you busy while you’re waiting for the Race to 5G to hand its torch over in your city. Of all the phones in the S10 series, the 5G version has the largest screen, at 6.7 inches, and the largest battery, at 4500mAh. In exchange for that and the 5G, you lose the MicroSD removable memory card slot; you’ll have to work with the 256GB or 512GB of internal storage.
The phone isn’t thick; it’s just large. The S10 5G measures 6.4 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches (HWD), which isn’t noticeably thicker than the S10+, but the 0.2-inch greater height and 0.1-inch greater width push it just beyond the limit of what my hands want to handle. On the other hand, it’s very similar to the Galaxy Note 9 and the OnePlus 7 Pro. If you like big phones, you’ll like it.
The Galaxy S10 5G with the OnePlus 7 Pro, another quite large phone.
The phone benchmarked as the fastest device we’ve seen so far, with a 10228 on PCMark Work 2.0 (compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro’s 9828 and Galaxy S10+’s 9682). More hardware-centric benchmarks came out on par with other Snapdragon 855-based phones. Geekbench scored 3507/10658 single core and multicore, compared to 3204/10564 on the Galaxy S10+, and the phone got 42fps on the GFXBenchmark “Car Chase” offscreen benchmark, like every other 855-based phone.
The Galaxy S10e has two cameras on the back, the S10 and S10+ have three, and the S10 5G has four. The fourth camera is an infrared “time of flight” camera, especially for depth sensing. Samsung has said several times that this is for enabling 5G-only augmented reality experiences, but none of those exist yet. So for now, it’s for a pretty cool measurement app and applying bokeh effects to live videos.
The measurement app will tell you how far you are from something, depending on its size, as long as it’s within a few feet. It did well with boxes, but it also judged me as 3 inches shorter than I am, and I’m already short. Sadly, I must declare it “for novelty purposes,” like when Huawei turned one of its phones into a kitchen scale.
I had more mixed results with live focus video. When done with the two front cameras, it looked great. Bokeh selfie videos are terrific. It kept my face in focus and blurred the background appropriately.
But I had a lot of trouble getting the bokeh effect on the main camera to activate. Now, mark my words, I only had about 20 minutes to figure it out, but it wasn’t too intuitive. First, I aimed it at these fountains, intending for the posters in the back to blur themselves out. They didn’t.
Then I went and played around with some street foliage. Watch this video: the camera really struggles with what’s in the foreground and the background. That’s when it hit me. The bokeh video function is almost certainly for taking videos of people, and it’s tuned so that a relatively clear human figure in the foreground will stay in focus while the background gets blurred. Sadly, I have no friends willing to appear on this website, so could not test that in my limited time.
As for its 5G capability, I got speeds up to 1.17Gbps on Verizon’s network in Chicago; I have a much more extensive testing story about that. Those speeds are (for now) only available on the phone, though. Verizon told me that the S10 5G currently has no tethering or hotspot capability, although that will be fixed in a firmware update.
Should you buy the Galaxy S10 5G? I don’t actually think so, unless you intend to be developing apps or designing products for 5G networks, or you’re on the kind of quick-upgrade plan that lets you turn in your phone every year or less.
The reason: the upcoming Galaxy Note 10 5G has a first-generation 5G modem, based on Qualcomm’s X50 chipset, which won’t support the longer-range, low-band 5G that Verizon and AT&T will start turning on next year. The Note 10 5G, with its second-generation X55 modem, will have better compatibility with future networks. That one will probably come out in November or December.