Cameras and ToF sensors, galore, plus an amazing folding display smartphone/tablet – Samsung has announced its Galaxy S10 range and the Galaxy Fold. We were at the London Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2019 launch event.
After what many regarded as a lacklustre 2018 with the its expensive and unambitious 9th-generation Galaxy S smartphone line-up, Samsung has come back fighting this year.
Galaxy Fold – it shouts “look at what Samsung can do!”
To re-inspire confidence in the brand, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Fold, a hybrid smartphone and tablet with a folding screen. We’ll address this technically-fascinating, but expensive, flagship device separately.
Samsung also declared itself to be ready for 5G with the unveiling of its first 5G smartphone, the Galaxy S10 5G. Scheduled for availability later in the year, the S10 5G sports triple cameras plus and a 3D ToF (Time of Flight) depth sensor to complement a Wide Quad HD+ 6.7 inch display, Samsung’s largest AMOLED smartphone screen yet.
Galaxy Note 10 hint?
This could also hint at what to expect from a pen-enabled Galaxy Note 10, which is traditionally revealed in late summer.
Many improvements and additions
Bigger batteries, improved ‘dynamic’ OLED display technology with HDR compatibility, faster and more versatile charging plus 29% faster 8-core Exynos processing, 37% faster graphics plus AI enhancements are also big features in Samsung’s news.
All models come with Android 9.0 (Pie). New lower latency WiFi network switching for seamless connectivity is also featured.
A fingerprint and fingertip heart rate scanner is standard on all models, though the S10e doesn’t get the new on-screen ultrasonic scanner that the other models have.
Samsung has also made an adept move to work with some software developers. The result is apps from the like of Instagram, Snapchat and Android game developers that are optimised and even customised for S10 hardware.
Main cameras now number between two and three, with all getting an exciting new 16 megapixel 123 degree ultra wide-angle camera.
All four new S10 models feature 10 megapixel dual-pixel AF ‘punch-hole’ selfie cameras seeing through their AMOLED displays. This maximises screen coverage by avoiding the need for a ‘notch’ at the top of the screen.
The S10+ and 5G also get an additional front-facing ToF 3D depth-sensor, which appears like a dual selfie camera arrangement.
A ToF sensor is actually a type of camera but it doesn’t usually produce conventional photographic images. Instead, it collects light reflected from the surfaces of what it sees.
It measures the time it takes for that light, which could be laser or infra-red LED generated, to be transmitted from the phone and reflected back.
This timing can be turned into accurate distances for many points in the field of view. So while a conventional camera produces a map of the brightness of points in a scene, a ToF sensor produces a map of the distances of points on a scene.
Real time data like this is useful for improving the dependability of face recognition security, for 3D object modelling and real-time motion control, among other things, which could also include focus range finding. Samsung is not the first to fit ToF sensors to its phones. Huawei introduced ToF sensors on some models last year, for example.
Memory and storage
All S-series models get generous storage and memory options and, except for the 5G model, up to 512GB microSD flash memory expandability via dual sim or 1 sim plus 1 microSD card combination options. The minimum built in storage you will get is 128GB. The S10 can have up to 512GB and the S10+ 1TB.
The S10e gets a useful 6GB of DDR4 system RAM. The others get 8GB DRAM, with the S10+ getting an optional 12GB.
IP68 water and dust resistance, optimised Bixby smart assistant support and wireless charging plus reverse mode (Powershare) for charging other wireless devices. The S10, S10+ and S10 5G now offer an on-screen ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.
A summary of each new Galaxy S10 device
Samsung Galaxy S10e
Samsung’s mainstream Galaxy S10 line-up now includes a more affordable and compact (5.8 inch non curved-edge Full HD+ AMOLED display) S10e model.
Like all 2019 S-models OIS (optical image stabilisation is featured) and while the S10e only gets two cameras, while others get three or four, its second camera is a 16 megapixel device with an ultra wide-angle f/2.2 optic boasting a 123 degree field of view. That’s equivalent to a 12mm full frame lens view. That’s *really* wide!
Even better, all the new S10s get this lens. The primary S10e camera is 12 megapixels and dual aperture f/1.5-2.4 with a 77 degree field of view, or about the same as a 28mm full frame lens.
Slightly disappointing is the relatively small 3100 mAh battery, though the more efficient Exynos processor, combined with Android 9 Pie efficiencies, might come to the rescue.
Samsung Galaxy S10
Next up is the ‘mid-range’ 6.1 inch Wide Quad HD+ AMOLED curved-edge screen S10, which has three back cameras.
The ‘telephoto’ has 12 megapixels and an aperture of f/2.4 with a 45 degree field of view, so similar to a 50mm standard lens in full frame terms.
The second camera is the same primary dual-aperture wide angle camera as S10e. The third ultra-wide 16 megapixel camera is also the same as the S10e.
Again, with a 3400 mAh battery, power stamina might not be a big selling point of the S10.
Samsung Galaxy S10+
The largest of the mainstream new Galaxy models is the S10+ with a Wide 6.4 inch Quad HD+ AMOLED curved-edge display.
The S10+ shares the same triple back-camera specifications as the S10. One area where it differs from the smaller models is that it boasts a ToF 3D depth sensor alongside its selfie-camera.
At last, this is an S10 model that has a competitive battery capacity of 4100 mAh, though it doesn’t benefit from 25W Super Fast charging.
Samsung Galaxy 5G
It may look like the S10 5G has four cameras on its back, but one of them is a 3D ToF (Time of Flight) sensor. Apart from that the three photo cameras are the same as on the S10 and S10+.
3D ToF sensor duties are not yet absolutely clear but will likely be directed at 3D object modelling for Augmented Reality (AR) animations as well as motion capture control for gaming.
We’re obviously interested in whether or not the 3D sensor can assist the photographic functionality of the three cameras, for focusing and bokeh blur generation, for example.
Like the S10+, the 5G’s selfie camera has a ToF depth sensor next to it.
The S10 5G will be a big device and it has a big 4500 mAh battery to match and with such a large battery it comes with a 25W Super Fast Charger. Nevertheless, Huawei offers a 40W charger with its Mate 20 Pro flagship handset.
The feeling I was left with after the Samsung Unpacked 2019 event in London was that Samsung has responded very strongly to the challenge of Huawei and its sub-brand, Honor, along with the other rising Chinese competitors like Oppo and Xiaomi.
Samsung has packed a lot of exciting new features into their new Galaxy S10 handsets, including triple and quad back cameras and remarkable ultra wide-angle capability across the board.
While there is a lot of substance to the range of improvements revealed, it didn’t escape me that the external design of the new handsets, particularly from the back, wasn’t immediately distinctive from last year’s models – or even some 2017 models.
Closer examination, especially at the front, with the punch-hole selfie camera and a lack of notch or other wasted screen real-estate, is more striking.
Camera-wise, it’s interesting to note that Samsung has not followed the route provided by Sony with its very high-resolution (38-48 megapixel) Quad Bayer smartphone image sensors, instead staying with more conventional 12 or 16 megapixel resolutions.
We can’t wait to discover how these divergent smartphone photo imaging strategies will pan out during 2019. STOP PRESS – the much-respected DxOMark technical test people, based in Paris, France, have just revealed their in-depth benchmarking of the Galaxy S10+ and pronounced a dead heat with their current top-rated smartphone, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.