- The Galaxy S20 series consists of the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
- The Galaxy S20 series phones will go on sale from March 6, availability in India is also going to be soon.
- The Galaxy S20 phones come with new camera hardware and features, which are unique to them.
All the low-hanging fruits have been plucked. This is what we are seeing in the smartphone industry. And that is why soon you are going to get the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra the way they are. On Tuesday, Samsung announced the new flagship smartphones which are part of its Galaxy S20 series. There are three phones: The Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Irrespective of which one you pick in the coming days when these three phones start arriving in markets, including in India, in the first and second week of March, you will find them familiar.
So you will also wonder what is new about the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra. You will feel this way because at first glance these three phones look like an incremental update over the Galaxy S10 phones, and in many ways, they are indeed incremental upgrades. The low-hanging fruits no longer exist. Now, the companies must look for a breakthrough, and breakthroughs are hard to come by. Samsung is busy doing interesting stuff, busy looking for breakthroughs, but until it finds stuff that it can put into mass-market devices, you will have to consider the Galaxy S20 series.
The good news and this is based on close to an hour that I spent with the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra is that the new Galaxy phones are remarkably reliable, polished and dependable even if they don't look as in looks wise all that different from the Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10+. The Galaxy S20 series also comes with a couple of new unique features that a lot of people are going to find useful.
Looks like Galaxy
Let's start with the design. I have mixed feelings on this. There is nothing wrong with the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra design. In fact, almost everything is right with the design. All three phones, relative to their screen sizes and all the cool technology they come with, are extremely light. The Galaxy S20, which has a 6.2-inch screen, weighs just a little over 160 grams. It shows, or rather feels, when you pick up this phone. It seems feather-light at a time when we have metal and glass phones weighing close to 200 grams, like some OnePlus and iPhones. Even the S20+ is quite light, and so is the S20 Ultra, which despite its 6.9-inch screen and huge 5000 mAh battery inside it, weighs 220 grams, which is 5 grams less than the weight of iPhone 11 Pro Max.
I think this is good news for users. At a time when the phones are getting heavier and heavier, Samsung has managed to keep its latest phones light. While using the phone it makes a great deal of difference. It is actually the difference between whether at the end of the day your wrists will hurt like they do for some iPhone 11 Pro Max or Pixel 3 XL users or not.
The design of the new Galaxy S20 series phones also looks great, and feels great in hands, because they are compact phones despite their big screens. For many people, even the Galaxy S20+ but not the Galaxy S20 Ultra will be a phone manageable with a single hand. The S20 is definitely a phone you can use with a single hand. These are not overly broad phones, and the bezels around the screen are quite thin. Both the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+ are on the slimmer side, with their thickness under 8mm. The S20 Ultra is a thicker phone.
On the front, Samsung has placed the selfie camera in the punch hole, which is in the centre of the top edge and not on the sides. I feel this is a welcome change compared to the Galaxy S10, which has it on the right edge. The centre placement gives the design a more balanced look. I also like that instead of going with something like a pop-up camera, which is just a more flashier way of doing things and nothing else, Samsung sticks to a regular camera system.
Finally, there is the premium-ness. With the metal and glass bodies, the S20 series phones look good. And the build quality is fantastic. The rear camera module, unlike the horizontal one in the S10 series, is a vertical one in the S20 series. Not a big deal but it makes the phones look sharper. It protrudes around half a millimetre or so but I feel it is neither an issue aesthetically, nor a problem usability wise. On the S20 Ultra, the bump in the camera module is slightly more noticeable because it is bigger to accommodate the periscope lens but even that is not something that users will find troublesome.
So what's the problem? There is no problem with the Galaxy S20 series design. It's just that I find it too familiar and too safe. The brushed metal finish on the frame, the frosted but smooth and shiny glass, the overly rounded edges all of that we have seen again and again in a Samsung Galaxy S series phone, arranged in the same way, in the last three years. The Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+ and the Galaxy S20 Ultra are unmistakably Samsung Galaxy phones. They have thin bezels, but under the display, there is still the hint of a chin, something that the iPhone lost around two years ago. The finish is still shiny and smooth, and that still collects smudges within minutes you start using the phone. The speaker grill still have those largish holes, and the buttons on the side have the same metal finish that we have seen on the last four-generations of Galaxy S phones. More significantly, there is a lack of wow factor here. Maybe this is because Samsung is trying to wow users with foldable phones and that is understandable. It's just that I feel that the Galaxy S series too is due for a design refresh, and I would have liked to see the refresh happen this year.
Galaxy S20: All that is new
Just the way it is with the design, my quick impression is that the Galaxy S20 series is similar to the Galaxy S10 series in other areas as well. And that is a good thing because why fix something that is not broken. The display in a Samsung Galaxy S series phones has always been perfect. It is the same with the Galaxy S20 series phones. I find the Galaxy S20+ display the right balance between portability and usability. The S20 Ultra display at 6.9 inches is slightly too bigger for a phone, the 6.2-inch screen of the Galaxy S20 may feel small to some. All three phones use AMOLED panels, and there are plenty of pixels on these screens (quad HD and all) to ensure that you are not going to see any jaggies in the text. With the Galaxy S20 series, Samsung is also moving to displays with a higher refresh rate. All three phones support 120Hz refresh rate, and while using the devices I found it to work as intended, which is to say that scrolling is extremely smooth on the Galaxy S20 series phones and touch response is buttery.
All three phones have adequately bright displays. The quality of colours they show is rich. In other words, soon you ma hear from Display Mate that these the Galaxy S20 series has some of the best screens ever put in a phone.
Like the previous generation Galaxy S phones, the Galaxy S20 series devices are also fast phones. In the last couple of years, Samsung has worked hard on polishing software and feature set in its phones. The new Galaxy S20 series is powered by Android 10 that Samsung has customised with One UI. Personally, I am always partial to stock Android in Google Pixel phones but there is nothing wrong with the One UI Samsung has put into the Galaxy S20 phones. The icons are colourful and tasteful, the way to multi-task between open apps is easier, performance is good no doubt helped by the latest 7nm chipset and 12GB RAM and there tons of options to customise the phone, or create personalised workflows. While using the Galaxy S20, I didn't notice anything amiss performance-wise and while I couldn't try some of the performance-related features like the new gaming mode, which ensures smoother gameplay, I am fairly certain that the Galaxy S20 phones are going to be among the fastest phones you will be able to buy in the market.
The big changes, compared to the earlier Galaxy phones, are in the camera system of the Galaxy S20 series. The Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+ have similar front and rear camera systems. The one difference is the presence of the depth-sensing camera on the S20+. Otherwise, both phones have the same 10-megapixel front camera, a 12-megapixel main real camera, 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera and 64-megapixel camera with a telephoto lens. Along with new hardware, there are also couple of new camera features. Two of them are of particular note: 8K video recording and new hybrid-zoom that uses a lot of AI, and optical zoom built in the lens, to help users snap photos of people and objects far away. 8K is particularly a big deal because the availability of this feature in a mass-market device is going to help users shoot extremely high-resolution videos, something that until now is mostly a domain of professionals.
From the specs, we can ascertain that the Galaxy S20 and the Galaxy S20+ cameras come with 3X optical zoom and 30X hybrid-zoom. But more than the zoom, what I liked more about the Galaxy S20 cameras is their ability to record fine details. I clicked some photos in low light settings in the demo zone set up for these new phones and I found that the S20 cameras can click an impressive amount of details and punchy colours.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra, meanwhile, comes with a different set of camera hardware. On the front, it has a higher resolution 40-megapixel camera. And on the back, it uses different image sensors for the main camera and for the telephoto camera, which has a periscope-style lens. The main camera in the S20 Ultra uses a new 108-megapixel image sensor while the telephoto lens is paired with a 48-megapixel sensor. These are lot of pixels, so Samsung is using them to create photos through pixel-binning technology. What it means is that most of the time you are going to shoot regular sized photos, but they will be created using super-pixels for which the AI in the S20 Ultra will fuse up to 9 pixels together. It sounds a little geeky but here is the key takeaway: Samsung is promising more details, even in low light, and better dynamic range in photos clicked with the S20 Ultra. This is in addition to 10X optical zoom that phone offers, and 100X hybrid zoom.
Now that 100X zoom sounds a lot and crazy, and it is, while using the phone I found that in terms of usability something like 30X or lower will give the better results, because at 100X the pixels that the S2 Ultra will produce are going to be extremely mushy.
Galaxy S20: Come for camera, stay for everything else
Given that the biggest upgrades in the S20 series compared to the S10 phones are in camera, Samsung is highlighting the camera capabilities of its new phones in a grand way. That 100X zoom in the Galaxy S20 Ultra sounds mighty swell. And I am sure it will prove useful. The 8K video recording too is something that consumers are going to love.
But after using these phones for close to hour, my impression is that the cameras may attract users to the Galaxy S20 phones, the real merits of these phones is in what they are: dependable phones that are fast, packed with top-end hardware and features, and plenty of everything, including up to 512GB storage, up to 5000 mAh battery and up to 16GB RAM. These phones don't have a single weak point, except that they look way too familiar. But that is is subjective, this matter of looks. In terms of usability and functionality, the Galaxy S20 phones look as good as they come.