Samsung Galaxy S20 series are now on sale, packing a big cameras, screens and 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 lineup is officially on sale in the US, offering premium features for flagship prices - and, crucially, hooking consumers up to both mmWave and sub-6 5G networks.

The standard Samsung Galaxy S20 is the main phone of the bunch, with a moderately-sized 6.2-inch display that starts at $999. 

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus sits in the sweet spot of the lineup, packing a bit more features and a 6.7-inch display while starting at $1,199. 

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, featuring the highest specs and a 5x optical zoom comes in at a a colossal 6.9-inch device with a fittingly huge price, starting at $1,399.

All three feature top-end flagship specs: a Snapdragon 865 chipset, 12GB of RAM (up to 16GB in the Ultra), a WQHD+ (3200x1440) AMOLED display, and a triple rear camera (plus a time of flight depth sensor in the top two models). 

Those are all incrementally upgraded from last year, but here's what's new in the S20 lineup: a display that maxes out at 120Hz refresh rate, a 64MP 3x optical telephoto lens (up from 12MP 2x zoom) on the S20 and S20 Plus (5x on the Ultra), 8K video at 24FPS, and, yes, all the US models are 5G phones.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

Let's talk 5G - and carriers

Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S10 5G was a specialist model that only hooked up to high-frequency mmWave networks, but the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra connect to both mmWave and sub-6 networks as carriers build out their 5G networks using one or both frequency ranges.

The standard Galaxy S20, though, can only hook up to the lower-frequency sub-6 - which is why you'll see carriers with different release plans. AT&T is selling all three phones, though only the S20 Plus and Ultra will hook up to its newly-launched mmWave network, per Android Central.

Verizon is taking a more unique approach: it won't sell the base S20 until it releases its own custom version in the next few months that will connect to mmWave, too. You can find out more on this in Verizon's press release.

(Image credit: Future)

New year, new S20 roles

While Samsung’s 2019 lineup started out with the budget flagship Samsung Galaxy S10e, the most affordable of the Samsung Galaxy S20 lineup is, indeed, the standard Samsung Galaxy S20.

Given the Galaxy S20 packs most of the features of its pricier siblings and isn’t nearly as cheap as the S10e, it doesn’t qualify as a budget flagship. Instead, this role seems vacant, though some markets (not the US, at least) have access to the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite and Galaxy Note 10 Lite phones. 

Thus, the S20 Plus is the large - but not enormous - phone of the series, not the 'main' model between budget and pricey. 

Still, it packs the most features without being as expensive as the Ultra. We may or may not see a 'budget flagship' from Samsung released outside markets where affordable phones reign - we understand the S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite are aimed at Latin America and likely won't be sold by carriers in the US - so for now, the S20 series indicates Samsung's strategy going forward.

  • Once we review them, the S20 phones will surely rank high on our best phones list
David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.