Why the Galaxy S10 Plus could be Samsung's iPhone XR

Image Credit: TechRadar

What do an all-singing, all-dancing do-it-all flagship phone (with a lofty price tag) and an 'affordable' high-end handset have in common?

The iPhone XR is the biggest (and cheapest) hit of the three phones launched by Apple, and we've now learned the top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus was the most popular handset for those who pre-ordered one of the new S10 trio of handsets ahead of their March 8 release.

Two high-end phones, both arrived as part of a trio, both aimed at different audiences at different price points, but both with potentially more in common than you may think.

Stealing the limelight

When Apple took to the stage on September 12 last year to launch its first ever trio of handsets there was excitement among its fans, but not necessarily for the flagship iPhone XS and XS Max.

Instead, much of the pre-launch hype and post-launch sales revolved around the new entry to Apple's line - the iPhone XR.

Billed as a more-accessible flagship, the iPhone XR shared many of the features of its more expensive siblings while offering a price point which was comfortably lower - although still far from "cheap".

iPhone XR is proving popular for Apple. Image Credit: Apple

iPhone XR is proving popular for Apple. Image Credit: Apple

The iPhone XS and XS Max meanwhile, felt glossed over a little in the critical response, partially due to their similarity to the iPhone X - the phone they were replacing. 

The improvements were incremental, and didn't offer a huge amount of new appeal for those looking to upgrade.

The XR, on the other hand, captured the attention of masses, giving more people hope of being able to afford a new iPhone. 

In fact, it was so popular that it led to Apple VP of product marketing, Greg Joswiak telling Reuters in November 2018 that "since the iPhone XR became available, it's been the best-selling iPhone each and every day that it's been on sale".

You'd think then, on this evidence, the Samsung Galaxy S10e would be in for a similarly positive reception, but actually it seems to be quietly sitting in the shadow of its siblings.

New enough to be exciting

The Samsung Galaxy S10e hasn't featured prominently in post-launch coverage, or in what we've witnessed people searching for online, with interest in the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus comfortably outstripping it. 

At first glance it seems odd. The S10e is priced at the same level as iPhone XR deals, and both devices offer up a healthy portion of flagship features to keep the more price-conscious buyer interested. 

Dig a little deeper, though, and it becomes apparent why the cheapest S10 model isn't getting the same adulation as its iPhone counterpart.

The newly-launched Samsung Galaxy A30. Image credit: TechRadar

The newly-launched Samsung Galaxy A30. Image credit: TechRadar

Firstly, there's no novelty factor to Samsung launching a more affordable device. While Apple had never offered three devices at the same time before, Samsung has been churning out mid-range and budget handsets in huge numbers for years.

Just look at the newly-launched Galaxy A30 as an example of a similar-looking Galaxy phone to the flagship models.

The brand is known for offering affordable mobiles, and thus a new 'affordable' device from the South Korean giant isn't showstopping in the same way as the XR was for Apple.

The Galaxy S10 Plus is Samsung's most popular pre-ordered phone. Image Credit: TechRadar

The Galaxy S10 Plus is Samsung's most popular pre-ordered phone. Image Credit: TechRadar

However, there's a second part in play here. The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus manage to offer several exciting upgrades over the S9 series.

The even-bigger screen with new Infinity-O display (where the front facing camera is embedded into the display), in-display fingerprint scanner, Wireless PowerShare and triple rear camera setup with a super-wide angle lens ensures there are plenty of new (for Samsung) headlining features to shout about.

Add to that the fact the Galaxy S10 Plus starting price is less than the iPhone XS (yes, not even the XS Max), and in direct comparison it looks like a solid buy for those on the hunt for a featured-packed flagship.

In both the case of the iPhone XR and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, there's enough of a change on each to entice fans to spend a little more to get a newer version from their favorite brand.

On the one hand, it shows the difference in desire between Apple and Samsung customers - the former perhaps wanting to spend less to just get an all-screen iPhone, and the latter wanting to spend as much as possible to get the greatest upgrades.

With consumers more willing to hold onto older phones, it takes more than just incremental changes to make a difference these days - attractive reasons to buy (and make a difference to users' lives) is critical.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.