The Galaxy S10e is Samsung’s flagship phone with 2019 specs and features at 2016 prices, giving consumers a way to snag all of the new features in the Galaxy S10 at a discount.
In this way, the S10e (‘e’ for ‘essential’) has a lot in common with the Apple iPhone XR, and it’s tough not to see it as the Samsung ‘budget flagship’ of the iPhone XS line: both pack the best parts of their generation in a phone that’s not quite as svelte or feature-rich as their pricier siblings.
But the real competition isn’t between either lower-cost device - it’s between them and their pricier siblings. We found the S10e is robust enough to forgo the extra perks in the S10 (which is $150/£113/AU$210 more) or the S10 Plus ($250/£189/AU$350 more). As a bonus, the S10e’s smaller size will certainly appeal to folks who don't appreciate the blooming size of flagship phones.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S10 review
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review
- Read our hands-on Samsung Galaxy S10 5G review
- And here's all you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy Fold
There are compromises for that lower cost, of course. The S10e doesn’t get some of some of the neat features in its pricier siblings, like an in-screen fingerprint sensor, curved screen sides or a telephoto lens. These sorts of features will undoubtedly show up in more handsets in 2019, so it’ll be curious to see if their exclusion gives you flagship phone envy.
But we doubt you’ll be too jealous. The Galaxy S10e is a lovely one-hand-friendly phone that with top-of-the-line specs to match. Its 5.8-inch all-screen display is easy to hold and its chipset is fast enough that it’ll compete with other flagships for years to come, even if its compromises in display resolution and camera fall short of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus.
Samsung Galaxy S10e price and release date
The Samsung Galaxy S10e came out on March 8, 2019 in the US, Canada, Europe, India, China, and other select countries. It’ll roll out to a total of 130 markets by the end of March, though the company hasn’t specified exactly which countries it’ll be available in by then.
The Galaxy S10e retails for $749 / £669 / AU$1,199 / AED 2,699 for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage version. If you want the slightly more powerful 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, at this point, it seems like it’s only available on the US Samsung online store, and you’ll pay $849 (prices aren’t available outside the US) for it. It’s unclear if this means the higher-priced model isn’t available in other regions.
Samsung Galaxy S10e specs
Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 5.8-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2280
CPU: Octa-core chipset
Rear camera: 16MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10MP
As previously stated, one of the Galaxy S10e’s more attractive features might, ironically, be its smaller size. As main flagships get ever-larger, a contingent of consumers have steadily gone for smaller phones – just look at the popularity of the iPhone SE (RIP) - and the S10e is as manageable as top-tier phones get with a width of 2.75 inches. (Curiously, the iPhone XS is the smallest of its generation, and the S10e is smaller than that phone by a hair.)
The S10e otherwise looks like a shrunken version of its pricier siblings, with a few exceptions. Samsung didn’t include the Galaxy line’s Infinity Edge tapered display in this less expensive model, so you’ll have to accept a flat front screen with more noticeable bezels. As it’s the smallest of the S10 line, the S10e is also the lightest, coming in at 150g - which is another feather in its cap when compared to the 208g iPhone XR.
While the S10e doesn’t have its pricier siblings’ fancy in-screen fingerprint scanner, Samsung didn’t leave a biometric fingerprint pad on the back, opting instead to put a small capacitive sensor within an enlarged power button on the top-right side. It’s surprisingly responsive, though it works far better with thumbs. Why? Because you have to cover the whole sensor with your digit, and mashing your fingertip flat enough to envelop the button is tough from any angle. Just use a thumb.
Otherwise, the phone looks flagship, with a chromed aluminum case sandwiched by attractive glass and the elegant rounded corners we’ve come to love in the Galaxy S line. The rear has a narrower camera bump than its pricier siblings due to the lack of a third camera and the absence of a heartbeat sensor (which might be an admission that folks weren’t using it much anyway).
The phone officially comes in six colors, though only four are available in the US: Prism Black, The pearlescent Prism White, shimmering Prism Blue, and the new punchy pastel Flamingo Pink. Sadly, Prism Green and Canary Yellow are restricted to other regions.
The S10e’s left edge has the volume rocker, which is responsive and functional. Below it sits the much-disliked Bixby button, but fear not: Samsung has gamely allowed you to finally use it to activate other apps. There is a caveat: the button functionality has been split into single and double presses, and one of those must activate Bixby.
Luckily, it’s easy to cordons Bixby to double-press and set single-press to whatever your heart desires. Considering how much Samsung has fought to keep third-party apps from remapping Bixby out of the picture, we’ll take this compromise.
On the bottom edge, you’ll find a center-mounted USB-C port, microphone port, speaker grille and...a 3.5mm headphone jack. Samsung has kept its trash-talking high ground.
The 5.8-inch AMOLED display lives up to the Galaxy S name, with bright colors and crisp detail. If you don’t quite like the color balance, you can tinker with an easy fix called Vivid Mode, which does what it says on the box and lets you further tweak it to be a warmer (more red) or cooler (more blue) picture. If even that isn’t enough, you can tinker with the RGB levels individually.
Side-by-side with an iPhone XS Max, the S10e’s screen kept up gamely, losing out only on the darkest scenes in a media comparison (the ‘Blackwater’ episode of Game of Thrones is good fodder for this. Just saying), where backgrounds of varying blacks average out into dark gray smudges.
This is somewhat expected, as the S10e has a single 2280 x 1080 (438 ppi) resolution setting. Samsung sets this as the default for its flagship phones, but both the S10 and S10 Plus max out at 3040 x 1440 for a higher ~550 ppi. One other minor difference between the models: the S10e has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on front and back, while its bigger siblings have had their front display’s glass upgraded to Gorilla 6.
What the whole S10 line has in common, however, is the punch-hole in the top-right corner of the screen, the source of the Samsung-termed ‘Infinity-O’ display. It’s noticeable, like the notches before it, though far less an eyesore than the wider camera tabs found in the likes of the iPhone XS and XS Max.
In some ways, dropping the hole within the display looks more attractive than tucking it into a corner, as the eye naturally gravitates toward the uninterrupted borders of the lit screen rather than the circular cutout. But it also feels like Samsung’s flexing its design and manufacturing chops here rather than offering a dynamic solution to the front-facing camera issue. Whether you like it or not will probably come down to personal taste – we like it, but wouldn’t hold it against you to dismiss the punch-hole as a stopgap stunt.
In any case, most media apps will automatically black-bar the top and bottom of the display to fit their aspect ratio, which envelops the punch-hole. Don’t worry about it getting in the way of your binge sessions.