Today’s the day Samsung fans have been waiting for. Today’s the day Samsung has finally unveiled its latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus, and super high-end S20 Ultra. The company made the announcement at its annual Unpacked event alongside the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Buds Plus.
This article will focus on what’s new with the S20 family, including those names.
Instead of going to 11, Samsung skipped nine potential generations of smartphones and decided to call its S10 successors the S20 series. Whether this is a move to make the phones seem like they’ll be better than the presumed iPhone 12 is unclear, but I can’t help but think this point was brought up during branding discussions.
Sizes and models
Samsung is doing three different variants of the S20. There’s the standard S20 with a 6.2-inch screen, the S20 Plus with a 6.7-inch screen, and the humongous S20 Ultra with a 6.9-inch screen. All three phones will come with 5G compatibility in the U.S., while the S20 and S20 Plus will get a 4G model in some parts of the world.
Samsung says the S20 will start at $999, the S20 Plus at $1,199, and the S20 Ultra at $1,399. Those are some pretty high price tags, and it isn’t exactly inviting to those looking to save money on their next phone. But these are premium devices, and they’re engineered that way.
Design: Very premium
Samsung has mastered its design craft over the years, and the S20 series is perfect proof of that. All three devices sport attractive glass designs with metal rails that add a bit of shimmer to their profiles. They each have minimal bezels, hole-punch cutouts for their selfie cameras, and giant camera housings on their backs. Of course, each phone has also received an IP68 certification for water proofing.
If you’re looking for the one that’s gonna be the easiest to handle, the S20 is the way to go. Meanwhile, if you don’t care about gripping your glass-covered phone with confidence, pick up the S20 Ultra. That phone is literally 6.57-inches tall.
To help with gripability, Samsung opted for 20:9 aspect ratios on each display. Previously, the company was using 19.5:9 aspect ratios. With 20:9, the phones get a bit slimmer and little bit taller. While this helps with gripping the phones, it’s gonna be even trickier to reach the top of each device to grab the notification pane.
Displays: Colorful, bright, and smooth
Speaking of displays, Samsung is throwing in the best screen tech it can into the S20 series of smartphones. All three phones have 3200×1440 resolutions, use Dynamic AMOLED panels, and get up to over 1,000 nits in terms of brightness. They’re also compatible with HDR10+ and are covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
The best part about these new screens is the refresh rate. For the very first time, Samsung is using a 120Hz refresh rate with its smartphones. This will make everything from scrolling to animations look much smoother than standard 60Hz screens. For reference, you can adjust the rate from 120Hz to 60Hz to save some battery life in exchange for noticeable stutteriness.
Another advantage associated with the S20 series, for some, is the lack of a serious curve along the left and right sides. As it turns out, a good chunk of people in the world prefer flat displays, and while Samsung isn’t going total surfboard here, it is lightening up on just how dramatic the curve is on each side of its phones’ screens, making them easier to handle and just as pleasant to look at.
I have yet to see these screens in person, but I’m sure they’re pretty good looking. Samsung always does a nice job with its screens.
Inside the S20, S20 Plus, and S20 Ultra are some of the best specs currently available in smartphones. You get the latest Snapdragon 865 processor in all three, and with each 5G model, there’s 12GB of RAM. The two 4G S20s I talked about earlier get 8GB, and the highest-end S20 Ultra gets 16GB.
Storage wise, Samsung is using the faster UFS 3.0 spec in the phones for speedier read and write times. You get a minimum of 128GB of storage in all three phones, while the S20 and S20 Plus max out at 256GB. Meanwhile, the top-tier storage trim for the S20 Ultra is 512GB.
Of course, all three phones come with a microSD card slot.
For batteries, Samsung includes some beefy packs with each phone. The standard S20 gets a 4,000mAh cell, the S20 Plus gets a 4,500mAh cell, and the S20 Ultra gets a huge 5,000mAh cell. That means if battery life is your biggest concern, the S20 Ultra will undoubtedly be the phone to buy.
Wrapping things up, all three S20s get Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6, wireless charging, and 45W fast wired charging.
To keep your Galaxy S20 locked, Samsung is including an improved version of its in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader. Samsung says it’s faster and more secure than what was on the S10, but ultrasonic sensors tend to require much more force and precision to work correctly compared to optical ones. Until I get an S20 in my hands, I’m not gonna be able to say if the sensor is actually improved.
Samsung includes stereo speakers with the Galaxy S20 series with the earpiece and downward-firing drivers playing audio in stereo separation (y’know, just like every other phone). Obviously, this year, they’re supposed to be better than what Samsung was previously shipping, so we’ll see how they sound once people start testing the phones.
Unfortunately, 2020 is the year the Galaxy S series loses its headphone jack. Following in the footsteps of the Note 10 from last year, the S20, S20 Plus, and S20 Ultra only come with a single USB-C port with no 3.5mm jack in sight. To accommodate, Samsung is including AKG USB-C earbuds in the box with each phone. Still, it’s sad to see the jack go, especially since Samsung used to mock Apple for removing the port from its phones.
Time to talk about the most anticipated part of the Galaxy S20: the cameras.
The S20 and S20 Plus have the same camera setups as each other, so I’ll go over them first. On the back, you get a 12MP Sony IMX 555 standard lens with dual-pixel phase detection autofocus, an ultra-wide 12MP lens with Super Steady video, and a new 64MP Samsung ISOCell S5KGW2 telephoto lens. The latter sensor gets you 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom for improved clarity when zooming in on subjects.
The S20 Plus does have a bit of a leg up on the standard S20 since it has a time-of-flight sensor, but other than that difference expect identical performance between the two phones.
For camera nerds, the S20 Ultra is gonna be the most interesting. On its back, you’ll find a main 108MP S5KHM1 lens, a 48MP telephoto lens, and a 12MP ultra-wide in addition to a ToF sensor. The latter three sensors are cool, but that 108MP camera is definitely the focal point of the S20 Ultra’s setup, especially when you consider it’s making its U.S. debut.
With a 108MP lens, you can obviously take 108MP pictures, but you won’t be doing that all the time. Samsung will be using all the extra resolution afforded by the 108 megapixels to make a sharper image that’ll float somewhere around 12MP. This is a much more practical approach to handling such a large sensor, so it makes sense for Samsung to simplify it and make it the default setting.
Meanwhile, the 48MP telephoto lens will support 100x digital zoom (insane, I know) and 30x hybrid zoom (using both optical and digital for a better photo). the ultra-wide doesn’t have a ton of fancy tricks up its sleeve, though, and neither does the ToF.
On the front will sit a 40MP selfie camera, the sharpest selfie shooter in any Samsung phone to date.
Samsung has some neat tricks up its sleeves when it comes to the cameras on the S20 series. Here’s a rundown from the company’s own press release.
- Details in Stunning Clarity: With a larger image sensor available on the Galaxy S20 series, camera resolution is significantly increased, for more detailed images with added flexibility for editing, cropping, and zooming. S20 and S20+ have a 64MP camera. S20 Ultra has 108MP camera. Another benefit is that the larger sensors take in more light, so you get rich image quality even in low light situations. The S20 Ultra takes things a step further with the option to shift dynamically between a high resolution 108MP mode and a 12MP mode, thanks to nona-binning technology which combines nine pixels into one at the sensor level.
- Groundbreaking Zoom Capability: With the Galaxy S20’s Space Zoom technology that uses a combination of Hybrid Optic Zoom and Super Resolution Zoom, which includes AI-powered digital zoom, even when you are far away you can zoom in close. Use up to 30X zoom on the Galaxy S20 and S20+, or step-up to the revolutionary folded lenses on the S20 Ultra, which uses AI powered, multi-image processing to reduce quality loss at high zoom levels so that users can experience Super Resolution Zoom up to 100X with a clearer view ever than before.
- Single Take, Multiple Possibilities: Single Take lets you stay in the moment, while you capture the moment. Thanks to its AI camera technologies, the Galaxy S20 can capture a number of photos and videos, such as Live focus, cropped, Ultra Wide and more that captures your moment the best.
- Pro-Grade Filming Capability: The Galaxy S20 offers stunning 8K video shooting, so users can capture their world in true-to-life color and quality. When you are done shooting, stream your video to a Samsung QLED 8K and enjoy its best-in-class viewing experience3 or grab a still from an 8K video and turn it into a high-res photo. And, even the bumpiest videos look like they were shot using an action cam, thanks to Super Steady and its anti-rolling stabilization and AI motion analysis.
That’s a lot of buzz words, so it’s best to wait for reviewers to get their hands on the devices to see if they can live up to the hype. I’ll be doing my best to get a unit or two so stay tuned.
Where to buy
The Galaxy S20 series will launch on all four major U.S. carriers and some smaller ones. A variety of retailers will also sell the phones including Best Buy, Amazon, and Samsung’s website. The S20 will start at $99, the S20 Plus at $1,199, and the S20 Ultra at $1,399. Meanwhile, the S10 series will see discounted pricing starting at $599. The S20 family launches March 6th.
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