On Tuesday, Samsung officially unveiled its latest flagship devices at its Unpacked event in San Francisco and they come in the form of the Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra.
If you’re wondering why the company decided to go from the number ten to 20 in just one year, it’s because, based on sheer features alone, a single-digit bump to “S11” just wouldn’t do the line justice.
In comparison to the Galaxy S10 (and other Galaxy phones that’ve come before it), the new devices have received a much needed revamp on both the inside and out.
All three devices come equipped with 5G, upgraded camera systems, and tons of new features to assist with enhancing all the content you capture. And, while Samsung only made a few minor tweaks in terms of design, it’s made a huge impact on both the look and feel.
Depending on the configuration, the Galaxy S20 will start at $999.99, while the S20+ comes in at $1,199.99. Samsung’s luxe Galaxy S20 Ultra is the most expensive of the bunch, starting at $1,399.99.
All three phones will be ready for pre-order on Feb. 21, with in-store availability on March 6.
The glo-up is real
All three phones in the S20 lineup are truly stunning and feel a lot more premium than their predecessors. Which, given the price increase, is expected.
When I picked up the Galaxy S20, all I could think was: “Galaxy S10, who?” Even though I didn’t get that much time with the handset during the demo, I found myself carrying it around the studio space with no intention of actually putting it down. I liked it that much.
All three phones retain the same glass sandwich design as the S10 line: glass on the back and front, and metal in between. Having a phone with that much glass and no protective case will always terrify me, but it didn’t feel as fragile in hand as I thought it would.
While subtle, the corners on all three phones are a lot curvier too, which gives them an overall softer look. It’s a lot more attractive than the chiseled, square frame on past Galaxy phones.
But the main draw to this very welcome Galaxy revamp has everything to do with the cameras. For the first time since the Galaxy S7, Samsung has redesigned the camera architecture on the back of all three phones.
And all I can say is, finally. It was truly time to retire the look, given what’s currently out on the market.
Rather than a thin, horizontal structure that sits across the phone’s upper back, the S20 and S20+ feature vertical, rectangular camera bumps housed on the left side of the phone’s back. And while triple- and quad-camera setups are admittedly a lot to squeeze onto the back of a phone, the look is actually rather subdued.
Meanwhile, the S20 Ultra has a square-like camera module (which we’ll get to later) that’s reminiscent of both the Google Pixel 4 and the iPhone 11 Pro.
But I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the way it looks. If Samsung had added one more camera sensor to the back of the S20 Ultra, that thing might’ve been swallowed whole by the entire module.
Samsung also didn’t go as crazy with the color selection this year. While the S10 is available globally in Flamingo Pink, Prism Green, and Canary Yellow, the S20 falls more under the pastel family. Thankfully, the shimmer is still there.
The S20 is available in Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, and Cloud Pink. The S20+ and S20 Ultra come in Cosmic Gray and Cosmic Black, with an additional color option, Cloud Blue, for the S20+.
Powerful displays and performance
The S20 comes with a 6.2-inch AMOLED display (563 ppi), while the S20+ comes with a 6.7-inch AMOLED display (525 ppi). The largest of them all is, of course, the S20 Ultra with a massive 6.9-inch AMOLED display (511 ppi).
While different sizes, all three handsets feature Quad HD+ dynamic resolution and, like their S10 siblings, are also HDR10+ certified.
Additionally, all three phones have a 120Hz refresh rate, which gamers out there will appreciate. You’ll find the same refresh rate on handsets like the ASUS ROG Phone 2 and the Razr Phone 2. But you’ll have to manually enable that setting. By default, the screen is set to 60Hz.
The touch response rate has also been improved. So, your touch inputs are recorded with less lag and are more instantaneously recognized by the device. While the display felt snappy in my limited time with it, it remains to be seen whether it’s that much more responsive than the S10.
The devices also come equipped with Samsung’s “Infinity-O” displays and, as a result, look a little different than their predecessors. This time, the hole punch cutout has been moved from the right side of the device to the middle. And, according to Samsung, it’s also the smallest it’s ever been.
In terms of specs, the S20 and S20+ both feature a 10-megapixel selfie camera, while the S20 Ultra has a 40-megapixel sensor.
As for what’s under the hood, the S20 phones all feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor.
If you’re interested in picking up one of the three S20 devices, you’ll have a few different storage options to consider. For starters, all three phones come with a base configuration of 12GB of memory. As for internal storage, the S20 comes with 128GB, while the S20 Plus offers users a choice between 128GB or 512GB. The S20 Ultra retains the 12GB of RAM for its 128GB configuration, but can also be bumped up to 16GB of RAM with 512GB of storage.
And, if that’s not enough for you, all three phones are equipped with a microSD slot for up to 1TB of additional storage.
When it comes to the battery, each phone packs a lot more juice this time around. The S20 has a 4,000mAh battery; the S20+ packs a 4,500mAh battery; and the S20 Ultra has a 5,000mAh battery.
Each phone also features Samsung’s Wireless PowerShare, which was introduced last year. You can reverse charge a device, like the Galaxy Buds+ or Galaxy Watch Active, by simply placing it on the back of the S20, S20+, or S20 Ultra.
Let the light in
Samsung has upped the ante in terms of camera quality and build, with sensors that are up to three times larger than what we found in the S10 line. This allows for better detail, light, and clarity in each photo. But, of course, we’ll find out exactly how much better those photos are when we get into testing.
The S20 comes with a triple-camera setup that includes a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens with f/1.8 aperture, 120-degree 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 aperture, and a 64-megapixel telephoto lens with f/2.0 aperture.
The S20+ incorporates the same rear camera sensors as the S20, but adds in a depth-sensing Time of Flight (ToF) sensor to make it a quad-camera setup.
The S20 Ultra has a quad-camera module, as well. You’ll find a 108-megapixel wide-angle lens with f/1.8 aperture, a 120-degree 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 aperture, and a 48-megapixel telephoto lens with f/3.5 aperture. Like the S20+, it also comes with a ToF sensor.
While the S20 Ultra’s 108-megapixel sensor is great for outdoor shots or areas that are well-lit, it’s not suited for environments that are more dim. If you do find yourself in that sort of lighting, the Ultra will suggest switching to its 12-megapixel sensor.
Not only take does it take in more light this way (three times more than the S10), but it also uses Nona Binning technology to merge nine pixels into one, creating a 12-megapixel image that’s clearer and richer in quality.
All three phones also have improved night modes. Samsung has doubled the amount of images being processed under its multi-image processing software in comparison to the Galaxy Note 10. The cameras also feature multi ISO composition, so they can vary the sensitivity of the lens to get the right balance.
And, in a first for Samsung, content can also be recorded in 8K on all three phones at 24 frames per second. Samsung points out that you can enjoy this feature by casting clips to your 8K TV, which begs the question: How many of us actually own an 8K TV? For those of us that don’t, you can also downscale to 4K and HD.
An improved super steady function, which was originally introduced in the S10, also gets an upgrade. Rather than merely cancelling out motion in four axes (up, down, and side to side), it now cancels out side sways at up to 60 degrees in either direction.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
In addition to enhanced camera sensors, the S20 lineup has some intense zoom capabilities. Each phone comes equipped with Samsung’s very own Space Zoom feature, which combines optic zoom technology with software-based, AI-powered digital zoom.
The S20 and S20+ are capable of up to 30X zoom using the 64-megapixel sensor. Meanwhile, the S20 Ultra provides up to 100X lossless zoom.
Regardless of what device you use, there’s always a shakiness that gets worse the closer you zoom in to an object or scene. And though the S20 Ultra does get shaky when you hit 100X zoom, its motion-stabilizing AI software will lock down a clean shot for you.
It also helps that there’s a targeting guide which appears for shots beyond 20X zoom. That way, it’s easier to aim directly at the subject to snap a photo.
Content creation station
To complement the new cameras, Samsung also packed in some new features to help edit and enhance your content. There’s a built in video editor, so you can trim clips and merge them together right on the display.
There’s also Single Take, a feature that captures a variety of photos and videos, and then leverages AI to suggest the best shot. It records for up to ten seconds and simultaneously selects different shots or GIFs suited for that scene.
So, if it’s a landscape shot, you’ll get an ultra-wide photo; if you’re panning with people around, it might suggest a live focus shot or smart crop. All the recommendations are bundled up together in a gallery view, so you can pick whichever one you like best.
Samsung also tossed in another feature to beef up the S20 line’s photo capabilities: Night Hyperlapse. Those of you with an interesting night life should appreciate its ability to shoot footage of your late-night, low-light adventures.
And if you’re so inclined, you can even share these photos and clips via Quick Share — Samsung’s AirDrop-like feature that allows you to quickly and locally exchange files between Galaxy devices.
A full 5G family
Part of the hype behind the new S20 phones is that they’re all equipped with 5G. According to Samsung, back in 2019, only one percent of total smartphones shipped were 5G enabled. In 2020, that number is expected to increase to 18 percent.
Clearly, Samsung has quickly jumped on the 5G bandwagon only a few months into the new year.
With the Galaxy S20, you’ll get sub-6 5G capabilities. Whereas, the S20+ and S20 Ultra will give you both sub-6 and mmWave capabilities.
So, what does that mean for you? Essentially, it offers up more band support, better compatibility across networks, and global roaming.
But, most people won’t be able to take advantage of 5G just yet. As of right now, it’s only available in certain neighborhoods and cities. So, unless you live in an area that offers 5G, you shouldn’t expect to reap the benefits.
That also means you shouldn’t purchase one of these phones strictly for the 5G, unless you have zero plans to upgrade your phone for a few years — it’ll likely take a while for 5G to hit your town.
The inclusion of 5G also means you’ll be able to video chat with friends and family in full HD. In partnership with Google, Samsung natively integrated Google Duo into all of its S20 devices. The Duo icon now appears within contacts and the dialer, so you can easily just tap on it rather than launching a separate app.
5G helps to improve video game streaming, as well. The 120Hz refresh rate on the display brings smoother graphics for high intensity games.
Bring on the power
In comparison to the S10 line before it, it’s clear Samsung has pulled out all the stops for the Galaxy S20 family. And these phones are powerful.
Sure, a starting price of $999.99 is extremely high, but it feels like the dust has finally been wiped off the Galaxy phones. Rather than upgrading some specs here and there, Samsung opted for a bevy of features that set a new precedent for what’s to come in its Galaxy portfolio.
The new phones not only look fresh and new, but come packed with tons of specs to justify the cost: 5G, triple- or quad-camera setups, up to 100X zoom, and that Snapdragon processor. There are also plenty of editing tools that allow you to enhance and share your content right from the devices.
Of course, we’ll have to take the S20 (and its brethren) for a real-world spin to see whether or not it truly lives up to Samsung’s laundry list of promises.