The Galaxy S10 Plus is great, but Samsung’s just getting started.

Angela Lang/CNET

I’ve called the Galaxy S10 Plus a shoe-in as one of the best phones for 2019, but Samsung is only getting started. The Galaxy S10E, S10 and S10 Plus form a fearsome threesome of top-rate phones that are destined to be outdone by three other Galaxy phones this year: The S10 5Gand foldable Galaxy Fold on the high end, and, very likely, the next in the Note family of phones, the Galaxy Note 10.

Although this Note 10 remains unconfirmed, Samsung has released a Galaxy Note phone every year since the large-screen, stylus-wielding line was first announced in 2011. Lately that’s happened in August.

The Note usually represents the culmination of top-notch features, including a larger screen size and battery capacity, processor speed, camera tech and new tricks for the digital stylus, Samsung’s S Pen. It stands to reason that Samsung might hold back the pinnacle of its features for the Note line.

Things are different in 2019. As 5G and foldable devices emerge this year, Samsung may have a harder time making a case for the Note to compete with other devices this holiday season. It’ll be competing with Huawei’sfoldable 5G phones, typically strong showings from Apple’s iPhone in September and October’s Google Pixel.

Here’s how Samsung could have the Note 10 pull ahead of the already excellent Galaxy S10 Plus.

That screen cutout (don’t call it a notch)

If wallpapers of robots and basketball players don’t make you chuckle, you might be ready to see Samsung experiment with a different design for that front-facing camera.

On the S10 phones, the selfie camera takes the form of a circular cutout shifted to the right side of the screen, or a horizontal oval, in the case of the Galaxy S10 Plus.

Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.
Embrace the one-eyed camera.

Angela Lang/CNET

While it won’t get in the way most of the time, it is noticeable when the screen is white. Notch cutouts and cameras that pop up are other solutions, but they’ve also got their share of critics and proponents.

Still, the Infinity-O display that offsets this hole-punch design isn’t universally loved, which gives Samsung a chance to try again.


3D face unlock

3D cameras are starting to appear more frequently on Android phones. But few have attempted to follow the iPhone’s Face ID mechanism, which lets you unlock the phone and pay for goods by scanning your face.

Samsung removed the iris scanner from its Galaxy phones, but gave the Galaxy S10 5G a 3D sensor on the front and back. The company said it was there for AR purposes and maybe some improved depth photography, as with the newly announced Huawei P30 Pro, which has a time-of-flight sensor (TOF) on the back.

Samsung took the iris scanner out of the S10 phones.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Rumor has it that Android Q could fold in this technology. If it does, the Galaxy Note 10 would be perfectly positioned to be Samsung’s first phone to have secure face-scanning software baked in. Remember that Android’s default face unlock is there for convenience, but isn’t secure enough for mobile payments.

Standalone night mode camera

Oh, Samsung. A few years ago, its camera technology was virtually untouchable, but now Google’s Pixel 3 and Huawei’s P30 Pro have leapfrogged the Galaxy S10 Plus on low-light photography with standalone night modes. The results speak for themselves: Rival phones’ photos are clear and bright, with sharp edges and not a lot of overproduction.

All is not lost. Samsung is well aware of the competition and has almost certainly been working on its own take. The Note 10, which has traditionally been Samsung’s pinnacle release before Back to School and holiday shopping kicks in, would be an appropriate, launch pad, if not a belated one.

In-screen fingerprint sensor accuracy

The ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader on the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus is, in theory, a wonderful application of ultrasonic technology (think ultrasounds) to securely unlock your phone and authenticate mobile payments.

In practice, it’s a little slow and largely inaccurate, requiring multiple attempts to unlock the phone. It also doesn’t work as well as promised if you’ve got wet or greasy fingertips. And one of the biggest security claims, that you can’t trick it with a fake fingerprint, has just been challenged by someone claiming they have.

The Note 10 is another chance to tweak the software, or work with Qualcomm, which supplies the ultrasonic tech, on some other fix.

5G speeds are a proba-possibility

Most of the Galaxy S10 phones are 4G, not 5G-ready, and that’s how it should be. Samsung has a 5G version that’ll come out this summer, which is plenty.

There are several reasons why being the earliest 5G adopter isn’t a great idea. One of those reasons is the 5G chip inside the phone, which takes up space and locks the phone to a single network.

Qualcomm, which makes the 5G chip as well as the Snapdragon 855 processor inside the Galaxy phones, is launching an upgrade later this year that will make 5G phones sleeker and also able to cruise multiple carrier networks. It’s possible the Note 10 will be the first phone to use it.

5G will soon be an inevitability.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Foldable design with S Pen support

Will the Galaxy Note 10 be a foldable phone like the Galaxy Fold? Not by a long shot. But it’s worth thinking about how the S Pen, Samsung’s digital stylus, could work with a foldable screen. Especially since that feels like a foregone conclusion for a future Samsung device.

On the one hand you have the Note, whose S Pen takes advantage of a large screen by allowing for navigation, writing and drawing. On the other, the foldable design opens up the largest screens on a cellular device.

The nature of the foldable screen as an expansive surface with Android support for up to three active windows at a time, makes it a fertile ground for a digital pen.

Whether a future foldable Note would be called the Galaxy Fold Note or simply a Galaxy Fold with S Pen support, it could provide extra utility along the lines of Apple Pencil support for the iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface pen.

An S Pen on a foldable Note would also differentiate it from other foldable phones such as the Huawei Mate X or a future foldable iPhone.

Galaxy Note 10 rumors so far

What’s on your Galaxy Note 10 wish list?

Article originally posted April 8 at 4:00 a.m. PT.


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