Unlike the Galaxy S10 launch more than half a year ago, Samsung’s Unpacked 2019 almost felt muted and surrounded with mixed reactions. It may have been Samsung’s most controversial Galaxy Note announcement in quite a while. Some love the new features but others deplore what Samsung removed in turn. Naturally, that raises questions among buyers whether they should go for the Galaxy Note 10 or the Galaxy Note 10+ or if they should opt for something else to spend their hard-earned money on.
What you’re getting
It’s not like the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ don’t have anything new or exciting to offer. In addition to the usual hardware upgrades, you’re getting a bevy of new features not found on any Samsung phone to date. Granted, the Snapdragon 855 might be a bit of a disappointment since the 855+ has already been announced but it will still be on par with almost all 2019 premium phones.
New to both models of the Galaxy Note 10 is the new Infinity-O design with its equally controversial punch hole camera. Unlike the previous Galaxy S10, however, the cutout is smaller and in the middle. The Galaxy Note 10’s 6.3-inch screen is notably smaller than the previous Galaxy Note 9 and even has a lower resolution compared to the 6.8-inch Galaxy Note 10+.
The Galaxy Note pushes the cameras to three, four on the Galaxy Note 10+ because of the “DepthVision” 3D time-of-flight sensor. Both models get the same 12 megapixel telephoto and 12 megapixel wide-angle cameras along with a 16 megapixel main camera. The front has a single 10 megapixel shooter under that small hole.
The S Pen is also new and in addition to the basic Bluetooth control it introduced in the Galaxy Note 9 last year, it adds “air gestures” that utilize tiny motion sensors in the pen to offer more control options, depending on app support. The Galaxy Note 10 pair is also the first of its kind to use Samsung’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor technology.
What you’re missing
Long-standing fans of the Galaxy Note line, however, are also fixating on the corners that Samsung cut in the process. The biggest gripe is, unsurprisingly, the removal of the 3.5 mm headphone jack. As a phone that has always leaned towards power users, the absence of the multi-purpose port may seem almost antithetical.
There are also some complaints about Samsung’s decision for the face of the Galaxy Note 10. Its insistence of have only a small hole for the camera, coupled with the removal of the top bezels, means there are barely any sensors there. Samsung may be banking on its ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and face recognition for security but both have proven to be quite inadequate in terms of accuracy and security.
The Galaxy Note 10 is particularly problematic in this context. The smaller screen and lower price comes at the cost of a lower screen resolution and a smaller battery compared to the Galaxy Note 9. There’s also no expandable storage, though some might find the 256 GB built-in capacity more than enough.
What you’ll be paying
The Galaxy Note 10 starts at $950, slightly lower than the Galaxy Note 9 last year with half the storage capacity. Considering the aforementioned changes, that’s not entirely surprising. Samsung is positioning the Galaxy Note 10 as the S Pen phablet to aim for if you’re a bit budget-constrained. That said, it’s still a steep price to pay, especially considering what’s missing.
The Galaxy Note 10+ makes for a deal in this context. You are getting the full promise of the Galaxy Note line, sans the headphone jack. The larger battery and support for 45W charging, if you buy the separate charger, make it a better prospect for a phone that can do everything. Except supporting 5G, which comes as a separate model. That said, at $1,100 you better be getting what you pay for.
There were rumors that Samsung is having problems positioning the Galaxy Note in lieu of the growing sizes and capabilities of its Galaxy S line. The Galaxy Note 10, unfortunately, make that even harder. Depending on what you’re after, you might be better served by a different Samsung phone. The Galaxy S10 and S10+, for example, only misses out on S Pen but if that’s not a critical feature, it’s a more affordable solution with almost the exact same features.
Even S Pen lovers will have trouble deciding over the Galaxy Note 10. Unlike in the past, it’s not a clear upgrade path even for those with older models. Samsung is asking them to give up their favorite features in exchange for new and somewhat untested ones. For those jumping on to the Galaxy Note for the first time, the non-Plus Galaxy Note 10 might make for a better starting point, especially because of its slightly more accessible price.
In almost all those situations, the Galaxy Note 9 might actually be a better option both for newcomers and for those upgrading to from, say, a Galaxy Note 8. Save for fancy new in-display fingerprint scanners and fancy new designs, the Galaxy Note 9 provides all the power that the brand has been known to offer. And, by now, at a more affordable price point as well.