Our pick

Galaxy S10e

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Galaxy S9

The Galaxy S10e offers a flagship-like experience with top-end specs and capabilities, but does so with a smaller size and lower price than we've come to expect. It's a great option for anyone who wants a smaller or a less expensive phone, and offers outsized value for its price.

$650 at Amazon

Pros

  • Super-fun ultra-wide camera
  • Longer runway for software updates
  • Improved processor, memory and base storage

Cons

  • No huge improvement in battery life
  • Screen actually lower resolution

Over a year since its release, the Galaxy S9 is still an interesting proposition for about $200 less than the Galaxy S10e. It's comparable in many ways, and only misses out on a few small things. It might be a worthwhile purchase if you're really tight on budget.

$450 at Amazon

Pros

  • Big cost savings for effectively same experience
  • Screen quality still competitive today

Cons

  • Missing ultra-wide camera and portrait mode
  • Only likely to receive one more major software update

The Galaxy S10e is a spiritual replacement for last year's Galaxy S9, as the Galaxy S10 has gotten bigger and more expensive. But the Galaxy S9 is still on sale at a solid discount, and that makes it an interesting option for those who want to save money. Here's what you'll get by going with the newer model, or by sticking with last year's instead.

Where the Galaxy S10e stands out

Samsung is known for taking a cautious approach to improvements with its top-end phones, and that means the Galaxy S10e isn't dramatically improved over the Galaxy S9 in many aspects. But there are certain things you get just by buying a phone made for 2019 rather than 2018.

Spec upgrades aren't super enticing, but you'll appreciate them now and in the future.

The easiest to quantify updates come with the spec sheet, where you upgrade to a new Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a base of 128GB of storage, which are all zero-downside improvements over the Galaxy S9. None of them mean a ton right now, but as the Galaxy S9 starts to get older you'll really start to feel the crunch of the limited RAM and storage, if not also the processor. Little improvements in the processor, plus a slightly larger battery and lower-resolution screen, will also offer you just a bit better battery life too.

Another thing you may want to keep in mind when talking about the future of your phone use is the software update roadmap, where the Galaxy S10e obviously has an extra year of runway beyond the Galaxy S9. The GS9 will get the next major release of Android, but after that point, all bets are off; the future of 2020 software updates is more certain for the S10e.

Category Galaxy S10e Galaxy S9
Operating system Android 9 Pie
One UI 1.1
Android 9 Pie
One UI 1.1
Display 5.8-inch AMOLED, 2280x1080 (19:9) 5.8-inch AMOLED, 2960x1440 (18.5:9)
Processor Snapdragon 855 Snapdragon 845
Storage 128/256GB 64/128/256GB
Expandable microSD microSD
RAM 6/8GB 4GB
Rear camera 1 12MP Super Speed Dual Pixel
OIS, f/1.5 or f/2.4
12MP Super Speed Dual Pixel
OIS, f/1.5 or f/2.4
Rear camera 2 16MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, fixed focus n/a
Front camera 10MP, f/1.9, auto focus 8MP, f/1.7, auto focus
Audio Stereo speakers
Dolby Atmos
3.5mm headphone
Stereo speakers
Dolby Atmos
3.5mm headphone
Battery 3100mAh 3000mAh
Charging Quick Charge 2.0 (15W)
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (12W)
Quick Charge 2.0 (15W)
Fast Wireless Charging (9W)
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Security Side fingerprint sensor Rear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
150 g
147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm
163 g

The ultra-wide camera is a treat to shoot with, and selfies took another step up too.

Bigger differences can be found in the cameras. The main rear camera is effectively unchanged from the Galaxy S9, but it's the S10e's supporting set that's interesting. You get a brand new ultra-wide camera with a unique field of view that's just downright fun to shoot with, giving you a new perspective that you hardly get anywhere else — plus, it enables Live Focus portrait mode effects, if that's your sort of thing. The front-facing camera is also a new sensor, with a higher resolution, that will take your selfies to new levels, even though the Galaxy S9's is quite good as it is.

And whether this last point is a pro, con or no big deal either way will depend on your personal preference: the Galaxy S10e has a flat display, rather than an "Infinity" curved display like the Galaxy S9. The flat screen reduces accidental touches with your palms, though that's less of an issue on these smaller phones anyway. But if you don't like the curves of the last few generations of Samsung phones, the Galaxy S10e will be a breath of fresh air for you.

Where the Galaxy S9 is still comparable

It may be a year old, but the Galaxy S9 is still a modern-feeling phone that's very capable — particularly when compared to the new base-level model of the lineup, the Galaxy S10e.

The Galaxy S9's core experience is effectively the same as the new S10e.

Every part of the external hardware experience of the Galaxy S9 still feels modern. The materials quality, shape, design, fit-and-finish, and everything all down the list is comparable to the Galaxy S10e. Yes there are differences in look, but you won't feel short-changed by the older model. The display, too, is comparable — it's the last-generation panel, but it's actually higher resolution than the S10e and is still really good even by today's standards. Elsewhere in the hardware the headphone jack, microSD card slot, speakers and wired charging speed are all the same.

Size-wise, the two phones are basically the same. There are subtle differences in the dimensions, and the curved screen changes the feel, but if you're looking for a "compact" phone you're going to find it with both the Galaxy S9 and S10e.

And realistically, in daily use, you aren't going to notice many differences between these two phones. With the Galaxy S9's update to Android 9 Pie with One UI, everything is basically the same on both phones. So between the size, performance, software and core features, you would be able to swap back and forth between the two with little (if any) pain. That bodes well for you if you're thinking about picking the Galaxy S9 for its lower price.

Which should you buy?

If you're drawn to the Galaxy S10e for both its size and its lower price, there's an interesting argument to be made that you should consider the Galaxy S9. It's roughly the same size as the Galaxy S10e, offers much of the same experience, and is about $200 less because it's over a year old now. But if you're comparing apples-to-apples on 128GB storage models, rather than the Galaxy S9's base 64GB, the value fades a tad as the 128GB Galaxy S9 is $150 less than the new S10e.

But the Galaxy S10e is simply a better phone overall than the Galaxy S9, and if you plan to keep your phone for a long time (perhaps upwards of two years) you'd be doing yourself a favor by buying the newer model. You get all of the benefits associated with the newer phone, and don't miss out on anything from the old model. You just have to pay a little extra for it.

Our pick

Galaxy S10e

A better phone that picks up right where the S9 left off

The Galaxy S10e is a proper successor to the Galaxy S9; it just isn't dramatically improved. You get better specs, a new ultra-wide camera, better front-facing camera and the expectation of stronger longterm performance. If you expect to keep the phone for long the S10e is a good choice; it does everything the S9 does, and more, for a marginal price increase.

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Galaxy S9

An interesting alternative if your budget is tight

A lot of what makes the Galaxy S10e appealing can be found for a couple hundred dollars less with the Galaxy S9. You get the same core experience in software and hardware, and even with the main camera. You miss out on a few little hardware upgrades and the new ultra-wide camera, but for hundreds less you can easily justify saving your money and getting this last-gen model.

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