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 10
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|
|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|
|Charging||Quick Charge 2.0 (15W)
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (12W)
|Quick Charge 2.0 (15W)
Fast Wireless Charging (9W)
|Security||Side fingerprint sensor||Rear fingerprint sensor|
|Dimensions||142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
|147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5 mm
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 over 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. The only real downside, software-wise, is that the S9 is nearing the end of its update lifecycle and is unlikely to get any major update beyond Android 10.
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 $150 less because it's over a year old now. However, if you're comparing apples-to-apples on 128GB storage models, rather than the Galaxy S9's base 64GB, the value fades a tad — it just depends how much weight you put on internal storage.
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.
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. It's a better phone, it just costs more as a result..
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 in the S9. You get the same core experience, even with the main camera. You miss out on a few hardware upgrades and the new ultra-wide camera, but for hundreds less you can easily justify saving your money.
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