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Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Samsung's iPhone XR is a colorful winner

Samsung Galaxy S10e lying on a table
(Image: © Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Our Verdict

Bottom line: The Galaxy S10e is appealing as a less-expensive entry point to the Galaxy S10 family, but also as one of the few "compact" high-end phones available today. It offers a near-complete Galaxy S10 experience, and does it for considerably less money and in a size anyone can handle. You lose the stellar battery life and huge screen of the S10+, but that's a worthwhile trade-off to save considerable money and have a phone that's usable in one hand.

For

  • Affordable for core GS10 experience
  • Excellent display quality
  • Fun ultra-wide rear camera
  • Compact size for one-handed use
  • Filled with hardware and software features

Against

  • Battery struggles with heavy use
  • Screen feels cramped for some uses
  • Missing telephoto lens for lossless zooming

Two undeniable trends have defined the smartphone world over the last few years: smartphones are getting bigger, and they're getting more expensive. You can argue which company did the big phone first, and which pushed the envelope on pricing, but the reality is that your average phone today has a screen well north of six inches and is dangerously close to $1000.

Samsung is, of course, a significant part of this trend. The Galaxy S10, S10+, and subsequent releases are all notably larger than their predecessors, and quite a bit more expensive at the same time. But as sizes and prices move up, there's a considerable gap in the smaller and cheaper segment that has to be filled for those who don't have deep pockets — in either sense of the phrase.

Rather than let another company slide in under its price increases, Samsung went out and immediately added a new phone to its lineup to fill in where it just vacated; it made the Galaxy S10e. At its launch, it sat comfortably cheaper than the Galaxy S10, and with a 5.8-inch display, it's comfortably manageable in one hand. But at its core, it's still a "Galaxy S10" — in terms of performance, capabilities and hardware. Even today, that's a winning combination to be a complementary piece of the Galaxy family.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Price & availability

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The Galaxy S10e launched on March 8, 2019 starting at $749.99 either unlocked or through various carriers in the U.S. For that money, you got 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, though an upgraded variant was available for $849.99 with double the storage at 256GB.

In the year since its release, the Galaxy S10e has mostly phased out of retail availability, though it can easily be found for much lower prices in refurbished condition through a number of retailers. Where they are available, new units have seen a $100 discount, bringing the starting price to approximately $600.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S10e as a colorful variant of the S10 line, offering the phone in Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Blue, Prism Green, Flamingo Pink, and Canary Yellow.

Part of the Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: What I love

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

The Galaxy S10e may be immediately appealing as the "inexpensive" model in the lineup, but it's also worth considering because it's the smallest of the Galaxy S10s. The 5.8-inch display is roughly the same size as the Galaxy S9 (it has a taller 19:9 aspect ratio), but the S10e is shorter, thinner, and lighter than the preceding base model. It's a tad wider than the GS9, but that's due to the S10e lacking Samsung's hallmark "Infinity Display" with curved sides.

The S10e is a perfect size and shape to comfortably use in one hand throughout the day.

That's right, despite being a Galaxy S10 at its core, the S10e has a flat display — which once again may open up a new market of people who have up to this point resisted Samsung's curvy screens. And as an added bonus, that means there's more metal frame on the sides to securely rest in your hand. It makes the phone feel a little less svelte, but you forget about that quickly because functionally it's a bonus. With its size, shape and flat display, the S10e is very easy to hold and use in one hand without the worries of accidental palm touches that come with curves.

Without curved sides you get a bit more screen bezel to look at, but the display itself is still of exceptional quality just like the larger phones. It's "only" 1080p resolution, compared to 1440p on the others, but only the most intense pixel density enthusiasts will take issue with the 435 ppi (pixels per inch), even though it's over 100 ppi lower than the Galaxy S10. Samsung is clearly making the best mobile displays available today, and the gap between Samsung and the competition is even more pronounced for a phone of this price.

Functionally, this is a Galaxy S10 through and through — you're not missing out on anything important.

The best parts of the Galaxy S10e come from the fact that it starts as a full-fledged Galaxy S10. The Snapdragon 855 processor, 128GB of storage, microSD card slot, stereo speakers, headphone jack, IP68 resistance, fast wireless charging, and on down the list ... it's all the same components and features as the larger more expensive versions.

There are just a couple of critical drops, namely the move to 6GB of RAM (although 8GB is available with 256GB of storage) and a smaller 3100mAh battery necessitated by its smaller packaging.

Day to day, you won't know any difference in performance from the S10 with 8GB of RAM, and I don't suspect you will in the near future considering Samsung is still fully supporting the Galaxy S9 with 4GB and a majority of its recent flagships with 6GB. Everything feels just as snappy and smooth on the S10e as my previous couple weeks with the S10+, which wasn't really a worry but is important to reiterate. Nowhere in the daily use of the S10e do you feel short-changed or are reminded that you bought the "cheap" Galaxy S10.

You won't miss the telephoto camera in the least — have some fun with the ultra-wide lens.

That's true in the camera experience as well, even though the S10e lost the 2X telephoto camera on the back and secondary depth camera on the front (the latter only available on the S10+). This is no big loss, as Samsung's digital zoom is still good enough and the new 16MP wide-angle camera is far more useful and fun. Samsung lets you do the exact same "Live Focus" portrait mode effects as the other Galaxys, and the front-facing camera is still great (even though Live Focus is fully software-driven on the front-facer). This camera may not match the Pixel 3 shot-for-shot in quality, but it's super fast, consistent and fun to shoot with.

And there's one place the S10e arguably bests the S10 and S10+: its fingerprint sensor. For as futuristic and impressive the Galaxy S10's in-display fingerprint sensor is, it's a shining example of new technology not necessarily being the best technology. It's a little slower and less consistent than the capacitive sensors we've all gotten used to in the last five years, and that's exactly what the S10e has. The sensor doubles as a clicking power button on the top-right of the phone, and while it's a little higher than I'd like to see for ergonomic reasons, it's plenty easy to reach with your thumb or even left index finger. It works to pull down the notification shade, too, if that's your sort of thing. The sensor is incredibly fast and easy to trigger with even partial finger coverage.

Double-edged sword

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: What I don't like

Galaxy S10e

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Assuming you take the Galaxy S10 lineup's core features and capabilities as a given, the only real "flaw" to be found with the S10e in particular is ... its size. Kind of paradoxical considering its compact footprint is one of its main benefits, but hear me out. After a couple weeks using the Galaxy S10+, the S10e feels a bit cramped. It's funny how quickly your perception of what the "right" size for a phone screen is can change. But if you've been using a 6-inch or larger phone, and want to buy the Galaxy S10e because of its lower price rather than for its size, you may want to seriously think about whether you want a phone this small.

If you buy the S10e for its price and not its size, remember that you may feel a bit cramped on this screen.

It was an immediate requirement to switch my home screen grid to 5x5 (up from 4x4) to downsize the icons and get more content on the screen. I also dropped the font size by an extra notch; though a suitable alternative is to drop the "screen zoom" down to its low setting to shrink everything. No matter what you do, chances are you'll want to make some changes to reduce the size of everything, lest you feel you don't have enough room to actually get things done on your phone.

Over time using the S10e you'll likely readjust your perception of phone size just as so many of us have in the other direction. And provided you have good eyesight, you may immediately find relief using the aforementioned screen adjustments. But even if you don't, you may find the smaller screen issues to be a worthwhile trade-off for getting the smaller overall footprint that's easier to manage and use more often in the first place.

The only other pain point with switching to a smaller phone is the necessary drop to a smaller battery. The 3100mAh on board is indeed slightly larger than the previous year's Galaxy S9, and the more efficient Snapdragon 855 processor helps make the most of it, but we also have to remember that the standard Galaxy S10 jumped to 3400mAh and the S10+ went all the way to 4100mAh. That leaves the S10e looking a little on the weak side.

The battery will get you through a day, but doesn't provide the same 'do anything' confidence the S10+ does.

Driving a smaller and lower-resolution display (understandably) hasn't equalized the battery drain, either. But I didn't expect the Galaxy S10e to have the same amazing longevity as the S10+ with 1000mAh less battery to use, and everyone should realize that the S10e will have the worst battery life of the three phones because of its capacity.

The Galaxy S10e would get through a full day of using the phone exactly as I did the S10+, it just did so with a little more worry about battery and a lot less left at night. Unlike the S10+, concerns over battery life led me to change a few things, like turning off always-on display (making it appear with a tap instead) and switching to power saving mode at 15% battery. With any sort of extracurricular work (a few hours streaming music, or prolonged Google Maps navigation use) I would easily hit power saving mode before turning in for the night, which is something that only happened on the longest, heaviest day of use with the Galaxy S10+. So it's not a battery champion, but it gets the job done — that's fine for this size of phone.

Great pick

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Should you buy it?

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

There's little surprise that the Galaxy S10e launched priced identically to the iPhone XR. Samsung, just like Apple, recognized the need for a phone that offers a near-flagship experience with strategic cuts to hit a more affordable price. The Galaxy S10e absolutely succeeds in this mission. It is every bit a full-featured and fully capable Galaxy S10, simply shrunk down to a smaller size. You give up a few superfluous specs like a couple gigabytes of memory, ultra-high screen resolution and the telephoto camera, but otherwise retain everything that makes the Galaxy S10 so great. Sure the battery life isn't great, but you're giving that up with any smaller phone — it's tough to beat physics.

4 out of 5

The Galaxy S10e isn't the most exciting or enticing of the three Galaxy S10 models, but it provides the best value of the bunch if you're at all concerned about price. The sales pitch for the Galaxy S10e is pretty simple when you can show everything that it shares with its more expensive counterparts. And at the same time, it's actually the most desirable choice if you're someone who values a compact smartphone and doesn't want to compromise on the core capabilities of modern Galaxys that are all so appealing.

Best of all for Samsung, it's a true Galaxy S10 that adds to the overall value of the set. It doesn't need to be graded on a special scale or taken with caveats. It's a different Galaxy S10, not a worse one. And that's great for everyone.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

57 Comments
  • Just like how you are comparing the 10e with the 10+, its all about perspective. While it is the "lesser" of the s10 line it still can be a huge upgrade for people with older phones. My gf is finally going to upgrade her phone from a S3 (yes i said S3) to the S10e. For her this is going to be a massive jump forward. As these phones get more and more expensive people are going to be like my gf (and me) and hold on to phones much longer before upgrading. So while a phone might only change a little year to year it can still be a huge improvement for a lot of people.
  • Yeah, I look at this compared to my S8, and the positives are significant (particularly the side-mounted fingerprint scanner). The only downsides are the lower screen resolution, side bezels, and hole punch. But I could live with those trade-offs if something happened to my phone. As things stand, though, my S8 works perfectly fine. I expect to get at least another year out of it, if not two.
  • Christ on a bike. Does that mean she's had her phone since 2012?!
  • I'm a smartphone fan with no loyalties to any. So if I had to chose over the 10E & the iphoneXR the simple choice would be the 10E. Why, it just offers more for the $$. Fast charger in the box the 3.5 a much better display & 6to8gb's of ram and micro s/d support. For myself this is a no brainer. But the XR offers the A12chip & you can't forget about the ECO system. But it's your money!
  • Ecosystem is the key. I'm the only Android user in a family of Apple users, and I often wish I had iMessage and Continuity. There's just something really nice about how iOS products play nicely together most of the time.
  • Yeah but then you're stuck and it's very hard to get off Apple.
  • I wouldn't say I'm loyal to any OEM, but I dislike iOS. As part of a Google user study once, I had to use an iPhone exclusively for a month and it was just an overall bad experience for me. I've primarily used LG phones on Android, but not out of loyalty. LG has just provided the best package overall for me year after year, and the wide-angle camera lens played a huge part in that. The S10e is almost without a doubt my next Samsung phone. Mainly for the size, but also because of the added benefit of now having a wide-angle camera lens. I was recently gifted a Galaxy Tab A and I'm not fond of the software experience much so I'm hoping that's changed with the new Samsung One UI. I'm just sick of every flagship phone being 6+ inches and only budget phones with poor performance offering smaller, one-handed capable displays.
  • If I was getting one, the se would be it. I like phones that don't stick out of my pockets and require two hands to use. I've had my s9 for almost a year now and it's just fine. I do all I need or want to on it
  • Andrew, this may be a dumb question, but does the 10e support edge apps? I can't do without my edge shortcuts anymore...
  • Yes it does !!
  • Yup! Software is the same as the other models.
  • I wonder if the Pixel Lite review will get Tim Appled in the headline like Samsung did. Great job Google Central
  • What's the Pixel Lite tho
  • Did somebody say Pixel lite? Yes please.
  • Looks like a busy schedule yesterday and today.
  • It's good to see AC's review of the Galaxy S10e. This tells me that battery life probably wouldn't be a concern for me.
  • It's the one I've gone for. Chiefly because of the size and finger print sensor.
  • I remember when $750 for a flagship was to expensive for a phone. Now it's just right for an entry level, missing features phone. And this is why there's $1000+ phones now
  • You can get the international version on eBay for $650 no sales tax pretty good deal has all the same lte bands as the USA version
  • Yes, size perception sure changes, and my gaming buddy calls my spare iPhone 6 the "little phone", lol. They always say the new chips are more efficient, but I'm not so sure. The S10e struggles with 3100 mAh, while the U11 could go two days on 3000 mAh.
  • "The only other pain point with switching to a smaller phone is the necessary drop to a smaller battery." False. It's not a necessity. It's a choice OEM's make. There's no reason why this phone couldn't have been thicker to accommodate a larger battery. I really hope Samsung releases an Active model based on this because that would be perfect.
  • Of course technically any size phone could have any size battery. But the reality in the market with phones we can actually buy is that the battery typically gets smaller with the screen getting smaller.
  • Then there's the Energizer phone, lol. It's a battery pack with a smartphone built into it, and it can serve as a wheel block in case your car's parking brake is broken ;)
  • Worried about battery life. My Pixel 2's is just too puny.
  • It's better than the Pixel 2.
  • Andrew, does the S10e have the reverse charging? On a recent trip I forgot that I need to bring a separate charger for my Galaxy Watch and LOVE the idea of being able to charge it wirelessly off the phone... Great review :) I come to this site first!
  • I'm not him, but it does. I have seen other videos with the S10e show this in action.
  • Yup, it does!
  • Love it, if my S7 poops out I'm in with the 10e.
    Size: much better for me, not a fan of the giant phones.
    Battery: fine...it'll work just right for my usage
    Screen: can't stand the curved screens, would not purchase one for any reason, welcome back flat screen.
    Good job Sammy!!
  • Have the s7 and like it very much. Like the fact the 10e does not have the curved screen and the overall size is about the same as the s7 and nearly a 6" screen.
  • Andrew, what's your take on Samsung's face unlock being fooled by a line drawing of a face on paper?
    Not just the S10e and S10, but the S10+ as well?
  • Hmm, I hear crickets. A guy literally took a pencil and paper and drew a picture of his face, and it unlocked his S10. We're all fine with that?
  • If it's anything like Motorola it does warn you that face unlock is basically garbage.
  • True, and I expect that with a single camera doing all the work. But, the S10+ has a depth sensor in addition to the camera, so there's no technical reason they could not make it better. It's almost the same hardware HTC has on the U12+, and they use 3D depth mapping to make sure it's not, you know, a crayon drawing on a napkin. To be fair, HTC has more experience with 3 dimensional imaging than Samsung, but it still...
  • Yep. Apple nailed it. Why can't Samsung?
  • There's literally nothing new here, so I'm not sure why it continues to get press. Been the case for the last couple of generations, this "Face Unlock" is nowhere near as secure as, say, Apple's Face ID. But the thing is, it was never sold as being as secure. All of these single camera-based face unlocks are the lowest level of security for your phone -- it's a pure convenience factor that's supposed to be a single step up from swipe-to-unlock, not at all a replacement for a fingerprint or long PIN. It literally says, during face unlock setup, "face recognition is considered less secure than other lock types because there is some possibility that someone who looks like you or uses an image of your face could unlock your phone" ... and then people are shocked when exactly that happens. Anyone who truly cares about security on their phone should not use face unlock. But tbh there are still lots of people who don't use any sort of security on their phone because they find it so inconvenient -- face unlock is better than nothing for those people.
  • Kinda true. Apple touts it's security and it does work very well.
  • Yes, I have to agree with that. Apple uses more data points, and Samsung's iris scanning was kinda cool. It just baffles me that the S10+ has the hardware to do 3D mapping like HTC, but they choose not to. Perhaps they wanted all three models to be the same?
  • funny how a 5.8" screen is "so small" now.
    if I bought an S10 today, it would be the 'e' version. great phone, reasonable price. Love the size.
  • Agree, at what point do they stop with the size thing. Might as well hold a laptop up to your head anymore.
  • Agree as well. Our son was always the guy who went for the biggest possible screen, and lots of his friends made memes of him holding tablets and laptops as phones. I would not want to go bigger than six inches, but I do have to admit, it sure is nice when watching movies. Just last night I bought Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, and began watching it in theatre mode, and it was better than my desktop because of the QHD+ screen and the great sound. The daughter of a houseguest came to the room because of the music (lots of music in this movie), and we ended up watching the entire movie together.
  • Remember when the Note 5 with a 5.7" screen and 3,000 mah battery was considered huge? Now the 10e with 5.8" screen and 3,100 mah battery is "compact".
  • Good job Samsung. But to be fair Sony has been doing this for years with their Xperias.
  • Problem being they were Bad Phones.
  • It wouldn't surprise me if the S10e becomes the best selling of the 3 of them and also wins over a lot of iPong users, especially those upgrading from older models of iPong
  • See, this is why Android users are considered dbags by Apple users. It's people like you who have to play the fanboy.
  • Funny how only a couple years ago my Note 5 was considered a beast with a 5.7" screen, 4gb ram, 64gb storage, and 3,000 mah battery. Now the 10e with 5.8" screen, 8gb ram, 256gb storage, and 3,100 mah battery is considered compact and budget.
  • It's not compact to some of us but generally speaking you're right.
  • Yep, in today's market, this is the smallest you can get that has current specs. The Pixel 3, iPhone XS/X and S9 are either taller and/or wider. The XZ2 Compact is there, but in a class of its own (imo, sizewise it is there but the camera is not quite there for me).
  • FWIW the Note 5 is still considerably larger overall than the S10e ... the diagonal screen size number is a bit misleading. Note 5: 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm, 171 g GS10e: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm, 150 g
  • $750 is the "affordable" version? Gimme a break. The one place Samsung really does copy Apple is in the pricing department.
  • This will not sell well. Nobody wants a flat screen.
  • Haha tell that to Pixel 3 owners...
  • Yep, love my Pixel 3XL.
  • I know of plenty who like the flat screen. It's all over Reddit
  • LOL...everyone's tired of the curved screen gimmick, this will sell well.
  • Da hell you talking about? Literally every other phone has a flat screen except for Samsung..lol