Here's some inside baseball for you: before the Galaxy Note 10 was officially unveiled, I attended three press briefings as a cameraman, shooting for the various sites across Mobile Nations. That amounted to roughly five hours with both the Note 10 and 10+, meaning that I've probably spent more time with the phones than anyone else outside of Samsung's payroll.
Since their announcement at Samsung Unpacked, the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ have become possibly the most controversial devices in the series since the explosive Note 7, thanks to the removal of "legacy" features (if you can call them that) like the headphone jack and, in the case of the smaller phone, the microSD slot. But in spite of that, the biggest change that drew me into the smaller Note during my briefings was, well, just how small it really is.
I've been using the Xperia 1 daily since reviewing it last month, and part of the reason for that is because of just how much screen I get without the phone feeling huge, thanks to the extra-tall 21:9 aspect ratio. It's narrow enough that I can still get away with using it one-handed (so long as I don't need to reach the top of the screen), which is something that's usually reserved for smaller phones like my previous daily phone, the Pixel 3.
The Galaxy Note 10 isn't quite as narrow as the Xperia 1, with a slightly shorter, wider 19:9 aspect ratio, but the bezels are so tight around the 6.3-inch display that the phone isn't much bigger physically than the Galaxy S10 — or even the Pixel 3, for that matter. I've been saying it since the first time I held the Note 10: Samsung is finally bringing the benefits of the S Pen to a relatively small phone that just about anyone could comfortably use.
As you might expect, that size doesn't come without its compromises. On top of the removal of the headphone jack and microSD card, you also get a smaller 3500mAh battery on the Note 10 (for reference, the Note 10+ has a 4300mAh cell), and the display maxes out at 1080p. But that lower resolution should lead to slightly less battery drain, at least in theory, and well, I lived with the horrendous battery life of the Pixel 3 for months. Anything has to be better.
I can empathize with those for whom the smaller Note 10's trade-offs are too much to live with, especially for the whopping $950 Samsung is commanding, but I'm personally not bothered too much by them. I haven't used wired headphones in years, and Samsung at least packages in its AKG earbuds, newly brandished with a USB-C connector — though would including the $15 headphone adapter have been too much to ask for? I can't remember the last time I've used removable storage either, and 256GB is more than enough for my needs.
This isn't meant to be an apology piece for Samsung, nor am I trying to justify the high price tag on what's frankly not a great deal against Samsung's other flagships like the Galaxy S10 and S10+. Without having used one extensively myself, I have no way of knowing how well the Note 10's 3500mAh battery will hold up under heavy use, nor can I comment on the performance differences against the Note 10+, which has 50% more RAM. I'm just tired of giant phones, and as I write this out with a Note 10+ review unit sitting on my desk, I can't wait to give the smaller Note 10 a go.
That being said, I'm also excited to spend the next week or so with the Galaxy Note 10+. It's bigger than I prefer, but thanks to its tight bezels, it's still manageable (never thought I'd say that about a nearly 7-inch device), and in addition to the larger battery and extra RAM, it has two extra sensors next to the camera array that aid in depth-sensing. This supposedly aids in the Note 10+'s newly improved portrait video mode, along with some AR-related features like the ability to scan real-world objects into 3D models. Definitely excited to give all of that a whirl.
If you're interested in either size of the Note 10, keep an eye on the Android Central home page over the next few days. Andrew and I both have Note 10+ units in hand, and we'll be writing all about our experiences with the phone leading up to the full written and video reviews next week.
The perfect size
Huge screen and tight bezels. It's a win-win.
Despite its compromises, the Galaxy Note 10 could be the perfect phone for fans of the S Pen who want a relatively small phone they can reasonably use in one hand. It has a powerful spec sheet, three great cameras, and faster charging than previous generations.
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.