If the Samsung Galaxy S10 seemed a bit pricey, the phonemaker has an alternative: the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite, a trimmed version with a few surprising extras that justify releasing another budget flagship.
It’s a bit of a strange move given the company released the Samsung Galaxy S10e last year as a lower-priced yet slimmer-featured version. But it seems like Samsung is pitching the new Galaxy S10 Lite at a slightly different audience that wants flagship size and speed at an even lower price, and is willing to compromise a bit more to get there.
That compromise is one of timing – the S10 Lite, conceivably, is to pack last year’s specs into an early 2020 phone that might be quickly surpassed when the new Galaxy S11 line comes out. Even so, the S10 Lite packs enough flagship goodies to earn the right to be a Galaxy S-series phone.
Price and release date
Samsung hasn’t announced pricing or release dates for the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite; that said, it’s likely the phone will cost less than the Galaxy S10e, which launched with a retail price of $749 / £669 / AU$1,199 / AED 2,699. Given the standard iPhone 11 launched with an even lower starting pricetag of $749, £779, AU$1,279, Samsung might be motivated to undercut it.
The bigger question will be where the phone will come out, as Samsung hasn’t said. While its suspected Snapdragon 855 chipset suggests it will come out in the US and typical Western markets (non-US territories typically pack the Exynos chipset).
Design and display
The S10 Lite goes even further in the ‘budget’ direction of budget flagship with its design, which is a larger yet simpler version of the S-series of phones. Aside from being notably larger than even the S10 Plus, the S10 Lite’s most notable difference swaps the classy horizontal rear camera strip for a solid rectangular lens block, a la the Google Pixel 4 – and its visual appeal is just as polarizing.
That 6.7-inch AMOLED screen is crisp and very large for an S-series phone, though it’s only FHD+ resolution (2400 x 1080). Much like S10e, the S10 Lite ditches the pricier S10 phones’ curved ‘waterfall’ edges for a flat screen.
The front is also broken up by a punch-hole that houses the front-facing camera, but it’s much smaller this time around – and it’s in the center of the display. All in all, the phone looks like a simplified yet larger version of last year’s Samsung S10 Plus with enough luxury touches filed off to punt it down to mid-range phone looks.
The S10 Lite does have three cameras in its rear suite, but instead of adding the telephoto lens that the S10e was missing, the new phone goes in a different direction, offering a 5MP Macro lens for up-close photography (flowers, bugs, etc).
This positions the S10 Lite even more as a device responding to nuanced consumer feedback that conceivably wants to shoot wider and closer-in, not from farther away. The main lens has been boosted to a 48MP shooter with Super Steady OIS, too. Don’t let the tremendous 48MP size fool you – the individual pixel sizes may end up being smaller, negating any big benefit.
The front-facing camera has been upgraded to 32MP, though we’ll have to see whether that translates to sharper photos. In any case, the actual punch hole aperture housing the selfie camera is much smaller.
Performance and battery
The S10 Lite packs respectable specs that nonetheless won’t outdo the flagships of 2020, which is fine for its intended audience. It packs a suspected Snapdragon 855 chipset featured in the top Android phones of 2019.
Likewise, the 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM (region dependent) and 128GB of storage should be fine for watching media, taking photos and browsing the internet.
The real standout is the battery, an impressive 4,500mAh, which even outdoes the S10 Plus’ 4,100mAh capacity. This isn’t necessarily due to technological improvement given the former is physically larger than the latter, but any larger capacity is better.
It’s hard to tell whether the S10 Lite’s combination of new features and big-phone appeal will be worth the price without the, er, price. There’s also the question of whether the Galaxy S11 series will get its ‘e’ budget version, which could undercut a lot of the S10 Lite’s functionality if they come out at a similar cost tier.
But Samsung’s efforts to bring the S-series flagship specs to a broader audience by trimming some of the flashier elements could pay off, especially in markets that shy from the skyrocketing pricetags of the top-tier Samsung handsets. The S10 Lite seems to be an objectively powerful phone that could be priced to rival the cheaper beastly flagships coming out of China, yet still retains the Samsung brand’s polished reputation.
It’s also, however, a phone with appeal that overlaps with the S10e and the higher-specced Samsung Galaxy A-series of phones. We anticipate the S10 Lite’s large size and lower cost to embody the phone’s identity, but unless Samsung strategically chooses to limit regional availability of each, these phones might be aimed at similar consumer archetypes – and the S10 Lite, as good as it is, might get lost in the mix.
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