By all measures, the new Galaxy Note 10+ is a fantastic smartphone. It also is a reminder of the fact that Samsung has been chasing the 8-ball for a while. It has always been the leader of the pack when it came down to the spec-sheet table stakes, but of late, even that hasn’t been the case. The Galaxy Note 10+ is a classic example of that. Everything that Samsung has done with it seems like a tit for tat to what Huawei did 5 months ago with the launch of the P30 Pro. And with the Mate 30 Pro in-bound for next month at Berlin’s IFA, the Galaxy Note 10+ could be just weeks away from being usurped from the mantle of the most powerful Android smartphone in the world. Let me explain this in greater detail.
- One of the most interesting aspects of the Galaxy Note 10+ is its gradient colour, Aura glow. It makes this phone alluring, to put it mildly. Samsung has also changed the “visor” style camera layout to a more traditional periscope style vertical array flanked on the left corner of the back. Guess which phone this reminds you of? Yep, the Huawei P30 Pro which has a 4-camera array on the left. Even the gradient colours were first done by Huawei; in the case of the P30 Pro, it was an interesting breathing crystal option.
- The addition of the depth time of flight sensor (ToF) on the Galaxy Note 10+ and all its AR capabilities are one of the key selling points. Again Huawei had the jump on Samsung with the ToF sensor and arguably, most will agree, even right now, that Huawei’s P30 Pro has the best still camera in the business. Sure DxOMark has rated both the cameras similarly, but it has to be noted that Samsung manages that class-leading rating after 6 months.
- It has taken eons for Samsung to add a true night mode on its phones. Huawei has had it for more than a year and with the P30 Pro, it even managed to take on the much talked about night-sight with the P30 Pro. The Galaxy Note 10+ now plays catch up, but still, its night mode is slower, it doesn’t work when there some light as it reverts to a standard photo and its white balance isn’t as good as the Pixel 3 or the P30 Pro.
- Samsung’s phones have never been the fastest charging phones around until the Galaxy Note 10+ showed up. It has a 25W charger in the package which can be upgraded to a 45W charger. But again, Samsung here is just playing catch up to 40W supercharger that comes bundled with the Huawei P30 Pro. It is also worth remembering that reverse wireless charging first showed up last year on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro only for Samsung to follow on the Galaxy S10. Wonder what Huawei may conjure with the Mate 30 Pro later this year.
- When one talks about on-device machine learning, Samsung’s Exynos 9825 chip is slightly laggard to Huawei’s own Kirin 980 chipset. This in-turn gives Huawei’s phones some huge benefits in AI tasks which are also reflective in the file system, performance and the camera. Samsung again is merely playing catch-up, though that may be fruitless as the Kirin 990 may show up with the Mate 30 Pro.
- Battery life has been an anathema of Samsung’s recent phones. That’s why the Note 10+ comes with a huge 4,300mAh battery which lasts quite a long time. But the battery life table stakes are still in the hands of the Huawei P30 Pro which has a 4,200mAh battery, a more power-efficient operating system and silicon working in tandem on a device with a smaller and lower-resolution screen. Net-net, the Huawei P30 Pro remains the battery life champion of the year, and the Mate 30 Pro is a sure shot to eclipse it.
The unfortunate pattern here for Samsung is that Huawei is fast catching up with display technology. That’s reflective in the fact that Huawei phones with OLED screens are now more than decent. It is reflective in the fact that Huawei’s foldable was better received and arguably better designed coming out at the same time as Samsung’s. It also shows that Samsung these days isn’t actually battling Apple — it is having a struggle of its own in the Android kingdom showing to the world that it is the king of Android smartphones. In all instances, either Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ has managed to just about catch up or still falls short to a Huawei phone which was launched 6 months ago. And mind you, this is Samsung’s Jesus phone. That’s just sad.