As we enter a new decade, Samsung makes a huge leap not only with its latest flagship smartphone but also with a new nomenclature for it. For the new decade, the 11th Samsung Galaxy S flagship drops the 11 and goes with the number of the new decade. And indeed Samsung has come out all guns blazing as compared to rather pedantic updates in the last two years, the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20 Plus and the Galaxy S20 Ultra represent a tectonic shift for what Galaxy smartphones have represented to mobile computing in the last couple of years. This year, Samsung is out to prove who is daddy and these smartphones could mark who is Caeser in the Android kingdom of smartphones.
- Samsung is the indefatigable king of displays. Last year, even though the OnePlus 7 Pro was leading the charge with a 90Hz screen, most people, including the folks at DisplayMate, said that the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro (which was also manufactured by Samsung) had the best screens around with their 60Hz refresh rate. Guess what, this year all versions of the Galaxy S20 have a 120Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch response rate coupled with the insane 2K resolution of the panel and general vibrancy Samsung’s AMOLED screens are known for. Even journalists who have had one on one time with the phone are saying that this is the best smartphone screen they’ve seen. This will likely hold true for the rest of the year.
- Smartphones have reached a level where the performance for most users, even for gaming isn’t problematic even for mid-range devices. So when the Galaxy S20 UItra launches it is already sitting on a superlative foundation, but now the new Snapdragon 865 SoC or Samsung’s own Exynos 990 allow this phone to shoot 8k video. Samsung was so proud of this that they streamed the entire launch event using the 8k video on the S20. Top that off with the first phone in the world to have LPDDR5 RAM that too up to 16GB of it and 5G connectivity, you are looking at a monster. Competing smartphones will not be able to beat the S20 in performance even if they have a slight edge as the margins are not perceptible to the average user.
- Samsung has doubled down on gaming with this new phone — be it the fact that it will be the testbed for Microsoft’s Forza Street game which is exclusive for Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones or the fact that it will almost certainly be one of the lead devices for Microsoft’s game streaming service xCloud which goes primetime later in the year with the launch of the Xbox Series X console; this will be one of the ultimate smartphones for gamers. It also helps that it has the best GPU, screen and most amount of RAM on a smartphone right now which makes it quite the formidable mobile gaming station.
- Samsung hasn’t been as focussed on the camera as it is on the Galaxy S20 since perhaps the Galaxy S6 which launched in 2015. The standard models have a 12-megapixel main sensor, a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, a time of flight sensor and a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens. This allows for some insane low light performance, super-resolution including 8k video and 33-megapixel cropped photos and up to 30x zoom using a combination of pixel binning, AI enhancement and optics. This all gets further amped up on the S20 Ultra which gets a main 108-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, a 48-megapixel telephoto lens and a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera apart from the time of flight sensor. This enables the crazy 100x space zoom which pips what Huawei did last year with P30 Pro when it claimed up to 50x zoom. Then there is also the super steady mode which it introduced with the Galaxy S10 Lite. On the front too, there is a 40-megapixel camera which is in the infinity O notch; Samsung has literally gone batshit crazy with the camera this time around.
- With 5G at its heart and 120Hz screens, battery life was always going to be a concern. The standard S20 gets a 4,000mAh battery, the S20 Plus gets a 4,500mAh battery while the gargantuan 6.9-inch S20 Ultra gets a 5,000mAh battery. All this is coupled with wireless charging and reverse wireless charging and some of the fastest wired charging you will see on a smartphone. Out of the box, Samsung does 25-watt fast charging while the S20 Ultra gets 45-watt fast charging. Samsung is confident about the power efficiency as the 120Hz mode is capped to a 1080p resolution which drains the battery only by 10 per cent more than the standard mode. Additionally, 5G connectivity will anyways be a niche use case in limited markets like the US, UK, China and South Korea as Asian markets like India are years away from 5G deployment.
- Samsung has upped the quality of its software. OneUI 2.0 is more pleasant to use and now there is the Microsoft partnership which puts some fantastic apps at the centre of the Galaxy S20 experience. You also get the “My Phone” app which allows you to control your phone from your Windows PC. It also now has a relationship with Netflix which makes these phones the best ones to view Netflix shows with some extra content on the plate. There is also an integration with Bixby for the sake of posterity. Spotify is also deeply integrated along with a YouTube Premium subscription coming as a part of the package.
- Security-wise you get Samsung Knox which makes this amongst the most secure Android phones while you also get the best smartphone-based solution called Samsung Pay. There is also a new AirDrop-like feature that allows you to transfer files peer to peer with other Galaxy phones, while you can also use WiFi-direct to get music from another phone and stream it on to a car audio system over Bluetooth. The South Korean company is making a hail-mary pass by pulling all the stops it can.