There have been a lot of leaks about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S20 line of phones. The company’s new line of Galaxy S phones promised to mark a generational leap in the phone’s specifications and capabilities—hence the jump from S10 to the S20. Now that we’ve seen the full specifications of the new Galaxy S20 lineup of phones, I think many will agree that Samsung hit the mark. There are a lot of features inside of the Galaxy S20 series worth mentioning, and some differences between the models that are worth noting. Let’s dive in to the new Samsung Galaxy S20 lineup.
Models and pricing
Last year, the S10 debuted with four models: the S10e, S10, S10+ and S10 5G. While the S20 comes in three flavors, this time it’s the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. While this skews the lineup ever closer to the Galaxy Fold pricing, Samsung does intend to keep the S10 lineup in production in order to fill the gaps between the A51 and the S20. The S20 has a starting MSRP of $999, the S20+ starts at $1199 and the S20 Ultra starts at $1399, but I believe that Samsung is able to justify this pricing. That said, there will be multiple configurations of each model with different memory capacities (and prices), including an S20 Ultra with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. More on that later.
I think that the least impressive part of the Galaxy S20 lineup is the overall phone design. I don’t particularly think that the appearance of the S20, S20+ or S20 Ultra is particularly different from the S10 in any particularly compelling way. In fact, the camera bump on the new S20 series makes it so that the phone doesn’t sit evenly on a table without a case (although I don’t know who would spend $1,000+ on a phone and not put a case on it). One thing I appreciated was that Samsung moved the selfie-camera to where it already put the front-facing camera on the Note series, right in the middle of the top of the screen—an upgrade from its placement in the upper right-hand corner in the S10 series. I do not find this any more distracting than having it in the upper right hand corner. I also believe that it’s a lot easier for people to see where the front-facing camera is and to look in the correct place.
The S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra feature a 6.2,” a 6.7” and a 6.9” display respectively. These sizes and corresponding price increase make sense, since the bigger the device is, the more battery and other components you can cram in it (for example mmWave antennas). The display is a significant design component, since it affects the size of the bezels, the type of buttons it does and doesn’t have. All three S20 phones feature an amazing 120 Hz refresh rate, an HDR10+ certification and Quad HD+ resolution. That said, the default mode is 60 Hz and users will have to manually change this to 120 Hz to get the doubled refresh rate. I think this is a good idea from Samsung—there will be a hit to battery life when running at 120Hz, though we have yet to find out how much.
Photography & Video
This is really where Samsung really raised the bar, and then some. Samsung doubled down on the camera for all the S20 devices, with what it calls a ‘Pro-Grade’ camera configuration: a wide-angle, telephoto and ultra-wide-angle three camera configuration with an upgraded digital camera pipeline featuring new, larger sensors. It also features an AI-powered Single Take Mode—a very unique feature that creates a multitude of different types of photos and videos from a single 10-second capture and uses AI to recommend the optimal shot. The S20+ keeps the 12MP wide angle sensors and 64MP telephoto sensor and adds an additional depth sensor, resulting in a maximum of 30x digital zoom and 3X hybrid zoom. The S20 Ultra ups the ante by adding a 108MP wide angle sensor (with Nona Binning technology) for the main camera and a 48MP telephoto. This results in a 10x lossless hybrid zoom and 100x ‘Space Zoom’—the furthest of any phone to date. One thing many people may miss is that Samsung also upgraded the S20 Ultra’s front-facing selfie camera to 40MP. Even though 40MP is quite nice to have on the front, I would’ve liked to see a slightly wider angle than 80 degrees. That’s only 1 degree wider than the main rear camera optics on all of the S20 devices.
Samsung also took things to the next level by giving these devices 8K recording capabilities—something no other phone can do. 8K, for the unfamiliar, is approximately 4x the resolution of 4K in most phones and TVs today. I remember when 4K came to smartphones and it was quite a big deal. This capability has been rumored for quite some time—ever since Qualcomm announced that the Snapdragon 865 processor (which is inside of this phone in certain geographies including the US) had this capability. All versions of the Samsung Galaxy S20 will have 8K recording as well as a Super Steady shot mode for stabilization (though it isn’t clear whether Super Steady shot will be available in 8K mode). Traditionally, when a new video resolution is introduced, it takes a few generations until things like Steady Shot and low-light are possible. Nonetheless, 8K 30 (30 fps) will look great and should be a great opportunity for film makers to shoot in 8K affordably. Additionally, Samsung partnered with YouTube to leverage the 5G capabilities of these phones for direct and speedy uploads to YouTube.
Speaking of 5G, all three models of the Galaxy S20 will have 5G designed for today’s networks and into the future. The Samsung Galaxy S20 will support today’s NSA (non-standalone) 5G networks as well as the upcoming SA (standalone) 5G networks. This means that as the 5G operators around the world transition from NSA to SA 5G, your Samsung Galaxy S20 will still be capable of working on the new networks. In addition to that, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra feature Qualcomm’s X55 modem and mmWave modules, and will support mmWave in countries that have it. The S20+ and S20 Ultra will be the first phones in the world to support both Sub 6GHz 5G and mmWave, giving them both high speeds and good coverage. Over time, most carriers will transition to a mixture of mmWave and Sub6—having a phone that can do both is a pretty big deal. Additionally, Samsung told me it added additional 5G band support to allow users to roam globally and use 5G everywhere. The Galaxy S20 will feature Wi-Fi 6 with support for download and upload speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps.
Storage, Memory and Battery
All Galaxy S20 phones will ship with 12GB of Samsung’s own brand new LPDDR5 memory, which means they will ship with RAM that many consumers don’t even have in their computers yet. LPDDR5 isn’t currently in any devices, though it is rumored in some other smartphones from other memory manufacturers. Very few companies can offer 12GB in a flagship phone—the OnePlus was really the first to kick off the trend. Samsung, however, will also offer a 16GB version (an industry first) paired with the 512GB version of the Galaxy S20 Ultra (the most expensive configuration available). All three versions of the S20 will also support 1TB memory cards, meaning that the S20 Ultra can ship with up to 1.5TB with a 1TB microSD card. All versions of the S20 will start at 128GB. While 128GB is the only option for the baseline S20, the S20+ and S20 Ultra do have upgraded 512GB storage configurations. No word on whether the storage will be UFS 3.0 or 3.1. UFS 3.1 was only announced in January of this year, but it could bring some significant performance improvements. The battery configurations also scale with the size of the device—the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra feature sizeable 4,000, 4,500 and 5,000 mAh batteries, respectively. With these battery and memory configurations, I really believe it will be hard to beat the Galaxy S20 series in multi-tasking. It stands to be one of the most business-friendly devices to date. I am also extremely happy that Samsung is the first major smartphone manufacturer to make 128GB the standard capacity of all its flagship devices. It’s a strong statement.
One Complete Package, Many Amazing Parts
The Samsung Galaxy S20 is a complete lineup of flagship phones from Samsung that elevates the industry in a way that nobody else can. These impressive features—5G, 8K Recording, 128GB of storage, 12GB of RAM, and 120 Hz displays—will likely mark the new standard for flagship phones moving forward. I also appreciate how Samsung is leveraging its partnerships with companies like Google to build apps like Google Duo directly into the S20 phone dialer for video calling. I believe that the S20 series is a worthy start to this new decade and representative of what’s to come. Pre-orders for the S20 series begin on February 21st starting at $999 for the S20, $1,199 for the S20+ and $1,399 for the S20 Ultra.