It’s officially Samsung launch day, so let’s meet the company’s flagship smartphone for 2020: the Galaxy S20.
This phone is the followup to the Galaxy S10, and no, you’re not missing anything—the Galaxy S line counted from 1 to 10 over the last 10 years and is now jumping to 20 for 2020. Presumably, Samsung is naming these phones like they are yearly sports video games now, and we’ll be getting Samsung Galaxy S [current year] from here on out.
Samsung has also tweaked the size variants. Last year—accounting for the “small,” “medium,” and “large” sizes—we had the Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, and Galaxy S10+. This year, the smallest phone is going away, and we have the “medium” Galaxy S20, the “large” Galaxy S20+, and the “extra-large” Galaxy S20 Ultra.
The highlight of these new devices are the 120Hz OLED displays, which now have the highest refresh rates on the market. Previously, we’ve seen phones with 120Hz LCDs like the Asus ROG II and Razer Phone 2, but now Samsung Display is bringing 120HZ OLEDs to market. No matter which Galaxy S20 you pick, you get a 3200×1440 display, with the S20 at 6.2-inches, the S20+ at 6.7-inches, and the S20 Ultra with a whopping 6.92-inch display—one of the biggest displays ever fitted to a smartphone. The prices are getting bigger, too. In the United States, the S20 is now $999, the S20+ is $1,199.99, and the S20 Ultra is $1,399.99.
In the US and some other countries, the Galaxy S20 is one of the first phones to ship with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 SoC, which should be a standard chip across most 2020 flagship phones. Like last year’s Snapdragon 855, this is still an eight-core, 7nm chip, though Qualcomm has upgraded to a CPU design based on the Cortex A77 instead of the Cortex A76 used for last year’s chips. Qualcomm is promising a 25 percent faster GPU and CPU compared to the Snapdragon 855.
The Snapdragon 865 doesn’t have an onboard modem and is only sold bundled with Qualcomm’s separate X55 chip. The X55 contains the LTE modem that is normally built into the SoC, and it has a 5G modem, so 5G is mandatory for Snapdragon 865 devices, even though 5G networks are not really in a useful state yet. The other option for the Galaxy S20 is Samsung’s own Exynos 990 SoC, which can support 5G, but it’s not mandatory. If Samsung sticks to its previous rollout strategy, the US, China, Latin America, and Japan will get the Snapdragon version, while Europe, Korea, and the rest of the world will get Exynos. So the Qualcomm versions will all have 5G, but internationally, there will be some 4G-only Galaxy S20s with Exynos chips.
We’re going to need bigger batteries to power the higher power draw from a separate modem, 5G, and those bigger screens, so the S20 gets a 4000mAh battery, the S20+ a 4500mAh battery, and the S20 Ultra gets a 5000mAh battery. Qualcomm’s decision to make flagship smartphones have mandatory 5G could be the reason for the lack of a smaller Galaxy S20e. Fitting all the 5G components into a phone that small, along with an appropriately sized battery, might not be possible.
The Galaxy S20 is bringing 5G into the mainstream, but as Android Police reports, 5G connectivity is not equal across all Galaxy S20s. Only the bigger Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra support both sub-6GHz 5G and the faster 5G mmWave. The smaller S20 only supports sub-6GHz 5G, and not mmWave. mmWave requires several antennas to be placed around the phone, so it looks like the S20 opted to skip the extra space and cost requirements for mmWave.
This year, Samsung is bumping things up to 12GB of RAM across the board for the US 5G version, with an option for 16GB for the S20 Ultra. Storage starts at 128GB, with 256GB an option for the S20 and S20+ while 512GB is an option for the S20 Ultra. This is UFS 3.0 storage, and everything has a MicroSD slot for even more storage.
Like previous Samsung phones, these devices are glass sandwiches with a tiny sliver of the metal frame exposed around the edges. They still use Samsung’s patented “Infinity-O” display, which places the front-facing camera under the display and lasers away any blocking pixels, resulting in a display that looks like someone took a hole punch tool to the panel. This year, Samsung has decided to dump the dual front-camera setup that was on the Galaxy S10 (it had an extra wide-angle lens), opting instead for a single camera centered at the top of the display. The S20 and S20+ get a 10MP front camera, while the S20 Ultra gets a 40MP camera.
On the back, there’s now a big, tall camera block in the upper-left corner, which holds three or four cameras depending on your version. The S20 gets a 12MP main sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a 3x telephoto 64MP camera. The S20+ has all of these cameras, plus a time-of-flight (ToF) camera for bokeh and other 3D sensing apps. The Galaxy S20 Ultra gets a completely different camera package: a 108MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide, a 48MP 10x telephoto, and a ToF sensor. The 10x, 48MP telephoto zoom is being branded as “100x Space Zoom” using some shady justification combining the optical zoom, digital zoom, and filling in the blanks with AI.
On the video side of things, all of these phones can record video in a whopping 8K resolution, which sounds like a great stress test for your phone’s processor, storage, and Internet connection. Not many people actually have a device appropriate for playing back 8K content—I’m sure it looks great on Samsung’s new 8K TVs—but know that YouTube will at least happily suck down and store your ridiculously resolutioned videos for future generations.
The rest of the specs and features follow closely to older versions of the Galaxy S. The phone is still IP68 water-resistant. There’s still an in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint reader. It still supports wireless charging. The one missing feature that was on previous Galaxy S phones is the headphone jack. This is the first Galaxy S without one.
The phones will ship March 6.
Listing image by Samsung