Samsung’s Galaxy flagships may not be the most exciting phone launches anymore, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less high-quality, desirable phones — just at some point you run out of gimmicks and instead focus on continuing to hone your premium handset design. And while that long-term trend may not change, this year it’s really starting to feel like there’s something special in the air — be it reports of a super-smooth display, exceptional camera performance, or a big shift to Galaxy S naming — something that’s getting people excited again.
With Samsung’s next Unpacked scheduled for February 11, less than a month away, we’re in the home stretch here, and leaks and rumors about the Galaxy S20 and all its brethren have been pouring in faster and faster — most recently in the form of some incredible hands-on reports. What do we know so far about what to expect from Samsung’s first big 2020 launch? Let’s take a look:
What phones are we going to get?
After months of CAD renders and sketchy reports, this may be our first good look at the Galaxy S20+.
It used to be that Samsung’s Galaxy S line would bring us a pair of handsets: one regular, and one plus-sized. But last year really saw things getting complicated with the S10 and S10+ joined both by a more budget-friendly S10e option, as well as the S10 5G with promises of next-gen connectivity.
So far, all indications are that we can expect more of the same — and then some. But while we’re looking forward to more individual models than ever before, it also seems that Samsung is swapping up its naming scheme.
The big news there is that the once-presumptive Galaxy S11 instead appears to be getting ready to make its debut as the Galaxy S20 series. Within that, we may see further shift in how the various S20 options are described, and the popular theory claims that there will be no budget e-model, and instead that phone would be the base Galaxy S20, coming in with a 6.2-inch screen.
In the same line, the next largest size option would be the 6.7-inch S20+, followed by a massive 6.9-inch S20 Ultra 5G. The smaller two might end up available as both standard LTE and 5G variant (probably market-dependent), while the S20 Ultra may skip the LTE edition entirely. A pretty early rumor suggested that in addition to this Galaxy S naming overhaul we could also see the lineup somehow merged with what we currently know as the Galaxy Note, though that narrative has cooled off a bit in recent months.
If all this is correct, we’re looking at a minimum of five S20 phones. So what have we heard about these models?
What to expect in terms of performance
The S20 family will be our first chance to try out some of the latest silicon.
Just as it’s been with Samsung phones for years, we’re expecting to see the Galaxy S20 series released with different processors depending on the market: probably a Snapdragon 865 in the US, and Samsung’s own Exynos 990 internationally.
It feels like memory needs never go down, and Samsung may address this by giving the S20 phones some of the most RAM we’ve ever seen come to handsets. 12GB has been named as the base level for at least the S20+, and will probably also be an option on the S20 Ultra 5G. But what really gets nuts is the idea that the Ultra 5G could also come in a 16GB variant.
How about these cameras I keep hearing about?
Thankfully the old crazy looking camera render (left) has managed to pull itself together (right)
By all accounts, Samsung’s imaging quality looks like it will be one of the biggest reasons to pick up a Galaxy S20 phone. The base model S20 is expected to get a 12MP main camera — that much, everyone seems to agree on. It should also have a 64MP secondary camera that may be intended as a 3x telephoto view, as well as another camera that could also be 12MP — probably with an extra-wide lens. We’re likely also looking at a 10MP front-facer — nothing new there — but a recent leak suggests at least the Ultra could bump to a 40MP selfie cam.
Leaks of the S20+, meanwhile, reveal one very busy camera bump (thankfully, one less busy than earlier sources suggested) with four lenses. In addition to everything we’re hoping to get from the S20, Samsung may also deliver a time-of-flight sensor.
But the biggest upgrade is what’s likely tied to the S20 Ultra 5G, replacing the primary camera with a massive 108MP sensor and delivering a variable optical periscope zoom — that one should replace the 64MP telephoto from the other S20 models with a 48MP option. There’s been some contention over whether this will give users 5x or 10x zoom, but the latest theory suggests 5x coming out the periscope’s prism, but cropped to 10x optical.
There’s also reason to be excited about camera software. At least the higher-end S20 models should support 8K filming at 30 fps (and maybe even the S20 itself), as well as stabilized 4K at 60 fps. Other highlights include a Pro Video mode with manual controls, Single Take which promises to effortless grab great stills from casual filming, and Smart Selfie Angle that would automatically choose the optimal camera for pics of larger groups. And with some extremely capable chips powering the cameras on these phones, expect some hitherto unexperienced image processing speed and slow-mo capabilities.
What are the screens going to look like?
Last year’s Galaxy S10+ (left) alongside the upcoming Galaxy S20+ (right)
As we mentioned, the S20 should arrive in screen sizes coming in around 6.2, 6.7, and 6.9 inches as we work our way up the line. All of these sizes have been identified as curved-edge panels, potentially dropping the flat-screen from the S10e in an effort to make the S20 feel more premium and deserving of the new name.
The past year has seen extra-high-refresh-rate screens gain prominence, and those silky frame rates can go a long way towards making a phone subjectively feel faster. Samsung hasn’t pushed past 60Hz so far, but the S20 family will almost certainly support operation as fast as 120Hz.
There’s a big asterisk next to that, though, as software appears to limit 120Hz operation to screen resolutions of 1080p — you can choose to take full advantage of the phone’s 1440p panel or enjoy 120Hz performance, but not both at the same time.
How’s battery life shaping up?
One of the latest breakdowns of leaked S20 specs, showing the Ultra’s big 5,000mAh battery (all specs for Exynos models)
Compared to last year’s phones, the new Samsung Galaxy models should all have larger batteries, across the board. That could start at a healthy 4,000mAh for the S20, bump up to a 4,500mAh battery for the S20+, and the latest spec sheets to surface name a big 5,000mAh battery for the S20 Ultra. That big boy should also benefit from 45-watt charging.
Of course, there’s going to be a balancing act here, and the arrival of larger screens is going to take a bite into battery endurance. Decisions like Samsung’s to limit 120Hz operation to lower screen resolutions also speak to awareness to keep power consumption in check, even with these larger reserves from which to draw.
Will there be enough storage for all my stuff?
At least some of the Galaxy S20 models look like they’ll support microSD expansion.
As with so many of these recent leaks, the best coverage focuses on the S20+, where we’re heard mention of a base storage level of 128GB. It’s possible we’ll also see other storage options, though most sources just mention the one. For the Ultra 5G in specific, we’ve heard 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities all mentioned, with the larger probably tied to that model’s 16GB RAM option. Both should also have microSD support.
The situation with the S20 itself is a little less clear. Based on S10 and S10e storage options, it feels like the S20 would stick at 128GB (a theory supported by the spec sheet we just looked at), but we’re not sure which larger capacities may also arrive. We’re also hoping for a little more clarity into whether this model would also get microSD expansion, or if Samsung might withhold it, as with the smaller Note10.
Am I going to be able to use my favorite headphones?
Hopefully the Note 10 (above) has prepared you for this brave new word.
The times are a-changing, and one after another smartphone makers are coming for your beloved headphone jack. With last year’s Galaxy S10 lineup, Samsung was still on team headphone-jack, but the Note10 brought cause for concern as Samsung forced users to go the USB-C or Bluetooth route. Would the S20 suffer the same fate?
Sadly, that looks to be the case, and even the lowest-end S20 has been pictured without analog headphone support.
What’s Samsung doing to secure these phones?
Fingerprint authentication on the S20+.
Last year Samsung adopted ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint scanners for the S10 and Note10, and it sure looks like the S20 will follow in those same footsteps. Hands-on interactions with the S20+ show the scanner operating without any extra illumination, suggesting a return to ultrasonic tech. While that has caused some problems for Samsung in the past, hopefully it gets things secure right out of the gate with this new generation of phones.
Sounds great. So what’s next?
Samsung won’t be waiting long to break silence on the Galaxy S20 line, with Unpacked coming up on February 11, ahead of all the other phone launches we’re expecting to see at Mobile World Congress. It’s possible we’ll also be introduced to Samsung’s next folder, and maybe even the new Galaxy Buds, but nothing’s certain.
As for availability, we’re probably looking at a couple weeks following the announcement before these phones go up for sale. While some pricing data has leaked for various markets, that type of info varies wildly in reliability, so we’re going to want to wait to hear from the carriers and retailers directly before we start sharing any numbers. They’ll be expensive, no doubt, but based on everything we’ve seen so far, users should be getting quite a bit for their money.