Samsung Galaxy Note 10+: A Quick Follow-Up

Posted on September 8, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 19 Comments

I’m obviously weeks behind other reviewers when it comes to the Note 10+. So here’s a quick check-in on my experience.

It’s been mostly positive: The Note 10+ display is gorgeous, even in its default FHD+ (2280 x 1080) setting—it can be manually configured to use its native WQHD+ (3040 x 1440) resolution or HD+ (1520 x 720) instead—which I assume is a good balance of looks and battery life. I see no reason to change that, and so far, at least, the battery life has been great. I don’t really go out into the world like many people each day, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t last for a full day of heavy usage.

The size of the display is likewise fantastic, and for anyone with aging or failing eyes, this size phone (or bigger, down the road) may solve some problems. I was curious to see whether I could use the Note 10+ to read in the morning—I’m currently using a full-sized iPad but would prefer an iPad mini—but it may be a bit too small for that purpose. I could see watching movies on it during trips, but only if there were power or the flights weren’t too long.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ (left) vs. Galaxy Note 10+ (right)

One weird issue with a very large phone like this is that the usual, one-handed way of doing things doesn’t always work, and not always for the obvious reasons: Holding the phone normally in my right hand and stretching to reach a point in the upper-left of the display, the bottom of my palm, which is cradling the phone, has triggered items in the lower-right of the display multiple times now. My hands are big enough that I’ve been able to use many large phones with a single hand. But this is one the first times—this happened with the Lumia 1520 too—I’ve had this issue. It may require creating new muscle memories.

I’ve started running into reliability issues with the in-display fingerprint reader, and they’re very similar to what I experienced with the OnePlus 6T last year: Despite carefully enrolling two fingers, I’ve had multiple instances where neither registers, forcing me to use a PIN after a maddening few tries. This happened over the weekend several times, while out in the world, and while at the gym. And it’s kind of depressing. OnePlus never did fix the 6T, but the fingerprint reader in the OnePlus 7 Pro is much improved. But so far, the Note 10+ version is not working well at all.

I used the integrated Link to Windows function in the Note 10+’s notification shade to connect with the Your Phone app in Windows 10 on my NU, and it worked fine. I wouldn’t call this a game-changer per se, but by putting this interface right in the UI, and in the first notification shade, no less, it’s discoverable. And because there’s no (Your Phone Companion) app to install, it’s simpler and faster to make the connection.

In use, this works normally, but I was able to experience the screen mirroring function for the first time. It works well, with only minimal lag. But what I’d rather see is a free-floating screen mirror window instead of it being contained in the larger Your Phone window. That’s a minor quibble, though, and I’ll keep using the Note 10+ with Your Phone to see how the other integration bits—photos, messages, and notifications—work.

I’ve finally spent a good chunk of time testing the Note 10+’s camera system, and it’s a mixed bag if you care about camera quality as much as I do. I’ll cut to the chase: This camera system is better than that of the OnePlus 7 Pro overall, and it is possibly in the same quality area as that of the iPhone XS family. It is most decidedly not in the same company, quality-wise, as the cameras used in the Google Pixel 3, 3 XL, 3a, or 3a XL, or the Huawei P30 Pro or Mate 20 Pro. It’s not even close.

When it’s not sunny, the default shots are decent, not great

But don’t take that the wrong way: Those Pixel and Huawei handsets have really raised the bar, and the Note 10+ cameras do deliver routinely decent and occasionally excellent photos. Low light is similar to what I experienced last year with the S-series Galaxy, where I sort of get what Samsung is shooting (ahem) for, but it just doesn’t match what the latest Pixels and Huaweis can do. And outdoor shots can be washed out unless it’s really sunny.

Sunny day? You’re in for a visual treat

And there some things I really like about the Note 10+ camera system. The camera app itself is great, and the on-screen toggles for normal, wide, and telephoto and for the scene optimizer are features I wish all camera apps offered.

So far, the food shots have not impressed

Samsung provides perhaps too many shooting modes, but you can configure which appear in the carousel, and you can use a Pro mode if you’re not happy with any of the defaults. But some modes—like Food and Instagram—are just goofy. There are some esoteric shooting modes like Hyperlapse and Super Slow-mo I’ll need to force myself to test. I’m not there yet.

A pleasant enough night shot, but nothing like what Pixel and Huawei can do

Someone asked about this in Ask Paul on Friday, but I have resolved to try and use as many Samsung apps and services as I can stand and to do so for as long as I can stand. Some, like Bixby, are really testing my sanity. But others, like Samsung Internet (the browser), Phone, and Messages, are non-objectionable. I did install the Google app so I can access the feed I usually see in Google Discover, which Samsung replaces with Bixby Home. And of course I’m using apps like Gmail, Outlook, OneNote, Skype, and others that I rely on.

I did connect the Note 10+ to two other Samsung devices, the Galaxy Buds I bought a few weeks back that I use at the gym and a freebie Galaxy Fit that I got with the Note 10+. The Galaxy Fit is basically a Fitbit with a color screen, and it offers multi-day battery life and pretty much does all the tracking I’d ever need. It connects to Samsung Health, however, and I’ve not yet tested whether it will sync to Google Fit, which would be preferable. I’ll get there, but for now I just want to get several days’ worth of data collected.

I did have one very happy and unexpected surprise: When I connected the Note 10+ to my wife’s car this morning via Bluetooth, I did something that has never happened before. It connected the Note 10+ to the car’s audio system. On all previous phones, including my wife’s Galaxy S8+, only phone and text are available through the car, and we’ve had to rely on a line-in cable for audio. This has literally never worked before, and I was convinced it would never work. I can’t explain it, but that’s great news, and the integration works well, even for this older (2014 model year) vehicle.

More soon.

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