Samsung Galaxy Note 10 First Impressions

Posted on August 21, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Hardware, Mobile with 25 Comments

It’s … small. Was my first reaction to the Galaxy Note 10.

I had expected the “normal” (non-plus sized) Note 10 to be about as big as the other handsets I’ve recently used. But it’s noticeably smaller—and almost certainly thinner—than all of them. This bolsters the notion that I should have gotten the larger Note 10+. And I may still do that. I’m on hold with Samsung customer support as I type this.

Regardless, it’s gorgeous. The “aura” glass back reflects a rainbow of colors that shifts and moves around as you move it, and the effect is mesmerizing. It’s also an incredible fingerprint magnet and a bit pointless, since it’s going to be hidden by a cover. Which I would have already placed on the handset, except that I ordered one for the Note 10+, not for the normal Note. That was my fault, I realized, after checking my order. Like I said, I’m on hold with Samsung support as I type this.

So, with the understanding that this phone will possibly be going back to Samsung so that I can get the larger version, here are a few initial thoughts.

The form factor is excellent. I really like the angled corners of the Note compared the more bulbous look of the Galaxy S series. I’m not a huge fan of the aluminum top, bottom, and sides, something I’ve noticed a lot with my brother-in-law’s Galaxy S9+ too. The edges are particularly sharp for some reason. But that case should at least partially help with that.

The button placement is odd. Where most of the Android phones I’ve used place the power button and volume rocker on the right, Samsung places them all on the left. That will take some getting used to.

The display is gorgeous, and while I understand the complaints about it being “just” 1080p, I can’t discern any issues. The pinhole camera in the top center of the display is interesting. It’s less jarring and obnoxious than a notch, for sure. And Samsung seems to have embraced it: The default wallpaper is very light, almost white, so the hole stands out.

Samsung’s UI design is delightful. While I normally prefer to see a stock Android image, I like the icons—their unique ovoid shapes, the colors—and the overall presentation and layout. It’s tasteful and classy, to my eyes.

(One thing I don’t like: Samsung, as always, reverses the positions of the Back and Recents button in the navigation bar. You can reverse this, of course, and I did. And you can choose to use a full screen gesture system instead of the traditional navigation bar, which I’ll experiment with.)

Microsoft fans are probably curious what’s going on here. There is a Microsoft folder on the home screen (and in All Apps), and it has fours app in it: LinkedIn, Office Mobile, OneDrive, and Outlook. Presumably, you’ll be asked to download individual Office applications like Word and Excel when you try to access those document types through the Office or OneDrive apps.

By comparison, the Google folder on the home screen has 10 apps in it. That makes sense, of course, as Google makes Android. A Samsung folder, which is not on the home screen, has nine apps in it.

I enabled the in-display fingerprint reader and so far, so good. It works without any of the visual histrionics of the OnePlus 6T, which I like. But I’m still trying to get a feel for it: Unlike with other handsets that have this kind of sign-in method, it appears you have to double-tap the display or otherwise wake it up before you can sign-in. I’ll keep at it.

Still waiting on hold. What else…

There is a navy-blue S Pen in a dock in the bottom right of the device. You push it in to dislodge it and then can pull it out. Like the phone itself, it’s small, and I’m even less inclined to use it as a stylus as a result. But I could see this being very useful for the camera, and will of course experiment with it. (Obviously, its size is determined by the size of the handset since it needs to fit in its little garage.)

One thing you can do with the S Pen that is kind of cute is write directly on the “off” screen. That is, when the display is off, you can just start writing on it. I could see that being very handy, as there’s no need to sign-in and hunt around for a note app.

There’s no headphone jack, which is both common knowledge and a common compliant. Over time, this will bother me and others less and less as wireless headphones improve and become more common. But it’s an odd omission in any flagship handset, and it was a nice differentiator in previous Notes.

I inadvertently triggered Samsung Pay, which is very easy to do. One biggie, I swiped it away and got on with life. But within seconds, I received an email telling me that my device was now registered with Samsung Pay. LOL. Nice.

Oh. Samsung customer support just connected.

Let’s see how this goes.

Prabhakar wants to help, I guess. His replies seem curiously disconnected from the questions I’m asking, which were about exchanging the Note 10 for a Note 10+ and how/when the trade-in for my Pixel 3 XL will occur. He told me that he “noticed” I could return the Note 10+ case. And wrote, “We will give you to promo code for the value of the product. Once the order is back to Samsung warehouse, please contact us back. we are here to help you 24/7.”

Ah boy.

I asked for clarification but won’t bore you with the details. Near as I can tell, I need to wait a few days, return the Note 10, order a Note 10+, and then contact support again about a promo code once the return arrives at their warehouse. I will do so. And look forward to getting a Note 10+ instead.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Samsung Galaxy Note 10 First Impressions”

  1. saturn

    I’m a bit curious to see if Samsung will accept a return. Where I’m from, generally speaking, if you buy something and you don’t like it for whatever reason - regardless of the price paid - you’re SOL if you want to return it. Apple is an exception and perhaps Samsung is as well but it’ll be interesting to see if it works out in the end.

    As for the missing headphone jack, I think it’s tragic. A technology that has served us so well for so long is being abandoned without much care. It’s a shame because while Bluetooth headphones are fine for things like podcasts and spoken word, for music they’re kinda rubbish. I mean, if you’re streaming music, it’s almost always lossy (data compression of the original audio source that throws away musical information that is thought to be less important to the listener). Then the audio becomes re-compressed, essentially stripping down the audio quality further when it gets transmitted to the earphones via Bluetooth. It’s kind of funny that in 1982, the Compact Disc promised “Perfect sound, forever.” and here we are in 2019 and we’re listening to music that’s been downgraded at least twice from that original CD source.

    • BrianEricFord

      In reply to saturn:

      And also funny that in 1982 all the way through to today we’ve had to hear everyone go on and on about vinyl and how music would never be the same.

      Meanwhile, due to streaming I listen to vastly more varied music than I was ever able to back when the formats were allegedly perfected for audiophile ears, so even with the slight loss in fidelity and information, I’d call it a net gain. (Don’t tell Neil Young I said that.)

  2. Winner

    Things I haven't liked about Samsung - Paul's mentioned a few:

    • Buttons on the left, AND they aren't raised like on the Pixels so hard to find by touch, AND Bixby button also on left, easy to hit by mistake
    • Old FP sensor was small and didn't register at times, hopefully the in-display version is better. But you don't have a "hole" to guide your finger, do you? How big an area does it sense?
    • Reversed onscreen buttons as Paul noted
    • Settings menus totally different than stock Android
    • Previous Samsung cameras tended to overcook the images in unreasonable ways
    • Lots of duplicative Samsung apps you can't delete - store, messages, browser, etc.

    But the hardware is really pretty and the screen is gorgeous.

  3. codymesh

    "By comparison, the Google folder on the home screen has 10 apps in it. That makes sense, of course, as Google makes Android. A Samsung folder, which is not on the home screen, has nine apps in it."

    holy crapware batman

  4. jpr75

    Note 10+ 5G - Only on Verizon and $1299.00. Both are an instant stop for me. Samsung in its promo videos tells you the Note 10/10+ can replace your computer - I guess that's why they think charging $1300.00 for a phone, that will be obsolete in a year, is OK. I dumped Verizon a couple or so years ago when I bought my first Google Fi Pixel phone, and have not looked back. The simple, easy to read, no billing BS for Google Fi is enough for me to change, but the service has been just as good as I had with Verizon - so no going back. Plus I get a $200+ rebate when I upgrade to a new Pixel phone, so I never pay full retail.

    Samsung has a nice device with the Note10s - but not for me. I will wait for the Pixel 4.

  5. thumperyz69

    Hey Paul.. Are you going to run your Note on Google Fi??? or ??? I do like my Pixel 3XL but I am just looking for a change maybe.

  6. Simard57

    "But I could see this being very useful for the camera, and will of course experiment with it. "

    how can the stylus be helpful with the camera? does it have act like a remote to snap pictures?

  7. palmer73

    I will be really excited, as I am sure you are Paul, in seeing how the Note+ compares. I really liked the Note 4 with the S Pen; I can't remember why I ever gave it up.. I use Action Launcher from Chris Lacy, primarily because it has a lock desktop feature, preventing any stray touches or placement in pocket to activate or delete something. Is there something compareable in Samsungs UI? I'm currently on the Galaxy S8

  8. lankyguy

    I couldn't pass up the trade-in price and $200 of accessories that I could pick what I wanted (including SmartThings, Cases, headphones, etc.)

    Just unboxed my Note+ (Black) and went through the SmartSwitch utility from my Note 9. I use NovaSettings so I could backup and restore my "desktop" so I'm back up and running very quickly.

    Here's my steps (if interested):

    1) Restored Samsung backup from Google Drive for settings (5 min)

    2) SmartSwitch over Wi-Fi (45 min)

    3) Re-entering passwords, etc. that don't get copied (on-going)

    4) Apps are slowing downloading over time (about 1/2 way after 30 min)


  9. ndwilder

    I learned of a feature not communicated anywhere that I had seen prior, that we can use the pen when the phone is just sitting there to write notes on the screen. It works on my Note 9! Thanks! Also, complaint, not compliant, on the headphone jack comment. :) Thanks for the article.

  10. broxman

    I just got my Note 10 from Fedex at noon today. I was very excited that Samsung made the smaller note. I've had the Note II and Note 4 in the past and could never get used to the large size. My main phone is an iPhone 7 right now (everyone in my extended family uses iPhones). I'm looking forward to using the S Pen again after using one on Palm Treo's and Windows Mobile phones. The main thing that made me go for the Note 10 was the Dex running on my PC. I've used Dex with a Galaxy S8 and the Dex dock connected to a monitor but it will be much more usable just needing a Windows laptop or Surface to host the Dex window. This really looks like the Surface phone that many of the readers here have been waiting for. I think Microsoft is doing the right thing for themselves by partnering with Samsung. MS could never have made a phone this good. I'm looking forward to your full review! Please give your opinion on using Dex also.

  11. BeckoningEagle

    Take a moment to turn the lights off and take a Night Mode picture. Really quickly compare it to Google pixel 3. I am at Best Buy and I need you to do it right away??. Thanks.

  12. RobertJasiek

    Small? It is relative. Small for a 6.3" device.

    Yesterday, I walked through stores to get a feeling on current smartphones and decide whether any might be worth getting as my first ever. My overall impression is: they are all too big! 5" or larger means 15cm or longer. Something I would call phablet but nowadays everybody calls smartphone. The only exceptions were 4.7" iphones 8 or older, whose length 13.8cm qualifies as just barely acceptable. However, the only really attractive, with respect to being pocketable, smartphone is the 4" iphone SE, which is hardly available any more and only online. So currently, especially since I want 16:9, I have exactly one smartphone to choose from.

    At €220~230 and with acceptable design, you might say that I should not complain. However, I cannot convince myself to buy an iphone SE because it means locking myself for several further years into the Walled Garden of iTunes, missing general file management, too expensive battery replacements etc.

    Chossing Android means that there is no really small smartphone with 16:9 and updates.

    My other impression on the current Android smartphones is that they all look pretty much the same. iphones have a decidedly differently design but are not Android. Ok, there are two exceptions: Wikos are thick bricks as they are cheap; ruggedised smartphones do look differently.

    The more expensive current Android smartphones all share the same mistake: instead of shrinking their length and omitting the front camera, they get a tall display and often with a notch.

    Apple might have got it right with an iphone XR with 16:9, without notch and without front camera. Such a smartphone would have an acceptable 13.8cm length and a nice design.

    Why is there no Android manufacturer with such a design or competing the iphone SE? Phablets everywhere...! The smartphone world has gone crazy.

    • jules_wombat

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      I also don't like the current 5 inch plus phones, as I like to keep my phone in my pockets !

      I sadly had to let go of my Lumia 650, and opted for a Nokia 7.1, which is reasonably sized, mid range cheap Android device. Nokia keep their phones up to date with latest Android.

  13. jeff.bane

    Played with a Note 10+ at the MS store, what an awesome size for a phone.

    Curious for your review once you get that one.

  14. wolters

    The Note series has all of the features I want in a phone. But the camera has always been the dividing factor. Already in some YouTube camera reviews, I see the Note 10 still over saturates skin tone and doesn't look as natural as the Pixel. So, really anxious to see your take on the camera Paul.

  15. ahassall

    First, the new Note 10+ is a really sharp phone that is not any bigger than my Note 8. I pre-ordered my Note 8 two years ago and got a lot off for upgrading from a Note 5 from Verizon. Verizon gave me half off the Note 8 and Best Buy gave me $150 off. Best Buy's credit came off of the price of the phone, but Verizon's is credited every month. It didn't matter until now. They say that is to avoid having people buy them to resell to someone else. Those people must be better at selling things than I am because I don't think that I would profit off of that. I stopped by a Verizon store, believing that I had one payment remaining of $12.75. I discovered that I actually had two payments totaling $68 that would have to be paid in order to preorder and qualify for the trade in that they are currently offering of $450 for my Note 8. The phone is two years old, so the trade in isn't too bad. I just can't figure out how after two years I still have two payments left and how I don't get the rest of my credit for buying another of their phones. For now, my Note 8 does what I need and I am looking forward to not having the device charge on my bill.

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