Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Final Impressions

Posted on September 3, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 15 Comments

I’ve got to box up my Galaxy Note 10 up and ship it back ahead of the arrival of my Note 10+. Here are a few final impressions.

First of all, I’ve finally had a chance to compare a Note 10 side-by-side with a Note 10+, thanks to a recent trip to Best Buy (where I returned a Samsung display I had purchased for the NUC). This was also a good chance to look at both phones next to my wife’s Galaxy S8+. (She had inexplicably elected to come on this trip.) As many probably suspected, the smaller Note 10 provides a display that is similar in size to earlier flagships, but in a smaller (and noticeably thinner) package. This is analogous to the trend we saw in laptops, starting with the Dell XPS 13, where hardware makers were fitting bigger screens into smaller bodies. It’s something that I think most people really appreciate, in both form factors.

But I do prefer the larger Note 10+, and while it doesn’t have the same super-thin profile, it does share the larger display/small(ish) body trend. And I’m always holding out hope that a sufficiently good phone could eliminate a device. In my case, that potentially eliminated device is an iPad, which I use for reading and, when traveling, watching videos. Overall, I find the iPad to be superior to any Android tablet/device, largely because the same apps are almost always better on iOS. But with The New York Times further ruining their iPad app, it’s probably a toss-up at this point on that one app. And I could likely make do elsewhere. (The only big exception is the Apple TV app, since all my purchased movies are there; only about 2/3 of them show up in other Movies Anywhere-compatible apps on Android.)

Anyway. Whatever happens, I do prefer the bigger Note 10+ form factor, as expected, so exchanging the smaller Note 10 for that is the right choice for me. And away it will go.

Before that, I’ve obviously had more time to experiment with and use the Note 10, though my experiences outside the house are minimal: As you may recall, I screwed up my original order and received a Note 10+ case with the Note 10, instead of the correct case. And there is no way I’m leaving the house with this all-glass handset. Like all other such designs, it’s like holding a bar of soap.

Thanks to the lack of a case, I’ve been getting my fingerprints all over the Note 10, which is a shame: The aura glow back is beautiful and unique. But on the other hand, Samsung’s design results in very sharp edges where the curved front display meets the curved rear along the sides of the device. I feel like it could almost give me a paper cut. It’s just too sharp and it literally feels like a glass edge.

The in-display fingerprint reader is mostly OK. It’s not as fast as the version in the OnePlus 7 Pro but it’s usable and works logically.

Samsung’s UI design, by contrast, is mostly excellent, and you can at least customize the bits you don’t like (such as the reversed navigation buttons). Speaking of which, I also enabled Samsung’s navigation gestures which are, of course, different from those in stock Android. They’re mostly logical, with each relying on an upward swipe from the bottom of the screen. The only weird one is Back: You swipe up where the Back button would be to go Back. You get used to it.

And some of Samsung’s customizations are actually nicer than stock Android: I like swiping up on Home to get to All Apps, for example, and that you can swipe up from there to get back to Home. The only weirdism is when All Apps requires two (or more) screen’s worth of icons: To see the second screen, you have to swipe from the right. It seems like just swiping up should do that, and that when you were by the final All Apps screen, you’d go home from there. But again, you get used to it.

The Samsung apps situation hasn’t been completely terrible because it’s so easy to ignore most of them. In a way, it’s like all those bundled apps in Windows 10: Them being in the Start menu isn’t an issue if you never look at the Start menu. But it’s confusing that there are two app stores on the device, especially since the Galaxy Store has many apps that are also in the Google Play Store. Is it better to get those apps from Samsung for some reason? I don’t know. (I do know that both are always updating apps.)

Bixby Home is, perhaps, the least successful of Samsung’s app duplications

I promised to test the camera and Dex using a direct connection to a dock with a connected display, keyboard, and mouse, instead of just via the Dex app for Windows. I have done both, but not to the point where I have any definitive conclusions. I will say that I really like the Samsung Camera app and its ability to quickly switch between the normal, telephoto, and wide-angle lens in both Photo and Video modes. And while there are perhaps too many other mode choices in the carousel—Food, and then different options for Slow motion, Super Slow-mo, and Hyperlapse—you can edit the list, which is nice.

I will look more closely at the camera and Dex when the Note 10+ finally arrives, probably next week. I hope I can switch it to Google Fi immediately; this was a problem with the Huawei P30 Pro, which is still not Fi-compatible. But I assume/hope I’ll have better luck with a Samsung device.

Samsung’s One UI and Google’s Material Design are both excellent, but I have to give Samsung credit or creating something colorful and fun. There’s just a nice quality to the organic shapes they use across the UI and I wish it was available in third-party apps. But it’s even more interesting that there are two Google user experiences that offer a far more consistent and pleasing look and feel than what Microsoft provides in Windows 10, which is an inconsistent mess. What a world.

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Final Impressions”

  1. Avatar

    SvenJ

    You really can't say anything about a cabled/dock DEX experience vs the Windows client? Not even 'seems faster'?

  2. Avatar

    Simard57

    "but I have to give Samsung for creating something colorful and fun"

    or

    "but I have to give Samsung xxx for creating something colorful and fun"


    where xxx =

    credit

    kudos

    ...?

  3. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    Maybe Aura Glow looks nice and the phone is thin but if it needs a case what purpose do these niceties have? Wouldn't it be better to have a less thin but stable phone with an ordinary colour but stable material and edges?

    • Avatar

      Chris_Kez

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      You can quickly and cheaply replace a case, or change it on a whim. And most people are going to use a case on any phone that costs more than a few hundred dollars, regardless of its design-- so might as well make the whole package as thin as possible. If someone really loves the device color they can opt for a clear case.

      The last phone I used without a case was a Lumia 920. Yeah, it was tough, and the polycarbonate would dent rather than break, but then the phone had dents. When I resold a recent phone it was in mint condition because any kind of wear and tear was absorbed by a cover and a screen protector. Meanwhile the whole thing was still noticeably thinner and lighter than that trusty old 920.

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        The Mate 10 Pro was the first phone I've ever used a case with (the supplied clear plastic case), because it is glass backed and slippery, as opposed to add belt-clip functionality.

        Previously, with my Nexus 5x and before that a variety of Nokias, Samsung, iPhone 3GS and dozens of older non-smart phones, I've never used a case (the exception being a Nokia 3210 that I used a leather case with belt clip, for the later 6210, I had a "button" that fitted on the back and a clip for the belt that it clicked in to.

        I've used a carrying pouch for a few years, to put the phone in when it is slung in a bag with keys etc. to stop it getting scratched, but an actual case, no.

  4. Avatar

    jeff.bane

    Paul your avatar has the hairline of an 18 year old.

    Face is spot on though!

  5. Avatar

    codymesh

    lol, google's own apps aren't consistent with each other, let alone Android as a whole. I don't understand how anyone can call Android's design "consistent".

    • Avatar

      orbsitron

      In reply to codymesh: I agree. Sometimes "app switch" puts an app into the "deck of cards" UI. Sometimes I get a modal circle that won't disappear unless I drag it to an "x" where the home button usually is that appears only when dragging (ie: Google Translate), sometimes I get a modal rectangular window with a mini running app display (ie: directions in Google maps)... it's super frustrating when I want to quickly take an action but then the muscle memory doesn't work because Google decided one app or another should behave differently than the pattern they themselves defined for Android (and the rest of their own apps)!

      Worse, my Galaxy has a Bixby hardware button that you can't remap (Samsung clobbers any remap app upon each Galaxy firmware update) and while Paul is right that Samsung offers beautiful UI and lots of options, those options are often _just_ shy of what I need. For example, they limit the settings available in their Settings app compared to the stock Android settings.

      Finally, the Samsung apps themselves are terrible. Messaging makes it impossible to message contacts you've recently been messaging with (text or MMS) unless you add extra taps to dig into a contact picker, despite having auto-suggest in the SMS/MMS compose UI. For some reason, that auto-suggest _excludes_ recent contacts!? That's just one example.

      My next phone is going to be an iPhone so I can once again have consistency and simplicity (I miss my Windows Phones regularly when using my Galaxy...). I'll know which iPhone is in my future after Apple's 9/10 event.


  6. Avatar

    broxman

    I have had the Note 10 since Aug 21. One of the main reasons I bought it was for Dex. I've had an S8 for a couple of years also and used it with the original Dex dock. Since I got the Note 10 I've used it and the S8 with a Samsung UCB-C to HDMI mini dock to connect to an HDMI monitor. I've also used the Note 10 to connect to a PC with just a USB-C to USB cable. I've done this on a number of laptops that I own from a Celeron powered $200 laptop to a Surface Pro 6. I don't understand your complaint about the performance of Dex on a PC laptop. I've had uniformly good performance and response on 3 laptops. I notice that the Samsung software does install a new USB driver right after the Dex software install on the laptop. Maybe that is causing your different experience. The Note 10's performance in a Dex window on the Celeron PC is way faster than the Celeron's performance on the same software (Chrome, Octane, Excel, etc). That's not surprising since the Snapdragon 855 in the Note 10 is considerably faster than the Celeron N4000 in the laptop.

    I watched a number of videos on YouTube and they all seem to be getting good performance with the Dex software on a PC. The only comment other than Paul's about poor performance with Dex on a PC that I have seen is by Dieter Bohn on theVerge. Paul and Dieter have been my 2 favorite tech bloggers for years so their opinions matter to me and I hope they can clarify their performance problems/concerns with Dex on Windows.

    I'm now trying to get the Note 10 and S8 to work with Dex on a Sentio Superbook (a Kickstarter project to create a laptop dock that works with any Android phone). I've had the Superbook for about a year but hadn't really tried it yet since Sentio's Dex-like software is not very good and it didn't seem worth the trouble. I just received a different USB-C to HDMI adapter that accepts power delivery and claims to work with the Superbook and the S8 using a dummy HDMI plug with DisplayLink software on the phone directing the display to the Superbook. I enjoyed Dieter's walk down memory lane on the many attempts over the years to get a larger display option from a smartphone. I've also tried them all without much success. Finally, the Samsung Dex software seems to have done it !

    (by the way, Sentio seems to have gone out of business)


    • Avatar

      mclark2112

      In reply to broxman:

      That Sentio Superbook brings back memories of the Palm Folio! I always though that was a good idea, and maybe mobile processors are good enough to look into it again, but it looks like it will take a major manufacturer to successfully bring a product like this to market. Maybe it is just not needed. Or maybe Samsung could be the one.

  7. Avatar

    wolters

    I truly eagerly await your review of the 10+. Right now, as much as I still prefer the Pixel Camera, I'm thinking the Note 10+'s camera may be "good enough" for the wealth of other features I have on the phone.

  8. Avatar

    IanYates82

    The only advantage to the galaxy store is that, for some games, they'll give you cheaper access to in-app purchases or other perks. I've not bothered to take advantage of any of that but that's the only difference I've seen Samsung advertise.

  9. Avatar

    wright_is

    fitting bigger screens into smaller bodies. It’s something that I think most people really appreciate, in both form factors.

    To a point. I find the Samsung curved screens, along with their size, to be difficult to use one handed, the base of my thumb usually wipes along the edge of the screen as I am trying to hit something in the middle or the other side of the screen. The Mate 10 Pro screen goes "almost" to the edge and 9/10 times I can tap what I am looking for without also touching the edge of the screen with the base of my thumb - and I have relatively large hands.

    But it’s confusing that there are two app stores on the device, especially since the Galaxy Store has many apps that are also in the Google Play Store.

    Again, it would be a pretty poor show if the Galaxy Store doesn't have the same apps as the Play Store - I would guess it is Samsung's long-term aim is to drop dependence on Google apps, including the Play Store, so it isn't surprising they are trying to get developers to release their apps in the Galaxy Store as well.

    Huawei are trying this as well, with their App Gallery - although it seems to be more popular with home-grown developers than western developers.

    As to gestures, I do like the Huawei ones, they are simple and, for me logical. Swipe from the left (or right) to go back, swipe up to go home and swipe up and hold to open the task list. The back option certainly seems more logical than Samsung's interpretation, where you have to remember where the back button "should" be.

  10. Avatar

    mclark2112

    I wish I, and everyone I know, wasn't so tied into the Apple ecosystem. Would love to try this, but it just isn't an option right now.

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