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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