Samsung never changes. The company’s flagship smartphone strategy has always focused on designing for marketability rather than the end-user experience, and the result is always devices with gigantic spec sheets, gimmicky new features, and questionable user benefits. If it demos well in a Verizon showroom or helps win an Internet spreadsheet comparison, toss it in! The Galaxy S20 is the latest paper tiger from the company, and this cynical approach to smartphone design oozes from every IP68-rated pore of Samsung’s new flagship.
Just look—but not too closely—at all the whiz-bang features the Galaxy S20 offers. The camera has an industry-leading 100x zoom (it’s actually a 4x optical zoom, and the camera autofocus is terrible). There’s a 120Hz, 1440p display (you can’t actually run the display at 120Hz and 1440p). And who could forget the revolutionary 5G connectivity (5G is probably not available in your area).
The Galaxy S line is bigger than ever this year, and each model comes with Samsung’s biggest-ever price tags. The phones now start (start!) at $1,000, while the bigger Galaxy S20+ is $1,200, and the even bigger S20 Ultra is an astonishing $1,400.
Samsung wants more money than ever to take home a Galaxy S20—but that does not translate into better support from Samsung after the sale. The Galaxy S20 is still only eligible for two years of monthly security updates and two major Android OS updates that Samsung will deliver as slowly as possible. For $1,400, that’s a pretty bad deal.
Design and build quality
In terms of construction, there’s isn’t much here you haven’t seen in past Samsung devices. The phone has front and back glass panels, with a thin metal band around the sides. The back is, as usual, a fingerprint magnet and very delicate, though it does enable wireless charging.
The front design is the usual Samsung template with a display that curves along the long edges and a hole-punch camera. Samsung has done away with the dual-front-camera setup that it shipped on bigger models of the Galaxy S10. The S10+ had two front cameras in a distinctive-looking oval-shaped display hole, with the second camera used for depth. You could do bokeh selfies and not much else, which I guess Samsung decided wasn’t enough to justify the entire extra hardware component. This year, the front depth camera is gone, and the bokeh-selfie option is gone along with it.
Speaking of things that have been removed compared to the Galaxy S10, there’s no headphone jack anymore. Samsung was the biggest OEM supporting headphone jacks last year, but starting with the Galaxy Note 10, the company moved to kill the universal audio jack. In the flagship market, there aren’t many headphone jacks left, save for maybe LG.
The screen is still curved along the left and right, but it’s less curved than it has ever been. Samsung walks this idea back slightly more every year. I wish the company would just give up and make flat-screen devices. Curved screens don’t offer any positives, but they do come with negatives, like a distorted image and ever so much glare from overhead lights. All content is meant to be flat, so why is Samsung bothering with this feature? It just seems like something that makes the phone look better in renders.