Samsung has just unveiled a duo of new phones in the form of the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus. These will sit alongside the three members of the Galaxy S10 line to complete the high-end device range for the end of 2019. That’s a lot of phones nearing £1000 each to choose between.
Considering this year has been particularly tough on high-end flagship phones as more and more people turn to cheaper options – the excellent Google Pixel 3a, for example – it might come as a surprise that Samsung is still filling this market. But it is, and here we are.
The Note series has always felt like a place for Samsung to flex its muscles, to try something different and trial features we’d eventually see in the more mainstream Galaxy S10 series.
Related: Best phones 2019
With the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus though, that’s not really the case. These two new phones are so similar to the models currently available that you might question why they exist at all.
Of course, being similar to one of the finest Android phones of 2019 is no bad thing. And the Note 10 series adds in features like faster charging, a smaller cutout for the front camera and, of course, the S Pen.
But, there’s a lack of anything really new. A lack of anything really exciting.
Take the camera, for example. Samsung’s phone cameras are good, maybe excellent at times, and certainly reliable. Are they as good as the ones you’ll find on the Huawei P30 Pro or Pixel 3? In my opinion, no. With the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus you’re looking at very much the same setup as the S10, complete with three versatile sensors. But unless the software has seen some serious under-the-hood improvements they won’t be huge steps forward.
Now let’s have a look at both Huawei and Google. Huawei has taken camera tech on phones to new heights this year. The periscope lens and 30x zoom offered by the P30 Pro are genuine revelations that let you capture snaps other phones just aren’t capable of. Rumours also suggest Huawei’s next phone, likely called the Mate 30 Pro, might pack two huge 40-megapixel sensors.
Related: Best Samsung phones 2019
Then there’s Google, arguably the current camera phone king. While Huawei is pushing megapixels, Google is pushing algorithms. I’ll leave the upcoming Pixel 4 out of this for now, because I think it’s better to focus on the Pixel 3a. With this phone, Google brought down most of its high-end flagship camera features to a £399 phone – drastically changing what we expect from our phone cameras in the process.
Another area Samsung could have kicked on for the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus is the display. Samsung’s screens remain some of the best in the business and the panels here look fantastic: sharp, bright and colourful. Huge leaps forward, however, they are not. Many had hoped the Note 10, or at least the Note 10 Plus, would take some inspiration from the OnePlus 7 Pro and up the refresh rate of the display from 60Hz to 90Hz. Again, that’s not the case. The higher refresh rate utilised on the OnePlus 7 Pro gives the display a smoothness the Note 10 doesn’t have. There are benefits in other areas too, notably in gaming – an area Samsung is seriously trying to push here with its PlayGalaxy service. It would have made so much sense.
Related: Best phablet 2019
Finally, there’s charging. For the first time in years, Samsung has upped the charging speed of its phones. The new Notes will now charge at 25w, rather than 15w, and wireless charging has been improved too. The thing is, the new Notes also support even faster 45w charging – however, you’ll have to shell out even more cash to buy one of these chargers separately. Huawei, which added 40w charging to the P30 Pro, gives you the fastest possible charger in the box.
What you will get with the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus are two phones that tick a load of boxes. The Plus model especially doesn’t make too many sacrifices and if you’re completely sold on the benefits of the S Pen no other device offers that. But, at a time when people aren’t as willing to splash out the big bucks on phones, it feels as though Samsung should really have done more.