Backside photo of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G focusing on the tripple cameras with plants in the background.

Even though the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G won’t land in consumers’ hands for a little yet, this key announcement from the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer truly fires the starting gun for 5G. Although it’s clearly the talking headline, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G has a lot more in store than just faster data speeds.

Let’s explore what the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G has to offer and its implications for the mobile industry this year.

Hands-on: Samsung’s Galaxy S10 set a new bar

Under the hood of the Galaxy S10 5G

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is the chunkiest version in the Galaxy S10 range. For starters, it has a bigger display, a whopping 6.7-inch panel here and a total weight of 198g. That’s 40g heavier than the regular S10 model and it’s clearly a lot bigger in the hand too. Overall we’re looking at somewhere around Galaxy Note 9 size. The phone is also a tad thicker too, although only by 0.14mm. That’s a relief to those who may have feared that 5G was going to lead to incredibly thick smartphones.

Fortunately, most of the key specifications are the same. There’s a cutting edge Snapdragon 855 or Exynos 9820 processor onboard for blazing fast performance. However, to make the phone 5G ready Samsung also included Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem. The phone also keeps the in-display fingerprint scanner, Wi-Fi 6 support, and fast wireless charging. Clearly, the Galaxy S10 5G is designed to retail as a fully fledged flagship and not a compromised early adopter model.

Despite including 5G antennas and a bigger battery, the Galaxy S10 5G is only 0.14mm thicker than the S10.

The Galaxy S10 5G isn’t going to be everything to all consumers through. According to Samsung’s spec sheet, the 5G model will only come in one memory option – 256GB. That a lot, but the 512MB and 1TB configurations won’t be making an appearance. The phone is also missing a microSD card slot, which could be a deal breaker for those who like portable, swappable storage.

Despite those compromises, Samsung has included another intriguing first in the Galaxy S10 5G – 3D depth-sensing cameras.

 Samsung Galaxy S10Samsung Galaxy S10 PlusSamsung Galaxy S10 5G
Display6.1-inch AMOLED panel
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
551ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
6.4-inch AMOLED panel
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
525 ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
6.7-inch AMOLED panel
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
502 ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
Processor8nm octa-core Exynos 9820 / 7nm octa-core Snapdragon 8558nm octa-core Exynos 9820 / 7nm octa-core Snapdragon 8558nm octa-core Exynos 9820 / 7nm octa-core Snapdragon 855
RAM8GB8/12GB8GB
Storage128/512GB128/512GB / 1TB256GB
MicroSDYes, up to 512GBYes, up to 512GBNo
CamerasRear:
16MP f/2.2 ultrawide +
12MP f/1.5 and f/2.4 dual pixel with OIS +
12MP OIS telephoto f/2.4

Front:
10MP f/1.9 dual pixel
Rear:
16MP f/2.2 ultrawide +
12MP f/1.5 and f/2.4 dual pixel with OIS +
12MP OIS telephoto f/2.4

Front:
10MP f/1.9 dual pixel +
8MP depth sensor f/2.2
Rear:
16MP f/2.2 ultrawide +
12MP f/1.5 and f/2.4 dual pixel with OIS +
12MP OIS telephoto f/2.4 +
3D depth: hQVGA

Front:
10MP f/1.9 dual pixel +
3D depth: hQVGA
Battery3,400mAh
Non-removable
4,100mAh
Non-removable
4,500mAh
Non-removable
Wireless chargingFast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
SecurityEmbedded Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. 2D face unlock.Embedded Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. 2D face unlock.Embedded Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. 2D face unlock.
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5
NFC, MST
Cat20 LTE, 7CA, 4x4 MIMO
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5
NFC, MST
Cat20 LTE, 7CA, 4x4 MIMO
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5
NFC, MST
Cat20 LTE, 7CA, 4x4 MIMO +
Sub6 GHz and mmWave (28GHz and 39GHz)
Dimensions and weight149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm
157g
157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm
175g
77.1 x 162.6 x 7.94mm
198g

What is a 3D depth camera?

A 3D depth camera basically does what it says – it measures the distance from the camera to an object in its field of view. This is accomplished by quickly illuminating the scene with a controlled light source, such as infrared, and measuring the time and/or luminosity of backscattered light. Samsung’s implementation appears to use two sensors, suggesting that stereo vision also plays a part in calculating this distance.

Dedicated 3D depth sensing cameras aren’t new, they’ve already appeared in the Lenovo Phab2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR. The upcoming LG G8 ThinQ is also expected to feature a time-of-flight sensor. These phones, and many others, support Google’s ARCore to bring augmented reality applications to the masses.

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Samsung lists the resolution of these cameras as hQVGA. That’s 240 x 160 pixels or just 0.0384 megapixels. Certainly not good enough to take a nice looking picture with, but that misses the point. That is enough resolution to obtain plenty of depth information about whatever the camera is pointing at.

Importantly, the Galaxy S10 5G includes these 3D depth cameras on both the front and the back. On the front, this technology will probably most likely be used to produce high quality, highly accurate software bokeh for portrait pictures. Due to its limited resolution, this camera is unlikely to be suitable for face mapping and biometric security.

3D mapping cameras pave the way for futuristic augmented reality applications.

On the back, Samsung specifically mentions improvements for its Video Live Focus (adjustable background blur) and Quick Measure, presumably a bit like Apple’s Measure app. But what’s more exciting is the possibility of real-time augmented reality mapping in your environment. You’ve probably seen those demos showcasing how new furniture might fit in your living room or what it would look like if you painted your walls a new color. The Galaxy S10 5G’s 3D cameras can support those type of applications and many more. 3D mapping also has interesting implications for virtual reality too, something that Samsung keenly supports with its Gear VR headsets.

In terms of empowering new consumer use cases, the inclusion of 3D depth mapping cameras could be more revolutionary than support for 5G.

Back side photo of the Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10E and Galaxy S10 5G on a wooden table.

About those new 5G bits

The move to 5G has necessitated a few compromises on Samsung’s part. The extra large size of the phone is one, as the company needs to find extra room for the mmWave antennas and modem. More so, the extra size is likely also necessary to accommodate the larger 4,500mAh battery. Usually, we’d expect multi-day battery life from a cell that large, but 5G is estimated to consume a fair bit more power. This huge battery is likely needed to keep screen-on time comparable with existing consumer expectations. Although we’ll reserve our judgment until we’ve spent meaningful hands-on time with the Galaxy S10 5G.

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5G is a complex specification, and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G support the Non-Standalone part of that specification, as is expected from first-wave 5G smartphones. So, although the phone supports early 5G NSA networks, it isn’t future-proofed against the 5G SA networks that could arrive as early as 2021 or 2022. We’ll have to wait until the Snapdragon X55 modem appears in devices at the end of 2019 before we talk about future-proofed Standalone support.

The Galaxy S10 5G is a fully fledged flagship, not a compromised early adopter model.

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G spec sheet lists sub-6GHz support, in addition to mmWave. This will be important when this phone heads to regions like Europe and parts of Asia, where mmWave technology isn’t being adopted as quickly as in the U.S. On the mmWave side, the phone supports 28GHz and 39GHz spectrum. You’ll want to keep an eye out on those frequencies when the phone gets around to a more global launch.

Verizon currently holds the lion’s share of 28GHz bands in the U.S. and almost half of the available 39GHz band too. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the carrier is first to partner up with Samsung. Both T-Mobile and Sprint have a small amount of 28GHz, while AT&T is more reliant on 39GHz. Fortunately, the Galaxy S10 5G will work with all those carriers. Although the specs suggest that the upcoming 24GHz spectrum auction in the U.S. isn’t as important, at least as far as the Galaxy S10 5G is concerned.

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Samsung Galaxy S10 5G Back Standing

When and where can I get my hands on the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G?

5G deployment is still in its infancy, so the Galaxy S10 5G isn’t in a hurry to get out the door. Carriers are still ramping up their network deployment and Samsung is no doubt deep in interoperability testing with these partners. We’re still a few months away.

In the U.S., the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be exclusive to Verizon, debuting in the first half of 2019. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Spectrum Mobile, and Xfinity Mobile will all then carry the phone from “this summer.” Samsung hasn’t given a word on if or when the Galaxy S10 5G will be heading out to the rest of the world. The most likely launch schedule will follow major dates when other countries switch on their 5G networks, which should be later in 2019.

Even if you lay your hands on a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in the coming months, compatible networks will only be live in a number of cities. Ubiquitous coverage even in the U.S. is still years away. Be sure to check out your carrier’s 5G coverage before splashing out no doubt well over $1,000 for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

Up next: 5G hype is coming. Don’t fall for it.