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My biggest problem with the Galaxy S20 Ultra isn't the price, it's the weight

This is, by far, the heaviest smartphone I've ever used, and it turned out to be a bigger problem than I expected.

Published onMarch 18, 2020

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra at rest

Over the past week or so, I had been using the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra as my daily driver. Although I have many smartphones on my desk, I was taking the Galaxy S20 Ultra with me everywhere and using it as if I only had one device in my arsenal.

Although it likely goes without saying, I didn’t actually pay for the incredibly expensive smartphoneAndroid Authority forked over the $1,400 needed to get the “entry-tier” version of the device. Since I got to use it for free, I was able to approach the phone without being burdened by the notion of how much my wallet got drained just to get it.

With all that in mind, let me be completely upfront: after using the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra for a week I was incredibly relieved to finally stop using it. It’s not that it’s a bad phone — in fact, it’s astounding. The reason I wanted to stop using the Galaxy S20 Ultra is simply because of its weight. This is, by far, the heaviest phone I’ve ever used and I am left humbled and surprised by just how much of a problem that turned out to be.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: Too much of a good thing
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera modile profile times square

If you look at a spec sheet for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, you’ll find that its official weight is 220g (~7.7oz, or just under half-a-pound). For me, though, that number doesn’t mean anything. I understand that it is heavier than other phones but how that weight actually feels was lost on me, as it might be for you. Let me try to help you understand just how heavy that is without forcing you to spend $1,400 to try it out.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: Just how heavy is it?

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Weight

To help illustrate my point with this article, I whipped out my trusty kitchen scale. Obviously, this isn’t an exact method of weight measurement in this instance but it will help you understand the approximate weight of the phone and maybe even allow you to grab something you already own and feel out a comparison.

As you can see from the image above, my kitchen scale reads the weight of a naked Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra as 225g, or 5g more than the official specs sheet. The phone still has its factory-installed screen protector on it, which is likely at least partially the source for this disparity. Either way, 225g is our baseline.

But let’s be real: you aren’t going to walk around with a $1,400 device in your pocket and not protect it. I bought a slim-but-still-rugged case for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and weighed it with the phone. Check out the image below:

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra in Case Weight

So the phone, the case, and the factory-installed screen protector all together come to 262g, which is 9.2oz or 0.58lbs. To give you a comparison for that, I also weighed my Xbox Wireless Controller and my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Here are the results for those:

The Xbox Wireless Controller is almost the same weight as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra with a case and screen protector on. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider the Xbox controller is designed to be held with two hands. Meanwhile, the Kindle weighs less than even a naked Galaxy S20 Ultra.

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra with blue vase

If you happen to own an Xbox Wireless Controller, grab it and hold it in one hand in front of your face. Hold it there for a while, as long as you would likely hold it if you were scrolling through Reddit, watching a YouTube video, or playing a portrait-mode mobile game. Not a comfortable experience, right?

To close out this section, here are the official weights of a few other modern phones that are a similar physical size to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Ponder these numbers for a bit:

  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max — 226g
  • OnePlus 7 Pro — 206g
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus — 196g
  • Google Pixel 4 XL — 193g
  • HUAWEI P30 Pro — 192g
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus — 186g
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus — 175g

Don’t forget the importance of weight distribution, too

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera module

OK, so we’ve determined that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a heavy phone. However, just because something is heavy doesn’t necessarily mean it will be uncomfortable to hold. After all, the Xbox Wireless Controller is “heavy” but I can hold it with two hands for hours straight and never feel like it’s a burden.

The reason for that is because Microsoft has mastered (some would argue “perfected”) the art of video game controller design. The Xbox controller is a joy to use because its weight is distributed evenly so your wrists don’t feel much fatigue as you play.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, however, does not benefit from this type of design. Not only is the phone just heavy in general, but most of the weight is at the top of the device because of that massive camera module.

Camera shootout: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Google Pixel 4 XL
Samsung Galaxy S20 vs Google Pixel 4 XL camera modules profile

What does this mean? This means that if you’re using the phone with one hand you not only need to deal with the sheer mass of the phone but you also need to deal with the lopsided weight constantly pushing your hand back. This has the potential to cause some serious strain on your wrist. I know it did on mine.

As a test, I used the phone with one hand as normal for two minutes, scrolling through Reddit. I then flipped it upside-down so that the top of the phone was in my palm and then continued scrolling. Using the phone upside down was absolutely a better experience. In fact, it felt like the device had magically gotten lighter.

This all brings me to my final point.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is great, but no joy to use

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra screen in hand

The specs of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra make it one of the best phones on the market. My time with it proved to me that Samsung has created one of the fastest, most powerful Android smartphones ever. The camera, display, and overall experience of interacting with it were all just wonderful.

However, all that means nothing if physically holding the device is uncomfortable, and that’s, unfortunately, the reality with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.

At the end of the Android Authority review for the S20 Ultra, our own Eric Zeman said that most people shouldn’t buy the phone. It’s too expensive, too big, too heavy, and its specs are pretty much an exercise in overkill. With my own experiences using the phone, I’m inclined to agree: this phone just isn’t worth it.

What Samsung needs to do for next year is work on a way to get the specs and features of the S20 Ultra into a smaller, lighter, and better-designed package. Until then, save your money — and your wrists — and get something else.

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