At the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco this afternoon, Samsung unveiled its brand flagship series: Galaxy S20. Just like the previous S-series lineups, the S20 boast of the company’s technological innovations, which includes a powerful eight-core processor, a huge battery, an outstanding camera, and a display with a 120Hz refresh rate.
Preorders go live this week ahead of a March 6 ship date. Here’s what you need to know.
As usual, samsung announced three phones: the Galaxy S20, the Galaxy S20+, and the Galaxy S20 Ultra. And these three phones are the successors to last year's flagship: the Galaxy S10e, the Galaxy S10, and the Galaxy S10+ respectively.
The Galaxy S20 and S20 feature aluminum frames and bezel-to-bezel screens, as well as new adhesive glass, to be exact, Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6, which is extraordinarily light and thin. (The S20 and S20+ clock in at 0.36 pounds and 0.41 pounds, respectively; the S20 Ultra, which trades that aluminum for stainless steel, weighs 0.49 pounds.) They’re IP68 rated to withstand exposure to water 1.5 meters deep for up to half an hour, and Corning claims the display glass can withstand up to 15 consecutive drops from 1 meter onto rough surfaces and which makes it two times stronger than the S9 and S10 series’ Gorilla Glass 5.
The S20 series’ top and bottom bezels are a very narrow compared to last time around, mostly to make way for an ambient light sensor and an earpiece speaker. (The S20 measures 29 x 63.7 x 3 inches, while the S20+ measures 27.2 x 59.7 x 3 inches.) Perhaps more noticeable, is the 6-millimeter punch hole cutout in the top center, machined to precisely fit the front-facing camera. Samsung calls the design “Infinity-O,” and it made its debut on the S10 series and midrange Galaxy A8 series phones, which launched in 2019. On the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra, the hole-punch cutout is a perfect circle that measures about half the circumference of the Galaxy S10 series’ cutout.
Here’s the break down for the display sizes and resolutions:
On the subject of the display, which supports 16 million colors at 100% color volume, it curves around the lips of either edge, as does the S20+’s and S20 Ultra’s. Noteworthy is the refresh rate: It’s 120Hz, double the refresh rate of the S10 series and on even pitch with the Razer Phone 2 and the Asus ROG Phone 2.
A 120Hz fresh rate translates to improved overall responsiveness in theory. Scrolling through apps and pinching-to-zoom on webpages feels smoother on high-refresh-rate phones. But there’s a trade-off on the S20 series — switching to 120Hz sets the display resolution to 2,400 x 1,080. Expect icons and graphics to look slightly out of focus.
The Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20-Ultra have a Qualcomm-supplied 3D Sonic ultrasonic fingerprint sensor embedded under their display glass. They work as you’d expect - placing a digit on the highlighted portion unlocks the phone - but the tech is said to be faster than rival solutions and more secure to boot, with FIDO Alliance Biometric Component certification. We’re hopeful the performance bit is true, given that the S10 series’ fingerprint sensors were criticized for their sluggishness.
As for the phones' bottom area, present and accounted for are a USB Type-C port, a loudspeaker (which works in tandem with the earpiece to deliver stereo sound), and a microphone, but not a 3.5mm headphone jack. Which makes the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra the first S-series phones to ship without audio ports (and they likely won’t be the last).
Analog jacks aren’t the only victim of this year’s nipping and tucking. Absent is the Bixby key, a button on a number of Galaxy-branded devices that triggers Samsung’s homegrown AI assistant by default. On the S10 series, it sat next to the power button on the left side, opposite a right-aligned power button and a volume rocker. The power button and volume rocker haven’t gone anywhere on the S20 series, but they’re the only physical keys in sight.
Samsung’s flagships have long ranked among heavyweights like the Pixel and the iPhone on the photography front, and the company is looking to cement its dominance with the Galaxy S20 series. Here’s how it breaks down between models:
The S20 series’ cameras feature the same variable aperture tech found on the S9 and S10 series. A tiny contracting and expanding motor switches between f/1.5, a lower aperture best suited to dim lighting, and f/2.4, the default setting.
Both the S20 and S20+ boast 3x hybrid optical zoom (3x optical zoom, 10x digital zoom), while the S20 Ultra bumps things up to a whopping 10x. Samsung is calling the S20 Ultra’s zoom Space Zoom, and it says the periscopic lens delivers up to 10x optical zoom and 100x zoom overall when combined with “AI-powered” 10x digital zoom.
The S20 and S20+ have 64-megapixel telephoto lenses, very high up from the S10’s and S10+’s 12-megapixel lenses. As for the S20 Ultra camera’s 108-megapixel resolution, it’s matched only by Xiaomi’s recently released CC9 Pro, which features an identical 1/1.33-inch sensor — Samsung’s ISOCELL Bright HMX. (Samsung and Xiaomi designed the sensor together, in point of fact.) Samsung claims it captures several lower-resolution shots that combine nine pixels into one by default, and that there’s an option to shoot in the full 108-megapixel resolution for those who wish to do so.
Hardware is nothing without great software, and the S20 series appears to have a really great software for the camera.
The camera app’s Automatic mode flips to the f/1.5 aperture automatically when the ambient lighting dips below a certain level, and an AI-powered scene detection feature - Scene Optimizer - tweaks color settings like contrast and white balance and enables HDR based on the landscapes, people, animals, and objects in-frame. (It’ll even recommend switching to the ultrawide angle lens when appropriate, as well as to modes fine-tuned for food photos, selfies, panoramas, and more.) There’s a faster and more accurate version of Samsung’s Dual Pixel focusing technology and multiframe noise reduction. And as with the S9 and S10, the S20 series improves image crispness by capturing a multi-image burst shot, dividing it into separate and distinct sets, and generating a composite picture.
In addition, there’s Single Take, which takes pictures and videos — live focus, cropped, ultra-wide, and more — as you pan around an environment and curates the best of the bunch. (It also works for selfies.) Best Shot takes a photo autonomously when the Galaxy S20 detects it’s properly lined up, complementing a multi-capture feature that snaps photos using multiple sensors simultaneously.
There’s a bokeh effects in what Samsung’s calling Artistic Live Focus, which blurs the background while maintaining foreground focus, including Color Point, Mono (it makes the entire picture black and white), and Side Light (it adds a virtual light source off-camera). There’s also Ultra Bright Night, an improvement upon the Galaxy S10’s Bright Night (a take on Google’s Night Sight and Huawei’s Night Mode) that combines multiple shots from the primary, telephoto, or front-facing camera to enhance the quality of pictures in “very dark” conditions.
The front-facing cameras: The S20 and S20+ have a single Sony IMX 374 10-megapixel shooter — a slight downgrade in the latter’s case. The S10+ had dual sensors that captured wide-angle selfies and ostensibly delivered better bokeh in Live Focus portraits. But on the other hand, the S20 Ultra packs a 40-megapixel Wide Front camera that’s able to record footage at 4K and 60 frames per second.
Video recording🎥 : The S20 series can record videos at up to 8K at 30 frames per second (or 4K at 60 frames per second) and optionally in HDR10+ (with 10-bit color), though you’ll need an HDR-compatible display to fully appreciate the latter. (Thanks to a partnership with Google, 8K clips can be uploaded directly to YouTube.) Super Slow-Mo is present too — the G20 series shoots clips at a blistering 960 frames per second at up to 1080p, as with the S10 series.
This is a huge leap, and one that’s enabled by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor under the hood. Most people don’t have 8K TVs yet. I mean, many people still don’t have 4K TVs yet 😂. Even so, 8K is the future spec for content and Samsung is happy to tack it to the S20’s feature list. Apple and Google don’t offer this and likely won’t until September or October the earliest.
All three phones in the S20 series — the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra 5G — play stereo sound through the earpiece and a bottom-firing loudspeaker. They’re both tuned by AKG Acoustics and support the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) format (64/128) and Dolby’s Atmos 3D simulated surround sound technology in supported apps.
The beating heart of the S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra is one of two chips: Samsung’s Exynos 990 or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+. Samsung detailed the Exynos 990 variants at today’s event, but some territories — likely North America, Latin America, Hong Kong, China, and Japan — will get a Snapdragon-based model.
On the Wi-Fi connectivity side, the S20 series supports the standards you’d expect in flagship 2020 smartphones — namely Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Wi-Fi 6) and Bluetooth 5.1. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 models benefit from the FastConnect 6800 Wi-Fi chip, which can deliver Wi-Fi 6 speeds nearing 1.8Gbps while including Super Wide Band voice over Bluetooth for higher-quality audio communications and 75% improved power efficiency. Plus, there’s Samsung’s software-based Intelligent Wi-Fi feature, which jumps between LTE and wireless with the help of AI that recognizes when the phone’s in an enclosed location and when it’s on the move (like when you’re in a car or walking down the street).
It’s worth noting that only the S20+ and S20 Ultra support mmWave 5G connectivity in the U.S. The S20 supports sub-6HGz 5G networks exclusively - at least for now. Later this year, Verizon will introduce a version of the S20 that supports mmWave 5G.
The Galaxy S20 series packs a processing punch, but what about the battery life? That depends on the model. Fortunately, all three smartphones support Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging tech and Fast Wireless Charging, and both the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+ ship with 25W fast chargers in the box. (Galaxy S20 Ultra owners get a fast 45W charger, which Samsung says can fully recharge the battery in 74 minutes flat)
Snapdragon variants have the advantage of hardware acceleration for H.265 and VP9 codecs, which improves power efficiency by 7 times compared with the Snapdragon 845 and reduces power consumption during video recording by 30%. And all S20 models boast Samsung’s Adaptive Power Saving tech, which optimizes battery performance based on app use
Here’s the capacities of each phone:
Samsung claims these all support more than a full day of use, even with the screen operating at 120Hz. This basically puts the phones on equal footing with the iPhone 11 Pro, and ahead of the Pixel 4 family
The Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra run One UI 2.1, Samsung’s redesigned overlay atop Android 10.
Samsung teamed up with Google to optimize Google Duo video calls on the S20 series, the companies said - you’re able to chat with up to eight friends at a time in 1080p quality. Samsung and Netflix collaborated on exclusive content for S20 users, which is accessible through the Samsung Daily app and Bixby as well as Finder. Later this spring, Microsoft will launch a Forza series spinoff, 'Forza Street', in the Galaxy Store.
The Galaxy S20 series is also the first non-Google device to support Live Caption, which uses a combination of three AI models to transcribe speech from any media in real time
OneUI 2.1 brings with it quality-of-life improvements like a screen recorder with controls that let you adjust the resolution, record external and internal microphone audio, and more. in addition,it comes with enhanced dark mode that works with a wider selection of apps and time-based triggers. In other news, One UI 2.1 adopts the Android 10 navigation gestures, including a one-handed mode that can be accessed with a swipe down on the gesture bar.
All three handsets in the S20 series ship preloaded with a customized version of Adobe Premiere Rush, Adobe’s cross-platform video editing app for smartphones, tablets, and PCs. They’ve also got Quick Share, which lets you beam files to compatible Galaxy devices within range, and an improved default keyboard that recommends emojis and stickers based on the words you type.
Samsung might have just beaten gaming phones at their own game 😂. I mean, all phones supports 120Hz displays. And apart from that, the displays support 240Hz touch response. Which makes the S20 line a fantastic gaming hardware. There’s also a new gaming function that allows you to keep up to five apps/games suspended in RAM ready to go at a moment’s notice. Samsung says this cuts down or eliminates load times when resuming games and reduces lag during gameplay.
Samsung has a new way to share. A feature called … wait for it … Music Share helps with what Samsung calls the “Bluetooth dilemma.” You know the drill. You’re driving and your phone is connected to your car via Bluetooth. Your passenger has a killer playlist on his/her phone, but you’d have to unpair your phone and allow your friend to pair to the car to get it to play. With Music Share, you can essentially do pass-through Bluetooth connections, meaning the friend would be able to connect to the car’s Bluetooth through your Galaxy S20. This feature will work with smart speakers, too.
In the U.S., only 5G-compatible variants of the S20 series will be available for purchase, but that won’t be the case elsewhere. 4G LTE versions of the S20 and S20+ will make their way to some markets in the coming weeks and months.
Here’s how the pricing breaks down: