Flashback: the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite punched above its weight
By early 2020 the Galaxy S10 series was preparing to retire. A year earlier it had introduced the world’s first 5G phone and brought the surprisingly popular S10e model along with the usual S10 vanilla and plus phones. But there was just enough time for one last hurrah before the S20 series launched in February.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite was announced in early February 2020 and went on sale a month later, just days before the official introduction of the S20 models. In some ways it was a prototype for the Galaxy S20 FE – it used older but still premium hardware and it cost less than the main series models.
The Lite stood a head above most other S10 members and we mean that literally – with a 6.7” display (with a tall 20:9 aspect ratio to boot), it stood at 162.5mm tall, 75.6mm wide and 8.1mm thick, it weighed 186g. Only the Galaxy S10 5G, the aforementioned first ever 5G phone, was slightly larger.
That sizable display had “only” FHD+ resolution, 1,080 x 2,400px, which at the time seemed disagreeable for what was labeled as a flagship. Little did we know what would come in 2021. Anyway, it had HDR10+ support and an Always-On Display mode.
Besides the resolution, the only clue that this wasn’t a true flagship was the older Gorilla Glass 3+ protection (the others had moved on to GG6). Well, the lack of an IP rating stood out as well. The phone had an aluminum frame like its siblings, though it did save a few bucks by using a plastic back.
While things have changed in the intervening years, back in 2019 and 2020 only a select few markets got Snapdragon chipsets – Samsung was using Exynos everywhere else. The Galaxy S10 Lite launched exclusively with the Snapdragon 855, however.
It was a year old at that point, but this was a very capable chipset that did see some use in 2020, including on Samsung’s first Galaxy Z Flip. It didn’t have the staying power that the Snapdragon 865/870 did, however.
On the S10 Lite the chipset was hooked up to 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (or 512GB in some configurations, no 256GB option, though). The internal UFS 2.1 storage could be expanded with microSD cards that took the place of SIM2. The phone launched with Android 10 with One UI 2 and received Android 13 with One UI 5 a few months ago.
Since this was a “lite” model, Samsung seemingly cut corners by skipping the 12MP 2x telephoto camera that was featured on the other S10 models. However, the Lite may have had something better – a 48MP sensor that supported lossless 2x zoom.
We say “better” as it was larger, a 1/2.0” sensor with 0.8µm pixels (1.6µm with binning), compared to the 12MP 1/2.55” 1.4µm sensor that was used on the other S10 phones. It even had OIS, though that didn’t work particularly well when we tested it. Also, some of the fancier tech was left out, no Dual Pixel AF and no dual aperture. The phone could record 4K video at only 30fps, while its siblings did 4K at 60fps.
The Lite was also equipped with a 12MP ultrawide camera (rather than 16MP) and also featured a 5MP macro camera to bring the count up to three. Like the main camera, the selfie cam had a larger, higher resolution sensor than the main S10 phones – a 32MP 1/2.8” (0.8µm) for the Lite, 10MP 1/3” (1.22µm) for the others.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite also has several firsts to its name. It is the first Samsung phone with 45W fast charging. Sure, the Galaxy S20 Ultra matched it a month later, but the Lite was first. And the Galaxy S10 and S10+ only did 15W charging, even the larger S10 5G topped out at 25W (as did the S20 and S20+).
They had wireless charging, though, which the Lite lacked. Still, with its large 4,500mAh battery the phone scored an impressive 110h endurance rating.
The other first is less positive – the Lite was the first ever Galaxy S phone not to have a 3.5mm headphone jack. None of them do these days, the S20 models didn’t, neither did any that came after, but the S10 Lite was first.
The Galaxy S10 Lite was positioned as a sort of flagship killer. However, the features and pricing were carefully designed so that it didn’t target Samsung’s own flagships but rather it went after other premium phones from more affordable brands instead.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite launched at €650 in early February of 2020. For comparison, the vanilla S10 was $900/€900 a year earlier and even the petite S10e was $750/€750. One year is a long time in tech and the premium S10 phones had undergone price cuts by the time the S10 Lite arrived. For example, a $150 cut brought the S10 down to $750 in the US and the S10e to $600, this was a couple of months before the S10 Lite launched in the same market for $650.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite launched hand in hand with the Galaxy Note10 Lite
Of course, this wasn’t the only Lite to launch in early 2020, Samsung also brought out the Galaxy Note10 Lite. But we’ll save that for another time.