After years of being criticized for its heavy-handed software, Samsung's finally revamped its interface, which makes the S10+ feel fresher than its older siblings. I like the new font and the subtle layout tweaks that make everything easier to use with one hand. Take the brightness slider for example -- One UI places it nearer to the bottom of the Quick Settings panel for easier reach. Other minor tweaks include using bigger text overall and toggles are spread out so they're closer to the sides of the screen -- again making them easier to reach. Though Samsung gave us new app icons in One UI, I didn't like their primary colors and basic shapes. But you can always just install an alternative icon pack if you want.
One UI adds a new Night Mode that reverses the color scheme so the Settings interface uses a black background with light text, making it easier on your eyes at night. I also appreciate Smart Popup notifications, which makes alerts from apps you select show up in a Facebook Chat heads-style bubble on top of the screen. Tapping each bubble opens the app in a small, resizable window that you can stack on top of other panels which really speeds up replying to messages and emails. I wish Samsung made it easier to dismiss these, though. Instead of being able to flick them away, you'll have to press each badge and press the X on the top right to get rid of them. If this all sounds too cumbersome, you don't have to enable Smart Popup -- it's disabled by default.
Another new One UI feature is Bixby Routines, which surprised me with how helpful they are. You can set them up yourself or wait for the phone to suggest some after it's learned your habits. I set a routine called "Going to work" that kicks in every weekday at 3pm (just for testing purposes, I don't actually go to work at that time). It bumps the display brightness up to 60 percent, changes the lock screen shortcuts to Spotify and Camera, and automatically sends a text to callers saying "I'll call you back later". I found the nighttime routine particularly useful, since I set it to automatically dim the screen, activate Do Not Disturb, Night Mode and the Blue light filter until my alarm wakes me up. This saves me several steps each night, and reminds me to get ready for bed.
You can choose between set times of day, connectivity or location as the triggers for the routines, and tell Bixby to change almost anything on your phone. It's surprisingly comprehensive, more than what IFTTT and Google have offered, and with enough fine-tuning you could customize Routines to become extremely useful.
Performance and battery life
More importantly, the Galaxy S10+ is a powerhouse (as expected). It blazed through loading PUBG Mobile, my Instagram feed and webpages in Chrome, and switched between those apps, my messages, Telegram and Google Docs effortlessly. Though, even with up to 12GB of RAM at its disposal, the Snapdragon 855 chip struggled to keep up when it came to more intensive tasks like recording multiple stabilized videos in HDR.
The phone ran hot after my fourth or fifth consecutive 30-second clip, and the high temperatures were likely exacerbated by the fact that I was sitting in the sun. Under the heat, the S10+ refused to record video on numerous attempts and often took a few seconds to save my footage after I hit stop. The good news is the S10+ cooled down within a few minutes and resumed the speedy performance I was used to.
This generally breezy behavior is supposed to be aided by AI, which Samsung says will learn from my patterns to understand which background apps to close and what apps to devote more resources to. Just like the Huawei P20 Pro, the S10+ doesn't obviously show that happening, but its smooth overall performance speaks for itself.
The AI is also meant to squeeze "24 hours+" of juice out of the S10 and S10+'s 3,400mAh and 4,100mAh cells respectively. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this claim was actually true. I typically got through two full days out of the S10+ with light use (messages and photo taking) before needing a charge.
Even with heavier camera use and generating multiple AR emoji, the phone hung around for a day and a half before throwing up a low power warning. On our battery test (looping Full HD video on 50 percent brightness), the S10+ clocked about 17 and a half hours, which is longer than the Galaxy Note 9 and the Pixel 3 XL. I got to a point where I was comfortable leaving my apartment even if the S10+ was only at 60 percent after forgetting to plug it in the night before.
The S10's long-lasting battery can also give power to other devices, wirelessly. It has to be at least 30 percent charged for this to work, though, and it takes awhile to juice up other gadgets. I used it to try and charge up another journalist's S10+, and it took three to five minutes to push through one percent of juice. This is really only useful for accessories with smaller batteries, like the Galaxy Buds and smartwatches. It's also tricky to keep using the phone while you're trying to keep another device firmly in contact with its back, so you can't use your S10+ while charging something else.