Flashback: the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite punched above its weight
In early 2020, the Galaxy S10 series was preparing to retire. A year earlier, it had introduced the world’s first 5G phone, bringing the surprisingly popular S10e model alongside the usual S10 vanilla and Plus phones. But there was just enough time for one last hurray before the S20 series was launched in February.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite was announced at the beginning of February 2020 and went on sale a month later, a few 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 cost less than the main series models.
The Lite stood a head above most other S10 members, and we mean literally – with a 6.7″ screen (with a tall 20:9 aspect ratio to boot) it was 162.5mm tall, 75.6mm wide and 8.1mm thick and weighed 186g Only the Galaxy S10 5G, the aforementioned first-ever 5G phone, was slightly bigger.
The big screen had “only” FHD+ resolution, 1,080 x 2,400px, which at the time seemed uncomfortable for what was labeled a flagship. Little did we know what was coming in 2021. In any case, 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 also stood out. The phone had an aluminum frame like its siblings, although it saved 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 used Exynos everywhere else. However, the Galaxy S10 Lite was launched exclusively with the Snapdragon 855.
It was a year old at the time, but this was a very capable chipset used in 2020, including on Samsung’s first Galaxy Z Flip. However, it didn’t have the endurance that the Snapdragon 865/870 had.
On the S10 Lite, the chipset was mated to 6 or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (or 512GB in some configurations, though no 256GB option). The internal UFS 2.1 storage was expandable with microSD card replacing 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 apparently cut corners by skipping the 12MP 2x telephoto camera 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” because it was larger, a 1/2.0″ sensor with 0.8 µm pixels (1.6 µm with binning), compared to the 12MP 1/2.55″ 1.4 µm sensor that was used on the other S10 phones. It even had OIS, although it didn’t work very well when we tested it. Also some of the more advanced technology was left out, no Dual Pixel AF and no dual aperture. The phone could record 4K video at just 30fps, while its sibling did 4K at 60fps.
The Lite was also equipped with a 12MP ultra-wide camera (instead of 16MP) and also featured a 5MP macro camera to bring the number up to three. Like the main camera, the selfie camera 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 charged 15W, even the larger S10 5G topped out at 25W (as did the S20 and S20+).
However, they did have wireless charging, which the Lite lacked. Still, the phone, with its large 4,500mAh battery, scored an impressive 110 hours of endurance rating.
The other first is less positive – the Lite was the first Galaxy S phone ever to not have a 3.5mm headphone jack. None of them do these days, neither did the S20 models, nor did any that came after, but the S10 Lite was first.
The Galaxy S10 Lite was positioned as a kind of flagship killer. However, the features and pricing were carefully designed so that it didn’t target Samsung’s own flagships, but rather went after other premium phones from more affordable brands instead.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite launched at €650 in early February 2020. By comparison, the vanilla S10 was $900/€900 a year earlier, and even the tiny S10e was $750/€750. A year is a long time in technology, 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 few months before the S10 Lite launched in the same market for $650.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite launched hand in hand with Galaxy Note10 Lite
Of course, this was not the only Lite that launched in early 2020, Samsung also brought the Galaxy Note10 Lite. But we’ll save that for another time.