This Will be The Definitive Android Flagship For a Long Time


It is always good to see the best laid plans work out when they should. That is exactly what has happened with Samsung, who had the foresight to not put all their eggs in one basket. The basket in this case being China. While no one could have predicted the Coronavirus outbreak, Samsung knew it would be prudent to also have a strong smartphone production base in Vietnam—and that was a couple of years ago. And they stand vindicated today, as some quite illustrious rivals struggle with the complete shutdown of production in China as the country was the epicenter and continues to be the worst hit with the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak. Simplest of things are often missed by the largest corporations. Not Samsung though. And that neatly leads us to where we are today. The Samsung Galaxy S20 series arrives without any delays.

It is not often that we really look at the country of origin data on a smartphone box. But perhaps the worrying global situation dictates we do. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, or the Galaxy S20+, that we are using has been made in Vietnam. And now on to more important matters. The price, you ask. The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is priced at Rs 73,999 and is available at present only in the 128GB storage option. This is part of the larger simplification that Samsung is doing across the Galaxy S20 series—lesser variants, more clarity for potential customers. Just for reference, the Galaxy S20 (128GB version) is priced at Rs 66,999 while the upcoming Galaxy S20 Ultra costs Rs 92,999. That isn’t to say that’s it—the 256GB and 512GB versions should be expected soon.

It is not often that we really look at the country of origin data on the box of a smartphone we have just purchased

Design: It is all very familiar and very cool

Some may say it is predictable. Some may argue the virtues of familiarity. I honestly lean towards the latter. It is surely not as revolution a change as far as the design is concerned as some may have expected, but this subtlety and incremental updates do make for a good cocktail. The Galaxy S20+ isn’t as large as you would perhaps imagine after glancing at the spec sheet which indicates a 161.9mm x 73.7mm x 7.8mm footprint. It is definitely taller than its predecessor, the Galaxy S10+ but the Galaxy Note 10+ still measures more on tape. That being said, the Galaxy S20+ is less wide than the predecessor, which immediately improves the chances of operating it, at least to an extent, with the same hand that is holding it. The sandwich of glass and metal works well, as a tried and tested combination would be expected to. There is Gorilla Glass 6 at the back and front, and the curved sides of the rear panel allow the phone to snug into the hands rather easily. The Galaxy S20+ feels quite cool to hold in the hand, and that is why I have absolutely no reason to criticize the design or the ergonomics. Everything just works. Its water resistant too.

Made in Vietnam made all the difference for Samsung, it seems. (Image: Vishal Mathur / News18)

The camera module at the back might divide opinion though and have people get all worked up about it. The reality is, the camera module doesn’t get in your way, you barely every turn around to look at the camera module and if you are going to slap a case on the phone anyway, the cameras may just blend well with the new case. Give it time. It’ll grow on you. Remember, you wanted more cameras on a smartphone, now just make peace with the designs that come as a result.

For a phone that holds a 4,500mAh battery, it feels quite light to hold too. The 186 grams weight is divided well and that means the Galaxy S20+ feels well balanced and doesn’t exhibit any tendencies that it may otherwise be attracted by gravity and floor you stand on.

I have absolutely no reason to criticize the design or the ergonomics. Everything just works

At present, your colour choices are Cosmic Gray, Cosmic Black and Cosmic Blue. We have the Cosmic Gray colour option, and there is nothing to complain. Except perhaps that some may feel it isn’t different enough—in which case, go for the Cosmic Blue. There is also a Cloud Pink colorway, but that is expected to come soon with one of the higher storage spec variants. The glass back picks fingerprints though, so keep a cleaning cloth ready.

This is the Cosmic Gray colour. Quite a fingerprint magnet, and if you look closely, you’ll even see it has some threads of fabric sticking to it too. This needs to be cleaned regularly. (Image: Vishal Mathur / News18)

Display: A canvas that impresses all the way through to 120Hz

This is where things get really serious with the Samsung Galaxy S20+. The 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, as it is called, is HDR10+ ready. The max resolution is 3,200 x 1,440 pixel and there is the whole range of expected features such as the blue light filter, the colour richness mode and the ability to bump down the screen resolution if you’d prefer that, for the sake of even better battery life. Another reason why you may want to bring it down FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080 resolution) is to enjoy the 120Hz refresh rate. Scrolling is delightfully smooth and every app transition as well as Android animation looks absolutely slick. Never knew WhatsApp, now with its Dark Mode, could ever look this beautiful. At present, 120Hz is not available for the QHD resolution, so you need to make a choice.

Those boxes are ticked off, but there is more. With a pixel density of 525ppi, what you also get is a very crisp screen to look at. Colors in the Natural screen mode look nice and subdued, great if you are working on documents, browsing the web or even reading. Select the Vivid option, and everything just livens up that much—and that’s great for that Netflix binge watching session, editing photos and even browsing social media.

Never knew WhatsApp, now with its Dark Mode, could ever look this beautiful. That is till you experience it with 120Hz on the Samsung Galaxy S20+

Oh, and how can I forget! The small matter of the notch. Has divided smartphone like nothing else, over the past few years. Samsung’s implementation in the Galaxy S20 Plus is called Infinity-O. It is a barely visible circle at the center near the top, that has been cut out from the display. Believe me, it will barely get in your way and you’ll probably not even notice it. This comes from someone who has never had any problem with any notch style or size, because it is more about blocking it from your periphery and have been able to successfully do it on every phone I’ve used.


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Performance: When you have power, it shows

Let me start off with a complaint here. Totally subjective, but a complaint, nonetheless. The One UI 2 interface that adorns Android 10 on the Samsung Galaxy S20+ has absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, I had readily praised the subtle changes last year. But for once, I expected something special for those who buy the Samsung Galaxy S20+. At present, the One UI 2 feels pretty much as it would on any Samsung Galaxy phone, across price points. For a flagship phone, a dash of exclusivity might have been a bit more fun. The only real exclusivity is the Google Duo functionality baked into the dialer app, which is neat, but chances are a limited demographic may actually end up using it.

That being said, everything in the Samsung Galaxy S20+ is where you would expect to find it—the options, menus and gestures are all consistent. That’s great news if you are upgrading from one of the predecessors.

The Exynos 990 chip takes forward the case for the 7nm architecture and is paired with 8GB of the very fast LPDDR5 RAM is spot on in terms of performance. There is 128GB internal storage by default and this can be expanded by as much as 1TB—you really will never run out of space. The Exynos 990 also puts forward its best foot with slick performance, no slowdowns at all, no heating even when stressed and still remains quite frugal all of the time. That is testified with the battery usage stats that indicate the Samsung Galaxy S20+ battery returns with 47% charge at 6pm after a day at work and connected via Bluetooth to at least one device at any point—earphones and the car’s infotainment system, for instance. This probably has a bit to do with the fact that I usually keep the display brightness on the lower side, but you are still looking at a comfortable day at work and yet a whole lot of charge left to allow you catch up on a couple of episodes of Heist Money on Netflix, as you head back home—and yet not give you any battery charge anxiety at any point.

A display that is as beautiful as it gets, with all the HDR goodness to go with it. (Image: Vishal Mathur / News18)

Needless to say, we don’t have 5G yet in this part of the world, and all these observations are with 4G connectivity and VoWiFi enabled for voice calls.

Camera: Surprisingly, still work in progress

This is where the Samsung Galaxy S20+ becomes a bit more complicated than it would let on, albeit initially. This is what you get—a 12-megapixel wide camera, a 64-pixel telephoto camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 0.3-megapixel Time of Flight (ToF) depth sensor. Solid, on paper. Open the camera app and you get the screen optimizer, shot suggestions and the scan QR code options. Dig a little deeper, and you will find the Samsung Galaxy S20+ can shoot 8K videos too. Now that is proper future proofing. Depending on which video resolution you select, you can choose to enable the High Efficiency Video (HEVC format) option, the still in beta HDR10+ video and video stabilization. One thing that videographers would love is the additional mic at the back which will match the camera zoom to also manage something called mic zoom so that the audio matches the video.

The foundations are in place for what is a robust photography and video experience with the Samsung Galaxy S20+. However, there is one critical area that Samsung needs to get some work done (and to their credit, they already have promised that)—and that is the image processing. Even though there is very capable optical hardware available for you, the post processing is resulting in a lot of photos looking softer than they should. While I was testing the Galaxy S20+, Samsung did roll out one software to improve the camera performance and it did have a positive impact—images now look sharper, colors look a little better too and low light mode photos are better detailed than before. There is another big update expected soon, and its already rolling out in South Korea as we speak.

At this time, photos taken in good light, indoors or outdoors, are very good as far as the detailing and colors go. Focus takes a bit of time to lock in, unless you prefer to manually guide it anyway. I particularly like the 64-megapixel resolution mode, which just adds that much more detailing to a photo that is also much larger in terms of its size. Exposure is spot in at most times once the focus is in place. However, things aren’t as crisp and brilliant when the lighting is inconsistent, or you are looking at low-light photography scenarios. The Galaxy S20+ camera is still work in progress and that needs to be completed with utmost urgency.

There is another big camera focused update expected soon, and it is already rolling out in South Korea as we speak

The Last Word: No deal breakers (yes, the camera update is on the way)

The thing is, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ is all things considered, the best that Android has to offer to you in the world of smartphones. This is the flagship at a time when flagships are rare—not because they aren’t popular, but most other brands have dropped the ball. There are some great elements to the Galaxy S20+ such as the very good design, a fantastic display, robust battery life and ergonomics that work. Camera still needs some work but the signs are good because the hardware is definitely in place for that also to shine. My feeling is that even though it is just the beginning of the year, this may very well remain the definitive flagship Android phone to buy come the end of 2020. After all, Huawei is embroiled in a rather unfortunate political tug of war, Sony is nowhere to be seen even though they keep launching phones somewhere in this world, HTC dropped the ball long ago, Nokia seems to be taking some time off at the moment and LG became absolutely irrelevant a while ago. Unless one of the Chinese phone brands can break the shackles of perception (that associates them with affordable phones), hard to see Samsung Galaxy S20+ get any genuine competition. Or at least till the next Samsung Galaxy Note comes along.


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