The curious case of the Samsung Galaxy S20+

I didn’t talk about battery life or the high refresh rate screen in my video review. The battery life is standard for Exynos-powered Samsungs – about one hour of screen on time for every 1 000mAh of battery capacity – and the 120Hz screen was something I barely noticed.

For real, I went a full week alternating daily between 120 and 60Hz and the only thing that truly changed was the battery life. You offer up as much as 20 percent battery for a minor improvement in scrolling smoothness.

Miss me with the high refresh rate screens.

And that’s kind of the story of the Samsung Galaxy S20 series. A little bit of extra performance from the screen, battery, cameras and internals over the S10. The screen is a little brighter and not curved anymore. The battery is bigger, but yields only five hours of screen on time. The camera sensor is bigger and the image signal processing is better, but there’s no variable aperture anymore. The processor is more powerful, but the difference between the high performance cores and the standard operating cores is a big ramp, and the S20+ is not shy to throttle those gains down when you put it to work.

Look, I don’t hate this phone. It’s just that whenever Samsung make a big leap in technology the drawbacks are significant enough to sour the experience.

Take the headphone jack omission, for instance. That happened on the Galaxy Note 10 from last year and Samsung still hasn’t fixed the USB 3.2 issue that limits the type of dongle you can use and they don’t ship one in the box.

At least when Apple does it they support USB audio of all kinds through the Lightning port and all Lightning to 3.5mm connectors work flawlessly.

The saving grace for Samsung’s newer flagship devices is, weirdly, its software solutions and device ecosystem. That’s what you’re paying R20 000 for.

Galaxy Buds+ are a truly remarkable product and the cloud integration with Microsoft OneDrive solves one of my biggest problems. Video calling is also infinitely more useful now that you can set Google Duo as the default service in the native dialer.

Then there’s the baked in spam detection that negates the need for potential predatory apps like TrueCaller, as well as Instagram broadcasting built straight into the camera app alongside the triumphant return of manual video controls in the Pro mode.

It’s these little touches that add up to a lot when you look at the size of the third party accessories market supporting the Galaxy S-series. Outside of quality cabled audio solutions you’ll never lack for additional products to enhance and customise your device experience.

The continued support for Samsung DeX lets the phone pull a double shift as a desktop computer and that adds infinite value to that sticker price. Same story with Samsung Pay which remains peerless as a wallet replacement on premium Samsung devices thanks to the magnetic strip tech and its support for almost all the major banks.

But you want to know about the camera. It’s good, not great. There’s issues with exposure and internal reflections on the lens, but that won’t necessarily affect your experience. Photos are generally sharp with a little softening on the edges and the processing is a little more colour rich than last year’s devices.

Most people will be happy with these results in all but the darkest lighting conditions, which is where Samsung hasn’t really taken a half step backwards but the competition has rather run further down the road. I think in fixing the aperture at f/1.8 the hardware team made life a little worse for the software processing team to tune for the new sensor and lens combo, while still trying to retrofit the improvements to the old setup.

On the video side results are right at the top of the Android pile with gimmicky 8K thrown in for good measure. Maximum smoothness (Steady Shot) is still disappointingly limited to 1080p, but 4K video is impressive. The biggest improvement is that there’s now a microphone pointing in the same direction as the main camera which greatly improves audio capture in videos. I’m happy that more android manufacturers are taking microphone quality seriously.

Verdict:

Samsung did well with the Galaxy S20+ if the goal was to refine the winning package from last year. I think the addition of 5G would’ve really changed the narrative for them, but unfortunately South African units don’t have that component built in. Galaxy S20 won’t go down in history as a truly memorable device because it brings nothing uniquely new to the market. We’ve seen all of these tricks before.

If you’re looking for a new Samsung device that you’ll hold onto for the next two years, S20 is a no-brainer thanks to the improved software update schedule. You’ll get Android 11 by the end of the year, for instance, and probably be eligible for Android 12 in this phone’s lifecycle. This is the best Android experience you get with all the modern trimmings you should expect and a fantastic ecosystem. It’s a safe buy.

Follow me, it will be alright

About That OG

Opinions are like arseholes, but Lindsey's come with over a decade of consumer-conscious magazine editorial experience for some of the biggest print brands on the planet. Now in digital form.