Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Samsung has launched an unusual twist on phone trade-ins for its flagship S20 lineup. With the "guaranteed buy-back program", people who buy an S20 directly from Samsung can opt in to a program that will let them return the phone within two years for 50% of the purchase price. The phone must be in good condition, with a perfectly working display and no breaks or cracks. Customers must opt in to the program when making the initial purchase, and receive a credit with Samsung, not cash, when returning the phone.
With the launch today of the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra, AT&T is now offering consumers access to its faster mmWave "5G+" network in parts of 35 cities. Before today, consumers could only access the company's sub-6 GHz 5G network, which offers broader coverage. The faster mmWave "5G+" network was previously restricted to business customers. To access "5G+", consumers will need to be on either the "Unlimited Extra" or "Unlimited Elite" plan. The Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra are the first phones for the US that can access both types of 5G networks. AT&T also announced plans to launch 5G service for customers of its Cricket prepaid brand, starting "soon" with the Samsung Galaxy S20+ on an unspecified "compatible plan".
Samsung's new Galaxy S20 series of flagship phones are the first phones to be certified by the USB Implementers Forum as compatible with the new Certified USB Fast Charger industry standard. Phones and chargers certified under the program must use USB-C connectors, support USB-PD (Power Delivery) 3.0, as well as the new Programmable Power Supply (PPS) feature of USB-PD 3.0. PPS allows the phone to specify the precise voltage and current required for optimal charging throughout the charge cycle, enabling faster charging speeds than are possible with USB-PD alone. Certified USB Fast Chargers are backwards compatible with older USB-C and USB-PD devices. Many current USB-C phones implement fast charging using older USB-PD standards, various versions of Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology, or proprietary technology specific to that manufacturer. The USB Implementers Forum hopes to standardize wired fast charging with this new certification program.
Google is expanding the list of phones supported by its Stadia game-streaming service on February 20th. Initially supported only on its own Pixel phones, Stadia will support Samsung flagship Galaxy S and Note series phones (S8 and newer), as well as gaming phones from Razer and Asus (ROG Phone and ROG Phone II). For a controller, gamers can either connect a Stadia controller via USB, or third-party controllers via Bluetooth. Stadia competes with Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now. Like those other game-streaming services, Stadia runs full console-quality games on powerful servers in the cloud, streaming video of the rendered graphics to the user's device. Such services benefit from the higher data rates and lower latency of 5G networks. Forthcoming 5G SA networks will further reduce latency and improve data rates.
Samsung's new flagship Galaxy S phones for 2020 are somewhat predictable in appearance and features, and they've leaked like crazy, but there are a few surprises. There's no smaller, more affordable model like last year's S10e, nor is there a separate 5G model. They're all large and expensive, and they all have 5G. A new top-end option has been introduced beyond the "plus" model: the S20 Ultra. The Ultra seems to be stepping on the toes of Samsung's Note series, offering a huge screen and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feature list for people willing to pay a premium. All three models have an all-new camera system with some new tricks. How well do the few features work? How do the phones feel in person? We have your hands-on report right here.
Samsung today announced its new flagship phones for 2020: the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and Galaxy S20 Ultra. In the US, all three models support 5G and are powered by Qualcomm's newest top-end Snapdragon 865 chipset paired with 12 GB of LPDDR5 RAM. The base model S20 supports sub-6 GHz 5G; the S20+, S20 Ultra, (and a special version of the S20 for Verizon) are the first phones in the US to support both sub-6 and mmWave flavors of 5G in one phone. The S20 series also supports DSS and SA 5G networks, technologies US carriers are moving quickly to deploy. Compared to last year's S10 and S10+, the S20 and S20+ are a bit taller, allowing larger batteries and slightly larger QHD+ displays. The new Ultra model is larger still, sporting Samsung's largest phone display yet at 6.9 inches diagonal. The cheapest S20 model costs $1,000, while the S20 Ultra starts at $1,400. All three have an all-new triple-camera system on the back (with standard, wide, and telephoto cameras), 120 Hz display refresh, and 8K video capture. The phones can capture 33-megapixel stills while recording 8K video and can upload 8K video to YouTube. The camera app also has improved night and Super Steady modes, as well as a new Night Hyperlapse mode, and a new "Single Take" mode that captures a variety of still and video clips at once and uses AI to suggest several best output options. The design of the S20 series is roughly similar to the S10 series, and carries forward most of the same features, such as a curved-edge display, curved glass on both sides, in-display fingerprint reader, Wireless Power Share, wireless and wired fast charging (25W fast charger included), Samsung Pay, and a memory card slot. The new S20 phones do not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but wired (USB-C) earbuds are included. A "Space Zoom" feature offers 10x digital zoom using new AI algorithms. Google Duo video calling has been integrated into Samsung's phone app, and — exclusive to 5G Samsung Galaxy phones — supports full-HD resolution.
- Galaxy S20: 6.2-inch display, 4,000 mAh battery, 128 GB of storage, 12 megapixel main camera (f/1.8, 79º), 12 megapixel wide camera (f/2.2, 120º), 64 megapixel telephoto and 8K video camera (f/2.0, 76º, 3x zoom via crop). 10 megapixel selfie camera. Available in Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, and Cloud Pink for $1,000. The Verizon version will also support mmWave 5G, but doesn't ship until Q2.
- Galaxy S20+: 6.7-inch display, 4,500 mAh battery, 128 or 512 GB of storage. The same cameras as the S20, plus a ToF depth camera. Both sub-6 and mmWave 5G. Available in Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue, and Cosmic Black starting at $1,200.
- Galaxy S20 Ultra: 6.9-inch display, 5,000 mAh battery, 128 or 512 GB of storage, and the option for up to 16 GB of RAM. The same wide-angle camera as the other models, but upgraded main and tele cameras: The main camera sports 108 megapixels (f/1.8, 79º), using 9-to-1 pixel binning to produce high-quality 12 megapixel images by default. It also handles 8K video. The unique telephoto camera (48 megapixel, 24º, f/3.5) accomplishes a 10x optical zoom using a "folded" design with a prism to arrange most of the necessary lenses sideways. Supports 45W fast charging. Available in Cosmic Gray and Cosmic Black starting at $1,400.
Two interesting new approvals for unannounced Samsung phones appeared on the FCC web site this week. The limited info available in the FCC filings indicate that they are flagship-level phones, which will presumably be announced at next month's Unpacked event in San Francisco. One model appears to be a new foldable, while the other is a 5G model in the flagship Galaxy S series that will replace the current S10 series. The SM-F700 is the foldable, as indicated by the model number as well as text in the approval that says the phone is "capable of operating in folded closed and unfolded open configurations". (The Galaxy Fold had model number SM-F900.) The only variant approved by the FCC so far does not appear to be US-specific, although it does support 4G LTE in bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 25, 26, 29, 30, 41, and 66. It does not include any 5G in any US frequency bands. Rumors suggest this model may be called the "Galaxy Z Flip". The other model just approved is the SM-G981U. The model number suggests that this is a US-specific variant of a new Galaxy S-series flagship phone, but not a top-end "plus" model. (The Galaxy S10+ had model number SM-G975.) It supports 5G, but only in sub-6 GHz bands, not mmWave (which is faster but has limited coverage). It supports 5G NR in bands 2, 5, 41, 66, and 71; and 4G LTE in bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 29, 30, 38, 41, 46, 48, 66, and 71. It also includes CDMA for Sprint's network. That translates to excellent support for all 4G and sub-6 GHz 5G networks launched or announced in the US to date. The SM-G981 also supports NFC, MST (Samsung Pay), and two-way wireless charging, according to the FCC docs. Rumors suggest this model may be called the "Galaxy S20 5G".