Samsung’s official Unpacked invitation reveals a few clues about the phones we’ll see next month.
What a week for Galaxy rumors. Evidence is mounting that the flagship phone Samsung plans to reveal at its Unpacked event on Feb. 11 in San Francisco will be called the Galaxy S20 and not the Galaxy S11 as originally suspected, a position supported by some blurry leaked photos. Assuming some new leaks prove true, we may even know what the device looks like in real life, not just in image renders. And there’s a lot to say about the cameras.
First things first. We know for certain that Samsung will host its Unpacked launch event on Feb. 11 in San Francisco, and that it will stock the hardest-hitting specs that Samsung has. That is, until August’s Galaxy Note… 20? Unlike the $2,000 Galaxy Fold or $1,100 Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Samsung’s next family of premium devices will be designed to appeal to lots of folks, not just enthusiasts looking for the most cutting-edge or powerful handset.
What’s still up in the air are details like if the Galaxy S20’s main camera — let’s just call it the S20 going forward, shall we? — will use a 108-megapixel sensor or a 12-megapixel sensor. We also aren’t sure how big the battery will be and whether the fingerprint reader will have changed at all since last year’s S10. It also isn’t clear how many of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865’s features Samsung’s most powerful new phone will use.
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Then there’s 5G. Samsung got a start with the faster data network in 2019 with four 5G phones — the S10 5G, Note 10 Plus 5G, Galaxy A90 5G and Galaxy Fold (in the UK and South Korea). But it’s this Galaxy S20 family of phones that will be its first mainstream device that could help bring 5G’s faster data speeds to the masses.
Things are looking good for Samsung. Headed into the Galaxy S20 launch, Samsung is in a much stronger position than it was a year ago. It made waves in 2019, nabbing a CNET Editors’ Choice award for the Galaxy Note 10 and releasing the unforgettable Galaxy Fold. 2020 is only destined to get better — and that goes for Samsung’s next foldable phone, which could be called the Galaxy Bloom.
There are a lot of specs to absorb, so here they are — the phone’s most important rumored features so far, plus what we don’t know and what we think we might get. I throw in my own educated guesses too, because Samsung often follows historical patterns and topical trends. Here we go!
Hello, big eyes. This could be the Galaxy S20.
Confirmed: Feb. 11 launch date in San Francisco
Samsung has officially announced its Unpacked event for Feb. 11 at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. It’s widely believed that Samsung will also take the wraps off its second foldable phone, perhaps called the Galaxy Bloom, which bends into a square, similar to the Motorola Razr.
Look for the Galaxy S20 to go on preorder shortly after Feb. 11, with phones shipping a week or two after the reveal. I’ll continue to update this story with fresh rumors, so come back for more.
Galaxy S20 or S11 — what’s up with the name?
Samsung’s Galaxy S20 startup screen?
Max Weinbach/XDA Developers
The names of Samsung’s next phone lineup are coming into focus. We’re going with the Galaxy S20 for now, simply because the momentum has shifted away from the Galaxy S11 as the natural successor to the Galaxy S10.
The scuttlebutt is that Samsung will align the product name with the year, so the Galaxy S20 for 2020, the Galaxy S21 for 2021, and so on.
I have a thing about product names becoming ridiculously long or meaningless, especially when thinking about the following generation.
At some point, the Galaxy S series did have to top out, unless you really expect to buy the Galaxy S34 and Galaxy Note 52. With a new system, those numbered names just get higher, faster.
Three models, three sizes: E, Plus, Pro or Ultra?
The Galaxy S20/S11 line (OK, it’s hard to quit “S11”) isn’t going to be one phone, that we know. It’s rumored to be three, just like last year’s S10 family of 4G models. Big, bigger, “small.”
Early rumors said we’d get the S11E, S11 and S11 Plus, and more recent whispers, including that from frequent Twitter leaker Evan Blass, suggest S11, S11 Plus and S11 Pro, which is a lot closer to Apple’s strategy with the iPhone 11, the base model for that line.
There’s even talk that Samsung will drop the “E” and give the two larger sizes the names Pro and Ultra.
Screenshot by ZDNet
Lately, that’s where the talk seems to settle: Galaxy S20 for the “standard” edition, S20 Pro for the middle device and S20 Ultra 5G for the highest-end of the trio.
Here are the rumored screen sizes, according to Blass — but these could change:
- Smallest: 6.2- or 6.4-inch
- Medium: 6.7-inch
- Largest: 6.9-inch
Blass also stated that all the Galaxy S20 phones could have curved sides, unlike 2019’s Galaxy S10E, which had a flat display that I sometimes preferred.
A peek at the Galaxy S20? We’ll know soon enough.
Could look like a cross between the Note 10 and Galaxy S10
The Galaxy S20 renders are out and so are the concept designs, which I love because they can bring the rumors to life.
So what might we get with the S20? Rounded shoulders, which have become the Galaxy S trademark, but with a more squared-off look reminiscent of the Galaxy Note 10. A slim body. Curved sides for all models, unlike the Galaxy S10E’s flat screen, which I actually really liked.
The camera array seems to be rectangular and off to the left, according to renders and possible photos. It might also stick out from the surface, a lot like the iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4. Cameras that stick out are more vulnerable to breaking when you drop your phone. A case is an absolute must.
5G guaranteed, but there’s a catch
I mentioned 5G earlier. This is a rumored feature, but also a given. The Galaxy S20 is 99.9% likely to use the powerful Snapdragon 865 processor in it, which chipmaker Qualcomm won’t make available to phone brands without the 5G modem it pairs with. Ipso facto, you get a phone with the Snapdragon 865, you get a 5G-ready phone.
The same goes for any regions that will package the Galaxy S20 with Samsung’s in-house Exynos 990 5G processor, which often happens in Asia, especially Samsung’s home country of South Korea. (Ice Universe says Samsung is “determined” to use Snapdragon 865 for South Korean models.)
I promised a catch and here it is. While the Galaxy S20 will be 5G-ready, not every phone may be able to access 5G. Cities and countries that are 4G-only will only be able to use 4G networks, so the 5G Galaxy S20 could very well act like a 4G phone.
We’ll see how it all shakes out, but I’d be surprised if Samsung used any chip other than Snapdragon 865. The Galaxy S series is its mainstream flagship and Samsung is the world’s largest phone-maker. It will want to put its best foot forward by delivering the phone with the “best” chip.
Another artistic rendition of the Galaxy S20.
108-megapixel camera, periscope lens, monster optical zoom
Now for the fun stuff, the camera. We already talked about how rumors, leaks and renders predict a square camera array overflowing with cameras — perhaps four on the back of the Galaxy S20 Pro. It gets wilder.
Samsung is said to be outfitting or at least one variant with a 108-megapixel main camera sensor. Is that madness? It sounds like madness. But Chinese brand Xiaomi already beat Samsung to it with the Mi CC9 Pro, which already uses a 108-megapixel camera.
A recent tweet by Twitter leaker Max Weinbach says that the most advanced of the trio, called the S20 Ultra 5G, will have a 108-megapixel male camera, a 48-megapixel 10x optical zoom lens and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle lens for group and landscape shots.
The S20 Ultra 5G is going to keep the SD Card slot. Support for up to 1TB.
It will also be available in 128GB/256GB/512GB and have a 12GB and 16GB RAM option.
108MP main, 48MP 10x optical, 12MP ultra wide.
5000 mAh battery with 45W option fast charge. 0 to 100% in 74 min.
— Max Weinbach (@MaxWinebach) January 13, 2020
Meanwhile, the latest from mobile Twitter leaker Ice Universe is that the S20 and S20 Plus will have 12-megapixel cameras, while the two higher-end devices will also have time-of-flight sensors (ToF), which are useful for portrait video mode and AR applications.
A 108-megapixel camera may sound insane, but the Snapdragon 865 chip we talked about above can support a 200-megapixel camera. You may not be using all 108 million pixels all the time, but having that extra resolution can be helpful for zooming in and cropping. If you like the sound of all that, thank the chipmaker for making it happen.
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) January 14, 2020
Here’s where the rumors are settling on the camera front:
- 108-megapixel or 12-megapixel main camera, depending on the model
- 64- or 48- megapixel telephoto “periscope” lens with 5x or 10x zoom
- 12-megapixel ultrawide-angle camera
- Time-of-Flight sensor for S20 Plus and S20 Ultra
- 10-megapixel single punch-hole front-facing camera (Thank goodness. I don’t miss the S10’s side-selfie camera at all.)
Suggested renders for the Galaxy S11 and S11E.
Screen: 120Hz AMOLED display
We talked about phone screens earlier, but here’s what else we’re likely to get: the ability to turn on a 120Hz screen refresh rate. That will make animations and scrolling a whole lot smoother than the standard 60Hz refresh rate we have now.
While a 120Hz refresh rate is great for gaming and other quick transitions, it’s a battery hog. Still, the OnePlus 8 is getting support for a 120Hz screen. The Galaxy S20 could put the power in your hands with settings to switch between 60Hz to preserve battery life and 120Hz if you want to rev up animations.
This is pretty much a done deal since both the Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 5G support 210Hz screens.
Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon 865 processor
A whopping 5,000-mAh battery?
Different size phones get different size batteries, and another rumor from the prolific Ice Universe dials in the Galaxy S20 “Plus”battery at 5,000 mAh, which is terrifically large. Max Weinbach suggested the same for the Ultra in his recent specs dump.
Keep in mind that the “Plus” could also be the “Ultra” (e.g., the highest-end model of the trio), which makes far more sense to me than the middle phone getting a battery that size. For reference, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus battery is 4,300 mAh and battery life is outstanding.
There have been some phones with ultralarge batteries before, so a 5,000-mAh battery would fit my expectations. For instance, the Asus’ new ROG Phone II is an Android specs powerhouse, which makes it a gaming beast.
In-screen fingerprint reader
I loved the concept of an in-screen fingerprint reader, until I used it in the Galaxy S10. The accuracy, speed and convenience never quite lived up to the promise for me.
My best-case scenario would be to the Galaxy S20 return to some form of secure face unlock, combined with the in-screen reader. Samsung already knows how to do this well. Remember, the series got iris scanning in the S7, but dropped it for the S10. Google has now done it better, with the Pixel 4’s gesture tracking lending a hand.
We could at least see a more robust form of in-screen biometric scanner, if Samsung decides to take advantage of the Snapdragon 865’s support for two-finger scanning, which is meant to improve the technology on all fronts. I sure hope it does.
In One UI 2, right, app folders open lower on the screen so that it’s easier for you to interact with them one-handed.
Android 10 and Samsung One UI 2
There’s little doubt that every Samsung phone in 2020 will run on Android 10 and the company’s own One UI 2, which was announced in October and is now available in beta.
I’m much more excited about Android 10, which brings systemwide dark mode to phones, gesture navigation, some seriously impressive live captioning and new privacy settings. One UI 2 aims to push icons and screen controls toward the bottom of the phone so they’re easier to reach one-handed.
Storage and RAM
Let’s not forget on-board storage, external memory and RAM. According to Weinbach’s recent tweet, the S20 Ultra will have:
- 128GB, 256GB and 512GB storage options
- 12GB and16GB RAM configurations
- MicroSD card slot for external storage, with support for up to 1TB
An artist’s rendition of the Galaxy S20, based on the rumors and leaks.
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET from Concept Creator
Galaxy S20 series: Price will break $1,000
Now for the question on everyone’s mind: How much is the Galaxy S20 going to cost me? As always, it will depend on which model you buy.
Let’s start with the Galaxy S10 prices for the base storage configuration:
- Galaxy S10E: $749, £669, AU$1,199
- Galaxy S10: $899, £799, AU$1,349
- Galaxy S10 Plus: $999, £899, AU$1,499
- Galaxy S10 5G: $1,300, £1,099, AU$2,950
5G costs the phone makers more to buy and integrate, so we could see a price bump right off the bat. You’ll also spend more if you opt for a model with greater storage, say 512GB, assuming Samsung offers it and begins storage at 128GB.
If the largest version (“Pro” or “Plus,” depending on the rumors) lines up with the S10 Plus pricing, it’ll start at $1,000. With the 5G component and more camera tech, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that rise to $1,100, a price that matches the Galaxy Note 10 Plus today.
Originally published earlier this season and updated frequently.
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