Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Pixel 3: how do you choose?

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I bought a Samsung Galaxy S10 — the one that sits in between the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Galaxy S10E — and what Dan Seifert wrote in his review is absolutely true: it is the awkward middle child in this family. The Galaxy S10 Plus has a more impressive screen and better battery life, while the Galaxy S10E is the one we recommend most people who are thinking about buying a Galaxy. Natt Garun’s review rightfully pointed out that the S10E is a nice size, and you don’t miss out on all that much by going with the cheaper option.

But for me and my needs, the regular S10 is exactly right — at least among the Galaxy phones. I prefer the slightly larger screen size, mainly. You might have noticed the caveat there, though: “among the Galaxy phones.” If you’re comparing it to an iPhone, well, that’s an iOS versus Android decision that I’m not going to try to help you with here.

What I am interested in (and maybe even a little conflicted over) is comparing it to the Pixel 3. I’m not talking Pixel 3 XL versus the S10 Plus. I find that the smaller sizes fit my needs better. Anyway, the video above captures my thoughts, which boil down to this: it’s a tough decision.

On the S10 side, you get hardware that is flat-out better by nearly every metric. The battery life is better. The screen is miles better. It’s just a nicer object to behold, and I’m finding that it feels faster to use. I’m also still surprised by how much I like Samsung’s One UI software. It takes a little more work to configure, but the feature set and customization options go way beyond what you can do on a Pixel 3 — at least without going through a lot of effort.

The Pixel 3’s advantages are also clear. The camera is much better. Perhaps it’s because I’m still not a great photographer, but I find it much easier to get good shots with the Pixel than I do with the S10, especially in low light. The only caveat is that I think the S10 wins out on video performance.

The Pixel’s software is less configurable, but for many, that’s a benefit. But where the Pixel truly wins is with updates. The Pixel gets them right away, the Galaxy S10… won’t. In fact, Google has already released an Android Q beta for the Pixel, which is promising but still a little buggy at this early stage.

So while I slightly prefer Samsung’s software today, ask me again when Q is officially released. Not everybody needs the newest features on every phone, but it does grate knowing that there’s a wait in my future.

A word about the fingerprint sensors: the S10’s is more convenient as it’s on the front, and because I’m not using a screen protector, I haven’t had too many problems with it (though I’m still not tapping the right spot consistently). But it is definitely slower than the rear capacitive sensor on the Pixel 3. On the whole, I think unlocking isn’t the right thing to be worried about if you’re trying to choose between these two phones.

After all of that, how do you choose? I think it’s a matter of what you care more about. If you want nicer hardware and more configurable software, go with the S10. If you care more about picture quality and software updates, get a Pixel 3.

As I say in the video, I’m leaning slightly toward preferring the S10, at least in day-to-day use. But there are times when I am going to miss the Pixel’s camera, and there will definitely be times when I’m angsty about not getting the latest software update sometime later this year.