Galaxy S20 (S11), Plus and Ultra specs, price and release date preview
Galaxy S20 (S11), S20+ and Ultra preliminary specs
The Galaxy S10 family may have introduced a new punch-hole display design and a new basic S10e member to the dynamic S10/S10+ duo, but apart from those, there weren't as many performance upgrades compared to its predecessors, the S9 pair. Granted, Samsung managed to differentiate the three phones by the number and features of their cameras but even the Galaxy S10 5G with its six cameras and 5G modem may not do the upcoming Galaxy S11's merits justice.
How so? Well, from the few things that have trickled down about Samsung's 11th installment of the high-end Galaxy S line, we can already paint the phone(s) in broad strokes, and the resulting picture may turn into a masterpiece.
Galaxy S20 (S11), S20+ and Ultra specs and design
Given the pains Samsung went through to achieve the OLED display piercing that returned the front camera(s) punch hole of the Galaxy S10 and Note 10, it's unlikely to drastically change this design.
Crazy soapy-shaped concept renders with wraparound displays aside, these things have to be produced in the tens of millions, so Samsung usually leaves the experiments for the midrange A-series now. In fact, all leaks point to a Note 10 derivative design, with a hole in the middle of the screen top. The displays may very well go up to a 120Hz refresh rate, too.
What Samsung might add, though, is its Sound on Display (SoD) technology that will reverberate through the top bezel negating the top speaker and thus free some useful areas to enlarge the display.
Samsung already demonstrated the technology last year, and you can preview in the video below, running on a Galaxy S9+. The presentation shown in the booth cites three major advantages of such a design:
- Eliminating the need for an earpiece hole, hence shrinking the top bezel further
- Better frequency response bringing about more distinct voice timbers during calls
- Easier waterproofing, as there will be no hole in the bezel to work around
We already explained why Samsung is unlikely to go with popping and sliding mechanisms for the front-facing camera on the Galaxy S20 due to the flagship phone conservatism factor, but what about one last option - a camera hidden under the screen? Well, Oppo teased one, but the technology has not been proven yet, and might churn out inferior snaps, even by today's low selfie standards.
Even if Samsung is making strides in under-screen front cameras, risking a cameo on its bread-and-butter S20? Not very probable. So, what are we left with as the most probable design then? Look no further than the S10 vs Note 10 design, with some crazy camera island on the back to accommodate all the new hardware. We'd love to see the front hole filled but may have to wait a bit more for that.
Still, next year there will be a brand new iPhone design by Apple, and Samsung might decide to do something crazy to counter whatever the team from Cupertino is cooking. Samsung has held out on a notch for its flagships pretty heroically, though, so we doubt it will be guided by Apple's eventual design musings. In that case, the Galaxy S11e already leaked from a credible source to be looking like this.
Galaxy S20 (S11), 5G, and the Snapdragon 865 processor
Samsung's processor foundries missed one production cycle of the flagship Snapdragon 8-series processor but their new and superior extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography has won the hearts of Qualcomm's management for the production of Snapdragon 865. Next year, we are going to see a real competition in the world of mobile processing units, it seems, as both the next Exynos and Snapdragon 865 chipset lines will be done at Samsung's second-gen 7nm production facilities. Currently, Snapdragon 855 that is in the Galaxy S10 for the US is done at the first-gen 7nm production node, while Exynos 9820 for the global versions is on 8nm.
What we were wondering most about, however, is whether Qualcomm and Samsung's venerable 5G modems will be soldered together with their processors, in a true system-on-a-chip fashion, or will they be separate entities like this year. The need for two separate components to tack on Snapdragon 855 forced many a phone maker to do "5G" versions of their flagships (think S10 5G, 7 Pro 5G, LG V50, Oppo Reno 5G, etc.), often with bulkier bodies and larger batteries, and we hope that this tendency won't stick around next year as well.
The 7nm EUV Snapdragon 865 will still be produced in two versions - one with a 5G modem, and one without - which most likely means that Qualcomm's X55 modem still won't be integrated. Snapdragon 855 that is in current flagship phones needs two extra components tacked on to form a phone with 5G connectivity, and, even if Snapdragon 865 needs only one - the X55 modem - if it is separate from the processor, we still can't call it a true 5G-capable chipset.
integrate a 5G modem into a chipset (presumably of its own Exynos making) faster than anyone, and it delvered it in a midrange Exynos 980 chipset.
That one is already in phones, but Samsung announced a new high-end Exynos 990 that is yet to materialize in a retail device, so we'd wager to guess that it will make a cameo in the S11 alongside the Snapdragon 865. This one carrier an improved Exynos 5123 modem with up to 7Gbps download speeds.
While Samsung skipped the first 7nm generation that TSMC built Apple's A12 and the Snapdragon 855 chipset with, Samsung has reportedly been betting on the second-gen 7nm production process, and the bet will apparently be paying off fully in the S20. Here's a features comparison of the new 990:
Snapdragon 865 and 855+ vs Exynos 990 vs Apple A13 specs comparison
We are comparing the currently known Exynos 990 and Snapdragon 865 specs and features below for your viewing pleasure. For reference, we included the current Snapdragon 855 and Apple A13 that are in 2019 flagships already.
Galaxy S20+ vs Galaxy S10 benchmarks, Snapdragon 865 vs 855 score
In addition, we already have the first benchmark of the US Galaxy S20+ version that recently appeared at the FCC. The Snapdargon 865 in the S20+ scores a fair bit higher for the same clock speed, as can be expected, and the S20+ is listed as having 12GB RAM, perhaps even in the base version.
Galaxy S20 Ultra (S11+) camera sensors and samples
The camera set on the Galaxy S20 may opt for higher resolutions, more variable aperture steps, extra time-of-flight sensors and higher zoom levels, and that's just what we've heard so far. A second generation of Samsung's 108MP sensor which outputs a 27MP photo in a pixel-binning mode would be used as the main camera as well, but only on the Ultra model. The S20 and S20+ will be getting enhanced 12MP sensors with the whopping 1.8 micron pixel size.
Fret not, however, more pixels don't equate a better picture per se, as they are usually made tinier to fit the count, and collect less light, all other things being equal. With the magic of pixel-binning, or combining information from several pixels into one, however, not only is the resulting photo file smaller in size, but also the snap itself is usually able to overcome the smallish pixel size with some algorithmic trickery.
Besides high-res photos, Samsung's 108MP sensor with Tetracell technology offers improved low-light performance, better highlights exposure for bright elements, even faster autofocus and improved HDR photography, nearing the perception of the human eye. The proof is in the pudding, i.e. the actual photos, though, and the first samples from Xiaomi's Mi Note 10 that uses the same sensor seem to be heavy on the detail, but a bit soft and mushy, so every advantage for the S20 is on paper still.
Samsung won't be straying away from the "crazy camera" pack, it seems, as it may be doubling down on the insane zoom marketing by introducing a Space Zoom mode or feature for the Galaxy S11 "Hubble" series, and it already trademarked the term. Given that the highest levels of optical zoom now bring 5x magnification to phones like the P30 Pro, we wouldn't be surprised if Samsung outdoes it. The latest rumor pegs 10x optical and the whopping 100x hybrid zoom levels for the Galaxy S20 Ultra camera kit, with a 48MP telephoto camera to boot.
Usually this many pixels like in a 108MP sensor, mean a lot of cross-talk and noise, all "features" that are detrimental to clean and sharp photos in the dusk. Samsung, however, is so certain that it may have overcome these downsides of ultrahigh resolution sensors, that it also trademarked the Bright Night Sensor phrase in Europe, and we can't wait how it achieved the eventual low-light excellence on the S11.
Two other trademarks that can be associated with new camera modes are Single Take and Video Spin, but what those would entail is anyone's guess at this point. Last but not least, a Samsung supplier is reportedly building a dedicated factory for time-of-flight (ToF) sensors, like the one on the Galaxy S10 5G, as analysts forecast a surge in demand. The Galaxy Note 10 itself is supposed to arrive with two ToF sensors - one on the back, and one for the selfie camera - for better spatial perception, superior face recognition, and improved portrait-style shots. Samsung's ToF onslaught is expected to invade even its midrangers, so the rising time-of-flight tide is likely to lift the Galaxy S20 boat as well.
Galaxy S20, S20+ and Ultra may end up with both great cameras and long battery life
This fairly unexciting report, however, turns into a tangential confirmation that, besides a huge camera upgrade, the S20 series will boast one in the battery life department. How come? Well, the PMP tech allows for a much tighter packaging of the battery cells compared to what Samsung is using for the Galaxy S10 models, whose packs still require a holder case.
The pleasant side effect of using PMP for the Galaxy S20 batteries is that the overall size of the package can shrink by up to 57%, allowing for much larger capacities, smaller battery footprint leaving space for other stuff inside the phone, or a combination thereof.
Thus, the Galaxy S11 series is very likely to have much longer battery life in aggregate, compared to its S10 series predecessors. The reasoning behind this speculation is not only that it will probably run on more efficient processors than the ones we have now, or that Samsung will use a newer generation more frugal OLED display tech.
While both of these are true, the Galaxy S11 may have better battery life than the S10 simply because the eventual battery capacities indicate that the packs will be much larger, and you can see the leaked capacities in the table below.
The reasoning? Well, the 5G versions of those phones are going to be battery hogs, so Samsung will have to up the ante in the endurance department. Also, Huawei, and even Apple with the 11 Pro Max, are eating its lunch in the flagship battery life department.
Galaxy S20 (S11), S20+ and Ultra release and prices
Samsung has been scheduling its Unpacked events around the Galaxy S and Note families like clockwork lately, so we can reasonably assume when the S20 will launch in earnest. If we follow this year's Wednesday-Friday schedule, the S20 family should be announced on February 11, and, depending on whose tip you want to believe, unleashed on our unsuspecting heads on Friday, March 6, or earlier.
Since a drastic design rework is not expected, we'd wager to bet on starting prices ranging from $799-$1199 depending on the model and the 5G connectivity situation. If we add the "Bright Night" to the "Space Zoom" camera feature, and tack on huge batteries, it may all be worth it, what do you think?