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Roundup Phones

Galaxy S10 rumored Feb. 20 launch, March 8 release date, specs and price

A February launch event would mean the foldable phone comes later.

Ice universe

Samsung could launch the Galaxy S10 on Feb. 20 and put the phone on sale March 8, according to a new report from Gizmodo UK, which says it was approached by "a source at a major tech retailer". The rumored launch date, a Wednesday, would put the Galaxy S10's launch the week before the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show in Barcelona, Spain. March 8 falls on a Friday, a popular day to release phones. The rumor doesn't offer insight into the location of the Unpacked event, but New York or Barcelona seem like the most likely options for those dates.

If this is true, Samsung would presumably save the launch of its upcoming foldable "Galaxy X" phone for MWC, making a big splash after the Galaxy S10 showing, not before.

The Galaxy S10 is special, and not just because Samsung is the world's top phone-maker announcing its 10th anniversary of its mainstream line. Although it's true that Samsung has an opportunity to wow us with features it held back from the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9, the real importance is that the S10 family is Samsung's anchor, and Samsung is in peril. 

Slow phone sales threaten every brand, but increased pressure from China's Huawei, which ousted Apple to take the No. 2 slot, will build pressure within Samsung's ranks. Although Huawei faces its own considerable trouble, including hostility from the US government and others, the phone-maker has increased global sales without America's help, and has released state-of-the-art phones like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Samsung needs to counter Huawei's advance with everything it's got.

More rumors and hints bubble up each day, including some fresh details of the Snapdragon 855 chip that will likely power the Galaxy S10 and other flagship Galaxy phones this year -- perhaps the Note 10 and foldable phone, too. We also have new evidence of screen size, camera design and the Galaxy S10 retaining the headphone jack.

Here's how Samsung intends to keep its place at the top, according to Galaxy S10 rumors: as a series of three phones packed to the gills with the biggest mobile trends.

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Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and S10 Lite renders based on rumors.

Concept Creator

February launch means Samsung's foldable phone in March?

Circling back on that rumor of a Feb. 20 launch and a March 8 release gives us a chance to talk about the foldable phone Samsung teased at its annual developer conference in November. Rumors suggest the Galaxy X is also rumored to appear in March. The foldable phone is all new, and risky. Releasing the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy X close together seems like a lot for Samsung to take on, and like a flood of consumer choice that could potentially lead to confusion: you're asking Samsung buyers to choose among four phones. 

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Samsung SVP of mobile, Justin Denison, holds aloft the foldable Galaxy phone in Nov.

Angela Lang/CNET

But Samsung is racing LG, Huawei and likely other brands to move first on the foldable design, and it's unlikely that customers will rally behind such a wild, untested design right away. The foldable Galaxy X will more likely than not start off as a showpiece while phonemakers test people's appetite for a truly new design.

Announcing the Galaxy S10 first makes a certain amount of sense. A foldable phone would quickly overshadow the Galaxy S10. If Samsung doesn't announce the Galaxy S10 before MWC, we'd bet that, based on Samsung's release patterns, an MWC reveal of the Galaxy S10 would be the next-lkely outcome, with a teaser video for a Galaxy X launch event held later in March in New York. Samsung could have a busy spring.

Galaxy S10 might also come in S10 Lite and S10 Plus models

The Galaxy S10 is rumored to come in three configurations:

Galaxy S10: Possibly code-named Beyond 1. A standard model about the same size as today's Galaxy S9, but with even slimmer bezels. This is expected to have a 6.1-inch screen, one front-facing camera and no 5G support.

Galaxy S10 Plus: Possibly code-named Beyond X or Beyond 2. Similar to today's Galaxy S9 Plus. This would have the largest screen (could be 6.4-inch) and the only model with four rear cameras, two front-facing cameras and 5G support. Expect a bigger battery and heftier price tag.

Galaxy S10 Lite: Possibly code-named Beyond 0. Modeled on the iPhone XR, this could be a budget buy with fewer hardware embellishments, like straight edges instead of the two curved sides (this appears to be up for debate), and no fancy in-screen fingerprint reader (more on that below). There's also a suggestion that this budget Galaxy S10 only could lose the headphone jack. It's projected to be the smallest of the trio, with a 5.8-inch screen.

While Samsung did commit to four 5G phones in 2019 (two for AT&T and one each for Verizon and Sprint), don't expect a Galaxy S10 model to be Samsung's first 5G phone. Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told Korean reporters in November that a separate device launching in March on Korean carriers will be its first 5G phone instead. (Here are six things you need to know about 5G on phones.)

The Galaxy S10 is not the foldable Galaxy X

The Galaxy X is one rumored name for Samsung's foldable phone, and as far as we know, it and the Galaxy S10 are separate devices. This makes perfect sense. The Galaxy S is a tried and true phone series, and Samsung wouldn't miss an enormous opportunity to crow about a special 10th anniversary edition.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung's S10 reportedly features 5G, huge screen
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Meanwhile, a foldable phone is an untested concept that's just getting its footing. As of today, there's one foldable phone on the market, the Royole FlexPai, and a lot of intentions from Huawei, LG and others. Samsung and other phone-makers will want to tread cautiously to see how buyers respond before bringing a foldable design into the mainstream Galaxy S lineup.

Plus, if you believe the rumors, the Galaxy S10 code name is "Beyond." The Galaxy X reportedly has the moniker of "Winner."

Rumor: The S10's headphone jack stays put for now

Before you cast off the headphone jack as a given, take note. Samsung's Galaxy A8S doesn't have one. But it does have a screen that's expected to come to the Galaxy S10 (see below). In October, Korean outlet ET News reported that Samsung could ditch the headphone jack in the Galaxy Note 10 or Galaxy S11 (Korean).

For now, though, the headphone jack appears to be safe. A case that's been linked to the Galaxy S10 has a hole for a standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack. That's reason enough for prolific leaker Ice Universe to tweet a short video of the clear plastic case. Of course, without knowing anything about the case maker or how this company got its information, there's no way to independently verify the accuracy of the design. Notice also the wide horizontal window on the back where multiple cameras could go.

Fingerprint sensor should be in-screen and 'ultrasonic'

Who needs rumors? Qualcomm announced that its Snapdragon 855 chipset will support an unltrasonic, in-screen fingerprint reader that verifies your identity using sound waves. Samsung was at the show as a partner talking up 5G phones. While the world's largest phone-maker didn't breathe a word about in-screen readers, there's little doubt at this point that this is the solution Samsung's been waiting for.

In-screen fingerprint sensors are ramping up as a must-have feature in high-end phones. The OnePlus 6T beat Samsung to become the first US carrier phone to have one. But rumors reaching as far back as the Galaxy S9 have pegged the feature for a Galaxy.

Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors promise to accurately and securely read your print through water and grime. We've seen this technology under development for years -- the video below shows it in action.

Read also: Features the Samsung Galaxy S10 could get using Snapdragon 855

Now playing: Watch this: An early look at the ultrasonic fingerprint reader likely...
1:40

Six cameras total for the Galaxy S10 Plus?

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Samsung's prototype for its 5G phone. Could this be a model for the Galaxy S10?

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Fours cameras will adorn the back of the Galaxy S10, according to one report, and two will sit up front, at least for the larger Plus model. The "regular" Galaxy S10 is suggested to have the single front-facing lens.

Multiple rear cameras have the ability to offer more zoom options, more fine detail (especially if one camera is monochrome), and depth mapping for portrait mode (the "bokeh effect") and AR.

The rumor is further bolstered by the existence of the Galaxy A9, a phone with four rear cameras that Samsung announced in October for Asian markets.

Samsung could be using the A9 as a test bed for the design and software, before implementing refinements in the all-important Galaxy S10. However, frequent Twitter leaker Evan Blass has suggested there will be three rear cameras on the Galaxy S10, not four.

Will the Galaxy S10 bring portrait mode to video?

Qualcomm put support for portrait mode videos into its Snapdragon 855 chip for 2019 phones and beyond, but that's no guarantee that Samsung will take advantage of the technology.

If it does, you might be applying a depth-sensing bokeh effect to subjects in video as well as photos. Qualcomm said that you'd be able to swap out the blurred backgrounds in these 4K films for other scenes from a library of choices.

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Samsung showed off three notch designs at its developer conference in November: a V-notch, U-notch and O-notch. Also shown: no notch.

Juan Garzon / CNET

More about the selfie camera's Infinity-O punch-hole 'notch'

Although Samsung told the world it was working on three new notch designs for future phones, the company never committed to the Infinity-V, Infinity-U or Infinity-O designs for its Galaxy S10.

At this point, we'd be shocked if we saw anything other than the Infinity-O display, which has a hole punched out of one corner for at least one camera lens. Samsung has made the design official in the newly-announced Galaxy A8S, a phone for China, but it's likely that Samsung would release the design on a less important phone in case issues come up that the designers could address, rather than take a risk on its most important phone of the year.

Renders show the selfie camera's "hole punch" on either side, but more recent rumors insist it'll be on the right as you look at the phone face. Blass suggests that the Infinity-O will come to the Galaxy S10.

Chinese rival brand Hauwei announced something similar with its Honor View 20 phone, but instead of a hole cut from the screen, the Honor View 20 fits the camera below a transparent portion of the display. The jury's still out on whether this setup affects photos.

ReadGalaxy A8S a practice run for Galaxy S10's O-notch screen? It makes sense

Will the Galaxy S10 toss out the iris scanner and finally get 3D 'Face ID'?

When the Galaxy S9 first arrived, we were disappointed it didn't use secure 3D depth-mapping technology to unlock the phone like the iPhone's Face ID. 2017's Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip inside the S9 supports mapping with 50,000 infrared dots, compared to Apple's 30,000 infrared dots. Instead, the Galaxy S9 retained Samsung's secure iris unlocking and insecure face unlock, the latter a staple on Android phones.

Now might be the time for Samsung to step up its face unlocking game. Rumors point to both the Galaxy S10 losing the iris scanner and gaining a rival to Face ID. Qualcomm's newest chip supports another kind of face-mapping technology that's also secure enough for mobile payments, called Sense ID 3D Face Authentication. Perhaps it's this sensor that could power Samsung's take on Face ID.

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In addition to unlocking the phone securely with a face scan, a depth mapping selfie cam could enable better AR apps and effects, like the disastrously creepy AR Emoji, a rival that predated Apple's much more skillfully executed Memoji.

The Galaxy S10 will run Samsung's One UI interface on top of Android 9

Samsung confirmed to CNET that all future phones, including the foldable phone, will use the new One UI interface that Samsung unveiled at its November Developer Conference. The One UI interface design declutters the current Samsung Experience and tries to group icons for easier one-handed use. It'll work with Android Pie, the ninth version of Google's mobile software, but not with earlier versions of Android.

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung's foldable phone will use One UI
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Note: This story was first posted Nov. 29, 2018 and was updated most recently on Dec. 13.

Read next: Worst S9 features S10 can fix

Read also: Galaxy X: Specs, price, rumored March release date for Samsung's foldable phone