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Hands-on with Samsung Lite: Galaxy Note 10 and S10 push prices and features south

Surprise, surprise. One of Samsung's new cheaper phones even has a headphone jack.

The new Galaxy Note 10 Lite.
Angela Lang/CNET

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

The first things I noticed about the new Galaxy Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite when I saw them at a small press preview here at CES are their giant 6.7-inch screens. The second is the rectangular camera array on the back, a bold new look that seems to confirm rumors that the Galaxy S11 will have a similar shape to house its cameras. It looks a lot better on the Note 10 Lite than on the S10 Lite, where the module protrudes from the back and takes up more space than it really needs to.

Otherwise, these new Lite Samsung phones bring a good heap of specs that make them appealing -- especially the bright red Note 10 Lite, because I'm a sucker for that color on a phone. We don't know how much they cost or where they'll go on sale, but it's a sure bet that Samsung's new Lite phones will be cheaper than their Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy S10 counterparts. 

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From the massive screen size to the three rear cameras and a big 4,500-mAh battery, the Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite have a lot in common. Compared to the Galaxy S10 and Note 10, their screens aren't curved or as brilliant, and the materials are more modest. But they have the advantage of running Android 10 right out of the box. They also support dual SIM cards.


The Galaxy S10 Lite's camera awkwardly pops out from the surface. There's a lot of empty space here, too.

Juan Garzon/CNET

There are important differences between the two Lite phones. The most obvious is the Note 10 Lite's S Pen stylus, which was just as responsive on the Note 10 Lite as it is on the Note 10 Plus. The 10 Lite also uses Samsung's Exynos chipset, while the S10 Lite has a Snapdragon chip inside. Importantly, the Note 10 Lite has one feature many fans have been clamoring for -- a headphone jack. The S10 Lite does not. 

There are separate camera sensors, too, with the Note 10 Lite having main, telephoto and ultrawide-angle lenses at 12 megapixels each. Meanwhile, the S10 Lite has a 48-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultrawide-angle and 5-megapixel macro lens.

Of the two phones, I prefer the Note 10 Lite, which has the more advanced camera specs (at least on paper) and the more attractive design. Scroll below for the full specs.

Why did Samsung make the Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite?

What's even more interesting than the square camera array is that these phones exist at all. For the Note 10 Lite in particular, the fact that Samsung made this phone in the first place signals a shift in how it perceives its Note line. The Note has traditionally been the all-singing, all-dancing device for power users, the one to showcase every top-shelf spec and feature that Samsung has. 

By bringing out a Lite version, which is undoubtedly more downmarket -- in a good way -- Samsung is taking its most different phone (the one with a stylus) and making it available in more places for more pricing options. With the Note 10 Lite, you now have a family of three Note 10s, ranging from it to the Note 10 Plus.

The Galaxy S10 Lite is a slightly confusing addition to an already jam-packed lineup that ranges from the more affordable Galaxy S10E to the Galaxy S10 5G. With the Lite, Samsung is pushing prices and features south.

For Samsung, that provides a golden opportunity to sell more of its most popular phones.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Note 10 Lite

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite
Display size, resolution 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O display with 2,400×1,080-pixel resolution 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O display with 2,400×1,080-pixel resolution
Mobile software Android 10 Android 10
Camera 48-megapixel wide-angle, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel macro 12-megapixel wide-angle, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 12-megapixel macro
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel 32-megapixel
Processor Octa-core Snapdragon chipset Octa-core Exynos chipset
Storage 128GB 128GB
RAM 6GB or 8GB 6GB or 8GB
Battery 4,500 mAh 4,500 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No Yes
S Pen stylus No Yes

Originally published earlier this week.