Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds.
Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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It's no secret that
wants its new P30 Pro to outsell the Galaxy S10 Plus, the first great phone of 2019. In January, the CEO of Huawei's consumer business, Richard Yu, said the company plans to snatch
coveted title as world's largest smartphone brand by the end of 2020, or "this year at the soonest." That desire to displace Samsung as No. 1 means that the P30 Pro isn't just any flagship phone. It's a flagship phone with a mission.
Our job is to see how the Huawei P30 Pro stacks up against the Galaxy S10 Plus. Keep in mind that while the entire Galaxy S10 family has been tested and reviewed (including the S10 Plus and Galaxy S10E), we've only had limited time with the P30 Pro, so we'll be constrained to educated guesswork until we can truly compare the two side by side.
In addition to the P30 Pro, Huawei also introduced the Huawei P30, which is a little smaller and has fewer frills. And now, let's get this comparison show on the road. (You'll see a full specs match-up at the end.)
Huawei P30 Pro's four rear cameras from every angle
The screen sizes are pretty similar, but it's interesting to point out that the resolutions are not. The P30 Pro has a lower resolution covering a larger screen. That makes pixel density on the Galaxy S10 Plus higher -- 522 ppi compared to 398 ppi. That'd be shocking if it weren't for the fact that the S10 Plus uses a 2,280x1,080-pixel resolution right out of the box. It only gets sharper if you change it in the setting, and the majority of people don't. If you're one who would, then Samsung has the advantage here, in theory at least.
Watch this: Huawei P30 Pro vs. Galaxy S10 Plus: Editors react
In-screen fingerprint scanner: Ultrasonic versus optical
Both the P30 Pro and Galaxy S10 Plus have in-screen fingerprint readers that let you unlock the phone, but they use different technologies to get you in. Samsung is the first to embrace Qualcomm's ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which uses sound waves to unlock the phone (see the video for a fuller explanation).
Huawei, meanwhile, takes the more traditional approach with an optical fingerprint sensor, an approach that basically snaps a photo of your finger. Qualcomm says that method is slower and less secure, but I haven't had a lot of luck accurately unlocking the S10 or S10 Plus on the first try. That said, other optical in-screen fingerprint scanners have also been touch and go, so it's uncertain if the P30 Pro's technique is faster. All will become clear after days of using it dozens of times a day.
Watch this: Why the Galaxy S10's ultrasonic fingerprint reader matters
Headphone jack wars: How much do you really want one?
If using your wired headphones is important to you, then the P30 Pro is going to drop a notch in your estimation. Huawei blessed the regular P30 with the headphone jack, not the Pro variety, citing that the designers wanted to create more space for a larger battery. In contrast, all three Galaxy S10s have the port. We'll see if next year's phones hang on or follow the trend of nixing the jack.
Four rear cameras versus three
Last year's Huawei P20 Pro wowed with three rear cameras on the back. What seemed extravagant and almost excessive a year ago, is practically the norm in 2019. Samsung's Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus share three cameras on the back and two on the front. Huawei tops it with four, one of which is a 3D camera designed to improve portrait photos.
Huawei's SuperSpectrum lens refers to its decision to swap the RGB (red, green, blue) pixels for RYB (red, yellow, blue). Green filters make images appear darker, Huawei says, which is why it opted for a brighter yellow pixel. It's an interesting approach, and one whose effect we'll have to keep an eye on in the whole spectrum of camera scenarios.
While Huawei's is claiming tighter zoom, try not to get overworked about megapixel count. Remember that more isn't always better, and that how much light effectively enters the lens and how photos are processed has a lot of bearing on the image quality when all is said and done.
Dedicated camera night mode strikes back
Where Huawei does gain the upper hand is with the dedicated night mode for its camera. We've used this on previous phones including the Mate 20 and P20 devices. Although it takes about 5 seconds to process, the image you get even in an almost pitch-black bar is much clearer, brighter and more detailed than what the Galaxy S10 Plus produces with no standalone night mode feature.
The lack of a dedicated night mode wouldn't keep me from buying the S10 Plus, but wanting those shots might push someone toward the P30 phones, or the unconfirmed Pixel 4 if they want to wait until October. Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL also have a separate night mode called Night Sight, and the results are phenomenal.
Watch this: P30 Pro and Galaxy S10 cameras compared
Price and sale date
The Huawei P30 Pro is on sale now, but you won't find it in the US, where Huawei is feeling political heat. That gives Samsung the advantage there, where its three Galaxy S10 phones sell widely across carriers. However, the P30 Pro will sell in other locations globally.
Huawei's P30 Pro pricing is neck and neck with the Galaxy S10 Plus in the UK, where both elite phones start at £899 for the 128GB version. In Australia, the Pro is AU$100 more than the Galaxy S10 Plus (AU$1,599 versus AU$1,499). If the P30 Pro were to sell in the US, the converted price is almost $200 more than Samsung's phone.
At any rate, the two are more or less on par, with our early camera tests favoring Huawei's low-light shots and zoom.