Everything you might have missed about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ were just announced last week, and as always, there is a lot of information that Samsung was unable to convey at Unpacked. From new software features to minor hardware changes, there are a lot of tidbits that Samsung didn’t make a big deal of. After having used the phone for about an hour at Samsung Unpacked, I was able to find many things that Samsung didn’t have time to bring up.
I also wanted to briefly talk about my first impressions of the two devices. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 has a 6.3-inch screen in a body that is slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S10. It feels really great to hold in the hand. While the screen is only 1080p (and at $950 that’s unacceptable), it’s a really good-looking display nonetheless. If I were to get the regular Galaxy Note 10, I would have no complaints about the display quality itself. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, though, is more my style. It has a huge 6.8-inch screen in a body just millimeters larger than that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. The phone did feel a bit large in my hands, but it wasn’t uncomfortable to hold. The squared-off corners and flat top and bottom made the phone feel surprisingly nice to hold. For a video hands-on of both Galaxy Note 10 devices, check out our earlier post.
Third Dedicated Third Speaker Hole
One thing that surprised almost everyone who used the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 was the hole at the top of the device. When renders first leaked, everybody thought Samsung might be reviving the IR blaster. Later, there were rumors of it being a microphone for the triple zoom microphone setup. It turns out it’s a secondary hole for the earpiece speaker, as Samsung confirmed to SamMobile. The earpiece speaker slit is a bit smaller than normal because of how thin the bezel is. This means stereo sound might not sound so great. Instead of making thicker bezels or just sticking with worse sound, Samsung gave the top speaker an extra hole. A few users who already have the device report much better sounding audio quality as a result. There is a third microphone, though, but it’s located somewhere more ingenious. More on that below.
Upgraded Haptics on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10
One of the little-mentioned but easily noticeable features in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is the improved haptics. I won’t say they are as good as the Google Pixel 3 or OnePlus 7 Pro, but the haptic engine is better than previous Samsung phones. Upgraded haptics is actually one of the reasons Samsung removed the headphone jack. They feel a bit better, but don’t expect it to change the experience a lot.
Discord in Game Launcher
For the Galaxy Note 10, Samsung worked with Discord on adding native support for Discord voice calls in games. For those of you who aren’t aware, Discord is one of the biggest gaming communication services out there. There are millions of members, and its main use is for talking about gaming. On the Galaxy Note 10, the app will allow an overlay to show up to talk with your team in either voice channels or direct calls.
Samsung Game Streaming from PC
Samsung did something interesting thing with the Galaxy Note 10 on the software side: They included a Steam Link clone called PlayGalaxy Link. This is a P2P gaming system, meaning you need to stream it off your own computer. This differs from Google Stadia and NVIDIA GeForce Now which use computers in data centers. That should mean any game from any platform like Steam, Epic, Origin, Battle.net, or Xbox can be streamed. You can then connect a controller to your phone using USB or Bluetooth and play whatever games you want. In some demos, Samsung showed off a controller-looking dock for the phone. I’m not sure if they are selling this specifically for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or if it’s a third-party accessory.
Native Screen Recording
Screen recording is one of those features a lot of people want but not a lot of phones natively support, especially not with internal audio recording enabled. Luckily, Samsung added it on the Galaxy Note 10. You have a few options to control the audio, video quality, or the size of the front-facing camera overlay. This screen recording does seem like it’s designed for gaming, but it can be used for anything.
UFS 3.0 Storage on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Samsung didn’t make a big deal about this on stage, but both the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10+ actually come with UFS 3.0 storage on board. The only place where this was shown was actually in the announcement video on Samsung’s official YouTube channel. Every Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ devices come with this new, faster storage specification. One of the first mainstream devices with this storage technology was the OnePlus 7 Pro, though that’s because the Samsung Galaxy Fold was delayed.
Tiny Little Microphone Slit
As I mentioned previously, the third microphone isn’t at the top of the device. Instead, it’s next to the camera. It’s not in a hole, instead, it is in a very, very small slit on the side of the aluminum railing for the camera. This was pointed out to me by a Samsung representative at the Unpacked demo area. It’s almost impossible to see on the black version, but with some light on a lighter color model, you can see it. In the image below, I tried to circle the small opening. This is one of the most impressive designs I’ve seen for a microphone in a phone.
AR Doodle is one of the weirder new features that Samsung included this year. It uses Google ARCore to track people’s faces and the phone’s position in the area to create 3D doodles. You can then draw on their faces.
Remappable Power Button
After the Unpacked event, the idea that Samsung removed the Bixby button went around and had everyone excited. The problem is that this is only half-true. The actual Bixby button is still there on the left side of the phone under the volume rocker. However, it now doubles as the power button. By default, holding down the button opens Bixby while pressing it once will lock or unlock the display. You can change this to the power menu to make it behave more like a normal power button, or you can keep it as-is if you enjoy pain.
Night Mode on Front Camera
A few months after the Galaxy S10 launched, Samsung added a super useful Night Mode in the camera. This new mode allows you to take better shots at night, and it’s pretty simple to use. On the Samsung Galaxy S10, however, you can’t use the mode to take pictures out of the front camera. If you ever wanted to take great selfies at night on your Samsung phone, you’re now in luck. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 supports night mode with the front-facing camera. This is something that is only supported on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 for now, but it could come to other Samsung devices down the line.
Updated Live Drawings
Samsung updated its Live Drawings feature as well. This time around, Live Drawings presents a full-screen UI. You can take a picture from the Live Drawings app and draw on it in a full-screen display. You can once again save it as either an MP4 or a GIF and share it from there. It has a rotating carousel of options to draw on. You can either take a picture, pick a gradient color, or choose an image you already took. You can now also draw on videos. It’s super cool and tries to mimic Instagram Stories.
Tip in Settings
In most earlier Samsung phones, all the way at the bottom of the Settings app you got an option for the user manual. This was great for new users, except almost nobody ever used it. In the Galaxy Note 10, Samsung is replacing this with something more useful. It is now a Tips app that will show you new features you might not know about or give you ideas on what you can do with your phone. Most people probably won’t use this either, but it’s better than the old user manual almost nobody ever opened.
Zoom-in Mic is an Advanced Recording Option
One of the cooler new features in the camera is Zoom-in mic. This allows the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 to focus on the specific audio you want when zooming in during a video recording. This is not always on, and it’s not even enabled by default. Zoom-in mic is in the advanced recording option panel of the camera settings. This is also where the HDR10+ video recording and HEVC format settings are. It’s interesting that Samsung would bury one of its more advertised features here.
Updated Air Command UI
For the past few years, Samsung’s Air Command dock has been one of the main ways to use the S Pen features. As soon as you pulled out the S Pen, it would show up with your apps or quick access features. Up until this year, it was a circular design in the center of the screen. Most Note fans know what it looks like. Samsung changed it this year to be a straight scrolling line at the bottom of the screen. The location of the apps lines up with the S Pen slot in the body of the phone. Some fans like this change while others dislike it. I like it because it actually shows the battery percentage of the S Pen easily in the top right of the UI.
Wireless Air Gestures
This year seems like the year of gestures. Google is working on them with the Pixel 4 and Project Soli and LG has them with the TOF sensor on the G8, but Samsung has taken a different approach. Samsung is using an accelerator and gyroscope to track the movement of the S Pen to control the phone. For example, zooming in 0.1x in the camera means holding the button, doing a full circle, and letting go. If you want to keep zooming, you keep holding the button at the end. The issue is, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the zoom gesture gets confused with the swap camera gesture and doesn’t work.
Samsung DeX on Windows/macOS
In my opinion, one of the cooler features is actually access to Samsung DeX on Windows and macOS. This new feature allows access to all your files and apps in a desktop-like experience. It even supports drag and drop between your computer’s OS and your phone. While we can’t test it yet, I shared an early access download to the desktop client with my friend Rydah. He already has a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and was able to record a video of Samsung DeX on his laptop.
Microsoft’s “Your Phone” is Pre-Installed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10
There isn’t much to say here besides that the Your Phone app from Microsoft is pre-installed. This app lets you sync your pictures, texts, notifications, and soon phone calls, between your phone and Windows computer. It’s actually pretty useful, but I wouldn’t really consider this a new feature for the Galaxy Note 10 since you can actually install this on any Android phone now. I have Your Phone installed on my Google Pixel 3 XL and I was able to access my notifications, texts, and pictures wirelessly on my PC without connecting my phone. It’s included in Windows and is super easy to install on your phone.
Samsung Global Goals
For the Galaxy Note 10, Samsung has partnered with the United Nations to provide a new app called Samsung Global Goals. According to the United Nations, “this partnership with UNDP and Samsung will not only harness technological innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, but will mobilize the next generation of global citizens to take action and together achieve the goals.” This will come pre-installed on all Samsung Galaxy Note 10 devices and will also be available on your lock screen. The lock screen section of this app is not enabled by default.
That’s all the minor tidbits we discovered about the Galaxy Note 10. If we learn more, we’ll let you know. Check out our forums if you’re interested in the new Notes.