Design, Continued: An Ultra Mega Phone

Of course, the flagship entry in the 2020 Galaxy line-up is the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung here literally supersized the design, making a much larger and heftier version that goes beyond what the “regular” plus models offer. While the S20+ fits in the same form-factor as the S10+, the S20 Ultra is clearly a bigger phone, more in line with the behemoth that was the rare S10 5G.

The biggest differences in the design aren’t found in the front of the phone – here the Ultra essentially just looks the same as the other two S20 devices and you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart other than their size. Turn it around though, and you’ll see the Ultra’s enormous camera housing that is very distinct from any other phone on the market.

The first thing you’ll notice when handling the Ultra, beyond it having a larger footprint, is that it’s clearly a thicker phone. It’s 1mm thicker than the S20+, which is a 12.8% increase and is very noticeable. The sides of the phones are still curved as on the S20+, however the curve is now deeper, and the metal frame on the side of the phone is a sliver thicker than on the smaller variants.

The ergonomics are still good for a phone of this size, but of course, you’ll need to be used to having a phone this size.

Another aspect where the S20 Ultra just outsizes the S20+ is in terms of weight. At 220g, the phone is much closer in weight to an iPhone Max than it is the lighter, 187g S20+. With the weight does come a larger battery, which is now 5000mAh (typical capacity), an 11% increase over the S20+’s 4500mAh capacity.

Then there’s the camera bump of the Ultra. There’s no better word to describe it other than "enormous". The problem here isn’t that Samsung had to extend the camera housing thickness in order to integrate the complex camera modules and optics which the Ultra offers, but that they did so in what I find to be a very boring and ugly manner.

Most notably, the rim of the camera housing is just a raised metal element that protrudes out, which is in contrast to the curved design of the rest of the phone. Samsung probably decided that leaving such a big protrusion doesn’t look so good, so they added in another step in the frame between the glass back and the full protrusion – best way to describe it is that it looks like a gasket. The whole thing just looks very cheap and doesn’t compare to the filleted glass design from Apple or even the filleted “gasket” that Huawei uses in the recently announced P40 Pro. My biggest pet peeve about Samsung’s design is that it’s super prone to collecting dust in the three grooves around the camera – both of my S20 Ultras are full of it right now as I’m writing this. It feels like a rushed design with very little manufacturing refinement.

One other difference I noticed is in the speaker audio quality. The S20 Ultra does sound fuller and a bit less high pitched, probably due to the larger internal reverberation space of the design. It’s the better sounding phone of the S20 series.

Whether the S20 Ultra can justify its existence will largely depend on how its special camera hardware will be able to differentiate itself from the S20 and S20+. In terms of design, other than it being a big phone, I do think Samsung somewhat missed the mark with the camera housing. A filleted edge of the camera protrusion could have done wonders, so hopefully it’s something that the company will look into for future designs.

Introduction & Design The Snapdragon 865 SoC: Beating Expectations
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  • Reflex78 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    I live in Europe, I like Samsung and have S9 at the moment.
    But I will never pay +1000€ for lower quality Exynos S20 version in Europe!
    This is a big mistake from the company management to allow such a difference between this 2 variants at the same price!
    And I just read that they have chosen to sell Snapdragon version even for their home country:
    https://www.phonearena.com/news/Samsung-chip-divis...
    Reply
  • twtech - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    The edge design of Samsung's more recent releases is just not good. There are no cases that can both properly protect the screen, and avoid blocking any of it. My older phones typically lasted for years without any significant damage. These new ones are one slip of the hand away from being garbage fodder. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    "These new ones are one slip of the hand away from being garbage fodder."

    rube!! :) it's a feature, not a bug. going back to Lotus/MS conflict: "DOS ain't done til 1-2-3 won't run."
    Reply
  • Harysviewty - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Totally wrong calculation. It's 7.1mp when you crop 3x3. It's only possible to do full 12mp resolution with the help of Super resolution algorithm, which adds up to 75% more detail to 'normal bayer' setup Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    I don't know what you're talking about. The sensor is 108MP at 12000 x 9000. 3x3 binning results in 4000 x 3000, which is 12MP. Reply
  • krazyfrog - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    The 3x3 binning only happens on the 108MP sensor, not on the 64MP sensor. Reply
  • s.yu - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    You said "crop 3x3" which confuses people, usually we just say 3x crop, but yes, the digital zoom doesn't provide native 12MP in any sense at 3x. Reply
  • JDSP - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Image links on the iPhone are wrong, Wide links to zoom and night sight links to normal Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Corrected that, thanks. There's probably a few other link issues there I'll keep an eye out for that. Reply
  • Quantumz0d - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Great analysis, will go through it slowly but looking at that Exynos 990, Seriously WTF is that. Higher power consumption, lower GPU performance, higher throttling. Very unfortunate. And losing to that copycat Chinese Huawei Kirin trash (EMUI garbage with LZ Play backdoor, Read only EROFS Filesystem and Google copying that into Pixel 4 and the proprietary garbage NMSDslot no 3.5mm jack, No Play Store, lies and deception) Samsung should be ashamed of themselves removing all their genius whatever PR ads for milking customers and offering mediocrity.

    The only good part for Exynos is unlockable bootloader. Since SD versions in US are locked as hell and useless for customization esp how they depreciated the SpO2 sensor in this phone HW and from SW side also in S10 and previous phones to promote bullshit Smartwatches.

    This phone sucks bad, their S10 has better features and looks better as well on top this phone camera sucks, no 3.5mm jack and ugliest design ever with insane price tag on top, LG's V60 is looking very good in comparison from Camera to Audio and other features/specs plus price vs this phone or even that Chinese OP8 Pro (despite lacking SD slot and 3.5mm jack as at-least it is cheaper and has hassle free Bootloader unlock), since Samsung dropping HW feature set which defines the all in one phones from Samsung they want greed and money from that shitty Buds and other garbage.

    S10+ Exynos is a better choice all rounder as it has BL unlock as well. On top I'd like to mention how DJ Koh also was removed from the Samsung mobile CEO office, I presume it also played an important role in S.LSI even if independent and the financial results of the conglomerate, esp how it impacted the design philosophy for sure as Note 10 provided a platform for removing features and cost cutting similar aspect in S20 a bit more worse.

    On the Foundry aspects, TSMC 7NP is not EUV and Samsung 7nm LPP is EUV since N7+ is the EUV one. Not sure 20% to 30% is valid ? I do not know since the uArch is garbage doesn't mean that the node is trash, esp last rumor was Ampere would be on Samsung node with EUV and Nvidia wouldn't afford a stupid decision tbh, and a big shame is S.LSI getting hacked. I think the PR marketing team and the budgets ruined them or such, we may never know. Shame indeed.
    Reply

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