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iPhone 11 Night Mode vs Pixel 3 XL, Galaxy S10+, and OnePlus 6T: Catching up and dominating

Now that Apple’s finally debuted Night mode for the iPhone 11, it’s time to compare it to the Android competition. It was just about a year ago when Google launched its innovative Night Sight mode to critical acclaim. With the ability to turn unusable low-light scenes into spectacular, backlit, frame-worthy photos, Night Sight was the prime example of just how far ahead Google was when it came to photography.

Since Night Sight’s launch, Samsung, OnePlus, Huawei, and LG have all developed low-light modes for their cameras. Keep reading as we take a close look at how Apple’s new low-light camera stacks up against the best Android has to offer.

The interface

While the iPhone bakes night mode into the camera like the other phones, the implementation is a little different. The Galaxy S10, Pixel 3 XL, and OnePlus all require swiping to a separate mode, but they can be used whenever you’d like. The iPhone’s Night mode, on the other hand, is available only when there is insufficient light. The option appears as a half-moon icon in the upper right corner next to the flash, and can be toggled off and on with a tap.

The shooting

Night mode looks the same as any other mode on your phone’s camera app, but it handles shooting much differently. Because night mode bumps the exposure and slows down the shutter speed, the processing time is increased. So while you can tap the shutter and instantly take a regular photo, you’ll need a second or three to take a night photo. On the Pixel, you’ll see a countdown indicator in center of the screen that tells you to hold your phone still while it processes, while the S10 and OnePlus 6T merely tell you to hold still without telling you how long. They all take an extra second or two to optimize the image, which prevents you from taking another photo until it’s done.

iphone 11 night mode app IDG

Night Mode on the iPhone 11 is quicker to get to, easier to use, and it offers more controls than its peers.

The iPhone puts the countdown timer at the bottom of the screen so it doesn’t interfere with what you’re shooting. It also differs in the control you have over how slowly it shoots. The camera app tells you exactly how long the processing will be—generally one or two seconds, depending on the available light—so you know ahead of time how long you need to keep your hand still. It’s a mystery with the other phones. The iPhone process was also quicker than the rest of the pack on average because it optimizes as it processes, eliminating the extra step.

You can manually adjust the processing time up to 10 seconds to enhance the image further. Plus you can actually see what’s happening in your shot as it processes, a rarity for processing-heavy modes. None of the other night modes offers nearly as much transparency or control, and it shows how much thought and detail Apple has put into its system. Apple may be playing catchup, but Night mode doesn’t feel rushed or duplicative. It’s unique, intuitive, and even a little innovative, and people will enjoy using it more than they would the others here.

The results

But how you shoot doesn’t mean nearly as much as what you shoot. I’m simply blown away by what Apple has accomplished with Night Mode on the iPhone 11. When I first tried Night Sight on the Pixel 3 last October, I couldn’t believe what Google was able to do with its AI and processing. In no uncertain terms, Apple’s Night Mode makes Night Sight look amateurish.

I tested the four cameras in various settings. The iPhone 11 consistently delivered sharp, detailed shots that didn’t look washed-out or unnatural. In a couple of my nighttime sky shots, it even captured a couple of stars that I could barely see with my eyes, which straight up blew my mind. It didn’t always win, but it was the most consistent (other than the OnePlus 6T, which was consistently the worst).

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iPhone 11 vs OnePlus 7T, Galaxy S10+, Pixel 4 XL: A surprising champ

It’s time to compare Apple’s iPhone to the leading Android handsets, and it should be a close race. From the launch of the first folding phone to the rise of 5G, dual screens, waterfall displays, and cameras, cameras, cameras, 2019 has delivered a dizzying array of new features. Apple may have surprised everyone with a price cut to its entry-level handset, but can it stack up to the best Android has to offer? Let’s go through the major specs and find out. 

(Learn more about our favorite Android phones and how we test them in our guide to the best Android phones.)

The phones

Three phones compete against the iPhone 11 this year:

Samsung Galaxy S10+: I chose this model because it’s cheaper than the official flagship Note 10+. Also, compared to the S10, it’s a) only $100 more, and b) equipped with a much bigger battery. 
Google Pixel 4 XL: The newest Pixel phone has a laundry list of issues, but it’s Google so it gets the nod. Plus it has a better screen and bigger battery than the smaller one.
OnePlus 7T: OnePlus is on a roll. The two phones released in the United States in 2019, the 7 Pro and the 7T, raised expectations for what an affordable model can deliver. The newer 7T offers killer specs and a price that undercuts the iPhone 11’s.

Design

While Samsung pushed design boundaries with an impressive reimagining of the Galaxy S10, the iPhone is starting to feel a little stale. It’s more symmetrical than the other phones here, but the notch, the thickish bezels, and the screen-to-body ratio leave much to be desired. It’s also the thickest of the bunch at 8.3mm.

The giant square camera is a polarizing look, and it makes the iPhone 11 wobble when it rests on a table. The camera bump matches your chosen handset color, and while the new purple and green are nice, the glossy back picks up fingerprints early and often. Rumors suggest that Apple may dump the notch and make other changes for the iPhone 12. I hope that’s the case.

android vs iphone pixel camera Christopher Hebert/IDG

The Pixel 4 XL (left) and iPhone 11 have very similar camera stylings.

If the iPhone 11 is bland, the Pixel 4 XL is just plain blah. It loses last year’s notch for a sizable forehead, a small chin, and chunky side bezels. Like Apple, Google has added a square camera array in the upper left corner, but the Pixel 4’s bump is black regardless of body color.

I do like Google’s choice of materials, however. The luxurious frosted glass now covers the entire back of the phone, and it resists fingerprints, scratches, and smudges. The brushed-aluminum sides echo the frosted look, and the color options—which adds orange this year to the classics black and white—are appealing. I love the colored accent button. If Google ever decides to get serious about smartphone design, it should start with the materials and work backward.

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Galaxy S10, Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy Fold receive One UI 3.1 update

Samsung is definitely no longer the Samsung we knew from years ago, at least as far as Android updates are concerned. In addition to pushing out more or less regular monthly security fixes and being quick with the major Android upgrades, it also committed to supporting its phones with up to four years of security updates. That may still be in the future but Samsung is now busy rolling out its latest One UI 3.1 experience that is now landing on its 2019 flagships.

Compared to the One UI 3.0 upgrade, One UI 3.1 is comparatively less disruptive. These phones are already running Android 11 anyway, thanks to that previous Samsung user experience upgrade, but it does bring the latest security fixes for up to March 2021, which still has to be released to the general public. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of notable new features, especially in the camera department.

Although not all new camera features that debuted on the Galaxy S21 series will be present here, some, like the Object Eraser tool and Single Take 2.0 are common across the latest high-end devices receiving the update. There’s also the Privacy Share, which strips away location information from images before you share them with someone else. One UI 3.1 also brings improved Eye Comfort functionality as well as auto-switching with the Galaxy Buds Pro.

One of the most recently announced features that One UI 3.1 brings is Wireless DeX for PCs. With this update, Windows users no longer need a USB cable to start up DeX on their laptop or desktop. All they need is for the Windows PC and a compatible Galaxy phone running One UI 3.1 to be on the same network.

The Samsung One UI 3.1 update has started rolling out to the Galaxy Note 10 series in Germany, the original Galaxy Fold in France, and the Galaxy S10 series in Switzerland. Of course, it will take some time for other markets to follow suit but it is a pretty good start.

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10 Samsung Galaxy S10, S10e, and S10+ features that actually surprised us

At long leak, the Samsung Galaxy S10 has arrived. And, well, it’s pretty much exactly what we thought it would be, with three sizes, a hole in the display for the front camera, and all sorts of new color options. Here’s a quick look at the specs before we start:

S10e

  • Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
  • Display: 5.8-inch OLED, Full HD+
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Rear camera: 16MP Ultra-wide, f/2.2 + 12MP wide, f/1.5, OIS
  • Front camera: 10MP, f/1.9, OIS
  • Battery: 3,100mAh
  • Starting price: $750

S10

  • Dimensions: 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm
  • Display: 6.1-inch, OLED, Wide Quad HD+
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 8GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/512GB
  • Rear camera: 16MP Ultra-wide, f/2.2 + 12MP wide, f/1.5, OIS + 12MP 2x zoom, f/2.4, OIS
  • Front camera: 10MP, f/1.9, OIS
  • Battery: 3,400mAh
  • Starting price: $900

S10+

  • Dimensions: 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm
  • Display: 6.4-inch, OLED, Wide Quad HD+
  • Processor: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 8GB/8GB/12GB
  • Storage: 128GB/512GB/1TB
  • Rear camera: 16MP Ultra-wide, f/2.2 + 12MP wide, f/1.5, OIS + 12MP 2x zoom, f/2.4, OIS
  • Front camera: 10MP, f/1.9, OIS + 8MP depth, f/2.2
  • Battery: 4,100mAh
  • Starting price: $1,000

But even with months of leaks and rumors, there were still a few announcements during Unpacked that legitimately surprised us:

That massive 5G model really is coming

This was the big one, literally. While we fully expected the 5.8-inch S10e, the 6.2-inch S10, and the 6.4-inch S10+, Samsung also teased its first 5G phone in the form of a 6.7-inch behemoth with a 3D depth-sensing rear camera and a time-of-flight sensor on the front, along with a 4,500mAh battery, all firsts for a Galaxy phone.

galaxy s10e frontChristopher Hebert/IDG

The bezels on the Galaxy S10e are a little chunky.

Facial recognition still isn’t secure 

While the upcoming 5G model may have a time-of-flight camera for enhanced AR and stronger facial recognition, Samsung opted not to include the next-gen sensor in any of its LTE models, even the budget-busting S10+. That means facial recognition still uses the regular camera and can be spoofed relatively easily. With the LG G8 packing one and Apple’s TrueDepth camera replicating the functionality for Face ID and portrait lighting, Samsung is going to have to play a serious game of catch-up with the S11.

The S10+ has vapor chamber cooling

While the S10 and S10e opt for standard heat pipes to keep their chips cool, the S10+ ups the ante with a new vapor chamber to keep temperatures low. It’s not something you can see, but you should be able to feel it working—especially if you’ve ever streamed music while running maps in the car. Plus it saves space and efficiency, two things you can never have enough of inside your phone.

Wireless PowerShare is on all three models

We knew from rumors and leaks that the S10 would include reverse wireless charging, and it’s just as easy and convenient as we hoped. With just a tap, you can turn your S10 into a wireless charging pad that can charge its remaining juice with any Qi-enabled phone. But we didn’t know that all three models would be receiving it. While other phone makers reserve high-end charging features for the most expensive models, Samsung hasn’t crippled the functionality on the S10e, despite its lower price tag.

galaxy s10 frontChristopher Hebert/IDG

The S10+ has a big, beautiful screen but the camera hole leaves much to be desired.

You can take 4K selfies and videos

The front camera isn’t usually an area of focus, but Samsung has improved it in a big way. While the S9 included a standard 8MP HD cam, the S10 packs a 10MP UHD camera for crystal-clear selfies and video. On the S10+, you get two front cameras for better portraits. That means you won’t need to sacrifice quality when you want to use the front camera anymore.

It comes in hot pink

There were lots of crazy color rumors leading up to the launch of the S10—including a garish yellow color—but one we didn’t expect is the most interesting of all. Called flamingo pink, it’s bright, cheerful, and super-unique—and we can’t wait to get one.

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Samsung Galaxy S10, S10+, and S10e hands-on: More parity, less clarity

With the screen off, the Galaxy S10+ is virtually indistinguishable from the Galaxy S9+. It’s not until you turn it on that you notice just how different it is.

You’ve no doubt read about the camera hole in the Infinity-O display, Samsung’s answer to the dreaded notch. Well, it’s just as awkward in person as it is in pictures. Samsung was able to put the rest of the sensors—accelerometer, barometer, proximity, etc.—under the screen, but the camera isn’t so easy to hide. Hence it remains as an asymmetrical eyesore in the upper right corner of the screen, like so many dead pixels.

On the S10+, the double-wide hole is particularly unsightly, as Samsung needs the space for two cameras, the second being a 3D depth-sensing lens to aid with background blur and lighting for portraits.

s10 dual selfie Michael Simon/IDG

The double camera on the front of the S10+ pushes the status bar away from the right corner.

And, really, the dual front camera is the main differentiator between the two phones. The S10 and S10+ are so similar, in fact, I had a difficult time discerning which one I was holding during my brief time with them.

Granted, this won’t be an issue for anyone who buys one, but it does speak to the redundancy of the two models: The S10 and S10+ have the same Quad HD display, the same rear triple-camera array system buoyed by a 16MP Ultra Wide lens, the same 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and the same Snapdragon 855 processor.

Samsung’s flagships feel closer than ever in size and performance, and without enough time to get too deep into what they can and can’t do yet, the main difference appears to be the second front camera and the larger hole that accomodates it.

A new splash of color

With the 5.8-inch iPhone XS and 6.5-inch XS Max, or even the S9 and S9+, there’s a clear difference in pocketability. But with the S10 increasing to 6.1 inches, the three-tenths-of-an-inch difference between it and the 6.4-inch S10+ doesn’t matter nearly as much.

s10 colorsMichael Simon/IDG

The ceramic Galaxy S10+ is nothing short of luxurious.

But that’s not to say the two S10s don’t make a strong first impression. The Infinity styling that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S8 has been refined even further here, and it’s nearly perfect. The unequal forehead and chin remain, but they’re smaller than ever, and with a 90-plus-percent screen-to-body ratio, it almost feels like you’re holding an edge-to-edge piece of glass.

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Five reasons why you might want to buy Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G (other than its modem)

If Samsung’s first 5G phone, the Galaxy S10 5G, somehow escaped your notice, you’re forgiven. From the Galaxy Fold to the Galaxy Buds, and of course the rest of the S10 family, Samsung’s first Unpacked event of 2019, on February 20 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, offered plenty of distraction. 

Much to our surprise, however, the Galaxy S10 5G its kind of a big deal. Like, literally. Samsung could have created a mere S10+ variant, but instead it crammed its first 5G phone with pretty much every conceivable spec. The largest and most powerful handset Samsung has ever built, the Galaxy S10 5G’s modem might be the least intriguing part about it. Here are five reasons why you might actually want to buy one, other than the theoretical promise of blazingly fast speeds:

Its display is huge

Samsung’s first 5G smartphone is also one of the biggest it’s ever made. But despite its 6.7-inch display, Samsung’s first 5G phone only measures 162.6 x 77.1 x 7.9 mm, just 5 mm taller and 3 mm wider than the S10+. That means it has a bigger screen than the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, and the biggest phone this side of the 7-inch Galaxy W. We can’t wait to see it in person.

galaxy s10 5g camerasSamsung

The S10 5G has six cameras: four on the back and three on the front.

It has four rear cameras

Samsung’s S10 is the company’s first flagship phone to sport triple rear cameras, but it’s already been bested by the S10 5G. Samsung’s upcoming handset has four, count-em, four cameras on the back, three of which are the same as on the S10:

  • 12MP telephoto, f/2.4, OIS
  • 12MP wide-angle, f/1.5-f/2.4, OIS
  • 16MP ultra wide, f/2.2

It also adds a third 3D depth-sensing lens for superior portraits and AR applications. Samsung didn’t get into much detail about the camera’s capabilities, but we know it will handle features that we haven’t seen on a Galaxy phone before: Video Live Focus and Quick Measure.

The front camera has a time-of-flight sensor

The S10 5G has a dual camera like the S10+, but the two selfie systems are not created equal. On the S10 5G, the second camera is a 3D depth-sensing lens, which theoretically could be used for secure facial unlocking. We’ll have to wait and see whether Samsung enables that capability in the future.

galaxy s10 5g fullSamsung

The S10 is packed with everything you could possible want in a phone.

It has the perfect amount of RAM and storage

While you can get the S10+ with 12GB of RAM and a terabyte of storage, no human really needs those specs in a phone. Instead of jamming tons of storage and RAM in the S10 5G, however, Samsung focused on the sweet spot: 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. If that’s not enough space for you, then you’ll need to consider the 512GB S10 or 1TB S10+, because the S10 5G doesn’t have a microSD card slot to expand the storage. With unlimited cloud drives and huge leaps in onboard storage, microSD cards are becoming less crucial. Samsung is betting that 256GB of space is plenty for most people.

The battery is massive and it charges crazy-fast

If you thought the 4,100mAh battery on the S10+ was big, the S10 5G wants you to hold its beer: Samsung has squeezed a 4,500mAh battery inside its new phone, the largest we’ve ever seen in a Galaxy phone. You’re going to need a giant battery to handle 5G, but with the modem turned to LTE, you should be able to get nearly two days of battery life. Because it’s going to take a lot of power to fill it up, Samsung has loaded the S10 5G with Power Deliver 3.0 support for Super Fast Charging at 25W, a big jump from the 10W max speeds offered by the current system.

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Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: The phone that goes higher, further, faster

It’s something of a perfect coincidence that Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ goes on sale the same day Captain Marvel lands in theaters. Both were once the most powerful members of their respective universes. Both are struggling with an identity crisis spurred by a larger-than-life existential threat. And both have a gorgeous shimmer when the light hits them just right.

galaxy s10 captain marvelChristopher Hebert/IDH

The Galaxy S10+’s fantastic display is in rarefied air.

And in many ways, they’re both the last of a dying breed. The Galaxy S10+ may represent the culmination of 10 years of Samsung’s Android engineering, but it’s also the phone that doesn’t fold. Much like last year’s iPhone 8 Plus, which existed in the shadow of the button-less and OLED iPhone X, the Galaxy S10+ no longer represents the pinnacle of Samsung innovation. That honor now falls to the Galaxy Fold arriving April 26. (In yet another curious coincidence, that date just so happens to be the same as Captain Marvel’s intergalactic turn in Avengers Endgame.)

But even with the forces of change closing in all sides, the Galaxy S10+ more than holds its own. It might have a sky-high price tag at $1,000, but the S10+ is also a massive improvement over its predecessor, pushing the limits of conventional smartphone design just about as far as they can go. And just like Carol Danvers, it’s not about to fade into irrelevance without a fight.

An upgrade to the classic design

Even without straying too far from the Infinity Display formula that began with the S8, the Galaxy S10+ is a completely new device. Most notably, Samsung has trimmed its empty spaces even further, leaving slivers of black above and below the screen. That brings the size of the S10+ down to 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm, a touch smaller than the Note 9 despite sporting the same 6.4-inch display dimension.

galaxy s10 backChristopher Hebert/IDG

The back of the S10+ comes in all-new prism colors that beautifully reflect and refract light.

There’s not much to quibble with when it comes to the design. The return to chrome along the sides reflects a sophistication over the colorized aluminum of the S9, right down to the classic five-holed speaker grille along the bottom edge. The same chrome accent also lines the triple-camera array, which has been rotated to give your chosen color even more room to breathe. With so much glass, the S10+ tends to be a little slippery, but because Samsung’s new “prism” palette of iridescent hues is so gorgeous, you won’t want to cover it up. I suspect clear cases will be extra popular this time around.

The receiver has been pushed as high as it can go so it abuts the top edge rather than floating in the bezel, and as a result, it’s barely visible now. My only complaint is the power button, which is both shorter and higher than it is on the S9, making it that much more difficult to reach. The Bixby button is now in a much better spot, and it’ll get a lot more use this time, as Samsung is finally letting us remap it to launch an app or perform an action. And once again, the S10+ has a headphone jack, making it truly among the last of a dying breed.

No notch, but a hole in two

To achieve a near 90 percent screen-to-body ratio, Samsung had to push the front camera down into the display in the form of a hole in the right corner of the screen. Just like the controversial notches in its competitors’ screens, the hole in the Infinity O display wreaks havoc on the status bar, upsets full-screen images, and draws your eye in the worst way. Despite Samsung’s bold claim of “no notches, no distractions,” the hole is even more apparent on the S10+ because Samsung needed room for two front cameras.

galaxy s10 selfie Christopher Hebert/IDG

The selfie cam on the Galaxy S10+ is an eyesore when it isn’t obscured by darkness.

This is why all of the stock wallpapers Samsung created for the S10+ have a clever bit of black in the corner to cover up the hole. It’s the same trickery Apple uses to cover up the notch on the iPhone XS, and it speaks to the inherent compromises of so-called all-screen phones.

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Huawei’s P30 Pro goes toe-to-toe with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ on power, price, and photography

After a short run alone at the top of the Android heap, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 has some serious competition. Huawei unveiled its latest flagship P30 and P30 Pro today, and they’re packed with some of the best specs we’ve ever seen in an Android phone.

Just like the P20, Huawei is making a big deal out of the phones’ picture-taking skills. The Leica-branded triple-camera array that was introduced with the Mate 20 makes its way to the P30, while the P30 Pro gains a fourth time-of-flight (TOF) camera for better portraits and depth sensing:

P30

  • 40MP wide angle, f/1.8
  • 16MP ultra wide angle, f/2.2
  • 8MP telephoto, 3x zoom, f/2.4

P30 Pro

  • 40MP wide angle, f/1.6
  • 20MP ultra wide angle, f/2.2
  • 8MP telephoto, 5x zoom, f/3.4
  • Huawei TOF camera

Aside from the lenses, however, Huawei has fine-tuned the processing behind the P30 cameras to provide even greater abilities, particularly with the P30 Pro. The new periscope telephoto camera offers 10x hybrid zoom and up to 50x digital zoom. A new RYYB color sensing rule allows more light for better nighttime shots. And the TOF camera allows for fine-tuning of portrait shots and professional long-exposure pictures at the touch of a button.

huawei p30 pro camerasHuawei

The Huawei P30 Pro has a quad camera system with a time-of-flight sensor.

Even with the addition of extra cameras, the P30 retains the sleek look of the P20, with an iPhone X-like vertical camera array in the top-left corner. The glass back comes in an array of gradient colors inspired by “the miraculous sky,” giving the handset a unique look that changes depending on the light you’re in. Particularly striking are the new “Amber Sunrise” that mimics a fiery daybreak, and “Aurora,” which conjures images of the Northern Lights.

Flagship performance

Aside from its photo skills, the P30 and P30 Pro are more than capable of zipping though a full day’s worth of apps and notifications:

P30

  • Dimensions: 149.1 x 71.4 x 7.6 mm
  • Display: 6.1-inch Full HD, 2340 x 1080
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Battery: 3,650mAh

P30 Pro

  • Dimensions: 158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm 
  • Display: 6.47-inch Full HD 2340 x 1080 Curved OLED
  • Processor: Kirin 980
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
  • Battery: 4,200mAh

While the P30 Pro’s curved edges are easier on the eyes than the P30’s visible bezels, both displays are the same resolution this time. That means the P30 Pro gets a downgrade from the Quad HD 1440p screen on the P20. That’s not likely to make much of a difference to most eyes, but pixel purists will surely notice the change.

Both phones also have a tiny notch for the 32MB front camera, meaning you won’t get Huawei’s 3D Face unlock here. Like the S10, both phones have an in-display fingerprint sensor, though Huawei opted for an optical scanner rather than the ultrasonic one on Samsung’s phones. We’ve had our issues with in-display scanners, but it’s a nice visual upgrade over the stale front-facing sensors on the P20 at any rate.

huawei p30 fingerprintHuawei

The P30 finally dispenses with the front-facing fingerprint scanner for an in-display sensor.

Elsewhere, you get IP68 water resistance on the P30 Pro, while the P30 only has IP53 ingress protection, so you can’t dunk it. The P30 is also missing wireless charging, while the P30 Pro supports 15W fast wireless charging as well as 40W wired charging. However, one advantage the P30 does have over the P30 Pro is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

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15 instant improvements to your Samsung Galaxy S10 or Note9

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Note9 are sort of like the Las Vegas of smartphones. Compared to the simple and understated approach of, say, an iPhone or Google Pixel 3, Samsung bombards you with settings to tweak and features to try. Much like a walk down the strip at night, this approach can feel overwhelming.

You can tone down the gaudiest features and tune others to suit your needs better. Here are 15 instant improvements you can make to a new Samsung phone:

1. Remap the Bixby button

bixbybutton Jared Newman / IDG

The mandatory inclusion of the Bixby voice assistant is arguably the worst feature of modern Samsung phones. Fortunately, you can remap the button with a third-party app called bxActions. Before you install the app, make sure to launch Bixby once, then go through the standard setup process. Next, launch bxActions, walk through the setup process, then select Bixbi [sic] button to choose an alternative action. You can even use this to launch Google Assistant instead of Bixby.

2. Hide the Bixby Home screen

bixbyhome Jared Newman / IDG

By default, swiping right on your home screen will bring up an information feed from Bixby, including weather, news, sports scores, calendar updates, and more. You can disable this by long-pressing anywhere on the home screen, swiping right, and turning off the Bixby Home toggle.

3. Rearrange your quick settings

rearrangesamsung Jared Newman / IDG

Like other Android phones, Samsung lets you easily toggle common settings such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth by swiping down from the top of the screen—one swipe for your favorite six toggles, and a second swipe for a longer list of options. To rearrange the order of these settings—or remove them entirely—swipe down a second time, hit the menu button that looks like three dots, then select Button order. Press and hold any icon to reposition it, and don’t forget you can swipe left to see additional icons.

4. Add a screen brightness shortcut

samsungbrightnesshortcut Jared Newman / IDG

By default, Samsung’s Galaxy Note9 and S10 require two swipes from the top of the screen to access the brightness slider. Make it easier to reach by pressing the down arrow next to the slider, then toggling Show control on top. Now, you only have to swipe down once to see the brightness toggle.

5. Assign volume keys to media playback

samsungvolume Jared Newman / IDG

In Android Pie, Google changed the standard behavior of volume keys to control media volume (such as music and videos) instead of the ringer. Samsung phones’ volume keys still control the ringer by default, but you can change this by pressing either volume button, swiping down on the volume control, and toggling Use volume keys for media.

6. Set up photo backups

samsungphotobackup Jared Newman / IDG

Samsung’s setup process doesn’t include a way to back up your photos, so you’ll have to add a backup system once your phone is up and running. The Google Photos app will automatically back up unlimited photos for free (albeit at reduced resolution unless you use Google Drive storage). You can also use other cloud storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive.

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PCWorld’s April Digital Magazine: Samsung Galaxy S10+ reviewed

Stay on top of the latest tech with PCWorld’s Digital Magazine. Available as single copies or as a monthly subscription, it highlights the best content from PCWorld.com—the most important news, the key product reviews, and the most useful features and how-to stories—in a curated Digital Magazine for Android and iOS, as well for the desktop and other tablet readers.

In the April issue

In April we review Samsung’s awesome new Galaxy S10+. Find out why it’s still a force to be reckoned with. There are tons of VPNs available for Android; we have our top 5 picks. Plus, we have 7 tweaks and changes to Android Q that will make your phone better than it is now.

Other highlights include:

  • News: 5 MWC Android announcements you might have missed but really need to know
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XC Ultra review: Laser-focused on all-around great performance
  • Lenovo IdeaPad 730S review: A slick laptop with no gimmicks
  • HP Spectre x360 15 (2019) review: A prettier, more powerful convertible than the last
  • Wireless PowerShare: How to use it on the Galaxy S10 to charge your Galaxy Buds or another phone
  • Here’s How: Send anonymous emails

Video highlights

Watch: Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 is a thin, light, USB-C-powered portable monitor that pairs perfectly with the company’s iconic matte black ThinkPads. The 14-inch, 1920×1080-resolution panel shines bright at a solid 300 nits, but it weighs only 1.3 pounds and measures only 4.6mm thick, so it won’t take up a lot of space in your travel bag.

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