Is it worth upgrading to Samsung Galaxy S20 phones right now? An Apple fan and a Samsung devotee find out

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

Yes, yes, it’s an odd time right now to be thinking if you need to upgrade your phone. But for those who are stuck at home with an ageing handset and some extra cash to spare (you should use it for necessities though), Samsung’s latest and greatest are legitimate options to consider. 

The Galaxy S20 series launched to much fanfare early last month, right before the coronavirus outbreak was even officially declared a pandemic. The S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra are Samsung’s flagship phones for 2020, and with them, flagship prices too at $1,298, $1,498, and $1,898 respectively. 

Expensive for sure, but the price of entry is justified with the wealth of premium features and hardware under their hoods. We could recite top-notch specs like Samsung’s AMOLED Infinity-O displays and Octa-core processors or sing hymns about 100x “Space Zoom” and 108MP sensors. 

But the real question hanging heavily in the air is this: would now be the right time to actually buy these gloriously spec-ed out smartphones? The prices are one thing, but we imagine that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is making the Galaxy S20 even tougher sells. Right now, Samsung really just wants people to start purchasing the phones — the company instituted a buy-back offer in the United States while over here, Samsung has its Trade Up program that will take in your old phone models to get discounted Samsung phones and tablets. 

Are these newfangled phones worth upgrading in this economy? It’s a question posed to two of our office's smartphone power users on different sides of the aisle: House iOS and House Android. Here’s what an iPhone fan (me) and a Samsung diehard (our social media manager, JayJay Lin) had to say about the Galaxy S20 series.

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

Jay Jay Lin / Team Android

Android just gives you full autonomy and control. 

I switched over from the iPhone 4 during my national service stint after I bought a camera-less Android phone for camp red zones. I realised how restrictive iPhones were. Remember when we had to sync everything through iTunes?  

Android lets you customise everything from the home screen and app drawer layouts, icons and its file system is built like a PC. I always go for Samsung because it offers top of the line phones for its price with strong camera systems, batteries, and RAM. Not to mention a great phone design with Edge Panel, which is a very cool concept. Samsung phones are great all-rounders if you can shell out the dough — otherwise, a OnePlus is a good alternative for more for less.

Typically I use my current S10+ to play games, watch YouTube and Netflix on the huge screen. I also get a lot of work done on Slack, Gmail, Chrome and Facebook. That’s why I’m really into the 120hz refresh rate on the S20 Ultra with its great screen real estate.

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

That being said, I don’t like the chunkiness of the Ultra — all that gear and a 5000mAh battery make it a really fat phone from front to back. 

The loss of the #WithGalaxy Instagram Story function is pretty disappointing too. Instagram on Android is really bad — it compresses the hell out of Instagram uploads (thus the Android meme). The #WithGalaxy native camera function bypasses that compression to upload full crisp, sharp, videos and images. 

That's probably why Appleheads think that iPhone has a better camera (lol sureeeeee). While the function being removed is a downside, buying a phone just so you have clearer Instagram stories (and worse native camera capabilities) is plain dumb.  

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

Would I upgrade to an S20 Ultra? Yes, if I strike TOTO. 

It's an upgrade in all regards. Faster processor, bigger battery (5000mAh on the S20 Ultra), 5G capability (but not really a big deal since there are no 5G connections here yet, anyway) a 108MP wide-angle camera, 8K video, 100X “Space Zoom” (albeit with very bad quality, but a step in the right direction — same as the first colour camera Nokia phones which had bad quality at first, but they paved the way for cameras in all phones.) 

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

Otherwise, no, my S10+ is still a very fine phone and it’s not lacking much in comparison (still multi-camera and 4200mAh is plenty). 

Price-wise, when I bought my S10+ a few weeks after launch, I got it at $1,100, whereas the S20 Ultra now (also few weeks after launch) can go for $1,450 brand new. It’s a $350 upgrade, which is quite a step up. But to be fair, the S20 Ultra is an entire tier above with a bigger screen and a bigger battery. A fairer comparison would be S10+ to S20+ — but if I were to upgrade, I'd go for the top tier.

Ilyas Sholihyn / Team iOS

You know, I used to laugh at people who get suckered into the Apple ecosystem until I realised that I’m slowly becoming one of them. Everything around my work and play life revolves around my trusty Macbook Pro (from 2015, with all the legacy ports, thank you) so naturally, I veered towards making sure everything works seamlessly with it. 

The iPhone, being my pocketable daily driver, is an extension of the Macbook and though Apple has a lot of s*** to answer for (insane prices, close-ended OS), the convenience of their devices working hand-in-hand together makes life much easier. 

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

I don’t really watch full-fledged movies on my iPhone 11 but YouTube gets used a lot whether I’m in bed or on the loo. I edit stuff quite a bit on the go via Google Drive, plus I read emails and scour the news on my daily commute before even stepping into the office. Photography is a big thing with me so my phone is always the first thing used when it comes to shooting content before editing stills and videos, also on the phone. 

As much as Apple likes to tout about the iPhone AR capabilities, I really don’t find much of use for it. Apple Arcade is pretty rad though.

But after two weeks on the S20 Ultra and S20+ got me yearning for 120hz refresh rates all day. Honestly, I don’t think I want to go back to any screen that doesn’t have that level of fidelity. You kinda take things for granted on the iPhone when it comes to screens and displays, but browsing pages and navigating the phone with slick buttery-smooth motion is a total red pill moment. Get to this level, Apple. 

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

Oh, and it helps that the edge-to-edge AMOLED display is gorgeous on the S20 phones with crisp and clear resolutions. I don’t really care if the battery drains faster — I just want beautiful scrolling. 

The much-lauded camera systems deserve to be lauded… with limits. The camera is great, believe me, and the big sensors within mean that it does well in the dark. Jumping from an iPhone however, I don’t get why phone cameras need to over-smoothen faces. Leave our blemishes and skin flaws alone, dammit. 

I thought I’d get a kick out of “Space Zoom” until I realised that who actually takes janky, semi-noisy images? Even if you can shoot from way, way far, I don’t see any reason why I’d want to do so. Samsung’s new “Single Take” mode — which utilises multiple functions like ultra-wide, live focus, filter, etc, at once — is pretty fun though. 

PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

What I definitely don’t like about Samsung’s new phones is a reasonable enough issue: they get too hot even on normal usage. I’m not sure if this is normal for past phones, but the overheating gets kind of annoying after about 10 minutes of heavy photo and video editing. Things really got roasting after using the S20 to shoot an uninterrupted 4K video for half an hour. 

Having used the Pixel 4 before and being a big fan of Google’s default Android hardware, I was pretty surprised that I prefer using Samsung’s devices. I don’t know, it could be that everything’s just prettier on the inside and the outside. It could clearly be that 120hz display.

But would I upgrade from an iPhone 11 to one of the S20 phones? It’s a tough call but it’d be a no. As much as the S20+ seems to be a perfectly fine-tuned phone for 2020, I’m probably too entrenched in the variety of exclusive Apple apps (Airmail, Fantastical) and I’m way too reliant on the editing suite on iOS (even though the camera is admittedly subpar).

The fact that things just look better on Instagram is a bonus.