Opinion

How’s it been like living with the Galaxy Note 10 for the past 8 months?

I’ve been a proud owner of a Galaxy Note 10 for about 8 months now. The reasons why I chose this model over the Galaxy Note 10+ have been detailed before. I’m 8 months in and I have yet to regret my decision. I always thought the additional ToF sensor was a gimmick, and it looks like Samsung may have reached this conclusion as well.

In any case, the Galaxy Note 10 has been a great mobile companion to me, but it’s not been perfect. Nevertheless, there are only a couple of things I dislike about the phone, and they pretty much boil down to my subjective experience. So without further ado, let’s get started with the software.

The software got better, I love Samsung’s One UI / apps

So, how has been like living with the Galaxy Note 10 for pe past 8 months, software-wise? Pretty good, actually, and the experience only got better in time thanks to One UI 2.1 and various first-party app updates.

I must give the company credit for delivering a solid software experience overall. I prefer using Samsung’s default apps to other solutions, and this means a lot. I use Samsung Internet over any other mobile browser, and I never felt like My Files needed a replacement. Contacts, Phone, Calendar, Clock, and other apps from Samsung work fine for me. I rely on Samsung Email daily instead of the Gmail app, and all in all, I never wanted to replace One UI with a different launcher.

I think Bixby Routines is a fantastic feature and I never felt like installing a third-party solution to satisfy my IFTTT desires. Likewise, the Phone Screen feature in Microsoft’s Your Phone app has been very useful sometimes, particularly when sending messages from my phone via my computer.

Samsung Daily also seems to be a superior solution to Bixby Home, but I will admit I don’t use either. I think Samsung Daily could be nice when commuting because it aggregates news and information and provides a distraction, but I rarely commute, so I never find the time to use it.

As you all know, the Galaxy Note 10 shipped with Android 9 but got updated to Android 10 with One UI 2.1. There are no complaints here. The UI got better and various apps got minor but various additions as well. Overall, I’m very happy with how the software experience has been steadily improved through firmware and app updates over the past 8 months.

Accidental touch rejection remains an issue, but using a case ‘fixes’ it

While the overall software experience got better, the accidental touch issues caused largely by the edge display and its thin bezels persist to this day. Perhaps there weren’t enough people complaining about this for Samsung to address it via software, or maybe it’s just the edge display’s design making this an inherent problem. More on that later.

Although I would prefer using my Note 10 without a case, this accessory became an important part of my experience. It helped me get around this touch rejection issue. If you’re wondering, I’m using the SamMobile case which you can get for free if you sign up for a SamMobile premium plan. Aside from preventing accidental touches near the edges, it also saved my phone from a couple of accidental drops.

I do feel like slapping a case on a beautiful phone like the Galaxy Note 10 is a bit of a shame. Especially when it flaunts the eye-catching Aura Glow finish like mine does. I sometimes remove the case just to remind myself of how slim the bezels are and how nice the paint finish is. Yet I always end up putting the case back on, after I clean off the inevitable fingerprint smudges left on the back panel.

Granted, this is more of a general problem with most smartphones today, especially those wrapped in glass. Their beauty is seldom seen because people will protect their investment with a case, and who can blame them given today’s flagship prices? But the persisting accidental touch issues are just another reason for me to use a case on my Galaxy Note 10, and I wish it wasn’t so.

The more time goes by, the more I dislike the edge display

Although the Galaxy Note 10’s display is fantastic in terms of resolution, color reproduction, brightness and so on, the curved edge design is something I could do without. Granted, it helps the futuristic design, but after 8 months of usage, I came to the conclusion that it’s the worst design decision Samsung could’ve made for an S Pen device. Not only does it contribute to the aforementioned accidental touch issues, but it also makes the S Pen experience just a little less enjoyable.

I learned living with it, but I always feel like the S Pen will slip off the Note 10 screen whenever I push it too much near the edges. This is always in the back of my mind and it spoils the experience, even if to a small degree. There’s simply no clear indication as to where the display starts to curve, unless the screen is turned off. In real-life usage, I kind of have to feel where the display starts curving with the tip of the S Pen, and it’s never a pleasant experience. I’m not saying the edge display isn’t nice in some capacity, but I really think it’s a poor match for the S Pen.

That’s not to say I dislike the Edge panel, i.e., the software side of things. I actively use three Edge panels, namely Apps, Weather, and Tools. I like a clean home screen, and the Edge panels help me achieve this. The Edge panels hark back to the positive software experience I’ve had with the phone, and I would really miss this feature if Samsung would remove it in future One UI versions.

I forgot all about Air Actions

Samsung made a big deal about the Galaxy Note 10 featuring a brand new S Pen equipped with a gyroscope. Yes, it does have a gyroscope, but I kind of forgot about this characteristic until I was writing this opinion and got reminded of it. And although this article is a collection of subjective opinions, I think at least part of my forgetfulness is on Samsung’s shoulders.

The only way the gyroscope comes into play with the Galaxy Note 10 S Pen is through Air Actions, and outside of testing the feature many months ago, I never made real use of it. It sounds nice on paper, but I’ve deemed it a gimmick a long time ago. Meanwhile, Samsung didn’t do much to change my perspective. I think these S Pen gestures can be useful only in highly unlikely situations when you might want to do a PowerPoint presentation from your phone. I never found myself in this scenario, so Air Actions has been rather useless to me.

Air Actions/the gyroscope can also be useful if you want to take pictures from afar, as the S Pen doubles as a remote shutter button. But have I always used this instead of a timed photo? No, not really. Practical uses are very limited, and because of this, I tend to forget about Air Actions altogether. I captured timed photos on a few occasions before realizing I could’ve used the S Pen as a remote for the Camera. And while you could argue that I’m the one being forgetful, I do feel like Samsung contributed to the feature’s obscureness by not exploiting its potential 8 months down the line. It’s a shame, because a gyroscope inside an S Pen opens up a lot of opportunities to explore, but Samsung never did explore them.

Let’s talk more about my S Pen experience

I’m kind of on the fence about the S Pen, but before you write your hate comments below, allow me explain myself. I absolutely do not think Samsung should abandon the S Pen – in fact, I’m of the opinion that it would go perfectly with more devices like the Galaxy Fold. Personally though, I have to really ask myself whether or not I’d miss the S Pen if I were to switch to, say, the Galaxy S21. I think I would, but I’d also probably get over it relatively quickly.

I guess this boils down to the type of workflow I have on a daily basis. It simply doesn’t require an S Pen. Outside of that, I would likely miss the ability to jot down shopping lists and the ease with which I can edit photos with the S Pen as opposed to using my fingertip. But I don’t think it would take much time for me adjust to its absence considering I’m far from an avid photographer. Would I be willing to put this to the test? Maybe not, and perhaps I will stick to the Note series for a few more years because of this. Nevertheless, there are plenty of S Pen applications that I simply stopped caring about over the past 8 months.

I think the S Pen can be a great tool for aspiring artists, but I’m not one

If you’re an aspiring or professional digital artist and you’re looking for a simple and portable solution for creating rough sketches and storyboards on the go, I think the S Pen adds real value to your mobile experience. Personally, I don’t sketch/draw/paint as much as I used to, so all I can do is idealize the S Pen’s potential for (mobile) artistry.

I strongly believe the S Pen remains a valuable component for the Note series, but your mileage will vary as far as practical uses go. I am certain some user types can get real value out of it, but I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of other Galaxy Note owners who seldom pull the S Pen out of its slot. And once again, Samsung is in part responsible for this, I think.

To put it bluntly, there’s quite a bit of junk (or bloatware if you prefer) comprising the S Pen suite of apps, and Samsung could improve the experience with meaningful additions and fewer unnecessary apps and/or app shortcuts. Be honest; how many of you consider Magnify and Live Messages to be vital components to the S Pen experience? And while we’re at it, do we really need a special Coloring app/shortcut for PENUP, or a separate Write on calendar app which is nothing more than a shortcut to the existing ‘Edit’ button inside the Calendar app? The S Pen suite of apps just feels a little bit cluttered sometimes.

Performance is great, fingerprint scanner does (marginally) improve in time

I’m happy to say I’ve never experienced any performance issues during my 8 months living with the Galaxy Note 10. Still, I should clarify that I seldom play mobile games. I’m not into Battle Royales so I can’t say anything about how Fortnite or PUBG have been performing on this device over the months.

In day-to-day use, however, performance has always been top-notch for me. No lag in the UI, no choppiness, and thankfully, I haven’t experienced any problems post-firmware update(s). I do own the Exynos version so performance might degrade in time, but so far it’s been smooth sailing.

Fingerprint recognition is still a bit of an oddity. Sometimes it works great, other times it fails to register. But the rate of success is definitely higher than the rate of failure, and the more you use a fingerprint, the better it gets. Maybe it’s part placebo, or it’s simply me becoming more used to the small sensor’s placement in time, but I do think the sensor experience got a bit better. Perhaps not in terms of speed, but reliability.

Interestingly, I’m not bothered by the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. I fully understand why some people would be, especially for a budget/mid-range phone, and also considering the prices carried by decent wireless earbuds. But I don’t really miss the 3.5mm jack. Besides, the USB-C earbuds included with the Galaxy Note 10 have been treating me just fine. Similarly, I never felt like the lack of a microSD slot was a problem. 256GB has been plenty enough for me, but again, I’m not much of a photographer/video maker, nor do I play many mobile games. But even if I was, I still think 256GB is enough for the vast majority of smartphone users.

Summary / the TL;DR version

So, how has it been like living with the Galaxy Note 10 for the past 8 months? Am I happy with this flagship? Definitely, and I feel no need to swap it for a Galaxy S20, even though I will admit I’m a bit envious of the 120Hz display.

Have I made the right choice when buying the standard Note 10 instead of the Note 10+? I think so. I don’t have buyer’s remorse whatsoever, and all of the points I made 8 months ago are still valid in my opinion. Mind you, it’s not a perfect phone. I dislike some aspects like the edge display and the somewhat lackluster S Pen experience, but the software is great and I love Samsung’s One UI and its first-party apps. The phone’s design is as striking as ever, even though I ended up covering it with a case. Performance has never let me down.

After spending 8 months with the Galaxy Note 10, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to others, even if they’re not avid stylus/S Pen users. It’s still a great phone without the S Pen, and those relatively few use cases when the S Pen comes in handy for me are quite satisfying. But if you’re a digital artist/photo editor, the S Pen is likely to become your favorite thing about this device (maybe when coupled with a few third-party apps). Let’s put it this way: if you often work with a stylus as part of your profession, or you do a lot of photo editing on the go, or you’re an aspiring digital artist, you are bound to get more value out of the Galaxy Note 10 S Pen than me.

At the same time, I think Samsung can improve the formula. I wish the company would drop the S Pen bloat and develop more meaningful features around this one key characteristic that sets the Note series apart from every other phone on the market. Focus less on gimmicks like Air Actions or, preferably, make better use of the S Pen’s internal gyroscope in more varied ways.

I maintain my opinion that a flat/flatter panel would work better for the Galaxy Note. Looking back at the past 8 months, I don’t think the edge display has added any real value to my user experience. And while the curved display was sort of a conversation starter a few years ago, it has become more common in recent times, especially among OEMs from China. People won’t be as surprised by this design as they used to. I’m hoping the Galaxy Note 20 will have a flatter panel similar to the Galaxy S20.


Are you a Galaxy Note 10 / Note 10+ user? How has your experience been so far? Do you agree with any of the above? If you don’t, just keep in mind that this is an opinion post based solely on my own experience with the device, and we probably have different daily routines. Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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