Save money by getting a Galaxy S10 or an S10 Lite — but which one?

Last year's flagship

Samsung Galaxy S10

$710 at Amazon

Pros

  • Better overall camera system
  • Wireless charging
  • IP68 water resistance
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Cons

  • Smaller screen
  • Smaller battery
  • Slower wired charging

You know what you're getting with the S10: a complete package with every spec and feature that was top-of-the-line in early 2019. It's smaller than the S10 Lite, and a tad more expensive, but arguably the complete package is a better value.

Making trade-offs

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite

$650 at Amazon

Pros

  • Big, beautiful display
  • Huge battery
  • Same core specs and software as S10
  • 25W wired charging

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • No IP68 water resistance
  • No headphone jack

The S10 Lite has what it takes to justify its price in 2020, even with many 2019-era specs. Its huge screen and battery bring great value for the money, but it's missing out on key Samsung features makes it a tougher sell against the fierce competition.

The "value flagship" segment is growing in popularity as top-end phones get even more expensive. But when you're looking to save money, you also have the option of simply buying last year's flagships. So, is the Galaxy S10 or Galaxy S10 Lite a better buy?

Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S10 Lite: What's the difference?

Pictured: Galaxy S10.

As the name suggests, the Galaxy S10 Lite is another member of the S10 family — but it launched in 2020, a year after the original S10. In that time Samsung distilled down the entire S10 lineup to be represented by this single new phone, tweaking and removing various specs and features to make one affordable flagship based on the S10 series but at a lower price and new value proposition.

Samsung carried over most of the S10 experience to the Lite, which is a great thing.

Much of the experience is shared between these phones. The hardware quality and design is effectively the same, as is the screen quality — and both are great. You get a Snapdragon 855 processor in both, with the same 8GB of RAM available and same base 128GB of storage, leading to equivalent performance out of Android 10 with Samsung's One UI 2 improvements. Functionally, in day to day use, you won't notice much difference (if any) between these phones — and that's a good thing.

Galaxy S10 Galaxy S10 Lite
Operating system Android 10
One UI 2
Android 10
One UI 2
Display 6.1-inch AMOLED, 3040x1440 6.7-inch AMOLED, 2400x1080
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 128/512GB
MicroSD
128GB
MicroSD
RAM 8GB 6/8GB
Rear camera 1 12MP, OIS, f/1.5 or f/2.4 48MP, OIS, f/2.0
Rear camera 2 12MP, OIS, f/2.4 telephoto 5MP, f/2.4 macro
Rear camera 3 16MP, f/2.2 ultrawide 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera 10MP, f/1.9, auto focus 32MP, f/2.2
Battery 3400mAh 4500mAh
Charging Fast Charge wired (15W)
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (12W)
Fast Charge wired (25W)
Audio Stereo speakers
3.5 mm headphone jack
Single speaker
USB-C
Water resistance IP68 No
Security In-display fingerprint sensor In-display fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm
157 g
162.5 x 75.6 x 8.1 mm
186 g

Pictured: Galaxy S10 Lite.

Counterintuitively to its "Lite" moniker, the S10 Lite isn't small — with a 6.7-inch display, it's considerably bigger than the standard S10, and even larger than the S10+. It isn't as thick and heavy as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, for example, but it's quite large and that could turn some people away. On the other hand, getting more size for the money is one of the biggest factors for a lot of people buying value-focused phones.

You're getting a bigger phone with a much bigger battery, but missing out on features and cameras.

The larger size also offers the S10 Lite considerably more battery — 4,500mAh is one-third larger than the S10's battery, which makes a huge difference. It charges up faster, too, with 25W wired charging. However, you lose wireless charging here, long a mainstay of Samsung phones. You're also losing both IP68 water resistance and a headphone jack compared to the S10, which again are great features that can be tough to give up — particularly that water resistance.

The other corner cut on the S10 Lite is in the cameras. It has a pretty standard combination of a 48MP main sensor (that bins down to take 12MP photos) with a pair of secondary cameras to take ultrawide and macro shots. The main sensor is pretty good, but it isn't as capable as Samsung's top-end camera from 2019; and the macro isn't a good replacement for a dedicated telephoto camera on the S10. The S10 Lite takes good photos, fitting its price, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily a head-to-head match for a 2019 flagship.

Which should you buy?

If you're looking for the biggest phone with the biggest battery for the best price, the Galaxy S10 Lite is a good choice. It offers most of the same experience as the S10 with those key adjustments.

The S10 Lite offers decent value for a specific buyer, but this segment is crowded with great choices.

There is, of course, nuance to these decisions — it isn't always a simple calculation of screen size per dollar. The S10 Lite is missing key features of the S10, like water resistance, wireless charging, a headphone jack, and a full suite of quality cameras. That puts the S10 Lite in a really weird position.

At this price, you expect most, or all, of those features to be present — and they are, in the regular S10 for roughly $50 more. If you go with the Galaxy S10 you're getting a smaller phone with shorter battery life, but it can easily be argued that its extra features and better cameras are worth the trade-off.

At the same time, there are other value-focused competitors like the OnePlus 8 for $700 (or last-generation OnePlus 7T for $500, or Pixel 4 XL for $600 that in many ways beat out the S10 Lite for overall value. The Galaxy S10 Lite doesn't exist in a vacuum, and there are lots of other great choices out there for similar money. Look at very specific specs and features you desire, and make a choice from there — some will still land on the S10 Lite, others will pick a competitor.

Last year's flagship

Samsung Galaxy S10

$710 at Amazon

Last year's flagship is still worth a look today

The S10 isn't new anymore, and its smaller screen and battery aren't as appealing. However, it still has every spec and feature that made it worth hundreds of dollars more in early 2019, and that offers good value for money today.

Making trade-offs

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite

$650 at Amazon

A focus on size for money leaves a few features behind

The S10 Lite offers good value with a huge screen and battery and most of the S10 experience. Unfortunately, you lose out on core tenets like wireless charging, water resistance and a headphone jack — while charging almost the same as an S10.



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