Why would a Galaxy S10 Lite exist? What would its price be?
“But wait! We already have a cheaper Galaxy S10 - it’s the Galaxy S10e”
True, true. As it stands, the Galaxy S10e costs $749, the Galaxy S10 is $899, and the Galaxy S10+ is $999. But that portfolio isn’t great for Samsung, especially after Apple turned the market on its head this September. Let’s just ponder that for a while
The Apple switcheroo
iPhone X in 2017, which launched with a starting price of $999 — a pretty outrageous number back then. Wouldn’t you know it, however, the market followed suit. And suddenly everyone was trying to push $1k smartphones.
Why? Because sales are down. Smartphones have hit such a point in their evolution that you can hang on to your premium handset for 3 to 4 years and still get a very good experience. Kind of like laptops, they don’t require to be upgraded every year or two. This, naturally, meant that companies needed to up the margin if they were to keep the revenue growth.
But just boosting prices out of the blue wasn’t going to cut it. So manufacturers started diversifying their flagship lines. Apple, again, spearheaded this with 2018’s iPhone XR. It had a starting price of $749, which was way, way cheaper than the $999 iPhone XS. The phone felt kind of gimped — with just one camera, no 3D Touch, and a LED display instead of the OLED panel.
Still, it was extremely successful, since the general userbase doesn’t care that much about OLED, 3D Touch, or a telephoto lens. The phone had what it needed — the new Face ID, a large screen, a good app ecosystem, fast performance, and good picture quality.
Then, it 2019, Apple dropped a much bigger bomb. The iPhone 11, which is the successor of the XR, starts at an even lower price of $699. It does have a secondary camera — an ultra-wide-angle one since that is proving to be very popular as of late — and iOS 13 has been completely designed with no 3D Touch in mind. That’s because even the $999 iPhone 11 Pro doesn’t have 3D Touch. The phone offers most of the features and the same hardware power of the bigger models.
And — here is the very important part — in all presentations and marketing, the iPhone 11 is pushed as “the iPhone”. Instead of it being the “offshoot, budget model”, Apple is presenting it as the flagship. And it looks the part too — whether you like the notch or not, the iPhone 11's Face ID gives it the iPhone identity. The Pro models are “the spinoffs for those that want more and are willing to pay more”. This is key. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been dreading that we will need to spend $1k if we want a flagship. Apple just came out and said “Oh, no. Here — this is the iPhone. That’ll be $700, just like 3 years ago.” Rest assured that the iPhone 11 will absolutely break the sales meter after the holiday season rolls around.
Samsung was left out to dry
Galaxy S10e is miles away from the main Galaxy S10 model. It "only" has two cameras (wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle) and it has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner instead of an in-screen one. It doesn't have the signature curved screen, which instantly makes it not look like a Samsung flagship. One can easily ignore these problems, but here comes the big one — the phone's screen is just small (5.8 inches, 19:9 ratio), and small phones, while they do have a small set of fans, are just not what the majority of the market wants. The S10e does not feel like the Galaxy. It feels like the cheaper offshoot.
Then, there is the Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10+ duo. The Note 10 was just a slap in the face of the Note brand fans — a lack of a microSD card slot, a lower resolution, no ToF camera. Again, these don’t sound like big problems on their own, but keep in mind that Samsung has always marketed the Note line as the phone for the people who want it all — the most advanced technology, all the features, everything that can possibly fit in there. At $949, the Note 10 just felt like a cut-down version that only exists to push you to buy the $1,099 Note 10+.
TL; DR. What’s the Galaxy S10 Lite? Price?
So, essentially, the only answer that Samsung has for the iPhone 11 is the Galaxy S10e, and that’s just not going to cut it. Remember, the 11 is the iPhone — it has the hardware, it has the software, it has the same Face ID as on the expensive models, and it has a large screen, which most people want. The Galaxy S10e doesn’t have the in-screen fingerprint scanner, it’s small and cramped, it’s not even marketed as “the Galaxy S10”, and costs $50 more than “the iPhone”.
So, what is Samsung to do? The shopping season is coming up and it’s going to be a massacre. It can’t just permanently drop the price of the regular Galaxy S10 (outside of special promo day deals), since that’ll cause an uproar. Customers that already bought it will feel cheated and the userbase will start questioning if there was an unjustified price inflation to begin with.
No, no, we need a new model. Preferably with all the lessons learned — cut corners very carefully. The leaks already suggest that the phone will come with the powerful Snapdragon 855 and a whopping 8 GB of RAM. It will probably not have a curved Edge screen, since that costs a ton to produce and it will be a nice differentiator between the S10 and S10 Lite. In order to give it some sort of "Samsung identity", it'll probably have that Infinity O cutout — the selfie camera will be in the top center, like on the Galaxy Note 10.
Most probably, the Galaxy S10 Lite will look very similar to the Galaxy S10e — same shape, same design language, a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, but a bigger, more comfortable screen — probably around 6.4 inches (19:9 ratio), though rumors suggest up to 6.7 inches. There will either be a dual camera setup, mirroring the S10e's wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle cameras, or a triple cam setup, but the third one will be a depth sensor, added "for looks" with no actual telephoto lens. Its price can’t drop below the S10e, so I assume it will meet it at $749 with very generous “turn in your old phone” deals on day 1. As for release — "as soon as possible" is the best guess here. Samsung probably wants to create some buzz and gain some momentum before the holiday season comes.
Keep in mind this is pure speculation and there’s the possibility that the Lite might not even make it to the US market. But I would absolutely not be surprised if the Galaxy S11e (or however it ends up being called) is something like this, with a 2020 processor upgrade and an even lower, $700 price-tag.