It’s time to wrap up this weird and mostly unpleasant year with something fun and pleasant – Samsung’s report card for 2020. What it did good, what it did not as good, and what it perhaps could have done.
It’s important to say this before we go on – the Korean company had a stellar year and even the its “losers” product are pretty solid. They’re just not on the level of Samsung’s “winners” this year.
Loser: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
In late 2020, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is an absolute win. It has arguably a better periscope zoom camera than the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, the same processor, a big and fast display and a perfectly-functioning 108MP camera thanks to a number of software updates, issued over the months it has been on the market. And the exorbitant price Samsung demanded for the Galaxy S20 Ultra in March has gone down to more palpatable levels. A bonus point is that the Galaxy S20 Ultra is already running Android 11 with OneUI 3.0.
But at the time of its release the Galaxy S20 Ultra was plagued with focusing issues on its main camera, an overall unimpressive imaging output, lackluster battery life from the 5,000mAh battery and a price that, with the issues standing, put off a lot of people.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra
Samsung had ample time to fix all of those issues in time for the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. It was the first Galaxy with the LTPO display that could refresh at different rates (not at a constant 120Hz) and so had better endurance with a smaller battery than the previous Ultra.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra gained a laser autofocus module on the main camera, had the best S Pen to date, with a reduced response time that made writing feel as if you are using real paper.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra has since gone down in price and is now a true deal, if you want the best of Samsung’s conventional (read non-folding) flagships. But a month away from the Galaxy S21 series’ announcement, it’s better to hold off on buying one.
Loser: Samsung Galaxy Note20
Another good phone that Samsung condemned from the very beginning. Great on its own, the Galaxy Note20 was seriously outgunned by the Note20 Ultra and premiered with an absurd €950 price for the 4G model (€1,050 for 5G), which nobody was willing to pay.
The Galaxy Note20 is down to around €620 right now, at which price it’s more than reasonable. If you can live without a fast refresh rate screen, which is something many don’t care about, you’ll even be rewarded with excellent battery life.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2
You knew this was coming, right? And of course it’s a win. The first Galaxy Fold was a revolutionary phone, but it felt like a prototype. The first 30 seconds with the Galaxy Z Fold2 immediately make it clear that this foldable is ready for daily work.
The new hinge is study and reassuring, the display, while still plastic, is more robust and came with pre-applied protector and there were no critical flaws to hinder the experience.
Not least of all the Galaxy Z Fold2 has gone down to near-acceptable prices in some markets like Europe, bringing the dream of owning a foldable to reality at least a year early.
Loser: Exynos 990
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 was already better than Samsung’s Exynos 990. Then the US company released a Plus version in the second half of the year, which scores 15% higher on Geekbench 5’s multi core, and around 15% higher on AnTuTu.
Some users have found that the Snapdragon 865-equipped Galaxy S20 and Note20 devices have better battery life than their Exynos 990 counterparts. The difference isn’t huge, but is there.
Looking ahead to 2021 and the Galaxy S21 family and it looks like the tables may turn in the other direction. Early reports show the Exynos 2100 outpacing the Snapdragon 888. We’ll see in about a month.
Loser: Galaxy S10e’s successor
Last year Samsung released the Galaxy S10e, a tiny flagship that catered to the small-phone lover. This year Samsung went Ultra and forgot about the mini. The Galaxy S20 is reasonably compact, but it’s huge compared to the S10e or the iPhone 12 mini.
Samsung could have made the only tiny powerful phone for the better part of the year, but it didn’t and now Apple has the only truly powerful small phone of 2020.
Winner: Samsung’s A and M lines
Since reworking its midrange lineup Samsung has made some excellent phones with a superb bang for buck ratio. This year its midrange got better than ever with meaningful sequels like the Galaxy M51 with a 7,000mAh battery and the Galaxy A51 and A51 5G.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Last but definitely not least is the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. An amazing value for money, the Galaxy S20 FE has it all – a Snapdragon 865 (no Exynos here), lovely high-refresh rate display, superb battery life and a capable triple camera. Add to that the touch of flare thanks to a myriad of color options and you’ve got one of the best phones of the year, easily.