back to article Galaxy S10's under-glass fingerprint reader, quelle surprise, makes mobe a right pain to fix

While many spend their first few hours with a new phone setting it up, teardown crew iFixit prefers to rip 'em apart. Their latest victim? The Samsung Galaxy S10. The specs for Sammy's latest and greatest may have leaked ahead of its debut at Mobile World Congress, but the contents of the notch-less wonder remained unknown. …

  1. The Original Steve

    So it's a point lower than the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, costs more and only now has a feature set to match it.

    Aware being smug isn't a a great attribute to have, but I'm rather pleased with my Chinese purchase back from Dec.

    Sorry Sammy, after being very disappointed with the S8 and being delighted with the Mate 20 Pro, you're going to have to up your game to win me back.

  2. whoseyourdaddy

    May have to give up IOS and switch teams.

    Less worry I'll end up with a handset that was messed with by newbs manning a mall kiosk.


  3. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Sooner or later they'll glue it all tight without leaving any empty spaces and announce it as not reparable.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm no fan of Samsung...

    ...but how likely is it for a fully-sealed/enclosed fingerprint reader to break during the average lifetime of a phone?

    The innovative touch sensor of the S10 proved impossible to extract from the screen, leading the gang to conclude that should the sensor break, the user is going to have to fork out for a new display.

    Seems like the risk is being somewhat overstated.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I'm no fan of Samsung...

      Yep, it's hard to fathom how the user will break the sensor without breaking the screen first. If the sensor malfunctions of its own accord then it can be replaced at Samsung's expense under warranty. This can be done within a day at a Samsung service centre, so if you live anywhere near a big city you don't even need to send the phone away.

  5. djstardust Silver badge

    Screen burn

    My Note 8 is 18 months old and has really bad screen burn. I rooted early on so doubt Samsung will replace it under warranty but that's also going to be a major issue for screen replacement going forward.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Screen burn

      You can but ask. I'm due to take my S8 in to have the screen replaced after going through the online chat process. They ask you to go to hardware test mode and describe the burn artifacts when the screen is displaying different solid colours, and they ask if your screen is physically damaged - but not if you rooted your phone.

      My burn resulted from a single game, presumably from me playing it in sunlight occasionally when the phone itself ramps up the display brightness. Had Samsung been more conservative with the adaptive screen brightness *and* you had disabled such a safeguard by rooting, then they might have grounds for refusing to fix your screen, but they weren't and you didn't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Screen burn

      I never got any burn on my Note 3... had it like 4+ years. But then again, I use/care for it in the proper way, as I know it's OLED and 110% brightness will kill it quickly.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Screen burn

        That's the thing: the phone ups the brightness of its own accord - into the red area of the brightness slider - in sunlight. Whilst I was aware theoretically of the risk of OLED burn-in, the phone displays no warnings so I'd assumed that its firmware was designed to mitigate the risk - akin to the firmware in OLED TVs that mitigate the risk of burning in images of broadcaster logos etc. In other circumstances the phone does a very good job of combining the history of my past manual brightness adjustments with the ambient light.

        Once Samsung replace the screen I will indeed be more cautious, and that'll be easy because it was only the one app, a game, that has left burn-in artifacts. I guess it comes from taking the occasional break from work to smoke a rollie and play a strategy game for ten minutes feeling the sun.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Screen burn

          I agree. I noticed the Note 9 does not copy the 3 in that regard. The 3 would up the brightness, but follow your/user request to keep it low. The 9 ignores that, and ignores the power limit in battery saver, and if you so much as catch the sun peeking through clouds (rare in the UK, I know ;) ), it will up brightness to H-Bomb levels.

  6. Ian Joyner

    Smaller is always harder to repair

    I usually criticise Samsung (they are a greedy hardware company trying to take over software, computing, and everything else), but repairability in small forms is difficult. If you want something repairable, get a boat anchor for under the desk, or a 1970s mainframe. Oh but the mainframe will cost you more – around £1 million. So what we get in these tiny packages for relatively little money is amazing.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Smaller is always harder to repair

      "I usually criticise Samsung (they are a greedy hardware company trying to take over software, computing, and everything else), but repairability in small forms is difficult"

      Perhaps so, but it wasn't that long ago that moist manufacturers managed it.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Smaller is always harder to repair

        Moisture does tend to royally fuck up electronic devices, unless caught in time.

        Icon PH as shes used to being both wet & hot (In some peoples minds anyway).

    2. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Smaller is always harder to repair

      Actually I do have a real boat anchor (bought it on a whim one day from eBay to match the room's somewhat nautical-themed decor) and I can honestly say it's never needed repairing. But my old (well, over two years is old these days) Sammy's not needed fixing so far either, and they still pump out OS updates for it on a fairly regular basis too.

    3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Smaller is always harder to repair

      My main phone is a Sony compact and gets an iFixit score of 6. And I can remember mechanical watches with tiny parts - in fact I still have a couple - which were waterproof and yet eminently repairable.

      I am pretty sure that, because sales are no longer increasing, manufacturers are trying to tempt with form factors and designs while increasingly making them disposable. Folding phones that cost a hell of a lot and won't last more than a year look an interesting way of extracting cash from rich early adopters. The idea of riveting the back of a phone to the works in such a way that a back replacement is charged out at £450 was marketing genius, of a sort.

      As the upper middle class gets richer and the lower middle class gets poorer, this kind of stratification of cheap and repairable and expensive and unfixable will probably only get worse.

    4. Ian Joyner

      Re: Smaller is always harder to repair

      I should add that making something repairable also makes it more likely that it will need repair. For example, having chips that are unplugable rather than soldered in are more likely to fail because of bad connection.

      In the early days of computing, components could easily fail and needed to be replaced easily. But these times are different – components are very reliable and rarely need replacing. Making them non-replaceable actually enhances reliability.

      Actually, most people would prefer reliability over repairability.

  7. doublelayer Silver badge

    Why I get disposable phones

    This is why I don't consider the repairability of phones when I buy them. I expect that they will work perfectly for some time*, and then they will develop a fatal mechanical problem. Whatever the problem is, the fixing of that problem requires the manufacturer or mall store of completely untested mechanical ability to tear the thing to shreds, substitute a part that always costs more than it should, and put it back together in such a way that it feels like it is coming apart at the seams and is likely to develop another mechanical fault soon.

    Meanwhile, if this is an android device, I fully expect that there will be no security updates let alone OS updates after a length of time, which makes the device more dangerous to use online due to all the "It's 2019, and a $something_simple can PWN your android phone" articles that get posted here semiregularly. So when I purchase a phone, I do my best to ensure that it is going to be able to run Lineage OS for continued updates, and that it does not cost enough that I'll be worried when something irreparable breaks without notice.

    *In my experience, phones tend not to develop these mechanical problems for quite a while if treated well. I have kept my devices long after the next few models have been released and, for android, all software support was dropped. When they eventually break, it's more useful to find a replacement rather than try to have them repaired.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Why I get disposable phones

      I owned a brand new Huawei once, bought half price at an EE shop for £35. It was surprisingly fine at calls, WhatsApp, maps, browsing etc, and if I dropped it I didn't worry.

      Now I have a pricey phone that lives in a tough case with a tempered glass screen protector. It's survived many drops into concrete, but a bit of worry is still there.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Why I get disposable phones

        I should note that despite my phone case - a Spigen Tough Armour that is a hard shell around a shock absorbing layer - my Galaxy S8 has taken a lot of drops, including bouncing down a cliff. The phone is unscathed so it would appear then that Samsung's use of glue is doing a good job of keeping the internal components together.

  8. NeilPost

    Fingerprint/Home button

    FaceID, Ultrasonic under glass sensor..

    .... both answers to questions no-one was asking. Same as removal of headphone sockets.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Fingerprint/Home button

      >>FaceID, Ultrasonic under glass sensor..

      Give you that, sort of. Both of them make sense for someone working in an office with the phone out in front of them. As I no longer work in an office, they offer me no benefits, but I'm sure somebody asked "how can someone in an office with the phone on the desk next to the keyboard turn on the phone without having to pick it up?"

      >>Removal of headphone sockets.

      Please, Sir, I know this one. The question was "How can we stop people buying cheap earphones and get them to buy much more expensive Bluetooth ones?"

      1. NeilPost

        Re: Fingerprint/Home button

        Yet Apple supply you with a free Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter...

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: Fingerprint/Home button

          Yet Apple supply you with a free Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter...

          Yes, that's a nice touch. If only they'd build it into the phone so you would always have it with you when you needed it ...

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Fingerprint/Home button

        >Please, Sir, I know this one. The question was "How can we stop people buying cheap earphones and get them to buy much more expensive Bluetooth ones?"

        Bluetooth headphones have fallen in price over the years, almost as if the silicon they are built around has fallen in price according to Moore's law. So I suspect it's a bit if both - yeah, Apple would rather you bought some pricey Bluetooth Beats, but at the same time a good number of users (not all by any means) had already abandoned wired headphones because Bluetooth earphones were cheap enough and they'd got fed up with detangling the bloody cables for the umpteenth sodding time.

        I ran into an Asda the other day to buy some earphones (it was near the train station and I had half an hour, I wanted to listen to a podcast on my journey). Wired were £4, Bluetooth were £6. Yeah, I bought the wired ones, but still - it shows that the disappearance of headphone sockets can't be explained purely by a desire to upsell users to Bluetooth headphones.

        Also, the last few pairs of wired earphones I've had have failed because I've caught the cable on something, or the cable has just died - making Bluetooth start to look like the cheaper option. Props to Samsung for using a *robust* 3.5mm socket though - the failure has always been in the earphones and not in the pricey phone. I once had a Creative Jukebox where the jack was soldered directly to the motherboard, leading to the inevitable failure.

  9. Conundrum1885

    Re. Fail

    The Note 4 wasn't too bad but apparently there is a design flaw or 3.

    One biggie is that if the USB connector ever breaks to get it out is a big pain.

    Also annoying: this phone gets severe screen burn.

    Possibly a design issue as they moved the heat spreader due to the S Pen so its possible to overheat the panel

    and I confirmed this with my IR thermometer: have pictures here showing another phone with "Measles".

    The thermal pads used on the chipset and other parts degrade over time eventually worsening the eMMC fail issue

    which appears to be caused by electromigration. Unfortunately Samsung can't fix it and they say its an EOL device

    but it still sucks when it randomly reboots and fails to come back on without a battery cycle.

    Patch may be to enable "Always-On" mode but this is a workaround not a fix.

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