The S23 Ultra and 5G Unlimited Plans: Is It Really Worth the $800$ a Phone? Is it a Cream Color Smartphone?
The best change is the S23 Ultra’s edges, which are far flatter than last year’s curvy S22 Ultra. The Ultra feels a lot nicer to hold than its predecessor, and the screen isn’t as sharp as it was on an iPad, but it’s still good. How the S23 lineup looks is something I am overwhelmed by. I still think the S21 had a sharper design language, with the camera module in an accent color. These new phones with their understated and accent-free camera array look like the textbook definition of a “smartphone”—they’re no doubt elegant, but there’s not much character.
If you buy through Verizon, you can get up to $800 off the S23 Ultra with an eligible trade-in on a 5G Unlimited plan — on top of a free Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Tab S7 FE. You can upgrade your storage to a free upgrade if you pre-order from us, and you can also get a free $200 eCard when you switch carriers.
It makes the S23 Ultra look a little bit boxier than the S22 Ultra. I like it. The late- ’80s were a good time to be in the cream color. I don’t know what else to say about it. It feels worthy of a high price tag.
Samsung S23 Ultra: Reusable Parts and Iterative Tricks to Launch a Mobile Device without a Getting a New Look
The rest of the camera experience is just as fantastic. Portrait mode photos look amazing, the Expert RAW camera app from Samsung gives you an insane amount of control over how your photos look thanks to professional controls and Adobe Lightroom integration, night mode helps in especially dark situations, and the ultra-wide camera remains wide enough to capture full landscapes without missing out on anything important.
iterative is a word that deflates the pomp around launch of a mobile device. Too often, a shiny, just-released phone fails to add anything exciting to the list of features we saw in the previous models. If there is a new trick, it’s cool, even if there isn’t, so there’s no need to upgrade.
The company has several hardware announcements, including the S23 series. The new laptops were unveiled at a major media event in San Francisco today, which was the first in-person event since the H1N1 flu epidemic. Everything that was announced at the show is here.
To make the screen tougher to scratch or crack, Samsung is employing Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus 2, a material that is purportedly more durable than Corning’s previous formulas and contains more post-consumer recycled material. Although Apple has used a material called STAINLESS STEEL for some of it’s phones, for others it’s still made from aluminum. The company says it has doubled the amount of recycled parts on the S23 Ultra, from the speaker module to the volume keys.
The WIRED ecosystem of Galaxy S23 and Apple Cell Phones: Where are we going? What do we need to know? An overview of the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus lineups
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When it comes to performance, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus models are powered by Apple’s in-house A15 Bionic chips, while the Pro and Pro Max use the A16. Samsung’s entire lineup, meanwhile, is powered by a specialized version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. When we review the new devices, we should see plenty of fast and top-tier performance similar to the ones that are found in the Apple A15 and A16 Bionic chips.
Lastly, you can’t compare Apple and Samsung phones without some mention of their respective operating systems. Samsung’s S23 phones ship with Android 13, while Apple’s iPhone 14 comes with iOS 16. Both are solid operating systems, and which you should choose often comes down to a matter of preference. Apple’s mobile operating system is known for its simplicity, while Android is particularly good when it comes to flexibility and customization. Then there’s the ecosystem of devices you’d be opting into to consider.
The main differences between the two lineups are just an overview. If you want to explore connectivity, storage options, and all of the raw specs in more detail, we’ve gathered them in the chart below.
Design-wise, the iPhone 14 lineup notably lacks the Galaxy S23’s physical SIM card tray. That’s because Apple’s new phones rely on eSIM technology (at least in the US), which theoretically is supposed to make it easier to switch between devices and plans. In practice, however, we found it’s complicated if you’re switching between Android and iOS, and while most major US cell phone networks support eSIM, not all do.
However, it’s important to note that more megapixels doesn’t translate into better photos — something we pointed out last year when comparing pictures taken with the S22 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro. The smaller the sensor, the more light the sensor picks up, and that results in a more manageable photo. It’s possible to take a 200- or 50-megapixel photo if you want to, but that kind of resolution is overkill for the average 4×6 print.
Comparison of Live Text, Text, and Visual Look Up in the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pro Max at 200 megapixels: How Cool is the Best 200MP Camera for Me?
There are many things that the two systems share, like Live Text that can grab text from videos and photos, and the ability to edit and untag sent messages. Some of the differences are small. The ability to addwidgets to the lock screen is not available on theAndroid phones. They also don’t come with Apple’s new drag-and-drop Visual Look Up tool, which lets you pull something from a photo and drag it into another app as a standalone object.
You can be questioning yourself, “what is the best 200MP camera for me?” It is a marketing tactic but it seems like pure overkill on the surface. The sensor uses a technology called pixel binning which groups a ton of the megapixels together to create larger pixels and produce smaller images. Smaller images with less than 12MP in size can be more detailed and give a better light show. It’s the same technique other phones like the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 use with their larger-than-average cameras.
Speaking of light glare, the S23 Ultra is brighter than the S22 Ultra, making it a lot easier to see in direct sunlight. The S22 Ultra could reach a peak of 1,300 nits, while the S23 Ultra can go up to 1,750 nits. Walking around sunny Manhattan earlier this month, I was easily able to see everything on the screen, even when I had my sunglasses on. The difference between the Ultra and Pro Max is indistinguishable, and the difference between the Ultra and Pro Max is a bit brighter.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra: an insanely-large 200MP camera with two cameras and two cameras, plus a camera app for the Android
You can also capture insanely-large 200MP photos. There’s a button in the camera app that lets you turn it on, and boy is it fun to play with. You won’t want to use it all the time since it’ll eat away at your storage a lot faster than normal photos, but if you want to capture something with a ton of detail or plan to print the photo after it’s taken, this is the mode to be in.
The buck isn’t done at the main camera. There are three additional channels: a 120 degree ultra-wide, a 10MP with 3x optical zoom, and a 10MP periscoping lens with 10x optical zoom. The optical image stabilization on the S22 Ultra is so good that it will make you believe your phone is on a tripod while taking zoom shots.
This is one of the best camera experiences you can have on a phone. The iPhone 14 Pro and thePixel 7 Pro both offer a lot of features, from sensor resolution and zoom capabilities to image quality and flexibility. It’s a little absurd just how good it is, which makes this $1,199 phone worthy of its “Ultra” name.
Those cameras sit on the back of a smartphone that’s pretty striking to look at. Samsung uses a frosted glass finish for the backplate and shiny aluminum rails for the sides, which looks plenty premium. The sides are flatter than they used to be, and that gives the device a similar look to previous Galaxy Note devices.
Content does not spill over as easily if the curves are reduced on the left and right sides. It is helpful if you have more room to draw with the S Pen. It is also a lot nicer to look at since you will not have to deal with light reflecting off the curves in the glass.
Geekbench Comparisons of the S23 Ultra and the OnePlus 11 Rechargeable All-Day Cellular Devices: a Comparative Study
The chart shows the Geekbench scores of the S23 Ultra and the OnePlus 11. The A16 Bionic in the Apple iPhone 14 Pro is still the most powerful chip, even though the 8 Gen 2 forGalaxy is a better chip.
All that is to say you can get through a day of moderate use with the S23 Ultra a little more comfortably, and it stands up a bit better to heavier use. If you plan on doing a lot of processor-heavy stuff like gaming or, I don’t know, measuring every room in your house in VR, then you’ll probably still need to recharge before the day is done. This is an all-day battery, a little more flexible than last year.
I fired up Asphalt 9 like I do with most phones I test, and it ran perfectly well. I didn’t experience any dropped frames or slow downs, and the phone stayed nice and cool.
Speaking of software, One UI 5.1 — based on Android 13 — is what you’ll get out of the box with the S23 Ultra. By far, this is the best version of Samsung’s skin I’ve come across. It’s nearly identical to One UI 5.0 in terms of functionality and looks (besides a few customization options for your lock screen and some changes in system apps), but it’s a lot more responsive and efficient this time around.
I used the Galaxy Z Fold 4 running One UI 5.0 for a good while, so I’ve got a feel for how snappy it was. In short, I really liked it, but it definitely felt a tad slower than Google’s Pixel software or Apple’s iOS. OneUI 5.1 makes that flip on its head, as the S23 Ultra is just as fluid and fast. Is it a new processor? The faster storage? Good old-fashioned software is what it is? Since the phone feels more responsive than any I have ever reviewed, I am going with the latter.
I don’t think most people will use a stylus given the option, even though I have been a fan of it. I was more likely to use the S pen than the S22 Ultra because I wanted to write something down. I think the redesign is more comfortable than the last one at the risk of giving it too much credit.
My typical day includes about four hours of screen-on time, and the S23 Ultra usually got me to the evening with somewhere around 30 percent left. That includes using the always-on display, which puts extra drain on the battery. I tried putting it through the wringer for a longer period of time, with lots of activity and camera use, but it didn’t work out. That knocked the battery down to about 25 percent by the end of the day. I came down with food poisoning the day before, which made it hard to use the phone, and I could have gone a little harder on the phone.
The Charged Galaxy S23 Ultra: A Brick in Your Pocket, and How Much of its Software Are You Paying for Its Own Apps?
The device is equipped with 45W fast wired charging which, while not the fastest you’ll find in the US, is ample to charge from zero to 50 percent in about 30 minutes. You can use 15W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging to charge your earbuds. Everything you need for juicing up was included in the package.
It is also very heavy. At 234 grams, it’s six grams lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max but also 22 grams heavier than the Pixel 7 Pro. A brick in your pocket is what this phone is.
It doesn’t pose a problem until you realize how many apps there are, which is when the S23 Ultra comes with all of its own apps. I counted 58 on my unit, and that doesn’t include other pre-installed apps like Microsoft 365 and Netflix. It eats up a fair amount of storage space, collectively reducing your phone’s overall capacity by about 20-30 gigabytes. It will feel like a waste of space for people who don’t use stock apps, and other people who prefer alternatives.
The advertisements in its own apps look and feel crummy, and are still being displayed. The amount of ads it shows has luckily decreased over previous Galaxy phones, but they’re still around. Samsung Pay and Galaxy Store like to advertise promotions from third parties, while the Samsung Members app regularly reminds me to preorder a Galaxy S23 Ultra… while I’m holding one.
$1,200 is a lot of money for a new phone, especially these days. If you can live without features like the 200MP camera and S Pen, the regular Galaxy S23 can be had for hundreds less and still gives you great performance, battery life, and software features. Similarly, Google’s flagship Pixel 7 Pro is almost always on sale, sometimes for $599 to $699 which is nothing short of an amazing deal.
That’s all good news. The bad news is that the device is very expensive at $1,200, a bit more expensive than the Apple’s $1,000 phone and a big leap from thePixel 7 Pro’s $899 starting price. There are some familiar sore spots with Samsung software, like its insistence on including its own app store in addition to Google’s. The camera system sometimes makes weird choices and comes up with a bad photo, although it can produce stunningly good images.
All that said, it is still a very big and relatively heavy phone. There is a 6.8 inches screen with a top 120Hz refresh rate. It is basically the same as last year. The embedded fingerprint sensor is unreliable and beats slower than the one I just used, but that’s my only complaint. Thankfully, face unlock is pretty speedy. With both biometric security methods enabled, I found that one or the other worked quickly enough.
There’s a lot more to a high-end phone, such as a robust IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, all flavors of 5G, wireless charging, fast 45W wired charging, and built-in storage of at least 512GB.
After 10 minutes of download of Genshin Impact, the phone was only marginally warm to the touch, but it ran much cooler than the first one. After doing something like that, the S22 Ultra was very uncomfortable to hold. There is a small hiccup as it loads more area data, but it is smooth.
Both worked perfectly on my 2016-era TV. And despite it being an older model, the TV connects to the S23 Ultra via SmartThings, too. From the SmartThings app on the phone, I have control of all the basic functions of the TV, like volume, channel, and source. I thought I had solved my need to get off the couch and find the remote. It’s unfortunate my TV doesn’t support mobile because it’s crucial to the feature. Looks like I’ll still need that remote after all.
Putting S23 Ultra to the Test with Digital Photo Capture and Re-Mosaic Filters for Better Tagging, Design, and Image Sharing
That happens less often with the S23 Ultra, but I still found at least one instance where the slight curve threw me for a loop. One of the templates in the notes app includes a left-aligned column of boxes to write in, but when I started writing in letters to mark days of the week, I had very little space to work with since the stylus kept running into the curve. I’m hoping for a totally flat display in 2024.
I’m also on a mission to reorganize my life, and I found it genuinely useful to replicate some of my running IRL to-do lists with digital ones pinned to my home screen. Has it made me more organized? The jury’s still out on that one. But it feels like a happy medium between the convenience of an app-based to-do list and the tactile experience of jotting down a note.
But the more interesting way that it works is by combining those pixels into groups and treating them as bigger individual pixels (a process called pixel binning) to improve image quality in less-than-great lighting conditions. In bright light, the sensor uses a re-mosaic algorithm to mimic a traditional color filters pattern and use pixels individually and capture more detail. Even when you’re in the default shooting mode, which downsizes images to 12 megapixels, you should see the benefits of all that extra detail capture.
It does a surprisingly good job and comes up with some nice images I find very pleasant to use on the photo sharing website. Would the Space Needle photo look great in an 8×10” print on my wall? Probably not. But it’s well beyond the “good enough” threshold for social media. Digital zoom has become a thing of the past.
Strange moments in low-light selfies of a very active toddler: A review of Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra-Review Camera Battery Screen Pencils
Low-light photos are generally fine, though I saw a couple of weird things happen in particularly challenging situations. In back-to-back portrait photos of my toddler taken at a Mexican restaurant, he looks distinctly orange in one and incredibly pale in the very next shot. Maybe the colored walls and light sources threw the camera for a loop, but whatever the reason, it took the photo seriously off the rails.
A couple of my low-light portraits have a bit of an unnatural HDR look about them, with over-brightened shadows. It’s a good idea to let the phone know when it’s truly dark enough for night mode.
It is still one of the top portrait modes in the game. It’s hands down the winner when it comes to subject isolation and manages to hang on to incredibly fine details like individual hairs. Background blur, especially on the 1x setting, still looks a little too uniform, producing that classic cardboard cutout look. It’s not as noticeable in 3x zoom portraits, which generally look fantastic.
You can record up to 8K/30p in the video, but I stuck to 4K for most of the time. Clips in good lighting show nice color and detail. Indoors, I saw a tendency to flatten dynamic range in a way that turns bright whites slightly gray. Bright colors can be oversexed. But it’s more than good enough to grab clips of a very active toddler, and I didn’t hear any complaints about video quality from his grandparents.
How often do you have to agree to use a top-tier smartphone? A short review of two of the most expensive smartphones on the market
It’s also not the most approachable device. All of those cameras, the deep menus, and, most of all, the steep price tag will put off a lot of people. And unless you really love Bixby, it takes a little fiddling to de-Samsung the software. You probably shouldn’t have to spend the time doing that on a $1,200 phone.
Smart devices now require you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use them. We can’t read and analyze all of these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.
I’m at point of no return. Just a few weeks ago, I reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy A14 5G, calling it a phenomenal phone that costs a mere $200, proving that you really don’t need to pay heaving wads of dough to get a great smartphone. It’s nice to spend $1,200 or $800 on a top-tier device, so I’m reviewing the two most expensive ones.
If you’re coming from a Galaxy S22 or S21 or any other flagship device released within the last two years, these new Samsung handsets don’t really give you a reason to upgrade. But if you have something older in your pocket, or a more wallet-friendly device that you feel offers a compromised experience, then you should definitely take a look.