The Galaxy S23: What’s New, What Has Old, and What Does It Mean to Renew? A Comparative Analysis of Three Galaxy Models to Mark 2023
Samsung has three new flagship smartphones to mark 2023—the Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra. They’re available for pre-order now and will be on sale February 17. But should you upgrade? Which model of phone is best for you? We break down what makes each model different, what’s new, and which one is right for you. We’ve also featured a few of the best Galaxy S23 promotions from Samsung and mobile carriers so you can get the most out of your purchase.
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. Preordering via Verizon also gets you a free storage upgrade, and those switching from another carrier get a free $200 Verizon eCard.
Whereas the Galaxy S22 features a fairly large housing for its three camera lenses, the new S23 models are completely seamless on the back. Sure, the new camera lenses are bigger and stick out more, but I personally prefer the bump-free design. This look does a great job of highlighting the lavender and cream color choices that I tested, which offer just enough pop while still being slick and subdued. If those colors aren’t your thing, you can also nab the phone in green, Phantom Black, graphite and lime, the latter two of which are exclusive to Samsung’s website.
The rest of the camera experience is just as fantastic. The Expert RAW camera app from SAMSUNG gives you an insane amount of control on how your photos look in portrait mode, with professional controls, night mode, and a wide-angle camera, and the camera still remains wide enough to capture full landscapes.
The launch of a phone is often referred to as iterative. A shiny phone that doesn’t add anything exciting to the list of features we have seen in previous models is usually a bad thing. If there is a crazy new trick, it’s gimmicky; if there isn’t, well, there’s probably no need to upgrade, right?
The company has a variety of hardware announcements, including the S23 series. At its big media event today in San Francisco—the first in-person Galaxy Unpacked since the pandemic—Samsung also unveiled a whopping five new laptops, all of which are badged with the new Galaxy Book3 name. Here’s everything Samsung announced at the show.
To make the screen tougher to scratch or crack, they are using a material that is supposedly more durable than before and contains more post-consumer recycled material. And while Apple has long used stainless steel for its iPhone Pro models, a choice which improves those phones’ durability and scratch resistance, Samsung’s phones are weirdly all still made from aluminum. The S23 line does have more recycled components than last year, however; the company says it has doubled the number of recycled parts on the S23 Ultra to 12, from the speaker module to the volume keys.
How much do you need to upgrade your Galaxy? Comparing Apple and Samsung’s iPhone 14 and S23 phones for a photo of NYC skyscrapers
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The three phones all share the same set of features, such as the 120-Hz AMOLED screens hitting 1,750 nits of peak brightness. This is a feature that’s often overlooked; a high brightness makes it so much easier to read the screen when you’re outside on a sunny day. Too often my fiancée has to squint at her Pixel phone, and that’s never a problem here. (It also gets pretty darn dim for anyone who appreciates low brightness at bedtime.)
Lastly, you can’t compare Apple and Samsung phones without some mention of their respective operating systems. Apple’s iPhone 14 and the S23 phones ships with either iOS 16 or 13, while the S23 phones only ships withAndroid 13. Both are solid operating systems, and which you should choose often comes down to a matter of preference. Apple’s operating system is known for its simplicity, but it is also a good choice when it comes to flexibility and customization. Then there’s the ecosystem of devices you’d be opting into to consider.
It is at night when the extra millimetres make a difference. Because they’re binned, the pixels are far larger than on other phones, which results in more light intake. This photo of a neon sign is sharper and more lifelike on the S23 Ultra than it looks on the iPhone 14 Pro. In a similar vein, the shots of the skyscrapers in New York City show a close-up view of what I saw beyond the confines of my camera.
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. It is not easy if you want to change from one phone platform to another, and most major US cell phone networks aren’t compatible with eSIM.
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. A more manageable 12-megapixel photo is achieved when the camera sensor bins the pixels together to improve light. 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.
The S23 Ultra: A Better Camera for Video and Photo Shooting with the Apple S23 Microlensing System (S23 Ultra)
The Live Text feature that can grab text from videos and photos is one of many similarities between the two. Some of the other differences are minor. Despite its plethora of customization options, for instance, Android phones lack the ability to add widgets to the lock screen. 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 may be asking yourself, “what do I need a 200MP camera for?” It seems like a marketing tactic that is pure overkill and therefore it is. The sensor uses a technology called pixel binning which involves grouping a lot of the images together to create larger images and smaller ones. Smaller images, with a default size of 12MP, can take advantage of the extra detail and light provided by the sensor. It’s the same technique other phones like the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 use with their larger-than-average cameras.
Video quality is also great. Tech reviewers widely consider the iPhone to be the best for taking videos, myself included. The S23 Ultra can provide you with shots that go toe to toe with clips captured on the latest Apple smartphones, including some that best it. I recorded a couple of 4K, 30 frame-per-second clips during a recent trip to New York and compared them to my iPhone, and I was surprised to find that the quality was nearly equal. I believe the S23 Ultra makes the iPhone an even closer race because it is a better shooter.
You have the ability to take very large 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.
Of course, the buck doesn’t stop at the main camera. There are three more lens: a 12MP 120-degree ultra-wide, a 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom and a 10MP periscoping telephoto lens. There is one major improvement to the cameras that are essentially the same as S22 Ultra: optical image stabilization, which is so good that you would think your phone was on a gimbal when taking zoom shots.
This is one of the best camera experiences you can find on a phone. This phone has a lot of different qualities, from sensor resolution and zoom to image quality and flexibility, but it’s second only to the Pixel 7 Pro. The $1,199 phone is deserving of its name, because it is so good.
The back of the phone has some cameras on it. Samsung uses a frosted glass finish for the backplate and shiny aluminum rails for the sides, which looks plenty premium. The sides are very similar to previous devices, which is because they are a lot flatter.
For this generation, Samsung reduced the curves on the left and right sides so that content doesn’t spill over as easily. It’s especially helpful with the S Pen, since you have more room to draw. It’s also just a lot nicer to look at — whether you’re watching a movie or playing a game — since you won’t have to deal with light reflecting off the curves in the glass.
Superpowering the Galaxy S23 Ultra with One UI 5.1 and the Galaxy Z Fold 4: A Geekbench Comparison of Samsung’s 5G, Apple’s 6G and For Galaxy
The extra power is evident in the chart below, where we compare the OnePlus 11’s Geekbench scores to those on the S23 Ultra. Apple is still the most powerful chip with its A16 Bionic inside the phone, however the 8 Gen 2 ForGalaxy isn’t far behind.
The S23 Ultra is better suited for heavier use and can be used a little more comfortably. 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. For most people, it is an all- day battery with a little more wiggle room than last year.
I fired up Asphalt 9 the way I usually do with most phones I test. The phone was nice and hot, and I didn’t experience dropped frames or slowdowns.
The S23 Ultra will come with OneUI 5.1 which is based on the Android 13 operating system. 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. I really liked it, but it felt a tad slower than either Apple orgoogle’s software. The S23 Ultra feels just like the oneUI 5.1 flips on its head. Is the new processor what it is? The faster storage? Just good old-fashioned software optimization? Everything that I do on my phone feels quicker and more compatible than anything I have tried before.
The S23 Ultra has the embedded S Pen stylus that keeps theGalaxy Note on in it. There are no major updates to the S Pen or its features this time around, though the slightly flatter screen edges are designed to provide more surface area for writing. The S22 Ultra has a sharper edge and you’re more likely to accidentally run the stylus off the side of the screen.
My typical day includes about three hours of screen-on time and the S23 Ultra usually got me to the evening with between 30 percent and 40 percent left. The always-on display puts extra drain on the battery. I tried putting it through the wringer on a day with more intensive activities — navigation, a 30-minute Zoom call, 40 minutes of streaming video, lots of camera use, including 4K video recording — all off of Wi-Fi. The battery went down to 25 percent by the end of the day. Truthfully, I could have gone a little harder on the phone, but I came down with food poisoning in the afternoon, which put a damper on my ability to use the phone or do anything at all.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra: The Brick in Your Pocket, Which isn’t the Biggest Loss of Space Among Android Smartphones
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 also get 15W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging, allowing you to recharge your earbuds on the go. Samsung definitely included everything you’ll need when it comes to juicing up.
It’s also pretty 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. This phone is the quintessential definition of a brick in your pocket.
Samsung bundles all of its own apps with the S23 Ultra, which doesn’t pose a problem until you realize how many there are. I don’t include pre-installedAPPS like Microsoft365 and Netflix on my unit, I counted 58. It takes up a lot of storage space, reducing your phone’s capacity by about 30 gigabytes. For those that don’t use Samsung’s stock apps and prefer alternatives like Google’s, it’ll feel like a waste of space.
The advertisements in its own apps look and feel terrible, and you would think they would be removed. The amount of ads on the phone has decreased, but they are 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 to buy a new phone. 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.
Four years of updates for the OS and five years of security updates are included in the software, something anyone can enjoy. That’s a little short of Apple, which tends to offer OS upgrades for upwards of five years and the stray security update for much longer, but it’s definitely one of the best policies you’ll find among Android makers.
It is a large and heavy phone. There is a 6.8 inch screen with a top 120Hz refresh rate. It is nice to use, and the same as last year. My one complaint is with the embedded fingerprint sensor, which is inconsistent and a beat slower than the one I just used on the OnePlus 11 5G. Thankfully, face unlock is pretty speedy. I found that one or the other could work quickly with both methods enabled.
The other perks of a high-end phone include: a robust water and dust resistance rating, all flavors of 5g, wireless charging, fast 45w wired charging, and built-in storage of at least 512GB.
The new chipset also runs much cooler than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 — after downloading Genshin Impact install files for 10 minutes with the loading animation playing (and the phone resting on a heat-insulating couch cushion), it was only slightly warm to the touch. The S22 Ultra was borderline uncomfortable to hold after doing something like that. Gameplay is incredibly smooth, with a barely perceptible hiccup here and there as it loads more area data.
The latter worked flawlessly on my 2016-era Samsung TV. The TV can be connected to the S23 Ultra via smartthings, despite it being an older model. The TV’s basic functions can be controlled from the SmartThings app on the phone. At long last, I thought I’d conquered my need to get off the couch and find the remote. My TV isn’t old enough to support a feature that allows it to power on via mobile. Looks like I will need the remote in the future.
The S23 Ultra Revisited: Camera Battery Screen Pencils Against Insights Into My Writing/Notes Obtained Through a Loop of Light
I found one instance where the slight curve thrown me for a loop, even though it happened less often with the S23 Ultra. 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. In 24 years, I hope for a totally flat display.
I am trying to reorganize my life and wanted to duplicate some of my running 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.
The more interesting way in which it can be done is to combine those individualPixels into groups, using a process called pixels binning, to increase the image quality in low lighting conditions. In bright light, the sensor uses something called a re-mosaic algorithm to mimic a traditional color filter 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 all the way to 30x and comes up with images I’m perfectly happy using on Instagram. Would my 30x Space Needle photo look great as an 8×10” print hanging on my wall? Probably not. It isn’t good enough for social media. Digital zoom has come a long way.
Low-light photo of a toddler in a Mexican restaurant: The Galaxy s23 Ultra-Review Camera Battery Screen Pencil
I saw a few weird things happen in challenging situations, so low-light photos are generally fine. An orange toddler poses for a portrait in front of a Mexican restaurant, but looks pale in the next shot. Maybe the light source and colored walls threw the camera out of focus, but whatever the reason, the photo was taken seriously.
A couple of my low-light portraits have a bit of an unnatural HDR look about them, with over-brightened shadows. If night mode is put on in dim conditions the phone will look bad and it won’t know if it is dark or not.
Portrait mode is one of the best 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 isn’t as noticeable in a 3x zoom portrait.
Video quality is good, too; recording is available at up to 8K/30p, though I stuck to 4K for the most part. Clips in good lighting show nice color and detail. I noticed a tendency to flatten dynamic range indoors in a way that turned bright whites slightly gray. The bright colors look saturated. 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.
Comparative Study of the Top-tier Galaxy $S23$ Ultra and $800 Galaxy S23 ($5$-Lambda)
It’s also not the most approachable device. The steep price tag will make it hard for many people to make a decision. It is not easy to de-smolder the software in a device unless you really love it. That is something you could spend more time doing on a cheaper phone.
Each smart device requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it. It is impossible for us to read or analyze these agreements. We counted how many times we needed to agree to use devices when we reviewed them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.
At some point I have to make a decision. 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. Now I’m reviewing Samsung’s top-tier $1,200 Galaxy S23 Ultra and $800 Galaxy S23—and dang it, sometimes it’s nice to splurge, you know?
The new phones from the last two years, like the S22 and S21, don’t really give you a reason to upgrade. If you feel that a more wallet Friendly device, or something older in your pocket, will give you a compromised experience, then you should definitely look at it.
I found the standard 6.1-inch Galaxy S23 to be the perfect size for my hands. The 6.6-inch S23+ was still pleasantly lightweight, but its larger design often made using it a two-handed affair. Both of these phones sport curvy, glossy edges (unlike the flatter sides of the S23 Ultra) that felt a bit slippery to me, so you’ll want to grab a case if you don’t want to worry about them falling out of your hands. If I were to randomly pick my phone, the S23 would be at the top of my list.
At this point, it feels redundant to say that a Samsung phone has a bright, colorful and ultra-smooth display, but it’s once again a major highlight of this year’s Galaxy device. I used the S23+ for most of my time and enjoyed its beautiful 6.6-inch screen, which popped with color even when i was not using it. The basic iPhone 14 does not have a 120Hz display, but that does not mean it does not have the most fluid displays I have tested.
An ultra-long day at home battery test of the Galaxy S23+: ripping waves of a river to the arrival of an ultra-fast speeding train
For example, I set up a work mode that only allowed select notifications from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as a sleep mode that kept my phone completely silent at night. You can even link specific wallpapers to specific modes, such as the less-distracting blue background I use during the day and the photo of my dog I have active during off-hours. And that’s just scratching the surface — you can program Modes and Routines to activate all sorts of functions based on everything from your current activity (like running) or even a specific location. It’s all very easy to set up, and more than reminiscent of how Apple’s Focus profiles work on iOS 16.
The Galaxy S23 can shoot video at up to 8K at 30 frames per second, or up to 4K at 60 fps. I mostly stuck to the latter, and everything from the rippling waves of a river to the arrival of a speeding train looked gloriously smooth — when I was under decent lighting, at least. The clips I captured of the aforementioned concert were a bit less fluid due to the lack of light, but were still crisp and watchable enough to land on my Instagram story.
One of the longest–lasting phones I have ever checked is the Galaxy S23+, and you can leave it at home. Our battery test consisted of continuous 4K video play and the phone lasted for 20 hours and 47 minutes. In comparison to last years S22+) and S22 Ultra models, we received 13 to 14 hours and 15 hours from the P7 and Pro. It was a tad longer than the one that came before, which was 21 hours and 36 minutes.
The OneUI interface of a mobile phone: Is there a need for a Galaxy Store on top of the Google Play Store for apps?
I am not fond of the interface of the OneUI that is used by Samsung, as it is very busy and cluttered compared to what you get on a cellphone with the Android Operating System on it. The phone comes preloaded with folders’ worth of Samsung and Microsoft apps, which could be useful if you’re deep in the Samsung ecosystem or want to get Office work done on the go. For everyone else, these apps might seem unnecessary and confusing. (Do we really need a Galaxy Store on top of the Google Play Store for apps?)