The first Samsung Unpacked major event of 2023 has come and gone, and after what seemed like years of talk about the Galaxy S23 series, they’re finally officially here. We’ve had a few days to play around with the trio and gather some insights on them.
This is a great experience with the Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23+, and Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is better in every important way
On paper, the Galaxy S23 Ultra isn’t an impressive update on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. In real life, the Galaxy S23 Ultra looks very similar to its predecessor.
But it’s a much better phone in terms of functionality and polish. Let’s start with the physical differences — Samsung has made the side frame a bit flatter, which goes a long way to making the S23 Ultra more comfortable to hold. Also, the screen is not curved at the edges, which increases the feeling of comfort and safety in the hand.
Then there are the important changes inside. The new chipset will increase performance while increasing battery efficiency at the same time. Sustained performance, in particular, should be a key area of improvement — TSMC’s 4nm process of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is known to be quite a leap over the 2022 processors in terms of temperatures.
Then there is the new camera. It is a sharper unit than its predecessor. It was able to pull more detail out of scenes in each light, which was impressive.
The screen and battery are technically the same, but that’s not bad either. Both were industry leaders in 2022 and still on top in early 2023. The board refreshes variably from 24Hz (although its GPU can be turned off and is effective at 1fps) to 120Hz. It can easily jump over 1000 lumens when needed. Whereas the 5000mAh should last longer under the latest Snapdragon silicon.
Galaxy S23 and S23+ lackluster upgrades
On the other hand, the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+ aren’t nearly as impressive. The pair get 200mAh in their batteries, which is a welcome addition, and a speed boost to the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform for the Galaxy phone as the Ultra. The two also share a new 12MP selfie camera with the Ultra, but that’s about it.
We would have loved to see auto focus added to the ultra-wide camera, which would enable macro mode. We’re also not universally sold on our new back panel design without the camera island.
There’s a potential buyer for both of the new Galaxy S phones, but it’s certainly not an owner of their predecessors — there’s not enough incentive to upgrade unless there’s some serious buyback promotion.
Samsung needs to decide what it wants out of the smaller S models
This brings us to the fact that Samsung seems a bit lost when it comes to non-Ultra S phones. Looking back at the Galaxy S22, Galaxy S21, and Galaxy S20, there’s a lack of direction. The Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 had a 4,000mAh battery and 6.2-inch screens, then suddenly the Galaxy S22 shrank that down to 3,700mAh and 6.1-inches. Now, the Galaxy S23 has brought the battery back to 3,900mAh. The Galaxy S20 has a 1440×3200 pixel display, which has been downsized to 1080 pixels from its successor today. There was also this move to the plastic back panel on the Galaxy S21 which is negated with the S22.
It’s a similar story for the Plus models. Galaxy S20+ had a 6.7″ 1440p display and a 4500mAh battery, then the S21+ lowered the resolution to 1080p but made the battery 4800mAh, then the Galaxy S22+ shrunk the screen to 6.6″, lowered the battery to 4500 mA. once again. Now, the Galaxy S23+ has brought the battery to 4,700mAh.
It is part of a winding road that not only goes sideways but also goes up and down. There are real fans of the smaller Galaxy S series phones, but Samsung seems to be struggling to pinpoint their needs.
Samsung has upgraded Apple S-year
This is the first time Samsung has done an honest upgrade for an S since we didn’t even get a noticeable design change. This is not bad, in and of itself, change for the sake of change is not what anyone wants.
Samsung evolves, matures and takes on the challenges that come with each year filled with economic and cultural issues as they happen.
It just doesn’t make for the most exciting upgrade.
Snapdragon was just the right choice
Going exclusively to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset makes sense and is beneficial for the end user. Qualcomm’s latest SoC is great and Samsung likely understands that its Exynos won’t be able to compete at a consistent level by the time of the Galaxy S23 series.
The past few generations of flagship-level Exynos and Snapdragon have seen a slow change in efficiency and thermal performance in favor of Qualcomm.
The chipset is more than just core count, clock speed, and thermal performance. There are AI and neural processing units, and most importantly, built-in network modems that enable faster and better Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G networks. Qualcomm had a better showing in 2023 and the Galaxy S23 lineup will be better for using only the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. There is also the feature of shipping updates for a single device configuration as well.