REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, Pity About The Internal Battle
I have been reviewing Samsung smartphones for more than two decades, and my begging question has always been their ability, to actually innovate enough each time a new model is released, to justify the purchase of their next generation model.
In most cases the answer is yes because unlike Apple, Samsung actually manufacture the technology inside their smartphones, including the all-important camera sensor, OLED display, memory along with several other key components.
Their ability to innovate key components, as opposed to buying off the shelf parts similar to Apple, who buy a lot of LG and Samsung manufactured products, as well as components from Chinese Companies, shows through with the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the new S24 models released in Australia recently.
This is very evident with their new Galaxy S24 Ultra that comes with a $2,500+ price tag, which begs the question is it worth it.
This sticker price makes it more expensive than a lot of notebooks, out so upgrading is a serious investment issue, for many smartphone users who want a cutting-edge device Vs a dog’s breakfast of third-party components wrapped around and iOS that is the sole reason for Apple’s success, this device is a serious contender.
This time round it was Samsung’s new translation technology and their adoption of AI, that really appealed to me, because on the surface there did not appear to be much in the way of change between the standout features of the S23 Ultra and the new S24 Ultra.
Two features stand out on this device Circle to Search and their AI language translation which I tried out with my Thai owned local coffee shop employee, it worked really well.
While Samsung executives have been focusing on the big marketing picture, they appear to have missed a massive consumer experience opportunity by failing to provide, any information on the new features out of the box, it’s as if they expect consumer to know how the technology works.
We know Samsung wants to get rid of paper, but a simple QR code that when scanned, delivers a how to, of the new features found in one of their devices, would be a simple way for owners of a new Samsung device to get to know how to use the new features.
It’s as simple as ‘How to get the best out of Circle To Search’ How to set up and use the new translation feature.
It may sound blindingly obvious, but it appears that Samsung management who are also in a battle with Google the developers of the Android OS which the S24 series is based, fighting each other over ownership of the users and the features they use on the new S24 Ultra.
Password collection, the location of contacts and now a push to take control of translation capabilities are now being fought out via devices.
I am going to be bold and suggest that S23 Ultra customers forget about upgrading to the S24 because you are going to get a big software update of new features that are built into the S24 for the S23 Ultra.
However, if you are the owner of a Samsung Galaxy S21 or S22 customer you need to upgrade, if you want the latest technology, the big benefit will be the trade in price for your old model and current upgrade deals being offered by retailers such as JB Hi Fi, The Good Guys and Samsung, when you actually decide to move to a new model Samsung device.
Let me assure you that you will not be disappointed with the new S24 Ultra, because this device has it all including technology that is not found in any other Smartphone and wait till you shoot an image then tap the 10X zoom to shoot an image five kilometres away, you will be blown away by the AI delivered quality of images.
We already know that Samsung has the best cameras in a smartphone.
This time round there is a bigger lip on the actual camera lens with the South Korean Company swapping a 10x lens for a 5x lens which users said they would find more useful, and then using hardware and software tricks to create a virtual, “optical quality” 10x telephoto lens.
Suspicious at first, I found that the new configuration actually worked with new AI software appearing to do a better job of image quality and above all the elimination of blurry images often associated with long distant shooting.
Take a look at these images that with one tap of a zoom button delivered exceptional images without any loss due to handholding of a camera when you zoom.
When you put the S23 and the S24 Ultra models back-to-back it’s hard to spot the difference.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is a tad shorter, wider, and fractionally thinner than the S23 Ultra, but you have to have good eyes to pick up the difference.
The device boots quickly which is a plus and this is because Qualcomm has worked with Samsung in the development of a new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor. This is the soul of this new machine, and it seriously delivers with seamless processing of data, images and audio.
One thing I don’t like about this device is the way in which Google and Samsung are trying to take over each other’s capability.
On one side Samsung is partnering with Microsoft to push users to their One Drive storage capability, while Google who deliver the OS has a perfectly good storage service that I prefer and has been part of the Android OS for decades.
Everything about Microsoft’s 365 offering is broken including their Outlook, One Drive and their Teams. This has been caused by Microsoft redesigning their software to work in a cloud-based environment and it sucks.
The changes are poorly thought out, time consuming when nothing from past desktop applications were broken.
It’s like some Woke Microsoft developers are trying to justify their jobs with a total redesign of Microsoft apps.
What I suspect is that Samsung is getting a click of the ticket when consumers sign up for a Microsoft product via a Samsung device, a system we are already seeing with their Tizen operating system.
But don’t let this stop you from considering this product, especially if you travel, deal with business executives overseas or simply want to talk to a friend who struggles to talk your native language.
To test the cutting-edge new translation software built into this device, I got a Thai national to communicate with me in their native language.
After switching on translation and after downloading the Thai language we were able to communicate easily and in real time.
Basically, Samsung is using generative AI to deliver this new capability, which is exclusive to the new Samsung S24, however it coming to other mode3ls shortly.
The keyboard has several AI capabilities including advanced grammar and spelling, plus the ability to rewrite your messages in a different tone.
Another benefit is its ability to summarise documents, but only those under 1,500 words.
I am still convinced that Samsung has the best camera rig in their Galaxy Ultra smartphones.
Now with some major new AI enhancements you get an additional swag of new capabilities, such as being able to easily remove reflections from an image.
Or cut and paste something in an image so that you can relocate it in the picture frame.
As for reflections you now get a temperature dial that lets you select how under- or overdone you want the reflection removal to be.
What I liked was the new Circle To Search and the new cut and paste capability that allows you to circle an item or a person in a photo, and then move the selected image to a different part of the image and potentially resize it to keep the perspective intact. Despite being new the software was easy to manipulate, fast but above all accurate.
Ideally this function is performed best with the new Samsung S Pen which is housed in the bottom of the S24 Ultra.
A simple long press on an item or a trace around an image you want to move is easily done, and almost as if you are using Photoshop, you can move the cut and paste image to a new location, you can take a face out and replace it with a new one, however Google will recognise it as a fake image if their new AI technology picks it up.
Where the concept is still a work in progress is the AI filling in of the background, this is really a hit and miss experience.
As for point and shoot and the capture of images Samsung still does it better than any other brand and that’s down to the use of their own manufactured sensor.
Like the S23 Ultra, the S24 Ultra is out there when it comes to shooting images in multiple light conditions.
The 200 MP main lens is still part of the camera rig and so is the 12 MP ultra-wide lens.
The old S23 Ultra 10 MP telephoto lenses have been replaced with a 10 MP and a 50 MP periscope telephoto lens that really does a good job of delivering sharp and well-balanced images.
As for camera capability you have the option of a 3x and 10x optical zoom plus “Space Zoom” that delivers 100x magnification that is a serious improvement, on previous Samsung zoom technology.
The unlock key is the use of AI to stabilize when zooming it also eliminating shudder or the blurring of images which often happens when trying to shoot from a distance.
Once you have shot a zoomed image. You can then finger zoon into further image details with the image remaining reasonably sharp and crisp. We shot images from North Sydney of the Crown Resort tower in Barangaroo without too much loss of shape or form Then there was the images shot over 5 kilometres away in Mosman that were crystal sharp compared to previous Samsung zoom cpabilities.
Due to the introduction of AI, I believe that the S24 Ultra has significantly better zoom capability with the added bonus of new editing capability.
Another improvement was Samsung’s Nightography Zoom that on the surface appears to enhance low-light photos of faraway subjects.
This is seriously unmatched camera technology which coupled with several other software enhancements makes this a seriously desirable camera rig in a smartphone.
It’s also the perfect travel companion, great images and easy translation all in one smartphone.
As for screen brightness, the Galaxy S23 had a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, which was perfectly fine compared to several other cameras we have tested.
The S24 has an impressive 2,600 nits which is significantly better than both the Google Pixel 8 Pro which is already being discounted out in stores, I suspect because of slow sales, it’s also significantly better than the iPhone 15 Pro.
I watch a big junk of the Super Bowl on this device via Foxtel and it was excellent picture quality.
Where it really stands out is when using your S24 Ultra in direct sunlight or a bright room, the difference from previous models is very noticeable.
If premium smartphones are your gig, this is the best out there by a long way, it’s evolutionary and manufactured using premium components. The standout is the software and the day-to-day functionality that the Galaxy S24 Ultra delivers.
What is becoming a problem is the battle between Google Samsung and Microsoft, that is taking place inside the S24 Ultra.
As I read it Samsung is taking money from both Microsoft and Google for access to Samsung smartphone owners, with software weaponised so that consumers have to battle between a Google, Samsung and Microsoft offering.
Where do you want your images stored on a Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive or a Samsung Drive or which messaging app do you want to use.
Then there is the issue of email apps. Outlook after a recent makeover is a real mess but despite this Samsung is pushing Microsoft 365 which use to be good until the so-called redesign.
It’s all getting too much especially when you go in one direction only to discover that you are again being prompted to go with another service.