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Unveiling the Galaxy S24 Ultra: Samsung AI-Infused Masterpiece

Wondering what to gift a phone with all the bells and whistles? Look no further than the Galaxy S24 Ultra. With an abundance of features surpassing any other phone, Samsung collaborated closely with Google to integrate top Pixel attributes into this premier Ultra line. Experience seven years of Android updates. Dive into our hands-on review covering software, cameras, and more.

Pros

Cons

When Samsung invited me to explore new phones in NYC, I bypassed the Galaxy S24 lineup to dive straight into the Galaxy S24 Ultra, immersing myself in Samsung’s ultra phone allure. Having owned the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra, I’ve been keen on Samsung’s evolving feature set.

While a comprehensive review is in the works, my initial hands-on sparked immediate questions. What does AI look like on a Samsung phone? Being among the first Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 phones, it sets the standard for Qualcomm and Google’s AI approach to Android. I aimed to assess Samsung’s success in making AI truly useful.

Another pressing question: Is the Galaxy S24 Ultra a downgrade? With reduced zoom and a flat display, the absence of major new features and no notable software or hardware improvements raise eyebrows. Yet, the price tag is $100 more than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Is it justified?

Optimism prevails for two key reasons: longevity and partnerships. Samsung’s closer collaboration with Google is evident, making the Galaxy S24 Ultra the most Pixel-like Galaxy phone. While room for improvement exists, it stands as the most forward-looking Galaxy Ultra phone to date.

Unveiling the Galaxy S24 Ultra: Samsung AI-Infused Masterpiece

Galaxy S24 Ultra early verdict: Exceeds realistic expectations.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra, already feature-packed, didn’t scream for an upgrade. Samsung’s usual “More, MORE, MORE” approach takes a backseat with the S24 Ultra, showcasing a focus on quality and cooperation, solidifying its position as the world’s top phone maker.

Samsung refrains from a 10X to 20X zoom boost, opting for a shorter zoom lens and a larger image sensor. A smart move is evident in the impressive photos captured by the new camera, while the other cameras remain commendably unchanged.

Rather than introducing the fastest display or unnecessary tech, Samsung integrates new AI features, with several borrowed from Google. Notable additions include Pixel 8 features like Generative AI wallpaper and the Magic Editor for photos, once exclusive to Pixel.

The S24 Ultra shifts the narrative by promising seven years of major OS updates and security patches, surpassing even Apple. Samsung’s move may redefine industry standards, elevating the long-term value and dispelling the ‘cheap’ perception of Android.

However, those anticipating a radical design shift may be disappointed. The S24 Ultra mirrors its predecessor, down to the antenna lines. Although now titanium-framed, it remains hefty, unlike Apple’s titanium counterpart that shed weight.

Incorporating new AI features, Samsung misses the mark by burying them deep within the Settings menu. While some features are useful, others, like text note reformatting, may go overlooked. The absence of AI for Bixby, Samsung’s voice interface, remains unexplained.

Despite unresolved software issues, Samsung answers critical requests with the S24 Ultra, notably the commendable seven-year support, aligning with Google’s practice. While not a complete overhaul, the S24 Ultra improves where it matters most, solidifying its dominance.

Galaxy S24 Ultra Design: Titanium, Yet Weight Unchanged

Galaxy S24 Ultra Design: Titanium, Yet Weight Unchanged

Resembling last year’s model and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the Galaxy S24 Ultra embraces a solid, glass ‘slab’ aesthetic. The display, while attractive, highlights its sheer size, making it one of the largest non-foldable smartphones.

If pocket space or one-handed use is a concern, explore alternatives like the standard Galaxy S24 or S24 Plus—this is among the most sizable phones available. For phone enthusiasts comparing models, spotting differences in the almost identical design of the Galaxy S24 Ultra proves challenging.

Despite minute changes like a relocated microphone hole or a modified speaker grate at the bottom, the overall design mirrors its predecessor closely. The titanium violet variant stands out, contrasting elegantly with the metallic frame and camera lenses. Other color options, including titanium black, titanium yellow, and titanium grey, offer aesthetic diversity.

While the colors seamlessly blend with the metal, it’s disappointing that Samsung didn’t leverage the titanium frame to reduce the S24 Ultra’s weight, unlike Apple’s approach with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The absence of weight reduction, coupled with no gains in battery or screen size, makes the titanium choice seemingly inconsequential for Samsung. The hope for a lighter alternative to the S23 Ultra’s ‘armor aluminum’ remains unfulfilled.

Galaxy S24 Ultra Price and Value: Elevated Investment

Priced at $1,299 for the 256GB/12GB model—$100 more than last year—the Galaxy S24 Ultra asserts its premium status. While Samsung claims the removal of the 128GB model maintains the price, it’s a straightforward price hike.

For savvy buyers, trading in an older model offers the best deal. Samsung’s trade-in offers are particularly attractive, especially for iPhone users. Although the initial cost is steep, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s value shines when considering exclusive features like Samsung DeX for a laptop replacement and the versatile S Pen.

The real value emerges with the promise of seven years of OS updates and security patches—a notable distinction. While not everyone will keep the phone for seven years, the extended support may enhance resale value. Previously, Samsung’s inferior support compared to Apple diminished the perceived value. Now, that’s a thing of the past.

Galaxy S24 Ultra Specs: A Detailed Overview

SpecificationsDetails
Dimensions163 x 79 x 8.6mm
Weight233g
Screen6.8-inch OLED
Resolution1440 x 3088 pixels, 500ppi
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy
RAM12GB
Storage256GB / 512GB / 1TB
OSAndroid 14; One UI 6.1
Rear Cameras200MP main; 50MP 5x zoom; 10MP 3X zoom; 12MP ultra-wide
Front Camera12MP
ColorsTitanium Grey, Titanium Black, Titanium Violet; Titanium Yellow

Galaxy S24 Ultra Display: Outshining iPhones

While not the biggest, brightest, fastest, or sharpest, the Galaxy S24 Ultra display tops any iPhone’s. Despite lacking superlative features, it excels in crucial aspects.

Comparatively, the display isn’t the brightest, but it surpasses the Google Pixel 8 Pro. Although limited to 120Hz, it outperforms in brightness, sharpness, and size against the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Yet, Samsung persists in excluding Dolby Vision.

Let’s face it—Samsung’s focus is outshining iPhones, and the S24 Ultra succeeds with a superior display. Brighter, sharper, and slightly larger, it even supports a real stylus, adding an extra layer of sophistication.

Compared to the S23 Ultra, the S24 Ultra’s flatter display may go unnoticed unless examined side by side. The reduced bezel, achieved with the flat screen, enhances the overall aesthetics and potentially improves stylus usage near the edges.

Galaxy S24 Ultra Software: Embracing Google's Influence
Image Credit: Samsung

Galaxy S24 Ultra Software: Embracing Google’s Influence

Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S24 Ultra prioritizes AI-driven features. Surprising, though, is the extensive integration of Google’s AI, notably from the Pixel lineup.

Take, for instance, the exceptional Recorder app from Pixel phones, capable of distinguishing voices and transcribing on the fly. Guess what? Samsung’s Voice Recorder app now mirrors these features. Additionally, Samsung adopts the generative AI wallpaper from Pixel, offering identical MadLib-style prompts.

But wait, there’s more. Samsung brings the Pixel’s Magic Editor from Google Photos into its own Samsung Gallery app. Even the new recording features join Samsung’s Voice Recorder, showcasing a trend of app duplication.

Yet, Samsung introduces some unique photo tricks. Using generative AI, you can adjust and rotate a photo, with the phone intelligently filling in the background. While not necessarily practical, the innovation sparks curiosity about the phone’s capabilities.

Galaxy S24 Ultra Software: Embracing Google's Influence
Image Credit: Samsung

Additional Challenges Await…

While the Galaxy S24 Ultra introduces commendable AI features, concerns arise about Samsung’s contributions via the Samsung Keyboard. Ranging from moderately useful to potentially problematic, these features include a new translation engine, capable of handling text and live audio translations during calls.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra also incorporates a text tone-changing feature within the Samsung Keyboard. Users can request different writing styles, such as professional, polite, hashtag-laden ‘social,’ ’emojify’ with emojis, or casual options.

Testing various phrases, the S24 Ultra demonstrated adaptability, providing pleasant responses to sensitive inquiries. However, software concerns persist, particularly Samsung’s failure to address software bloat and the complex Settings menus. Disappointingly, crucial AI features are buried under an Advanced Intelligence option, reminiscent of tossing everything into kitchen junk drawers.

Moreover, Bixby remains unchanged, lacking the AI focus it requires. Samsung needs a revamped interface, simplified software, and an enhanced Bixby to meet expectations for the Galaxy S25 Ultra in 2025.

Galaxy S24 Ultra Cameras: Opting for 5X Over 10X
Image Credit: Samsung

Galaxy S24 Ultra Cameras: Opting for 5X Over 10X

In my hands-on experience, I focused solely on the 5X zoom, revealing significant advantages. Despite a slight loss in fine detail, the larger sensor and higher megapixels make a substantial difference.

The crucial question: Did the Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras decline? Last year’s S23 Ultra excelled, particularly with its 10X zoom lens. Surprisingly, Samsung scaled back to 5X zoom, raising concerns about image quality.

Comparing photos taken at 10X zoom on both Ultra models, the S24 Ultra, with its digital zoom, compensates with a sensor more than twice as large. The enhanced sensor size, combined with a superior 50MP telephoto sensor, surpasses the S23 Ultra’s 10MP counterpart.

Examining images, the S24 Ultra demonstrates improvements in lighting, color dynamics, and noise reduction. While fine details might not match the S23 Ultra, overall photo quality is notably enhanced.

Although I didn’t extensively test moon shots or astrophotography, the S24 Ultra holds its ground. Samsung maintains, if not improves, its camera excellence with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, offering tangible benefits for photographers beyond mere spec sheet debates.

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