On February 1st 2023, Samsung launched the Galaxy S23 smartphone lineup. Before the official Samsung Galaxy Unpacked release event, I had the chance to spend a few minutes using and photographing the new Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphones. They come with exciting new specs, like being equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors instead of Samsung Exynos (a plus for European users), more generous batteries, and improved camera systems. If you want to know more about these phones, here’s what I liked about them during my brief hands-on interactions:
1. Unified design: Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ and S23 Ultra really do look like they’re from the same family
While the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is very imposing at its 6.8 inches, the design differences between the three smartphones are fewer and more subtle than on the previous series. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S23+ is slightly smaller at 6.6 inches, and the Samsung Galaxy S23 is only 6.1 inches - a plus on the checklist of someone who wants to comfortably hold and use a smartphone with one hand, like me.
The similar look of the three smartphones in the Galaxy S23 line-up is even more obvious if you look on their backs, where the camera system uses the same design. As such, the visual differences between them now only occur in the number of cameras included, not in the way they are embedded in the phone’s body, as was the case with the Samsung Galaxy S22 series.
Last year, I got a Samsung Galaxy S22 because I really liked the mix of design, compact size, camera system and build quality. Although I really like this phone, I’m slightly dissatisfied with the Samsung Exynos 2200 processor, equipped on the European version that I’m using. It offers lower performance than the Qualcomm processor versions, runs a bit hotter and has a shorter battery life. Fortunately, now we get ONLY Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processors on all the devices in the Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup, in all regions.
These are a special edition made by Qualcomm exclusively for Samsung, with the prime core supercharged to 3.36 GHz (instead of the usual 3.2 GHz). It also has four performance cores running at 2.8 GHz and three efficiency cores running at 2 GHz. The Adreno 740 video chip is also overclocked at 719 MHz instead of the standard 680 MHz. That should give the Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphones the best performance in the Android ecosystem, even when playing games that are very demanding in terms of system requirements.
As for the battery, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra benefits from the same generous 5000 mAh capacity as before. This consistency doesn’t surprise me, considering that the size of the phone has hardly changed, and the autonomy of the Ultra models has always been an asset, which Samsung wants to keep.
What I like instead is that the batteries have been upgraded on the other models. So the Samsung Galaxy S23+ now has a 4700 mAh battery capacity (vs 4500 mAh on the Galaxy S22+), and the tiny Galaxy S23 gets an upgrade from 3700 mAh (last year’s model) to 3900 mAh. That’s good news, as battery life was the Galaxy S22’s weak point. This increased capacity, along with the switch from an Exynos to a Snapdragon processor, should provide a few extra hours of battery life.
I’m really interested to test drive the new Galaxy S23 and see if the changes introduced by the new model will convince me to upgrade.
The most significant changes happen on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. It has a wide 200 megapixel main camera (vs. 100 megapixels on the S22 Ultra), which should capture even better quality photos, especially in low light. The autofocus algorithm has also undergone improvements to be faster and more accurate.
I was personally impressed with the photo experience offered by the Galaxy S22 Ultra, so any upgrade makes me curious to test and find out more. This new camera will be able to record videos in 8K resolution at 30 fps, instead of 8K and 24 fps like the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
TIP: Curious if it pays off to shoot with your smartphone in 8K resolution? Then read: Smartphone video recording in 1080p, 4K, 8K: How much is too much?
Another improvement, included this time on all the smartphones in the Galaxy S23 series, is the selfie camera, which now features a 12-megapixel lens instead of 10 megapixels. In addition, it also comes with algorithm enhancements for taking selfies and videos with better quality than before. I really like that spec-wise, the selfie camera is no longer different across the three models, making the Galaxy S23 a little more feature-rich than the Galaxy S22 was compared to its older siblings.
Furthermore, on the software side, all three smartphones will include a new Expert RAW app that allows users to capture high-quality images without processing or compression, just like they would on a professional camera. These can then be edited and enhanced using specialized photo editing software. I think both amateur and professional photographers will appreciate this app.
On all three smartphones, we get AMOLED panel screens with a dynamic refresh rate of 120 Hz that look absolutely gorgeous. While they appear identical to the screens on the previous series, there is at least one significant difference: they are protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2. A new generation, available for now exclusively on Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphones.
The new glass has a higher density than the previous generation and increased toughness, which means it will be harder to scratch. In addition, Gorilla Glass Victus 2 has a slightly better resistance to drops from heights of up to 2 meters.
The list of improvements offered by the new Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ and Ultra doesn’t end with just the aforementioned features. First, the smartphones arrive with Samsung’s newest software: One UI 5.1, based on Android 13. It includes a long list of improvements, like a better photo/video experience, the Expert RAW app mentioned earlier, a friendlier Gallery app, and new widgets, including one for the battery. Furthermore, the Samsung Galaxy S23 now benefits from wireless connectivity using the Wi-Fi 6E standard, just like its siblings, and Bluetooth connectivity has been upgraded from version 5.2 to 5.3 on all models in the new series.
One major area where things are no better than last year’s version is fast charging: The Samsung Galaxy S23+ and Ultra get fast charging at 45W, the same as their predecessors, and the Samsung Galaxy S23 has fast charging at just 25W. The majority of other Android smartphone manufacturers have made considerable advances and offer fast charging even at 120W. Why doesn’t Samsung modify its technology to go up to somewhere in the 65W range, as most manufacturers have? Or, at the very least, why don’t we get faster charging on the Samsung Galaxy S23, not just its bigger brothers?
The entire Galaxy S23 Series lineup is available for pre-order from February 1st on Samsung.com, through carriers and retailers, online, and in stores. On pre-ordering any model in the series during the February 1st-16th timeframe, you get double the storage capacity (e.g. if you order a phone with 128GB storage, you get one with 256GB), a $100 e-voucher and the value of your current phone if you trade it in. Furthermore, if you order it within the first few days after launch, you’ll get your new smartphone before February 10th.
Now you know my first thoughts after interacting for a few minutes with the new Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup, as well as the available information as to what’s new on these phones. I’m curious to test them thoroughly with my colleagues in the Digital Citizen team. But until then, we’re interested in your opinion: What are your first thoughts on the new smartphones? Do you like what the Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ and S23 Ultra have to offer? Which one is your favorite? Comment below and let me know your perspective.