Slightly earlier than usual in the calendar year it's the first Samsung Galaxy Unpacked of 2024. Which can only mean one thing: the Galaxy S24 series is here, headed by the top-of-the-stack S24 Ultra model.
Unlike in February of last year, however, for 2024 the latest Galaxy flagship differs significantly from its S23 Ultra predecessor. I've already used the Galaxy S24 Ultra at a hands-on preview session to bring my first impressions early verdict – and needless to say I'm very impressed.
That's because the Galaxy S24 Ultra does away with the S23 Ultra's curved screen for a flat one, upgrades an important part of the camera system, introduces handy Galaxy AI artificial intelligence features, and opts for an all-new finish. All without adjusting the year-on-year price. So could this be the best Android phone of 2024 already?
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: What's new?
Rather than get too wordy right here, I'll list the key new features in the Galaxy S24 Ultra which differ from the S23 Ultra of last year. If you're currently using the Samsung flagship then the changes are clear and, for most people, will be universally positive.
- Titanium finish, replaces aluminium of previous
- 10x zoom camera replaced with 5x zoom (at 50MP)
- 6.8in display is now flat and brighter (to 2600 nits peak)
- Galaxy AI suite introduces real-time transcriptions, photo editing
- Colours: Titanium Violet, Titanium Yellow, Titanium Black, Titanium Grey
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra: Price
But first up: just how much will the S24 Ultra cost? Impressively, despite economic conditions, the Galaxy S24 Ultra will cost the same as its equivalent S23 Ultra did at launch.
That's a £1,249 / $/1,199 / AU$1,949 asking price for the 256GB storage model. Get your pre-orders in (up to and including the 30 January), and direct from Samsung you'll net double the storage for free – which is an impressive bonus.
S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra: Design & Display
- Both: 6.8-inch panel, 1440 x 3088 resolution, 120Hz refresh
- S24 Ultra: flat panel, 2600 nits peak / S23 Ultra: curved, 1750 nits
While both S24 Ultra and S23 Ultra pack the same 6.8-inch screen size (on the diagonal measure), they're very different displays indeed. It's impossible to miss that the S24 Ultra's panel is flat, while the earlier S23 Ultra's is curved to the edges. That'll make the new device more adept when it comes to using the integrated S Pen stylus.
That's not the only difference in the screen department, though, as while both deliver the same resolution (1440 x 3088) and refresh rate (1-120Hz) the S24 Ultra's panel is able to deliver even greater brightness – up from 1750 to 2600 nits, which is around a 50% peak brightness increase.
When not mesmerised by the screen, however, it's the S24 Ultra's new finish that's the other most eye-catching aspect about this device. While Apple was ahead of Samsung in introducing Titanium to its iPhone 15 Pro (and Max) models, now it's the turn of the flagship Galaxy to use the material.
However, the S24 Ultra isn't lighter than the S23 Ultra as a result (which was an iPhone benefit). Here the Titanium finish is about robustness, avoiding bumps and scrapes that the aluminium shell of the earlier model possessed. The S24 Ultra also features Corning Gorilla Glass Armor, also said to be tougher and better at negating reflections.
Colour options also differ, with the S24 Ultra bringing a range of new hues. Although, to my eyes, they're all rather subdued – that's the Titanium effect, as the non-Ultra S24 Plus and entry S24 look more eye-catching in the same colourways. But that's a matter of personal taste.
S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra: Cameras
- Both: 200-megapixel main, 10MP 3x zoom, 12MP ultra-wide
- S24 Ultra: 5x 50MP periscope zoom / S23 Ultra: 10x 10MP zoom
- S24 Ultra: adds Galaxy AI photo features
While the Galaxy S24 Ultra's camera layout remains the same iconic visual arrangement as seen in the S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra, it does make one massive change compared to its predecessor.
Namely: the 10x optical zoom has gone, replaced by a 5x optical zoom. That might sound like a 'downgrade', but the resolution jumps from 10- to 50-megapixels, which provides a lot more information to play with, larger pixel size, and is a change I feel Samsung should have made long ago.
It's semi-disappointing that the other 3x optical zoom doesn't also get a resolution upgrade in the S24 Ultra, but can't have it all, eh? At least the 200MP main sensor remains in play, which is quality.
A considerable shift in capabilities comes from the addition of Galaxy AI features. Cloud-based options can auto-suggest image corrections that you can apply, while subject/object removal/resizing/moving – much like with the Google Pixel 8 Pro – adds significant control.
S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra: Hardware & Software
- S24 Ultra: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 / S23 Ultra: 8 Gen 2
- Both: 5,000mAh battery, 45W wired / 15W wireless charging
- S24 Ultra: adds Galaxy AI features
Continuing down the Galaxy AI route, the suite of tools available on-device (i.e. not cloud-based) for the S24 Ultra are impressive: there's live transcription and real-time translation (for 13 languages at launch) both for written and spoken word. It's impressive stuff.
In terms of hardware running everything, that's where the more AI-adept Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor comes into play with the S24 Ultra (the S24 Plus and S24 instead use Samsung's Exynos 2400). The previous S23 Ultra also utilises a Qualcomm chip, just the Gen 2 version. Both are tuned for Galaxy, however, so overclocked compared to the vanilla Qualcomm off-the-shelf versions.
So while the hardware year-on-year isn't dramatically different, it's the S24 Ultra's new AI features that stand it apart. In terms of battery there's zero difference: both handsets use 5000mAh cells with the same charging speeds (which, at this stage, could be called out as behind the best).
Just like its predecessor the S24 Ultra also features a built-in S Pen stylus, which is a crucial difference between it and the other models in the S24 range. For this generation it's ever so slightly redesigned, marginally thinner, but makes no difference to use.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra: Conclusion
Unlike last year's marginal upgrade, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a significant change over the S23 Ultra that came before it.
It's got a flat-panel display that's brighter, a new Titanium finish, a better zoom camera (albeit at 5x, not 10x of old), enhanced AI features that are genuinely useful, and somehow doesn't increase its price year on year.
In the era of AI it seems that Samsung is bringing its A-game to the likes of Google and I think the Galaxy S24 Ultra looks like a great upgrade, especially for S Pen stylus fans, that'll make a big dent in the best phones of 2024.