Every year Samsung releases its flagship phones to much fanfare – and for 2023 the Galaxy S23 is no exception. However, as confirmed at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event, the year-on-year changes in the latest handset aren't dramatic compared to its predecessor.
If the Galaxy S23 is going to make a dent in the best small phones or try to shoulder its way into the best Android phones then does its tweaked new design, uprated battery capacity, and newer processor amount to enough – especially in light of a price increase too?
I got to explore the new Galaxy S23 ahead of the phone's official reveal and I think that while many won't see it as an immediate upgrade option, I do still see it as a potential champion among smaller Android phones thanks to considered design, software and a great overall experience.
Samsung Galaxy S23: Price & Availability
Available to pre-order from the moment Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event ended on 1st February, the Galaxy S23 is priced from £849/AU$1,349. That's for the 128GB version. You can also pay £899/AU$1,449 if you want 256GB of storage. That's just over a 6% year-on-year rise compared to its S22 predecessor, though, which is inflation for you I suppose.
There's not too long to wait between pre-order and arrival either: the Galaxy S23, just like its S23 Plus and S23 Ultra cousins, will be on the shelves from Friday 17th February in the UK. However, the Ultra model's price may surprise you as it's got an even larger price increase in the UK.
I'll mention the Galaxy S23 Plus here, too, as the mid-scale model in the series, which features a 6.6-inch screen, may appeal if you want more screen real-estate and otherwise all the same features. It's pricier, though, starting at £1,049/AU$1,649 for the entry 256GB model, increasing to £1,149/AU$1,849 for the 512GB version. By which point you may be eyeing up the Galaxy S23 Ultra instead.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review: What's new?
The Galaxy S23 embodies Samsung's refinement of the S series ultimately: to look at it's akin to a miniaturised S23 Ultra because the contoured camera housing of old has vanished, so the separate lenses protrude individually from the rear in a striking yet familiar look. That design change is the biggest change for the S23 compared to the S22 though – and I do think it looks better for it.
Otherwise the Galaxy S23 is an echo of the earlier S22 model in terms of scale: it features the very same screen, at 6.1-inches, and even the cameras remain the very same, foregoing the 200-megapixel upgrade that you'll find in the S23 Ultra model.
There's the new inclusion of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform, paired with an even more capacious battery, which gains 200mAh to total 4,500mAh all-in – really not bad for a phone of this scale, especially with a processor that professes to be smarter when it comes to longevity.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Design & Display
Samsung is on a big drive to up the proportion of recycled parts that make up its device, which the Galaxy S23 also benefits from. It's not as though buying any new technology is going to fix they planet, mind, but it's a small step in the right direction. Plus it's a demand that consumers are asking for, so addresses that.
The whole Galaxy S23 series now comes in four colours: Phantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender. I've shot the Cream one for this hands-on review, which isn't far away from a white (as you'd imagine, really). Only two of those differ compared to its predecessor, though, and all finishes are very subtle, subdued almost.
Other than the colour choice and that minor tweak to the camera housing, however, otherwise it's business as usual with the Galaxy S23. That's to say it's the spitting image of its predecessor – and while that might not deliver a mass of major upgrades, it's still a very accomplished little phone.
Take the display: this delightful little 6.1-inch AMOLED panel features a 1080 x 2340 resolution, is really bright (I've turned it down a bunch in these pictures, to help with the photography), and as is typical of this technology there are deep blacks, punchy colours and great contrast. It's less resolute than the S23 Ultra, sure, but at this scale I really don't think people will be asking for more – especially given the 120Hz refresh rate panel.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Performance
Just as I said in my Galaxy S23 Ultra early review, at this early stage having only used the Galaxy S23 for a small amount of time and most certainly not as my own, I can't give a conclusive assessment on how it'll perform in the real world. Realistically, however, I'd expect it to be very similar to its S22 predecessor, but hopefully with a perceptible boost to battery life.
I'm pleased to see Samsung making that battery modification here (same in the S23 Plus, too, but not in the S23 Ultra). However, I do feel as though the company could have upped the fast-charging capacity here, as the 45W wired charging is a bit behind these days (although it's better than the Google Pixel 7's paltry speeds, I must admit).
As for processing power, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 here isn't going to revolutionise experiences compared to its Gen 1 predecessor really. I attended the launch of the new platform, so I know Qualcomm has gone all-in on artificial intelligence, but real-world uplift in applications generation on generation isn't going to be be night and day I suspect. That said, the Galaxy S23 is clearly among the more powerful of phones available in 2023 given its top-tier processor choice.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Cameras
- Main (23mm equiv.): 50-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
- Portrait (70mm): 3x zoom with 10MP, f/2.4, OIS
- Wide-angle (13mm): 12MP, f/2.2
- Selfie (25mm): 12MP, f/2.2
I've outlaid the four main cameras you'll find on the Galaxy S23 above so you can see what you're getting. If the list looks familiar that's because, with the exception of a resolution change for the selfie camera (up from 10MP to 12MP), it's an identical camera arrangement to the earlier Galaxy S22 model.
Now that'll disappoint those hoping for a next-level experience from this small-scale flagship, especially as the S23 Ultra gains a super-resolute 200-megapixel main camera, but the entry S23 is very much an echo of its predecessor.
Just like with the Performance section above, I've clearly not yet used the S23 Ultra's cameras beyond a little bit of pointing-and-shooting action, so while Samsung claims better nighttime shooting this time around, I haven't had the chance to experience how different such circumstances will be just yet.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Early verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S23 comes from good stock. You can tell that, because it didn't really need to change a bunch of stuff compared to its Galaxy S22 predecessor to be a success straight out the gate.
So while it may appear that Samsung has played it safe with this release, there are small but important tweaks that only add to this device's appeal: the increase in battery capacity, the removal of the camera housing making for a more unified family of devices (it looks more like an 'Ultra Mini' now), and an upgrade to the processor.
Much like I said with the S23 Ultra: I don't think those currently using the Galaxy S22 are going to dash out immediately to grab an S23 upgrade, because the differences and now higher price tag probably don't warrant it. But if you're coming from a different phone, or perhaps an older device, and are looking for a great small Android flagship then, well, it looks as though Samsung has once again delivered the goods.
However! You can pick up the previous Samsung Galaxy S22 for nearly £300 less than the newer S23 model (and only AU$100 less from Samsung Australia). Sure, it's got the older design, and you forego 200mAh of extra battery capacity, but aside from the slight processor upgrade that's pretty much all that differs, making this older model potentially more appealing for those buying the handset outright.
If you think the 6.1-inch display of the Galaxy S23 might be a bit too small for your needs, then there is also the Galaxy S23 Plus. It's the same in every regard, except features a larger screen and more battery capacity. It's also a fair chunk of cash pricier, so you may overall lean towards the top-tier (and even larger) Galaxy S23 Ultra instead.
Outside of team Samsung it's the Google Pixel 7's eye-catching design and great cameras may appeal, plus it's cheaper than the entry Galaxy S23 too, making it another one of the top picks for smaller-scale Android phones.