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Overall, the S24U took great pictures in all conditions. You’ll still see Samsung’s super-saturated colors and a tendency towards slightly warmer hues, but for the most part it feels extra vibrant. Samsung also has a habit of overdoing the sharpening a bit, though it’s not distracting. Even in low light, the S24U’s Night Mode largely matched Google’s Night Vision, which is no small feat.
Software: Samsung’s big push into artificial intelligence
Aside from its new hardware, the biggest addition to the S24 Ultra is Samsung’s Galaxy AI features, an entire suite of tools divided into three main categories: text and translation, photography and editing, and search.
There is a translator mode for in-person chats as well as a live translation feature that you can use during calls. Both are good enough to use in a pinch while traveling, but some things like word choice and pacing can be a little off. The experience can also be a bit clunky, especially when you’re on the phone and have to wait for the AI to catch up.
Then there’s Chat Assist, which can check spelling, grammar, and more adjust the tone of messages. Admittedly, the social and emoji options are a little gimmicky, but I really appreciate the polite and professional options, as they can help prevent a text or email from sounding combative.
In the Notes app, the S24U can also summarize, auto-format, spell-check or translate a file, which is nice, but not exactly ground-breaking. Many of these features are already available from other services such as ChatGPT or Bard. However, these improvements may be the biggest improvements to the S24 Ultra’s S-Pen, which is otherwise unchanged.
My favorite of Samsung’s text-based tools is the transcription feature in the Voice Recorder app. This makes quoting interviews very simple, although I found Samsung’s UX to be not as polished or simple as what you get from Google. For example, Pixel Recorder lets you watch the transcription in real-time, while Ultra has you record a convo and then tap the AI icon to create a chat log when you’re done.
AI can also suggest adjustments to images, such as automatically reconstructing images (similar to Auto Tone in Photoshop) or removing distracting elements such as shadows and reflections. You can see these options by tapping the Info icon in the Gallery app, which makes accessing them super easy and can be the fastest way to improve your photos. The S24 Ultra can also create slow-motion clips from existing footage by simply tapping and holding it while the video is playing. This triggers the phone’s AI to quickly generate new frames based on recorded footage (ie 30 fps to 120 fps), and the results are surprisingly smooth.
If you prefer a more hands-on approach, there are Generative AI edits that let you reframe shots, move objects, or remove them entirely while the phone fills in the gaps. It’s a simple but effective process that eliminates the need for Photoshop in many cases. However, if you look closely, you can see areas where Samsung’s AI misses more detail than the Pixel 8’s Magic Editor, a trend I’ve noticed with many of Samsung’s AI features.
All of the new tools generally work as expected, but not everything feels as streamlined or polished as many of Google’s alternatives. Notes has a word limit for automatic formatting, summarization, and more, limiting you to about three or four paragraphs at a time. This means that if you have a mid-sized healer, you’ll have to tackle it piecemeal, which gets tiresome pretty quickly. And sometimes if you try to highlight areas of the photo to eliminate reflections, the phone will smooth the entire area and paint the details.
In other cases, the AI will suggest trivial edits, such as turning a short action photo into a timelapse. Maybe it was my fault for importing a photo taken by another device, but I think the phone should know better. Artificial intelligence is designed to work on any photo, no matter where it comes from. Depending on the shot and what you’re trying to do, even moving objects in the photo can be distorted. And every now and then the phone will prompt you to reframe a photo, only for it to tell you there’s nothing to fix. As a photographer, it’s a great feeling. But at the same time, why am I being told there are things I need to fix if that’s not really the case? But this is Samsung’s first big push into AI-powered features, so it shouldn’t be a shock to see a few hiccups.
Rounding out the S24’s suite is Circle to Search, a new AI feature that relies on the cloud instead of being on-device. It’s essentially a combination of traditional text-based queries and visual search tools like Google Lens, but no standalone software is needed. The neat thing is that it can analyze images from the web or objects in your own photos, which makes it very versatile. But Google recently revealed that Circle to Search is also coming to Pixel phonesso it’s not like an exclusive feather in Samsung’s cap.
Battery life: about two days of juice
Between the power efficiency from its new processor and the large 5,000 mAh battery, the S24 Ultra delivered some truly impressive longevity. In our local video review test, it lasted 24 hours and 19 minutes, which is more than four hours longer than last year. And in the real world, its battery life was even more impressive. S24U often has more than 50 percent left after 24 hours. So, depending on your usage, it is possible for this phone to last two days without charging.
At this point, you’d be forgiven for getting tired of companies trying to push AI into everything. But if you think of these as software improvements designed to make your phone more useful, Samsung’s push into machine learning makes more sense. The S23U was already a great phone, and in the S24 Ultra we get the same (albeit somewhat simpler) design, but with a tougher titanium frame, faster chip, brighter screen and longer battery life. Samsung has also tweaked the main telephoto lens to provide a more useful focal length, but without a significant reduction in coverage or quality.
But the great thing is that with the Galaxy AI suite, Samsung has finally responded to the sophisticated features previously only available in the Pixel family. Sure, S24’s tools aren’t as polished as Google’s offerings, but they get you 80-90 percent of the way there. In addition to a top-to-bottom list of the best smartphone hardware in its class, it feels like Samsung is using AI to shore up one of the few remaining weaknesses of its flagship phone. Especially now the company is watching Google steps and software increasing OS and security updates every six to seven years.
However, the Ultra’s biggest sticking point — its price — remains an issue. With the S24U starting at $1,300, it’s $100 more than the previous model. I’m also disappointed that Samsung didn’t accept it Qi 2. It’s frustrating to see that all the major OEMs, including Apple, have agreed to a wireless charging standard. the largest phone manufacturer walk in the world. Qi got 2 approved last year and we won’t see it on a high-end Samsung phone until 2025.
While the use of AI isn’t a super exciting development at a time when everyone and their grandma is trying to fit it into everything, it does make the S24 Ultra a more powerful and well-rounded phone. And when you stick that on a phone that’s already a leader in hardware, you end up with a pretty commanding device.