It seems like so far, AI has been like the elusive beast that everyone has been talking about but very few have seen. Samsung has taken the onus to tame this beast upon itself, so to speak, and that effort comes in the form of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, touted to be the first AI-first phone, along with its other siblings in the S24 series. Samsung being Samsung, has branded its bouquet of AI features as Galaxy AI, and promised that the same will be made available on 100 million devices this year. For the here and now though, the Galaxy S24 series, and its torchbearer, the Galaxy S24 Ultra, is where the focus is.
Such is the emphasis on AI this time that Samsung isn’t talking much about the specs at all, and instead, focussing on the AI features. Let’s put its intelligence, artificial or otherwise, to the test and see how it fares.
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VerdictThe Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s AI features take centre stage, and some of them are quite useful as well. Leave those out, and you’re left with a premium flagship smartphone that comes across as an incremental upgrade, but delivers in almost all aspects — performance, battery life, cameras and more. The S Pen and other productivity features make it a powerhouse that should be apt for professionals, creative folks, and power users in general. As long as they can digest the pricing.
AI featuresCovered under the umbrella term of Galaxy AI are a bunch of AI features, sprinkled across various tasks and functions. Here’s an overview:
The Circle to Search feature allows you to initiate a visual search for anything you see on the phone’s screen, just by long pressing the home button or navigation bar and then circling the object onscreen. It’s sort of like Google Lens, but on steroids, and simpler and faster too.
The Galaxy AI on the S24 Ultra offers live language translation on calls, which, when enabled, relays an AI voice prompt for the person on the other end of the call, in the chosen language. Similar functionality is available if the other person is in front of you, with the interpreter function providing real-time voice translation for both parties for whatever is uttered by both parties. The translation isn’t perfect, and can sometimes come up with literal translations, but works and can be useful in a pinch. Other language and text-related AI features include the ability to change the tone of your writing, and translations in messaging apps.
Next, the Samsung Notes app is now laden with AI goodies, allowing you to format, summarise, organise and generate covers for your notes spontaneously. The Voice Recorder app has taken on some AI skills as well, and apart from translations, can handle transcriptions of recordings — a welcome feature for us journos.
Photo editing is another function that has received a boost thanks to Galaxy AI. It is worth mentioning that some of these features are offered by the Google Pixel 8 Pro as well, but Samsung has done a good job with these too. On offer is the ability to get rid of unwanted objects in photos, moving or resizing them for creative and dramatic effect, and generating new backgrounds to fill in gaps. Again, it isn’t perfect and while sometimes the results can be a bit iffy, it does the job and once in a while, can amaze you with what it can do. AI also enables converting regular videos to slow motion, which is quite a useful feature to have.
Design and display
When it comes to the Galaxy S24 ultra design, Samsung hasn’t really broken the mould and largely stuck to the same design language as the predecessor, the Galaxy S23 Ultra (review). However, the S24 Ultra does get a new titanium frame (read: it’s stronger and lighter), along with a flat screen which I think is a welcome change… makes the phone easier to grip, reduces false touches, makes the S Pen easier to use and if you prefer additional screen protection as I do — makes screen protectors easier to apply. Otherwise, the S24 Ultra isn’t drastically different from its predecessor, and you might not be able to tell the two apart from a distance. You might even be able to use an existing S23 Ultra case with the S24 Ultra — one out of the two S23 Ultra cases I had worked just fine (well, almost). The placement of the ports and controls is typical, and the S Pen silo is located at its usual place on bottom left. The IP68 rating is there too, as expected.
Up front is a gorgeous 6.8-inch Dynamic LTPO AMOLED display boasting 120Hz refresh rate and support for HDR10+. The peak brightness goes up to 2,600 nits, so harsh sunlight doesn’t pose any problems in terms of screen eligibility, and there’s a new anti-glare coating, plus a layer of Gorilla Armor (the latest and the best Corning has to offer as of now) to keep scratches at bay. The expectations from a Samsung AMOLED display are quite high as usual, and the screen on the S24 Ultra doesn’t disappoint at all.
The shooting apparatus on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is largely the same as its predecessor, and includes a 200MP primary camera, a 10MP 3x telephoto, and a 12MP ultrawide. The 10MP 10x telephoto from last year has been replaced by a 50MP 5x snapper — so you get higher resolution at the cost of zoom levels here. There isn’t much difference in image quality from what I can make out, and 5x shots do turn out better for the most part. Overall, the Galaxy S24 Ultra produces great results across a variety of different shooting conditions — with signature Samsung vividness, sharpness and clarity. The S24 Ultra absolutely shines in long-range zoom shots. Okay, 100x shots can still show a water painting effect, but overall, still beat similar shots captured by rival phones that boast hyper zoom. Worth mentioning that apps like Instagram and Snapchat support the S24 Ultra’s cameras natively, thereby allowing you to utilise the features when you post on these social networks.
Of special note is the AI-enabled capability of previewing regular videos as slow-mo. One can long-press on a video playing via the Gallery app to preview the same footage in slow motion, and if the results look good, there’s an option to edit and save the video as a slow-mo video as well, with generative AI filling in the missing frames.
Software and S Pen
Android 14 with One UI 6.1 form the software side of things, with a bunch of apps preloaded… from Google, Microsoft, and of course, Samsung itself. Call it bloatware if you will, and there’s redundancy in terms of a few apps (like gallery and browser) as well, but some of the ones you don’t need can be uninstalled. Samsung’s ecosystem of apps and services is there in all its glory and I think that’s one of the key benefits only a Samsung flagship can boast — everything from Samsung Notes to Cloud, the capabilities tied to the Samsung account (online backup and restore, Find your phone, etc), Secure Folder, Samsung Pass, Samsung Wallet, and quite a few others — they’re all quite useful to have. Not to mention DeX, the feature that allows you to connect your phone to a large screen wirelessly or over HDMI, and get a desktop-like environment most apt for serious work.
And then there’s the S Pen… the slim accessory that lives in its own little silo inside the phone, and makes an appearance as and when you want. Inherited from Samsung’s popular Note series, the S Pen is a unique tool that enhances productivity and creativity, provided you put it to good use. For a change, Samsung isn’t talking much about the S Pen this time, so its feature set is likely the same as before. Still, there’s no doubt in my mind that the S Pen is a huge differentiator for the S24 Ultra and sets it apart from other premium flagships
Performance and battery
With Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 at its helm, how can performance be an issue? The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra handles tasks, light or heavy, with utmost ease. The user experience is extremely smooth and there are no lags or jitters whatsoever. Of course, it can handle games quite well too, though I doubt anyone would consider the S24 Ultra purely from a gaming perspective. The smartphone score high on most benchmarks, and while there’s some throttling seen in the CPU Throttle test, that doesn’t show up in regular use and the phone keeps its cool when it’s driven hard and subjected to heavy usage.
The device doesn’t disappoint from a battery life perspective either (it has a 5,000mAh unit) and delivers solid battery life with medium to heavy use. As usual, that statement comes with the caveat that mileage can vary and if you use battery-draining features like hotspot, 4K video recording, intensive gaming, etc, you might need a topip charge in the evening. The charging speeds max out at 45W and Samsung doesn’t include a charger in the box, so you’re left to your own devices, literally speaking. I was able to juice up the device fully in a little over a couple of hours. Wireless charging (15W) and reverse wireless charging (4.5W) are in the offing as well, befitting a premium flagship.
Stripped bare of its AI promise, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra comes across as an incremental upgrade as compared to its predecessor — a flagship with a flat screen and an upgraded chip. And speaking of AI features, it’s not as if those are the exclusive domain of the S24 Ultra. Its own siblings, the Galaxy S24+ and the S24 offer the same features and might come across as better value for money, depending upon what you’re looking for. The Google Pixel 8 Pro (review) also offers quite a few AI features and in some cases actually works better than the Galaxy. S24 Ultra. Apart from the Pixel 8 Pro, other phones in contention include the likes of the Vivo X100 Pro (review) and the OnePlus 12 (review). However, the Galaxy S24 Ultra still stands out as the most accomplished if all its features and capabilities are taken into consideration. Of course, it still has to contend with the venerable iPhone 15 Pro Max. The latter can match the S24 Ultra’s performance and cameras, but can’t offer you an S Pen. Plus, iPhone vs Android is an ages-old battle, and in many cases, driven by aspects like aspiration and ecosystem buy-in… more than specs, features or capabilities.
Then there is also the question of whether the AI features boasted by the Galaxy S24 Ultra are actually useful or not. I think they are. Initially, I thought most of the AI features looked very productivity-oriented, and as such, might not appeal to everyone. But then, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a productivity-based device anyway. Considering features like Secure Folder, the Galaxy ecosystem features, DeX connectivity, large screen and above all the S Pen, it’s clear that this device is going to appeal to power users, professionals and creative people. So the question is if the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the best phone money can buy at this time. Well, “best” is a very strong word and I’ll leave that decision in the capable hands of the jury panel of our year-end awards. But is it the most all rounded phone as of the time of writing? Undoubtedly.
Editor’s rating: 8.5 / 10
Reasons to buy
- The AI & productivity features make the Galaxy S24 Ultra a powerhouse
- The flagship offers strong performance and long battery life
- The display is among the best, while cameras are excellent
- The S Pen is super useful
Reasons not to buy
- Big and heavy
- AI features won’t appeal to everyone