Samsung have changed their tack on the Galaxy S Ultra lineup this year with the new Galaxy S24 Ultra being not so much about the hardware but all about the software, and in particular, AI.

Don’t get me wrong because once again the hardware is outstanding, but the software and AI chops of the phone is what Samsung are hoping will set it apart from the rest of the pack.

First, a disclaimer:  I have never been a huge Samsung fan due to various reasons but this year I am a changed man.  I have used an iPhone 15 extensively over the past few months and am more open-minded than ever.  

It may be a new-found love for ALL things mobile or the fact that Samsung has improved their device extensively, but I think I can safely say that this is the best Samsung smartphone ever.


Let’s get this section out of the way first.  While changing up the design of the less Galaxy S24 devices, Samsung has stuck with the ugly, boxy shape of the Ultra model.  I don’t like it.  Not even a bit. The edges on the sides are rounded slightly but the top and bottom edges, not so much.   Harsh is what I call it.

The phone is basically a black rectangular slab very reminiscent of the Sony smartphones back in the day.    The lesser Galaxy S24’s have much more rounded corners giving them a much more pleasing shape, finally enough, reminiscent of the iPhone design of the last couple of years.  

I assume that the boxy shape is required to fit the stylus inside the body of the phone without it poking out anywhere. To me, it is like they need a separate phone for the stylus, maybe they could call it a note? The Galaxy S24 Note, and the non-S-Pen version the Ultra.

Then they could make a good-looking, well-designed ultra-premium smart phone without a stylus and then one with the stylus.  Sounds like a revolutionary idea but funnily enough, like many things in life at the moment old is new.

Now I do like the idea of the stylus/S Pen, but who really uses it all that much? These days Android is so optimised for touch and finger use that the accuracy of a stylus is rarely required.  

The front of the device houses the most beautiful display I’ve ever seen on a smart phone with exceptionally minimal bezels with amazing symmetry.

Turn the phone over and you are greeted with four camera sensors all set apart from each other and not in a single camera island like we see on pretty much every other premium smartphone on the market.


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a big phone and with its boxy design it looks even bigger.  It is still approximately the same size as the Pixel 8 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.  It is just 2.5mm wider than the Pixel 8 Pro, but the same height.  Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is just 2.4mm taller and 2.3mm wider.  

But, although the actual measurements are extremely similar, the Galaxy S24 Ultra seems so much bigger than the other two.  The boxy shape does it no favours. In fact, my wife saw me with the Galaxy S24 Ultra and said there is no way she could use a phone so big – after placing it against her Pixel 8 Pro she was still not convinced, even though they are nearly identically the same size.

Now, even though it is similar in size to the other two flagships, it is much more wieldy to use.  Getting it into and out of pockets is nowhere near as easy as the iPhone and the Pixel due to its square corners – they just do not slide into pockets as easily.  The curved corners of the iPhone and Pixel make them much easier to use on a daily basis.  

In case you didn’t guess already, I’m not a fan of the design/shape.

Display and hardware are the best in the business

As mentioned above the 6.8 inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display is possibly the best display of a percent of smartphone. It offers a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz and a peak brightness of 2600 nits.  

Now that smartphone manufacturers are starting to come to their senses we also see the return of the completely flat display on the S 24 Ultra something that I totally love.  It was Samsung that started this curved display trend. It seems fitting that they end it — it was never a great thing.

That brightness is astounding. I thought the Pixel 8 Pro had a great display viewing in the sunlight and even that pales in comparison to the display in the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

I will say though that Samsung once again pump up and saturates the colours on the display a lot more than Google does.  This could be because Google is instead opting for a more natural softer colour palette which it does in its photographic images.

Samsung has also included the new Gorilla Armour glass on the Galaxy S 24 Ultra, the first smartphone manufacturer to do so.  This is meant to not only protect the display but decrease the glare from surrounding lights.  By itself it’s difficult to see this but popping up alongside the iPhone 15 and a Pixel 8 Pro and you can see a subtle difference.  

Underneath the display is the fastest fingerprint sensor Samsung has ever used on a smartphone.  It is nearly instantaneous and is great to use.  Loved it.  

S-Pen — Who uses it?

There’s not really much I can say about the S-Pen that has not already been said in previous years.  These days most people can type extremely fast in their phones, the stylus is superfluous.  Handwriting? Why?

The best use of the S-Pen I could find was as a remote control for the camera.  You can easily use it to take a photo flip from selfie to rear camera and vice versa.  

To be honest I love this functionality that could also be replaced by gestures such as holding your hand up or smile detection that some manufacturers have.  Samsung does include voice commands such as the ability to take pictures by saying “smile,” “cheese,” “capture” or “shoot” so once again the S-Pen is really superfluous.

Camera is great once again but is it the best?

This year Samsung has decided to use a 5x optical zoom camera instead of the 10x that was in the S23 Ultra.   It may seem like a downgrade but you do need to keep in mind that Samsung has also bumped up the resolution of the zoom camera to 50MP now instead of the 10MP 10x sensor in the S23 Ultra.

Joining the 50MP telephoto camera is a main 200MP camera with larger pixels than last year, a 12MP ultrawide camera and a 10MP telephoto camera with 3X optical zoom.

To get the 10X zoom of last year’s S23 Ultra a user can simply zoom in on a photo taken at 5X on the Galaxy S24 Ultra – this results in a 12MP resolution image according to Samsung.  So the end result is basically the same but the way of getting there is just different.

As discussed above, Samsung has made AI a feature of the S24 Ultra this year and it is evident in their photo editing software.  When you open up a photo in the Samsung Gallery app the AI will check out the photo and offer a couple suggestions how you could improve it – be it by making the photo better exposure etc or by adding creative touches such as background blurring.

The overall colours the S24 Ultra produces are extremely vibrant, much more so than the actual colour is in real life. It would be nice if you could easily manually dial that down with an easy setting in the camera but some folks like this colour saturation. When viewing an image by itself it looks great but when you view it side by side with another similarly priced smartphone it looks blown out of all proportions at times.

These are incredibly useful, if you use the Samsung Gallery app.  If you had photos where you liked the result in your usual gallery app (it should be Google Photos for all Android users IMO due to its ability to backup photos instantly) you should then open up the photo in the Samsung Gallery to see what the AI suggests you could do to make it even better.  It would be better if Samsung were able to offer Google Photos backup from within their Gallery app – that would make me use theirs by default.

If you buy this Samsung smartphone I would suggest that you spend a bit of time running every single photo through the Samsung AI to see how it could “improve” your images.  Now there are times where it was really pumping up the HDR levels just far too high and the colours look far too saturated but you do not have to accept every suggestion it gives you.

Software and performance like never before

Samsung has often included everything included as kitchen sink in their software and the performance of the smartphone has suffered as a result.  This year they have removed some of the older more useless software “enhancements” and the resultant performance is vastly improved.

Samsung’s software has always been an Achilles heel of their smart phones in my opinion with their overly bloated android skin making for a less than optimal Android experience.  

Samsung’s focus this year is on their AI and its “Life Enhancement.”  Their main features for this includes:

  • Live Translate
  • Circle to Search with Google
  • Chat, Note, Transcript, and Browsing Assist
  • Interpreter

Live translate during the phone call was amazing although there was a bit of lag between the speech and the translation but it worked well for the languages I tested it out on – Chinese, French and Italian.  This is extremely helpful and while we have seen Google come up with something similar with their Buds, the real world function of theirs left a lot to be desired.  Not so with the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Circle to Search is a great function to have and allows you to easily search for things on your smartphone display – even if you screenshot something.  While the Samsung was the first with it, it has since rolled out to the latest Pixel devices so you can experience that anywhere.  Samsung of course say you can use the S-Pen to circle to search but it works equally well with your finger.

Chat and Note assist functions were minimally useful – does anyone really care about writing style while sending a text?  

Transcript assist though is incredibly useful.  I use the Google recorded on my Pixel extensively for many things, such as lectures, meetings, doctors and vet appointments and the added AI functionality of the Transcribe Assist with the ability to distinguish different speakers from each other incredibly useful.

Browsing Assist is for those who do not wish to read an entire article and instead want a quick summary of it.  This functionality does require you to use the Samsung browser (a long way from my favourite browser) along with turning off on-device only processing of data so you may not use this one much.  Using summarise Browsing Assist decreased Trevor’s article down to just three dot points.  You can get those three dot points in detail or a small sentence but I’m sure Trevor will be rapt that his hard work was summarised down to just three sentences.

Interpreter is not new but with it relying more on AI now the interpretation should be extensively improved. 

When I heard that the Galaxy S24 Ultra would have an AI focus I was hoping for a voice typing experience that was equivalent to the Assistant typing on the Pixel phones.  Unfortunately the Sasmsung voice typing was even worse than that on a basic everyday Android smartphone.  Disappointing.  Either Google needs to share their Assistant typing or these other manufacturers need to spend at least a little bit of time developing AI voice typing.

Microsoft have long had a partnership with Samsung so I tested out Swiftkey keyboard but they do not have any special voice typing capabilities.  You would think that Microsoft could use Copilot or one of the myriad of AI capabilities it has to create a decent voice model?  That is a topic for another day but for now, no voice typing experience even comes close to that on the Pixel smartphones (and that includes the iPhone).

A quick word here with the one thing that many are critical of Samsung for doing – their own apps.  Google has the best Android apps for nearly all of their apps and Samsung on the other hand, not so much.  

Samsung needs to cut their losses and stop wasting time, effort and money developing their own apps (browser, calendar,, mail, texts etc) and just include Google’s only by default.  They include most of them anyway so it is more likely to confuse users with two options for so many things.  That time would be better spent on developing their own AI enhancements and system optimisation – although that is as good as it has ever been.

Now there are exceptions to every rule, and it is possible that Samsung’s Gallery could be one.  Their AI editing suggestions are incredibly useful but at the same time most people backup their photos to Google Photos.  

Google needs to sit down with Samsung and give them access to the API or something to allow them to allow Google photos to be shown in their Gallery.  In the end it would be great for Android. Google needs to wise up, their smartphone OS market share is slowly but surely being eaten away by Apple.  While they do not need to offer the same thing as each other, they need to collaborate to get the best out of their own products.

As a wise man once told me: “Better together, Not the same.”

Battery life and charging

In my experience the battery life on every single Samsung phone I have used for the past few years has been well under par.  They have rarely lasted a full day, especially with the display set on the highest resolution and fastest refresh rate.  This year though I set the display on the full QHD+ resolution and the maximal refresh rate of 120Hz and yet I was easily able to get over a day of use.

This is the best Samsung has ever been with their battery life and whatever they have done, more of it please.  Inject it straight into my veins.  Not only is it less power hungry but the entire system is snappier with no lag system UI lag present anywhere I could find.

I’m not entirely sure why this improvement is so pronounced but let’s put it down to all the new AI on-board?  Less bloatware?

Charging-wise, Samsung are still playing it safe with their charging although there is support for 45W wired charging (PD3.0) and 15W wireless charging. Nothing special but at least the equivalent of the Pixel and the iPhone charging speeds and capabilities. It’s good enough but Samsung has once again included no charger in the box — you’ll have to fork out extra for that unless you already have one in the cupboard.

Best ever Samsung

I have been very critical of Samsung in recent years but this year’s flagship, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is their best ever. It should be no surprise that a company improves a phone from the year before but for me this year has been a major improvement.

The much improved (and much needed) battery life, the flat display that is the best I have ever seen on a smartphone, the software that is faster than ever (it has been bogged down a bit in the past), and some of the new AI enhancements. All these add up to decent improvements on last year’s offering.

The shape is still ugly (considering how good the normal S24 models look), cumbersome and generally difficult to pocket with a stylus that is getting less and less useful for the average user every year.

The camera performs ok. I don’t rate it as highly as that in the Pixel 8 Pro nor the iPhone 15 Max Pro but it is still acceptable. The ridiculous zoom is gone with a lot of smoothing algorithmic adjustment and the colour saturation of photos is still blasted well beyond any realistic representation of the true nature of the colour the image is representing.

Some people like that and it can be pleasing to the eye when seeing such bright, punchy colours. I’m not though. I like a true representation of what I see which is why I favour the Pixel 8 Pro — those who sit in between should look at the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

If you don’t mind the look of it though then this is a must when considering which ultra-premium smartphone you wish to purchase. Although the camera isn’t quite as good as the other ultra-premium flagships on the market it has enough other enhancements to make it a compelling consideration and/or purchase.

Check it out at a store near you.