Samsung Unveils Galaxy S24 Ultra: Smarter, Pricier, and Maintains its Generous

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The latest flagship smartphone promises enhanced intelligence, a premium price tag, and continues the tradition of substantial size in the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Ever wish you could have the most phone? For several years running, Samsung’s S-series Ultra has been that device, and the company is going just as big with the Ultra for 2024. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is here with a new titanium finish, lots of AI tools, and a higher starting price: $1,299, up from an already high $1,199.

One of the most immediately noticeable new features of the Ultra is how it’s built. This year’s model has a titanium frame — like Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro — which Samsung says allows for better durability. Unlike Apple, Samsung hasn’t used the material in an attempt to make the phone lighter; titanium is heavier than aluminum, but it’s more durable so you can use less of it. In this case, Samsung has just gone for the durability factor. The S24 Ultra weighs about the same as the S23 Ultra (8.22oz or 232 grams) which makes it slightly heavier than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

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The other big change up front is the display. The S24 Ultra comes with a 6.8-inch 1440p display, just like the S23 Ultra, but it finally ditches the curved edges inherited from the Note series in favor of a flat screen. There’s still a slight curve to the edge of the device, unlike the straight-edged S24 and S24 Plus, but now there’s much less chance of accidentally running your S Pen over the side of the display.

There’s another hardware shake-up on the back of the phone: Samsung swapped the S23 Ultra’s 10-megapixel 10x zoom for a 50-megapixel 5x. It uses a lossless crop zoom to get to 10x, and even though it’s no longer a native focal length, several Samsung representatives told me the image quality at 10x should actually be improved compared to the S23 Ultra. You can still zoom all the way out to 100x, which, in very early testing, still appears to be mostly a party trick.

Hardware on the other four cameras is unchanged from last year, so you’re still working with a 200-megapixel f/1.7 main, a 10-megapixel 3x telephoto, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide on the back, plus a 12-megapixel selfie camera on the front.

And oh, the AI. Samsung has filled its new phone series with just about every AI feature you’ve seen on other flagship phones to date. The S24 Ultra, S24 Plus, and S24 are loaded with local and cloud-based AI features and are running Google’s Gemini foundational models on-device. That’s great news considering Google makes you buy the bigger Pixel 8 Pro if you want all of its AI perks.

The S24 series has a handful of new image and video editing tools powered by generative AI, noted throughout the UI with an extremely Google Bard-esque star icon. You can circle photo subjects to isolate them and resize them, move them around, or totally remove them from the frame. You can also adjust the horizon level in your photo and, rather than cropping, have AI fill in the edges of the image. That one’s for my fellow crooked photo-takers.

I played with these tools for a few minutes, and they seem about par for the course: sometimes impressive and sometimes prone to adding wacky stuff to your image. But the coolest feature I saw demoed wasn’t for still photos — it was for videos. You can turn any video into a 120fps slow-motion video after the fact, no matter what mode, frame rate, or even camera you captured it with. It uses AI to interpolate the missing frames, and it was incredibly convincing on the 60p video we shot in the demo area.

Other features throughout the system include a new Circle to Search feature from Google, which is about as self-explanatory as it gets. The S24 series, along with the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, are the first phones to offer it. In any app, you just long-press the navigation handle or the home button, circle whatever it is on the screen you want to search for, and let Google do the rest. I thought I could fool it and have it “identify” a fake plant, but no. Google reported that I could buy this piece of decor at Walmart for $9.

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A few AI features center on translation. There’s a feature that acts as an interpreter on phone calls, translating your speech in real time into the other party’s language and vice versa. It’ll work with 13 different languages. You can also translate text conversations into another language, a function that’s built into Samsung’s keyboard app so it works across any chat service. The keyboard can also suggest text based on what you’re writing to tailor your message to sound more casual or more professional.

Samsung’s voice recorder is also getting Pixel-like live transcriptions with speaker labels and the ability to translate your transcriptions into another language. The Notes app is getting some handy tools, too, with the ability to automatically format and summarize pages for you. And if any of the above is enticing enough to tempt you to trade in your S23, you can stop right there. Samsung plans to bring these AI capabilities to S23-series phones and the Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5 sometime in the future — it tends to make good on those kinds of promises, too.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra will come with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy chipset in all regions where it’s sold — that’s not true of the S24 and S24 Plus, which only come with the 8 Gen 3 in the US. In other parts of the world, they’ll use an Exynos chipset, though Samsung tells us that this won’t have any bearing on the AI capabilities. On the connectivity side, it’s also getting a bump up to Wi-Fi 7.

One thing that’s curiously missing from every Galaxy S24 phone? Qi2 wireless charging. The S24 series is stuck on plain-old Qi, missing out on the MagSafe-style magnetic attachments and accessories that are starting to trickle in. Bummer. But there’s some very good news to offset that disappointment: Samsung is joining Google in offering seven years of OS upgrades for the S24 series, which includes seven years of security updates. The Ultra may cost a bit extra this year, but you’ll get much more bang for your buck if you want to hang onto it for a long time.

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