What I Love and What I Don't

We love our big phones here at Gizmodo. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one giant phone making headlines for being the brand new hotness for Android users. It’s also the first time a third-party manufacturer is waving the freak flag for Google’s AI initiatives. The Galaxy S24 series is the first to debut Galaxy AI, including Circle to Search.

You might be lured in by all the news of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, thinking, “Huh, there might be something there for me after all.” Our in-depth review can tell you all about it. But if you don’t have the time, here’s what to like and what not to like about Samsung’s new flagship.

Galaxy S24 Ultra: What’s to like?

So many cameras

There are so many cameras on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. That’s what you get when considering the “ultimate” phone. The upside to carrying a bigger phone is that there is room for more lenses and camera sensors to capture the moment. Your smartphone is the camera on you, so why shouldn’t it offer options for life’s scenes?

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s primary camera is a 200-MP sensor that regularly shoots at about 12-MP using its brand of pixel-binning. The second camera is a 12-MP ultrawide, the third is a 50-MP telephoto lens with up to 5x optical zoom, and the fourth is a 10-MP telephoto with up to 3x optical zoom. All but the ultrawide camera has optical image stabilization, and the primary camera has the highest aperture. There’s also Super HDR compatibility.

Samsung TV in your pocket

Samsung’s smartphone displays remain unparalleled. They are bright and saturated but also go low enough to read in the dark with little blue light blaring at your face. There are also bassy stereo speakers to accompany the Ultra’s 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, so it’s like carrying a Samsung TV in your hand from room to room. If you are a binge-watching, TikTok-scrolling, needs-to-put-their-phone-into-a-locker-to-stop-using-it kind of user, the Galaxy S24 Ultra will make it hard to put it down.

Circle to Search and other AI hits

Circle to Search is one of my favorite new Android features. It makes it easy to tap into Google Search and swipe in and out. Its debut on the Galaxy s24 series means more goodies are likely coming from Google, even for those not using a Pixel.

I like many of Galaxy AI’s capabilities. I see the utility of features like automatic note organization and Instant Slow-mo, both facilitated by Galaxy AI. I like Samsung’s Chat Assist, too. It makes it easy to insert an emoji to decorate a message without looking through all 3,782. What better way to utilize AI than to have it pick up the emotional labor for you, even if just a bit? And yeah, I think some of its suggestions are good for diffusing correspondence between you and your boss. The point of the suggestions is just that—suggestions. Sometimes, that’s all you need to get your brain going.

a photo of Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Some of Samsung’s Galaxy AI features might seem like Deja Vu.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Some of the Galaxy AI features are redundant if you’re already paying for Google One, which unlocks some AI editing through Google Photos. Samsung’s Generative Edit will resemble what Google can do with Magic Editor if you’re using it to crop out lamp posts in landscape shots.

Galaxy S24 Ultra: What’s the problem?

Sorry, big phone fans

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is such a big phone! It’s thicker than the regular Galaxy S24+ with a 6.7-inch screen, and the OnePlus 12 has a similar 6.8-inch display. But the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a wider phone to make room for the stowable S Pen. You have to be committed to the stylus if you choose this device. And if your hands can’t handle it, you might not be into it as a daily carry.

I’m trying the Galaxy S24 Ultra with different cases to see if that helps the experience. I’m currently testing Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra standing grip case, which has a pop-out silicone stand that also serves as a grip handle so you don’t drop the Ultra.

Image for article titled Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: What I Love and What I Don't

Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Telephoto-h no!

Last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra had a tertiary 10-MP camera with up to 10x optical zoom. It’s been replaced with a 50-MP camera in the Galaxy S24 Ultra, a larger sensor, though it’s coupled with only 5x optical zoom. That’s as much as the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Google Pixel 8 Pro offer on their respective flagships, so at least it’s at parity there. But as reviews have been trickling in and out, it’s becoming more apparent that the telephoto on the Galaxy S24 Ultra isn’t an improvement.

While I didn’t initially encounter the issues with the Galaxy S24 Ultra in my review, I noticed the fuzziness on my end after becoming aware of it. The disparity between Ultras is particularly noticeable beyond the 5x optical mark, especially around the edges. Sometimes, the blurring appears aesthetic, so my eye didn’t immediately catch the muddled attempt at detail.

I’m still running tests as I compare the Galaxy S24 Ultra to other phones on the market and its predecessor, and I will follow up with more details. I will say that I’m having a more challenging time zooming in on airplanes above and figuring out their colorways—it’s my favorite thing to do with the Galaxy Ultras. I’ve been relying on FlightRadar more than usual to identify airlines. I don’t recall having that issue as often with the Galaxy s23 Ultra.

Samsung Keyboard is bad

I didn’t want to pile on, but I resonated a bit with the recent commentary on Samsung’s keyboard kind of sucking. Wired pointed out that the swipe mechanism is infuriating, and Samsung Keyboard’s word predictions are constantly off the mark. It may be that Gboard is better suited to my voice and way of typing, and that’s why I prefer it. At the very least, I have figured out a clever way to tap between Samsung Keyboard and Gboard to access what I need. Thank goodness for keyboard swap shortcuts.

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