Hands-on: Samsung’s Galaxy S24 wants to be a Pixel-killer

Photograph of the Samsung Galaxy S24 family - Reviews.org/au/
Pictured: The Samsung Galaxy S24 family
// AI is woven through the 2024 Galaxy S experience.
Fergus Halliday
Jan 18, 2024
Icon Time To Read3 min read

Whenever a new Samsung Galaxy S smartphone gets announced, it’s usually placed in conversation with Apple’s latest iPhone. However, every rule was made to be broken. With the Galaxy S24, Samsung has its sight set on the Google Pixel 8 Pro.

Let’s start with a recap. Recent years have seen Google shift away from pitching its flagship smartphone as a spec beast and towards the idea that it can be a vehicle for various AI-powered productivity hacks. First, it was translation. Then, it was transcription. Most recently, it’s summarization.

Based on a brief hands-on with the device, Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Series looks to be copying this playbook. Sure, there are a few design tweaks like thinner bezels and a newly upgraded camera system that’s able to offer what Samsung called “optical quality” zoom of up to 10x. However, regardless of whether you’re looking to switch ecosystems or upgrade from an older Galaxy S device, the story being told here is one driven by Samsung’s new Galaxy AI features.

Info Box
Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S24
Photograph of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Display - Reviews.org/au/
Samsung’s Galaxy AI might not be able to help you learn French quite yet, but it’s able to offer the next best thing.

For now, Galaxy AI isn’t prompt-based in the way that ChatGPT is. Instead, it’s more akin to the awesome AI tricks that the Google Pixel is known for. While some of these features (such as Circle to Search, Live Translate and instant transcription) are shared with the likes of the Google Pixel phones, Samsung’s implementation of these same features is surprisingly polished for a first attempt. At times, the difference felt so stark that even after only a short time with the new devices, the Smart Recorder app on my Pixel 8 Pro felt a little dated and shallow by comparison.

It’s not that the capabilities of Samsung’s new phones are all that different, but the way that these AI experiences are woven throughout the UX of Samsung’s take on Android is both more approachable and better integrated. For example, generative photo editing features like cleaning up reflections or shadows in photos aren’t buried in a menu, they appear as prompts whenever you look at a photo that could use a little bit of a tweak. Another Galaxy AI feature — the ability to rephrase and rework messages based on your desired tone - is built into the Samsung keyboard, so it’s never more than a single tap away.

Perhaps most importantly, it all happens very quickly. Samsung is looking to emphasize the security implications of its AI features running on-device rather than through the cloud, but the real treat here is the speed boost that this in-house approach brings with it. The most noticeable instance of this is the real-time voice translation, which allows for two-way translation across thirteen different languages. You can even mute your voice and allow the voice synthesizer to speak entirely on your behalf. Samsung’s Galaxy AI might not be able to help you learn French quite yet, but it’s able to offer the next best thing.

Photograph of the Samsung Galaxy S24 family - Reviews.org/au/

To be clear, there were a few hiccups during my hands-on with the device. Using Circle to Search on a bag with the name of a business on it brought up images of similar black bags rather than the business itself and the generative fill feature that lets you edit photos by repositioning objects within them sometimes left very visible signs of editing. You should never buy a smartphone purely in the hope that later software updates will make this feature better or resolve that issue. However, the reality is that many of these new AI features may need more time to settle. For instance, the transcription summaries available on Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro only support transcriptions of up to a certain length. It’s not yet clear whether Samsung’s take on the feature is subject to the same limitations.

Ever since Google started using the Pixel as a pilot for its AI tricks, Samsung’s Galaxy S line has seemed a little mundane by comparison. Whether the Galaxy S24 has what it takes to redress that balance is unclear, but it seems like Samsung is certainly going to try. At a certain point though, it’ll have to move beyond just doing what Google has done but better. It’ll have to come up with a few AI-powered productivity hacks of its own.

It’s a lesson that Samsung already learned once with Bixby but if you take a swing at the king, you’d best not miss.

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Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

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