I first started reviewing smartphones back in the days when Nokia, HTC and BlackBerry were around. The number-one phone during this period was the Motorola Razr. Then along came Samsung who, in an effort to compete with the established mobile players, including Apple’s new iPhone that was launched in 2007.
Samsung launched their first Galaxy mobile in 2009 and I still have the Samsung Galaxy S1 and Galaxy S2.
Their early efforts failed due to poor design and limited mobile industry knowledge, and players like HTC, who are dead and gone today, were among the leading brands that gave Samsung a run for their money.
Apple had wrapped up the software side of the business and Nokia were too slow to respond to Apple, who were wowing consumers with their ease of use software.
However, this did not deter Samsung, who today are the global leader in smartphones as well as smartphone components that are found in their competitors’ products.
This week, Samsung is rolling out their all-new Galaxy S23 Ultra, a device packed with the latest in mobile technology, from the camera to the processor to the cutting-edge design and a pen which is unique to the Samsung top-end model.
This is an expensive powerhouse that is a very much a considered purchase that I believe will appeal more to Samsung Galaxy S21 and S22 customers than the current S22 Ultra customer.
The persistence Samsung demonstrated in those early days has paid off, with the South Korean manufacturer delivering the best smartphone in the market today.
While the latest S23 Ultra is a cutting-edge mobile device, the difference between the S22 Ultra and the new S23 Ultra is negligible.
Yes, it has a 200MP camera and shoots 8K video vs a 108Mp camera on the S21, but to the naked eye there is really little difference and the same applies to performance.
There is also little difference between the design of the two devices.
This cannot be said for the difference between the Samsung S20 Ultra and the S21 Ultra, where there is a big difference, with Samsung offering a big reason to step up to a new model.
The all-new S23 Ultra is a massive credit to Samsung and where they’re at in the mobile market today.
The turning point for Samsung was the Samsung Galaxy S2, an early model touchscreen-enabled, slate-format Android smartphone.
They unveiled the S II on 13 February 2011 at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
I suspect this was a do-or-die device for the company after the failure of the Samsung GT-I7500 Galaxy.
Announced on 27 April 2009, it was the first Android-powered device from Samsung Mobile, and the first in what would become the long-running Galaxy series. Unfortunately, it was panned by reviewers and shunned by retailers.
This did not deter Samsung management, who are well known for their persistence in getting a product offering right.
As for their latest premium smartphone, this device is going to cost you close to $2K. So the big question is, is it worth it and does it deliver a premium capability?
There is no doubt this is a well-engineered smartphone, a workhorse that delivers excellent functionality, however there are issues arising with this device that concern me, and it has nothing to do with hardware or functionality.
Samsung is fast expanding on their obsession to capture private information about your life, and with this device several software apps won’t work unless you comply with Samsung’s demands for information.
Take their health app on the S23 Ultra. This software cannot be activated unless you supply Samsung access to your contacts and email address. This is totally unacceptable as far as I am concerned.
Then there is obsession with Samsung ‘Free’ services.
I for one don’t want free games or movies from Samsung, yet despite this they are constantly prompting users to sign up for free content.
Samsung is then providing this data to app partners who then bombard you with their own emails.
I for one put up with this, because the smartphone product that Samsung delivers is the best in the market today.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is powered by the all-new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which has been custom configured by Samsung.
This is the heart and soul of this device and is the single reason Samsung is able to deliver better software functionality, such as when shooting pictures or watching a video.
The excellent speed and capability of this device is down to the way the processor has been set up to manage the marriage of hardware functionality and software performance. Simply, data processes faster, especially when shooting 200MP images.
The above image shows a boat over at Manly NSW. The distance is around 4 kilometres. The images below show 50 zoom and then 100X xoom. The S23 Ultra was hand held.
You can shoot 8K video and the device can easily be turned into a pro camera when switching to expert RAW mode. Movies have already been shot with this device.
And if you really wanted to, you can display feeds from four different cameras simultaneously in the Director video mode on the S23.
For the camera enthusiast, you can also shoot full-resolution photos and RAW, with the camera defaulting to pixel-binning 16 pixels into one, so you usually capture 12MP images with higher dynamic range and a whole lot more detail, which comes in handy when zooming in and out of images.
Zoom is a big improvement on this device, however you do have to have a steady hand or a tripod to get the best out of the S23 Ultra.
Samsung has not only taken ownership of super zoom technology in a smartphone, through the use of new software they’ve delivered a whole new zoom capability that is achievable because of the use of an improved and smarter camera sensor that takes advantage of the new Snapdragon processor.
A big disappointment for some is the drop in resolution of the selfie camera from 40MP to just 12MP.
On the plus side, it does have autofocus built in, 60fps for videos, and a Super HDR capture mode.
As for the display screen I think you are going to be hard pressed to find a better screen. Even Apple is relying on Samsung to manufacture their OLED Display screens for their top-end iPhones.
The display is the same as the S22 Ultra at 3,088 x 1,440-pixel resolution, 1750 nit brightness, and 120Hz refresh rate.
If you want to save battery power you can drop as low as 1Hz.
the S23 Ultra’s Super AMOLED display delivers rich colours and great blacks, however Samsung has gone a tad over the top with the colour adjust software, with some images coming out over-compensated with greens way too bright to the real image.
Also built into the new display is vision booster that delivers better viewing in broad daylight.
This software allows you to see in harsh sunlight. I found it useful last week when using my Golf scoring app on an extremely bright day.
I was able to see the screen clearly between holes as other players using their iPhones struggled to read their MIScore app because of the bright light.
Night mode is another key feature.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra camera hardware delivers several shooting options, including wide angle, ultra-wide angle and even telephotography, using three types of main rear lenses and the 3x optical zoom Telephoto Camera.
Each of the rear lenses shoot and create unique images that capture different vibes in various conditions and settings.
With a total weight of 233g and a 6.8-inch display, the Galaxy S23 Ultra, while looking similar to the last model, does deliver marginal improvements when it comes to camera shooting. One of those improvements is the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s Nightography, which basically improves night shots by taking advantage of the new sensor and the combination of faster processing speeds.
The new S23 Ultra is now capable of reducing noise of photos and videos even in dark environments due to the inclusion of a new signal processing (ISP) that uses AI solutions.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 has a large 5,000mAh capacity. I am a talker, on the phone all day, referencing sites, downloading PDF files, watching videos and accessing apps. To me battery life is critical, and despite the hammering I gave this device I was still ending the day with over 25% battery life.
The device I reviewed came with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. This is ample because most of the files I need are in the cloud.
This is the Swiss army knife of smartphones. Superbly engineered, but it’s expensive at nearly $2K. As a former S22 Ultra user I doubt whether I would upgrade, especially if you’re looking to save money during high inflation times and rising mortgage costs.
But if I was a Galaxy S20 or S21 customer or the owner of any other Android-based smartphone, I would be chafing at the bit to get my hands of this device.
It’s a show piece that delivers right across the board — processor camera, battery life and the design is a proven formula that works.
I’s also predominantly manufactured by Samsung, and that counts for me as they are always going to out the best components in their own products first and foremost.
I am not a fan of handing out to all and sundry my personal information let alone contacts. Samsung has to stop this practise and above all create an environment whereby users of their mobile who want to use one of their apps can do so without having to hand over access to confidential information.