Samsung Welcomes New AI Enhancements

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Image Comparisons
A comparison of images between the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and some rival devices.

Generally, the S24U captured stunning photos in all types of conditions. You will still notice Samsung’s vivid colors and preference for slightly warmer tones, but in most cases, it just adds an extra sense of liveliness. Samsung also tends to go a bit overboard on sharpening, though it’s not a significant distraction. Even in low light, the S24U’s Night Mode largely kept up with Google’s Night Sight, which is quite an achievement. Software: Samsung’s significant focus on AI Photo by Sam Rutherford/EngadgetIn addition to its new hardware, the most significant addition to the S24 Ultra is Samsung’s Galaxy AI features, which encompass a whole suite of tools falling into three main categories: text and translation, photography and editing, and search.

There is an interpreter mode for face-to-face discussions along with a live translation feature that you can use during calls. Both are adequate to use when traveling, but some aspects such as word choice and pacing may be slightly off. The experience can also feel somewhat awkward, especially when you’re on the phone and have to wait for the AI to catch up.

Additionally, there’s Chat Assist, which can check spelling, grammar, and adjust the tone of messages. The social and emojify options are a bit gimmicky, but the polite and professional choices can help prevent a text or email from sounding confrontational. Photo by Sam Rutherford/EngadgetIn the Notes app, the S24U can also summarize, auto-format, spell-check, or translate a file, which is nice but not groundbreaking. However, these improvements may be the most significant upgrades to the S24 Ultra’s S-Pen, which is otherwise largely unchanged.

Among Samsung’s text-based tools, the transcription feature in the Voice Recorder app is a favorite, making it simple to grab quotes from interviews. However, Samsung’s UX doesn’t feel as polished or streamlined as Google’s. The Pixel Recorder allows you to see the transcript in real-time, while on the Ultra, you have to record a conversation and then generate a chat log after you’re done. Photo by Sam Rutherford/EngadgetThe AI can also propose edits for images, such as automatically remastering images or removing distracting elements. These options are super easy to access and might be the fastest way to enhance your photos. The S24 Ultra can also create slow-motion clips from existing footage just by tapping and holding on a video while it’s playing. This triggers the phone’s AI to generate new frames based on the fps of the recording, and the results are surprisingly smooth.

If you prefer a more hands-on approach, there are Generative AI edits that allow you to reframe shots, move subjects around, or delete them entirely, while the phone fills in the blanks. However, areas where Samsung’s AI misses more details than the Pixel 8’s Magic Editor may be noticed upon closer inspection. Photo by Sam Rutherford/EngadgetAll of the new tools generally function as expected, but things don’t feel as streamlined or polished as many of Google’s alternatives. In the Notes app, there’s a word limit for auto-formatting, summarizing, and more, which limits you to about three or four paragraphs at a time. That means if you have a medium-sized document, you’re going to have to tackle it in chunks, which gets tedious quickly. And sometimes, if you try to highlight areas of a photo to remove reflections, the phone will smooth over the entire area and paint over the details.

In other situations, the AI may suggest edits that don’t make sense, such as trying to turn a short motion photo into a timelapse. It’s possible this was my fault for importing a photo taken by another device, but I feel like the phone ought to know better. The AI is meant to work on any photo, regardless of where it came from. Even moving subjects around in a pic can get wonky depending on the shot and what you’re trying to do. And every now and then, the phone will suggest you remaster a photo, only for it to tell you that there’s nothing to fix. It’s a great feeling as a photographer, but at the same time, why am I being told there are things to fix if that’s not actually the case? However, this is Samsung’s first major push into AI-assisted features, so a handful of hiccups shouldn’t be a surprise. Photo by Sam Rutherford/EngadgetThe S24’s kit also includes Circle to Search, a new AI feature that relies on help from the cloud instead of taking place on-device. It’s essentially a combination of traditional text-based queries and visual search tools like Google Lens but without the need for a standalone app. It can analyze images from the web or objects in photos you’ve taken yourself, making it quite versatile. But Google recently announced that Circle to Search is coming to Pixel phones too, so it’s not an exclusive feature from Samsung.

Battery Life: Approaching two days of battery life
Due to the power efficiency gains from its new processor and a large 5,000 mAh battery, the S24 Ultra delivered impressive longevity. On our local video rundown test, it lasted 24 hours and 19 minutes, which is up over four hours compared to last year. In the real world, its battery life was even more impressive, often having more than 50 percent left after 24 hours. Depending on your usage, it’s possible for this phone to last two days without recharging.

At this stage, it would be understandable to be tired of companies trying to integrate AI into everything. But if you consider these as software upgrades meant to make your phone more useful, Samsung’s focus on machine learning makes a lot more sense. The S23U was already a great phone, and on the S24 Ultra, we’re getting the same (though somewhat plain) design, but with a tougher titanium frame, a much faster chip, a brighter display, and even longer battery life. Samsung also tweaked its main telephoto lens to provide a more useful focal length but without a major decrease in reach or quality. Photo by Sam Rutherford/EngadgetThe significant thing is that, with its Galaxy AI suite, Samsung finally has a response to the sophisticated features that were previously only available from the Pixel family. While the S24’s tools aren’t quite as refined as Google’s offerings, they get you 80 to 90 percent of the way there. And as a complement to what is more or less a top-to-bottom list of best-in-class smartphone hardware, it feels like Samsung is using AI to shore up one of the few remaining weaknesses of its flagship handset. Particularly now that the company is following in Google’s footsteps and increasing software support from six to seven years of OS and security updates.

However, the Ultra’s biggest drawback – its price – remains an issue. With the S24U starting at $1,300, it costs $100 more than the outgoing model. It’s also disappointing that Samsung didn’t adopt Qi 2. It’s frustrating to see all the major OEMs, including Apple, agree on a wireless charging standard only to have the biggest phone maker in the world drag its feet. Qi 2 got approved last year, and we may not see it on a high-end Samsung handset until 2025.

While harnessing AI might not be a super exciting development now that everyone and their grandmother is trying to integrate it into everything, it does make the S24 Ultra a more powerful and well-rounded handset. And when you add that to a phone that already had a lead in hardware, you end with a pretty commanding device.

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