LAS VEGAS – Samsung unveiled its newest flagship Galaxy S24 series smartphones at CES 2024 this week, showcasing a range of AI-powered software features that aim to compete with Google’s prowess in this area.
The new phones look largely similar to last year’s models, with the S24 and S24 Plus sporting triple rear camera setups and centered hole-punch front cameras. But under the hood, Samsung has made meaningful upgrades to the software and processing power that could appeal to users looking for a more intelligent experience.
Powered by a new customized Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip dubbed “for Galaxy,” the S24 lineup is capable of on-device processing for tasks like search, translations, note-taking, messaging and photo editing. This allows the phones to harness AI without relying as heavily on the cloud, providing quicker results while maintaining privacy.
Samsung has clearly invested significant resources into developing its own AI capabilities to catch up to leaders like Google and Apple,” said Avi Greengart, President of market research firm Techsponential. How well these new software features work in practice remains to be seen, but expanding the phone’s intelligence is a priority for smartphone makers and Samsung is making strides here.
Search Made Smarter with Google Partnership
One of the most intriguing new capabilities is Circle to Search, which Samsung developed alongside Google and is debuting first on the S24 before coming to Pixel phones. It allows you to circle any item on the screen, whether it’s a product image, block of text or even something in a YouTube video, and instantly get search results for that item from Google’s advanced AI.
During hands-on testing, I was impressed by the visual search accuracy and speed. Circling an angled photo of a grill quickly pulled up the correct Weber product page, while text selections generated keyword-based results. It provides a more seamless way to search based on things you see on the web or in apps, versus needing to switch to the Google app manually.
Samsung believes Circle to Search will be helpful for online shopping, research, travel planning and more. The feature works with gesture or button navigation and by long pressing near the home button. While useful, it may take time for people to form the habit of using it versus just switching to the Google app out of familiarity.
Messaging Made Smarter with Samsung AI
In the messaging arena, Samsung has introduced a feature called Chat Assist that relies on its new Gauss AI engine to suggest alternative ways of phrasing your texts. For example, it can make a curt message sound more polite or inject some emojis to liven it up.
During testing, I found the casual and polite suggestions competent, if basic, while the professional and social media styles needed more work. Turning “hey, want to meet for a drink?” into a formal invitation felt unnatural. But the technology shows potential, especially for non-native speakers who may appreciate style assistance.
Chat Assist aims to help you avoid miscommunications over text, but risks incorrectly interpreting tone if not polished further. Long term viability may depend on user feedback to improve the writing.
For translation, Samsung Translate can now process messages in over a dozen languages in real-time using Gauss. A new feature called Live Translate acts as an AI interpreter during phone calls made through the dialer app. While compelling in concept, lag during my demo meant translations stepped on conversations. Samsung will need to refine timing and latency for this feature to feel natural.
AI Helps Organize Notes and Photos
The Galaxy S24 series showcases Gauss capabilities within Samsung’s own apps too. In Notes, AI can quickly format text into readable headers, paragraphs and bullets when you paste or type a long note. It also tries to generate summaries, though the ones I saw were hit or miss in accuracy. Transcriptions of recordings can be summarized too, but it’s not yet a standout feature.
Photo editing sees an upgrade with the help of AI as well. The camera app will auto-fill backgrounds using a generative model if you make edits like extending a photo’s aspect ratio. Subject isolation was imperfect in examples though, so this requires finetuning. The app also provides intelligent editing recommendations catered to each picture.
Camera Hardware Sees Minor Improvements
With so much focus on AI updates, Samsung’s strides in hardware feel more incremental this year. The S24 and S24 Plus have the same 50MP main, 12MP ultrawide and 10MP 3x telephoto rear cameras as their predecessors. The front-facing selfie camera remains 12MP as well.
The displays are slightly larger at 6.2 and 6.7 inches for the S24 and S24 Plus, both with smoother adaptive 120Hz refresh rates. Battery capacities see a small bump to 4000mAh and 4900mAh respectively. Models launched in the US will use the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, while some regions will get Samsung’s Exynos options.
Pricing starts at $799 for the S24, $999 for the S24 Plus and $1199 for the S24 Ultra which boasts a 200MP main camera and an embedded S Pen stylus.
Hands-On With the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus
- The new AI software is promising but needs polish. Features like Circle to Search and Chat Assist worked decently well already while others like Live Translate need work on latency and accuracy.
- Camera hardware remains largely similar to last year, so those expecting major upgrades may be disappointed. The AI photo editing features are handy but could use refinement.
- Design is nearly identical to the S23 series. The phones blend in easily with iPhones at first glance. Lack of support for magnetic wireless charging is a missed opportunity.
- Performance felt fast and fluid with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, but it’s hard to evaluate long term speed without extended testing. The displays looked crisp with smooth 120Hz refresh rates.
- Battery life improvements will likely be moderate based on the capacity increases. Real-world testing is required to gauge endurance. Charging speed remains capped at 25W.
The Galaxy S24 series ushers in a new era for Samsung as it makes a determined push into AI-driven software. Features like visual search, enhanced photography and writing assistance show promise, but still appear to be in their early stages. With further development after launch, they could become more useful and reliable.
But Samsung may need to accelerate hardware innovation again to differentiate its premium phones, as the S24’s design and camera upgrades feel safe rather than groundbreaking. Foldables and future releases like the rumored Galaxy S25 Ultra could drive more excitement.
For now, the S24 series seems to keep Samsung competitive with additions like on-device AI processing and partnerships with Google. But the phones may struggle to tempt S23 owners to upgrade after just one year. The AI features will get the spotlight, but their everyday utility remains uncertain.
Long term viability will depend on Samsung committing resources to improve AI assistance over time, while avoiding missteps like the demise of Bixby. If executed well, the company could build a compelling case for its take on intelligent software experiences beyond core Android.