Samsung debuts S23 line complete with big camera improvements
Samsung on Wednesday debuted the latest generation of its flagship smartphone line: the Android-powered Galaxy S23. As in prior years, Samsung is offering three versions of the handset, the Galaxy S23, the Galaxy S23+, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The S23 will set you back $799, while the S23+ costs $999. The S23 Ultra, meanwhile, costs $1,199.
Overall, the phones look largely similar to the Galaxy S22 line, though this time around, Samsung has removed the blocky housing around their camera lenses. The S23 and S23+ feature flat 6.1-inch and 6.6-inch displays, respectively, while the S23 Ultra gets a new 6.8-inch curved display with a larger flat surface area than the S22 Ultra.
I’m a fan of the S23 and S23+’s overall aesthetic, largely because I’m not interested in the curved look of the S23 Ultra. A 6.8-inch phone is also a bit too large for my liking. But that doesn’t mean that the Ultra doesn’t have plenty of features to draw consumers.
Each version of the S23 gets a Dynamic AMOLED 2x display, for rich colors, but the S23 Ultra’s refresh rate can be dropped down to 1 frame per second to save power and pushed up to 120 frames per second for speedy responsiveness. The S23 and S23+’s displays can drop down to 48 frames per second and up to 120. The lower the frame rate, the more battery life a phone can save. The screens, Samsung says, also have the highest brightness of any phone it’s offered before.
Samsung is making the camera the star of the show this time around, and the S23 Ultra gets all of the love. First up is the S23 Ultra’s new 200-megapixel (MP) camera sensor. That’s an upgrade from the 108-MP camera sensor on the S22 Ultra. Samsung says you use that 200-MP sensor to take photos that you could then print on large canvases that you can hang in your home. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from doing that on your S22+ or even via Apple's (AAPL) iPhone if you want.
“We have to focus on a few areas of innovation and technology to stay ahead,” Jude Buckley, EVP and co-lead of Samsung Electronics America’s mobile business, told Yahoo Finance. “And one of those is leading and owning the camera space, both in terms of video and camera.”
The big to-do about the 200-MP sensor is the fact that Samsung uses pixel binning, which combines 16 pixels into 1 pixel lager pixel to take a 12.5-MP shot with improved overall lighting and details. That’s especially helpful when taking low-light photos, and should make for an impressive camera setup. You can also opt to combine 4 pixels into 1 for a larger image.
The S23 and S23+ also use pixel binning technology, though they get 50-MP sensors that combine 2 pixels into 1 in their photos rather than 4 pixels into 1 like the S23 Ultra. Of course, you can always take photos using the full 200 megapixels on the S23 Ultra or 50 megapixels on the S23 and S23+ by firing up RAW mode.
All three smartphones offer nightography capabilities for taking low-light photos, but the S23 Ultra features an advanced night video that lets you capture the star trails in the night sky thanks to its 300x Hyperlapse time lapse setting. It also offers improved optical image stabilization for videos, which means you’ll be able to capture action shots while on the move without your video bouncing around.
The S23 Ultra also gets the better camera lens setup. The phone comes with a 10x optical zoom telephoto lens, a wide angle lens, and an ultra-wide angle lens. The S23 and S23+, meanwhile, get 3x optical zoom telephoto lenses in addition to their wide and ultra-wide angle options.
As for performance, the S23 line runs on Qualcomm’s (QCOM) Snapdragon 8 Gen. 2 chip for improved performance. As for battery life, the S23 Ultra gets a massive 5,000 mAh battery, while the S23+ and S23 get 4,700 mAh and 3,900 mAh batteries, respectively. Samsung says that’s a 200 mAh boost for both the S23+ and S23 compared to last year’s models. Storage, the company says, starts at 128GB for the base S23 and 256GB for the S23+ and S23 Ultra, and tops out at 1TB on the Ultra.
On the display side of things, Samsung has a new Advanced Vision Booster that it says will adjust color and contrast depending on the kind of ambient light for a better overall experience. There’s also an Enhanced Comfort option that is meant to make it easier to view the display over long periods of time.
As for software, the S23 lineup runs on Samsung’s OneUI 5.1 riding over Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Android OS. The S23 Ultra also gets Samsung’s S Pen stylus. The feature allows you to take notes, draw, and generally navigate around the Ultra, making it a powerful productivity device. This is just the second S23 phone to come with the S Pen, after Samsung killed off its Galaxy Note line.
The Ultra should be a major seller if past precedent holds up. The S22 Ultra made up some 40% of the line’s sales globally, Buckley explained. But with smartphone sales declining compared to during the pandemic, we’ll have to wait to see how much the macroeconomic situation impact’s Samsung’s overall sales moving forward.
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