Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy S23 range in February 2023, with the Galaxy S23 Ultra being the most premium phone in the lineup. However, it has received criticism because, well, it basically looks like a Galaxy S22 Ultra. If you ask me, though, that’s a good thing. Here’s why.
Galaxy Ultra S23 vs. Galaxy Ultra S22: What’s New?
Let’s dive into what is different. Samsung technically got started with the Ultra range in 2019, when it launched the Galaxy S10 5G. Although it didn’t have the Ultra name back then, it had the same premise — a bigger, premium, souped-up version of the Galaxy S10 and S10+. The first proper Ultra phone came about in 2020, with the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
From there, we had two entries — the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Both revisions came with design changes as Samsung was trying to justify the existence of this lineup. The S22 Ultra gave the lineup some sense as Samsung decided to give it several traits from the recently deceased Note series, like the signature squared-out design and the iconic S Pen.
Still, though, if you look at the generational improvements between all three Galaxy Ultra phones, you won’t find much. Sure, it got a new chip every generation, but other than that, we had the same screen and the same 108MP camera with the same camera features. If you bought an Ultra phone in the past, you probably weren’t compelled to buy one of the newer ones because it wasn’t much of an upgrade.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra isn’t quite the big jump either, but after three years of refining, it’s finally ready to upgrade some stuff.
For starters, the camera has a much higher pixel count, jumping up from 108MP to 200MP. Most users won’t get to use the full 200MP, or probably won’t bother, but the higher megapixel count means that it’s able to capture a lot more light when snapping shots through pixel binning. This, combined with new “enhanced” 8K video recording and a slew of AI features to make your pictures pop, makes the Galaxy S23 Ultra an absolute imaging powerhouse.
Samsung also skipped working on a new Exynos CPU to power its phones in some markets like Europe, and instead, opted to work directly with Qualcomm to give the S23 lineup a new, improved version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that’s exclusive to Samsung phones. So something that primarily benefits European users is something that ends up benefitting everyone since this phone has better CPU and graphics performance than competitors using the same silicon.
The device also starts at 256GB, getting rid of the 128GB variant from last year — something that actually makes the phone more affordable.
The Apple Approach, Done Right
The main point of criticism aimed at the Galaxy S23 Ultra is that it looks exactly like its predecessor. You’ll probably have a hard time telling apart an S23 Ultra and an S22 Ultra with your naked eye unless you know what the differences are. The cameras are slightly bigger, but other than that, we’re largely dealing with the same phone from the outside. The same exact squared-out design, the same size, the same everything.
If you ask me, though, that’s a good thing. Samsung took a backseat with design improvements and instead opted for upgrading what’s inside for a change. This “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach has traditionally been taken by Apple, most recently with the iPhone 13/13 Pro and the iPhone 14/14 Pro.
In addition, the regular Galaxy S23 and S23+ phones both got design changes, unlike the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but if you look closely, those design changes were done so the lower-end phones could look more like their Ultra counterpart. So Samsung is moving towards a unified, cleaner design language during 2023.
Should You Buy a Galaxy S23 Ultra?
If you have the money and you’d like an ultra-premium Android smartphone, you certainly should. It’s hard to go wrong with the package Samsung is offering here.
If you currently have an S22 Ultra, you might be tempted to not upgrade. After all, it looks like the same phone, and it’ll certainly feel quite like the same phone when you’re using it, too. But if you’re able to find a good trade-in offer, we’d argue that the jump might be worth it. Samsung will currently give you $500 off a Galaxy S23 Ultra if you trade in an S22 Ultra, but you might be able to find better offers from your carrier.
If you have a previous generation Ultra phone, and the S Pen has been interesting to you since last year, then you should also pull the trigger and get one now.
I absolutely loved the S22 Ultra, and I can’t think of anything better than an improved version of it — which is exactly what the S23 Ultra is.