This will be a more hands-on take on the Galaxy S24 Ultra after a couple of weeks of use. This is my own personal phone. I upgraded from the S23 Ultra (reviewed here), mostly because I do love a new gadget, and after seeing some of the new camera features this year, along with some decent pre-order freebies, cashback and trade-in discounts, meant the S24 Ultra ended up being around £317 out of my pocket. I could not say no to that sort of man-maths.
The big elephant in the room is, of course, AI. Samsung's Unpacked event was full of talk about AI enhancements, Generative AI, AI photo editing, AI camera processing, you name it, they put AI on it. The event seemed to be more Google-driven than the typical Samsung Unpacked, too. Samsung and Google have worked together to bring features like Circle to Search to a Galaxy smartphone before a Pixel. If there ever was a sign that a Samsung x Google Nexus device was due for a return, then this was it.
As it turns out, details following the launch of the S24 series revealed that at least some of the AI features Samsung launched with the S24 Ultra will be locked behind a subscription from the end of 2025. It is unclear which features specifically, but I'm assuming the idea is that owners get used to the AI features over the course of 2024 and 2025, which means they are then more inclined to buy a subscription to use the ones they use the most.
Honestly, it's likely most brands will head this route, just like car manufacturers are putting specific features behind a paywall these days. Cloud-based services like generative AI that utilize online servers will be the next set of tools to see a price applied to them.
It will of course be interesting to see what will remain free for the 7 years that the S24 phones will remain supported with full OS generation and security updates. Perhaps these are features best re-visited in late 2025 when the extent of the free limitations and pricing to upgrade are better known.
Personally, I am more interested in what the hardware can do. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is new to Samsung devices, the display is new, the One UI version gets a bump to 6.1, there are new cameras, and following in Apple's footsteps, a Titanium frame (for the Ultra only).
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 (4 nm)
|Adreno 750 (1 GHz)
|Battery & Charging
Li-Ion 5000 mAh, 45W wired, PD3.0, 15W wireless (Qi/PMA), 4.5W reverse wireless
|Gorilla Glass Armour, 6.8" AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 2600 nits (peak), 1440 x 3120 (505 ppi)
|12GB RAM, 256/512/1TB storage, UFS 4.0
|Rear camera 1
|1x Zoom // 200 MP, f/1.7, 24mm (wide), 1/1.3", 0.6µm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
|Rear camera 2
|5x Zoom // 50 MP, f/3.4, 111mm (periscope telephoto), PDAF, OIS, 5x optical zoom
|Rear camera 3
|3x Zoom // 10 MP, f/2.4, 67mm (telephoto), 1/3.52", 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
|Rear camera 4
|0.6x Zoom // 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.55", 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
|12 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), Dual Pixel PDAF
|8K@24/30fps, 4K@30/60/120fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 1080p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo/360 degree sound, gyro-EIS
|Adobe DNG format
|Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e/7, BlueTooth 5.3, A2DP, LE,
|Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
|Dolby Atmos stereo speakers tuned by AKG
|Android 14, One UI 6.1
|Size & Weight
|162.3 x 79 x 8.6 mm / 232g
|Samsung promises 7 years of OS and security updates
|£1249 / €1403 / $1299 for the 512GB model
Titanium is the talking point with the S24 Ultra. Apple did it first, and now Samsung follow. Whilst Apple's Titanium is grade 5, it seems, as discovered by Zack at JerryRigEverything, that the S24 Ultra uses grade 2 Titanium on the outer rails of the phone. Whatever the grading differences are, it still feels premium, and whilst the inner mouldings joining everything together is a mix of plastic and Aluminium, the whole phone feels like one boxy slab of hefty metal.
By comparison, the S23 Ultra also feels premium, but the rounded Aluminium rails don't quite have that texture or flatness in feel to them. In short, the S24 Ultra feels nicer in the hand and warms to body temperature quicker than the S23 Ultra did, thanks to the Titanium layers.
Speaking of comfort, I watched and read nearly all post-launch reviews of the handset, and a few of them mentioned discomfort in the palm as the corners dig into the skin. Personally, I have had no such issue, and honestly, the comfort is better than the S23 Ultra, which had equally straight corners but were more rounded than on the S24 Ultra, resulting in a greater level of digging into the skin.
In my medium-sized hand, there was no issue with digging in. Could it be more comfortable with rounded-off corners like the S24 and S24+? Sure, but it's not an issue I've ever had to worry about, and I only mention it as it's been a talking point since the phone launched.
I opted for the Titanium Black, which isn't really that black at all. It's more of a Gun Metal colour, if anything. Unlike the Samsung online exclusive colours, the standard colours once again do not have black frames but instead colour matching to the back panel choice, apart from the Titanium Violet (shown above), which just looks excellent, it must be said. I just wasn't a fan of the silver camera rings and frame shade.
Here's where things get interesting. In the past, with various phones, the later models could often see worse battery life due to the faster processing power, brighter screen and so on. Samsung flagships have seen this issue, too, but generally, this has been with the Exynos versions instead, which we get over here in Europe versus the Snapdragon variants seen in Asian and American markets.
Exynos is still a thing, of course, but 2024's Exynos 2400 is actually pretty good from everything that can be seen online. Performance and battery life appear to be close enough to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for the S24 and S24+, whilst the S24 Ultra is only available in Snapdragon flavour around the world.
I found battery life to be as good as the S23 Ultra out of the box, and once the 7 days learning period had passed, it ended up better than the S23 Ultra in general.
However, Wireless Android Auto during navigating whilst also streaming media at the same time does seem to drain the S24 Ultra's battery faster than what I recall the S23 Ultra doing. More testing needs to be done, though, as the signal quality of 4G/5G will play a part in this use-case scenario.
One UI 6.1 also introduces some additional battery care features, something other phones have had for a while now. Rumour also has it that Samsung is going to introduce additional battery info, such as extended battery health stats like what iPhones have. There is no word on when this update will be released, though.
The S24 Ultra is the only one of the new models to support 45W fast charging. Samsung calls it Super Fast Charging 2.0, but there's nothing really super fast about it, still. Any charger that complies with the Programmable Power Supply 2.0 (PPS) standard with a compliant cable will be able to charge at the maximum 45W rate. I've been using Anker's GaN charger with a compliant Anker cable with no issues. It takes about 1 hour and 5 minutes to charge the 5000mAh battery to full from just under 10%.
15W fast wireless charging is supported too. Still, it's a shame this hasn't seen a boost as Xiaomi, Oppo, OnePlus and others have wireless charging up to 50W today. Even 25W wireless charging from the S24 Ultra at least would have been very welcome, yet we don't even have MagSafe support, which many were expecting to see, and there are a lot of MagSafe accessories out there which would have been nice to be able to use out of the box.
The new AMOLED display having 2600 nits of peak brightness hasn't really hammered the battery either from what I have seen so far, it is on par with the S23 Ultra for power consumption in this area, whilst being much more legible in bright conditions. It is still an LTPO AMOLED display, which drops down to 1Hz when necessary to conserve power displaying static images.
This is the area I was looking forward to the most, and one of the main reasons why I upgraded from an S23 Ultra, which was limited to 4K 30fps video recording if you wanted to be able to switch between lenses whilst recording. Otherwise, 4k 60fps recording means pre-selecting a lens then sticking to it whilst recording.
The S24 removes that limitation, and we now have a very smooth transition between all lenses when recording at 4k 60fps. What's especially great is that the quality of the footage, even in low light, is mostly excellent. Digital zoom when recording maxes out at 20x, just like on the S23 Ultra:
On top of that, Samsung has introduced 4K 120fps in the Pro Video mode for those who wish to dabble with slow motion. This is very welcome to see since only Sony's Xperia 5 V and Xperia 1 have support for 120fps at 4k. When recording at this framerate, you are limited to using just the ultra-wide or the standard 1x lenses, with digital zoom for each ranging from 0.6x to 2x or 1x to 10x, respectively.
We also see 8k recording at 30fps, which is nice vs the 24fps on the S23 Ultra, but not something I'd recommend due to several reasons, chief of which being the file sizes are huge, you lose dynamic range and additional processing quality, as well as lens selection limitation to just the 1x and 5x lenses (shown above) even before you start recording.
Using both Expert RAW and the normal camera modes for still photography is very much the same as the previous Galaxy S series flagships. Some additional features can be seen in Camera Assistant and Expert RAW to make use of the new image processing. Overall, the entire experience is nearly identical to the S23 Ultra.
All the photographs shown in this review were taken with a mix of Expert RAW and normal Photo mode, which captures images in JPEG. All editing was done using Lightroom for Samsung and then exported to JPEG.
Slowing down footage is super easy now with the new Gallery feature. Just watch a video recorded at 60fps or 120fps, then long press to slow it down. You can then edit it and apply a slow motion to say, 1/4 speed and save that as a copy. It is great for GIFs!
Portrait mode sees some improvements now that we have a dedicated 5x optical lens and 50MP sensor attached to it. This focal length is the equivalent of a 111mm standard telephoto lens, and I found that both foreground and background areas of the frame can be thrown into pleasing bokeh fairly convincingly. More testing is needed in better weather and a full day of street photography, but so far, I am pleased with the results.
At night, neon lights (especially blue and pink) tend to be better defined with greater dynamic range and less bloom on the S24 Ultra. Sadly, as I had to send in my S23 Ultra for trade-in compliance by the time I got around to doing camera tests, there are no direct comparisons in this review between both cameras.
Unfortunately, moving subjects is still the topic of much debate for Samsung phones. The S24 Ultra seems to follow the typical Samsung trend of blurring moving subjects. Android Authority has a good article with examples of this. I will test this out myself as soon as the next camera update is released, which should coincide with some actual good outdoor weather to take advantage of.
The camera quality will no doubt improve as various updates get released in thee coming months. This has been the case since the Galaxy S10 series, and Samsung shows no sign of stopping this trend. It seems now, though, they are adding these improvements as settings within the Camera Assistant module, which taps into the camera app. Camera Assistant can be found on the Galaxy Store and is usable on most Galaxy smartphones.
Lastly, Samsung mentioned that the OIS has been improved. I also noticed an additional microphone hole on the top rail, most likely for the cancelation of wind and background noise. I figured the best way to test both of these features would be to mount the phone to my car's headrest, drop the roof, and go for an Italian tune-up. The petrolheads out there will enjoy this one:
One UI 6.1
One UI 6.1 ships with some new features, many of which are focused on AI. Google's Circle to Search and Samsung Notes AI summarise/alignment are two notable ones that I find myself using most often. These are done on-device, so it's not certain if local features utilising AI like this will be subject to Samsung's future subscription models.
Nevertheless, I do like how I can search anything displayed on the screen, whether text, an image, or something through the camera viewfinder. I also like that I can write out a note without worrying too much about writing in a straight line because I can simply tap the AI button and let it auto align:
It's not all perfect, though. The summarise and convert to text features don't detect handwriting as accurately as I had hoped, meaning quick and messy notes will have to remain quick and messy, just aligned straight for the most part, for now.
Nova Launcher Prime is how I like to run my Android devices. My homescreen shown above consists of a clean and minimal approach. From top to bottom, I am using: BBC Weather Widget, Event Flow Widget, DevCheck, Lines icon pack.
Conclusion - Many pros, a few cons
The S24 Ultra is a fantastic phone. It does everything well with seemingly very few flaws. Nothing is ever perfect, though, and even the best in class is often subject to scrutiny.
The immediate annoyance some will face is not strictly S24 Ultra related, but One UI 6.1. Samsung has opted to remove the gesture bars and replace them with the Google-inspired single gesture bar, which is always visible. A few days of public outcry resulted in Samsung's Good Lock development team updating the NavStar module to allow users to bring back the old way, and once again, we all rejoiced.
Without this update, the gesture bar area consumed a few extra pixels, resulting in a larger "chin" than the S23 Ultra. You can see the S24 Ultra on the left and S23 Ultra on the right. The 23 Ultra actually has more usable screen estate out of the box because the gesture bars are hidden in One UI 6.0. Thankfully, once NavStar is updated and the old settings re-enabled, the S24 Ultra navigation bar area is back to how we all like it.
The S-Pen still sticks out! It seems a bit of a nitpick, but sometimes I like to let the phone stand by itself, and in order to do that on an S23 or S24 Ultra, the S-Pen must be removed as the end clicky-cap sticks out about 1mm making the underside wobble.
Purists will probably still moan. I know that I am in a niche group of users who love to tweak to the eyeballs, and spending an entire evening doing so is no real bother. But I also know that many out there do not want to have to install Good Lock and its supported modules to get the best out of their phones because Samsung decided to remove a feature or not include something that you then need to add via Good Lock. Some might even call the act of doing this "adding bloatware," even though Good Lock and alternative launchers use essentially no noticeable resources that drain the battery.
All I can say is that there are some genuinely transformative modules within Good Lock, and I highly recommend people give them a chance. I could not live without One Handed Operations+, for example. It replaces Android's default edge navigation gestures with something extremely powerful and customisable.
The cameras still stick out a lot. I'm sure Samsung could engineer a way to minimise the camera bumps, other manufacturers seem to manage it OK, but I guess the visual optics of a large set of camera bumps is appealing to the masses.
The first impression of seeing those big camera lenses sticking out is a PR win for sure, but it makes taking notes with the S-Pen an annoyance on a flat desk, as well as catching dust between those metal rings. Compared to, say, Redmagic, who figured the best approach was to hide the cameras under the glass back panel completely.
Gorilla Glass Victus 2 (left, S23 Ultra) vs Gorilla Armour (right, S24 Ultra). The new display, however, is a big win. Corning's Gorilla Armour works exactly as advertised, although I don't know if it's the 75% reduction in reflections that Samsung claims, it certainly seems to be working at reducing a lot of glare, especially under strong light sources where text is now easily legible, whilst on the S23 Ultra you'd have to focus or squint a lot of the time under strong lighting.
Should you upgrade if you already have an S23 Ultra?
The short answer is no, not really, unless you really like new toys like me and can get a good trade-in deal with the cashback/discount incentives on top, but before doing that, consider that a lot of the One UI 6.1 additions, including some AI features, should be coming to the S23 series as well later this year. This might even include camera improvements, so it might be worth holding onto those S23 Ultras a bit longer. The only downside here is that the S23 series promised four years of updates, with a year already gone, that leaves three more Android versions to go, whilst the S24 will see a further four beyond that point.
For me, the upgrade came with a saving of nearly £950 after accounting for all the discounts and selling the free bundled Galaxy Watch6, and trading in my S23 Ultra to a third party for a higher figure than what Samsung was offering. The new camera improvements, screen performance, and seven years of updates sold it for me.
This might just be the first smartphone I will own for more than two years as a result of all of these advances in hardware and software, with a long-promised support platform. For the first time in a long time, I'm happy not to have the itch to upgrade my phone again in a year... Maybe.