I spent two hours with the Samsung Galaxy S24. Here’s what you need to know

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The purple Samsung Galaxy S24 sitting upright by a plant.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

If you’re a fan of smartphones and mobile tech in general, 2024 is off to a fast start. Just days after CES 2024 came to a close, Samsung has now taken the wraps off of its latest Galaxy S24 series.

I recently had a chance to spend a couple of hours with the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus to see what all the fuss is about. From the new processor and refined designs to Samsung’s big bet on AI, here’s what I learned about the Galaxy S24 during my initial hands-on time.

The new designs feel great

All four colors of the Samsung Galaxy S24 laying face-down on a table.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Compared with the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus, the S24 and S24 Plus are very similar. The overall shape and size are largely the same, so at first glance, it’s hard to tell that anything has changed. However, there are a couple of things that stuck out to me.

For starters, the screens are a bit bigger this year. The Galaxy S24 now has a 6.2-inch screen (up from 6.1 inches), while the S24 Plus goes up to 6.7 inches (previously 6.6 inches last year). That means the bodies are ever-so-slightly taller than their S23 counterparts, but thanks to a reduction in bezels, the phones don’t feel much bigger in the hand. Fans of small phones still probably won’t love this change, but I didn’t find it to be a problem at all.

A white Galaxy S24 laying on top of a gray Galaxy S24.
A white Galaxy S24 laying on top of a gray Galaxy S24.
The USB-C port on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus.
The USB-C port on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus.

What really caught my attention, though, is the new frame. Last year, the S23 and S23 Plus had a rounded aluminum frame with a glossy finish. It wasn’t a bad design choice by any means, but it also wasn’t particularly memorable.

This year, the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus ditch the rounded frame for a completely flat one — just like the iPhone 15. And instead of a glossy finish, it’s now completely matte. Call Samsung a copycat if you want, but I really love this change. I think it makes the phones look more polished, and they feel a bit better to hold. We’ll have to wait for the full review to see if I still think that after prolonged use, but as far as first impressions are concerned, Samsung’s got me on board.

One UI 6 looks promising

The Samsung Galaxy S24 sitting upright, showing its Quick Settings panel.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

It’s not just hardware where Samsung’s making visual improvements — you’ll also notice a few changes with the software. All three Galaxy S24 models ship with One UI 6.1, which is based on Android 14.

The biggest visual overhaul is present in the Quick Settings panel. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth now have bigger and more prominent toggles at the top of the panel, and the brightness slider now appears by default when you swipe down once. Samsung has also hidden similar display controls underneath the slider, including eye comfort shield and dark mode toggles. Combined with a fresh coat of paint for the whole thing, I think the new layout looks really good.

The multitasking screen on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

There are some other changes in One UI 6.1, too. You can now move the lock screen clock anywhere you want, Samsung has cleaned up the names for many of its first-party apps (e.g., Samsung Notes is now just Notes), and the camera app now has a much simpler layout. And — most important of all — Samsung’s emojis no longer look like the thing of nightmares.

There’s still a lot going on in One UI 6.1, but it does feel tighter and more polished than previous versions — and that’s something I’m really happy to see.

But that’s not even the best part. Just like the Google Pixel 8 series, all three Galaxy S24 handsets are promised seven years of OS upgrades and security patches. It’s a powerful promise from Samsung and something I hope that OnePlus, Motorola, and other companies quickly implement, too.

Galaxy AI is off to a good start

Someone using the Edit Suggestions feature on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

New designs and subtle software upgrades are one thing, but Samsung’s big push for the Galaxy S24 series is artificial intelligence. “Galaxy AI” is officially a part of every S24 phone, with a smattering of AI-powered features found across various apps. I’m not sure I’ll use all of them every day, but from what I saw and used, there are some pretty cool tools here.

One of the bigger focuses is on photo editing. After you take a photo and view it in the Gallery app, the Galaxy S24 will show Edit Suggestions for that picture. These can be things like adding background blur, removing shadows, erasing reflections, etc. These edits happen entirely on-device, and in my testing, they appeared to work really well. Samsung also says the suggestions will get better the more you use them, so it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out.

Someone using the Generative Edit app on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Also present is Generative Edit — which is basically Samsung’s take on the Magic Editor on the Pixel 8 series. When viewing a photo, you tap the blue Generative Edit icon to enter the editor. Here, you can move subjects in your photos, erase objects you don’t want, and more. Generative Edit requires a data connection to work, and the edits can take a few seconds to process, but the end results looked promising.

Samsung is also touting new translation features. There’s a new Interpreter app that gives you two-way translations for in-person conversations, and it works on-device without an internet connection. It worked well, but it’s also not much different from the Google Translate app.

What’s more impressive is Live Translate. If you’re on a phone call with someone using a different language, you can tap the Live Translate button to have the conversation transcribed and translated in real time. You can’t speak as fast as you would on a normal phone call since the translation does take a few beats to process, but in the couple of demo calls I tried, I was pretty impressed with the results.

A mixed bag of other specs

Someone holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

What about the other specs for the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus? There’s a mix of good and confusing here. We’ll start with the good.

In addition to the larger displays, Samsung’s also made some technical upgrades. The S24 and S24 Plus now feature 2,600 nits of peak brightness (up from 1,750 nits) and variable 120Hz refresh rates that can scale all the way down to 1Hz instead of 48Hz like last year. The Galaxy S24 still has a Full HD+ resolution, but the Galaxy S24 Plus now has a Quad HD+ panel.

There are also some welcome battery improvements. The Galaxy S24 gets a 4,000mAh battery, while the S24 Plus touts a 4,900mAh battery. That’s an increase of 100mAh and 200mAh, respectively, and combined with the lower variable refresh rates — and the better efficiency of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 — you should expect pretty good battery gains.

Someone holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus and showing the USB-C port.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Unfortunately, those bigger batteries aren’t going to charge any faster. The Galaxy S24 still caps out at 25-watt wired charging, and the S24 Plus has a maximum charge speed of 45W. Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging aren’t faster either, capping out at 15W and 4.5W, respectively.

What’s especially disappointing is that none of the Galaxy S24 models support the new Qi2 standard that was introduced at last year’s CES. Samsung claims that not enough people are interested in Qi2 to make it worth adding this year, but I find that to be a very thin argument.

The camera setup is identical to last year’s phones. You have a 50MP main camera, a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x zoom, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 12MP selfie camera. Samsung is using a new “dedicated color tuning solution” this year that should provide “more accurate and natural color tones” in your images, and I’m eager to see how much impact that really has on photos.

Rounding out the specs, both the S24 and S24 Plus have 5G support, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and an IP68 rating for dust/water resistance.

Samsung Galaxy S24 price and availability

Three Galaxy S24 Plus models laying on a table, including the white, gray, and yellow ones.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S24 starts at $800 for the base model with 128GB of storage. Optionally, you can pay more and upgrade to the 256GB variant. The Galaxy S24 Plus comes with 256GB of storage and costs $1,000. It also has an available upgrade to 512GB of storage. These are exactly the same prices and storage configurations we saw for the S23 series, so there aren’t any surprises here.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra, on the other hand, gets a $100 price increase over the S23 Ultra and now starts at $1,300. You can read Digital Trends writer Andy Boxall’s hands-on with the S24 Ultra to learn more about that phone.

All three models are available for preorder today, with regular sales set to begin on January 13.

My first thoughts on the Galaxy S24

Two Samsung Galaxy S24 units standing upright next to each other.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I came away from my time with the Galaxy S24 feeling good about a lot of the things I saw. The design is a big upgrade, the larger batteries are great, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 should be a performance beast, and the AI features I tried worked better than expected. That’s a lot to look forward to!

But there are also some things that give me pause. There have been zero improvements to the camera hardware or charging speeds, and the overall look and feel are very safe compared to previous generations. The S24 and S24 Plus look like solid phones on their own, and I’m sure they’ll perform and review very well.

But if you already have a Galaxy S23 or S23 Plus, I’m struggling to see what’s here that would tempt you to upgrade. That’s especially true when you consider that Samsung is bringing its Galaxy AI features to the Galaxy S23 series down the road — including the Galaxy S23 FE. There’s no confirmed date for when that’ll happen, but it’s going to. Further, with OnePlus gearing up to launch the OnePlus 12 soon, there’s more to keep your eye on in the Android landscape.

We’ll be getting our hands on the entire Galaxy S24 series very soon, so stay tuned for a lot more coverage heading your way.

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