Samsung Galaxy S24 launch — the 9 potential upgrades to keep an eye on

galaxy s24 and s24 ultra renders
(Image credit: @MysteryLupin/Twitter)

Samsung is about to show off this year's lineup of flagship phones, with the Galaxy S24 models likely to be the stars of the Galaxy Unpacked event on January 17. And when that happens, we'll finally know whether these new phones are exciting models in their own right or merely freshened-up versions of the Galaxy S23 that went on sale a year ago.

Rumors surrounding the Galaxy S24 seem to suggest it's very much the latter for the new phones. Run a Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. Galaxy S23 comparison using the new phones' rumored specs, and you'd get the impression that not a lot is changing year over year.

Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Plus camera rumors suggest it'll be the same setup that graced those two phones' predecessors. Early rumors about a possible boost to charging speeds have been shot down, as has a tip that the Galaxy S24 Ultra might get a 144Hz refresh rate. Even the renders that supposedly show off the look of the new phones suggest that not much is changing from last year's models.

In a sense, that's not necessarily a bad thing as the Galaxy S23 phones that came out last year weren't just the best Samsung phones but contenders for the title of best phone overall — particularly the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Given the stellar performance, excellent battery life and quality photos produced by the trio of S23 models, there's really no need for Samsung to reinvent the wheel with the Galaxy S24.

Still, it's always encouraging to see some changes in a device from year to year. And even though you can expect some similarities to last year's phones, a few Galaxy S24 rumors do hint at some surprises — with some significant changes in a few instances.

Here's a rundown of the biggest potential changes that Samsung could announce at Galaxy Unpacked when it's time to show off the company's latest flagship phones.

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Galaxy AI

Galaxy AI is coming ad

(Image credit: Samsung)

We're used to marquee phone changes involving hardware. But from the sound of it, the biggest improvements that the Galaxy S24 family will deliver involve the software on the phone, with artificial intelligence playing a central role.

Samsung is not exactly being secretive about its plans to make AI-driven features a centerpiece of its new phones, having announced plans to do so late last year (though it never mentioned the Galaxy S series by name). 

Leaks and rumors have filled in the rest of the details: We're expecting the Galaxy S24 to offer features like real-time translations on phone calls and automatized summaries of notes that break things down into bullet points. And of course, AI figures to bolster the Galaxy S24's photo-editing features, allowing you to resize and move around images — at least that's what Samsung seems to be hinting at with its Zoom AI feature.

We'll doubtlessly hear more about Galaxy AI at the Unpacked event. And once we see exactly which features benefit from AI, we'll figure out just how game-changing an addition these new AI capabilities are.

New chipsets — but which one?

Snapdragon 8 Gen 3

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

It's not exactly a surprise when a new phone sports an upgraded system-on-chip responsible for powering the device. But depending on where you live in the world, it could be a surprise as to which system-on-chip your Galaxy uses.

There's no mystery if you opt for the Galaxy S24 Ultra — Samsung's high-end phone is supposed to feature the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 no matter where it ships in the world. And that's good news, as Qualcomm's new silicon not only offers the usual improvements to performance and power management but it's got an upgraded neural processing unit, too — all the better to support those AI feature we just talked about.

Rumors suggest the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 will also wind up in the standard Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Plus — if you're buying the phone in North America. In other parts of the world, those two phones are expected to feature an Exynos 2400 system-on-chip. We'll be interested in seeing whether the Exynos can deliver comparable performance to the Snapdragon, especially when it comes to those AI features.

Higher-resolution zooms from the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S23 Ultra features two 10MP telephoto lenses — one that can support a 3x optical zoom and the other capable of a 10x zoom. Reports suggest Samsung is upgrading the resolution on one of those cameras, though it may come at the expense of how close you can zoom in on a subject.

Specifically, a rumor tips the 10MP lens with 10x zoom to give way to a 50MP sensor that offers a 5x zoom. Obviously, pictures will be sharper with the higher-resolution sensor, though you may not be able to get as up close to your subjects as before.

That said, leaked promotional materials continue to tout a 10x zoom capability for the Galaxy S24 Ultra. If we had to guess, we'd assume that Samsung is taking advantage of that 50MP resolution to crop in on a photo when you zoom to 10x. Apple uses a similar approach to support a 2x zoom on the iPhone 15 using that phone's 48MP main sensor.

Titanium sides for the Galaxy S24 Ultra

There's another way the Galaxy S24 Ultra could follow the lead of the iPhone 15 — or the iPhone 15 Pro, in this case. This past fall, Apple replaced the stainless steel material it used for its Pro model frames with titanium — a lighter, more durable metal.

Rumors suggest that Samsung is about to do the same thing with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, though with Samsung switching from aluminum, the change in weight may not be as profound as it was with Apple's iPhone models. For a while, some tipsters had suggested the standard S24 and S24 Plus might also turn to titanium, but more recent rumors have put the kibosh on that possibility.

Extra screen space all around...

galaxy s24 render from SmartPrix

(Image credit: Smartprix)

Switching back to a rumor that impacts most Galaxy S24 models, Samsung has reportedly gone with thinner bezels on its new phones. The result should be slightly larger screens than what we saw with the Galaxy S23.

While this move apparently doesn't impact the Galaxy S24 Ultra — a leaked specs sheet shows the same 6.8-inch screen found on its predecessor — both the S24 and S24 Plus list more screen space than before. The Galaxy S24 is now listed at 6.2 inches while the Plus will reportedly have a 6.7-inch screen; both of those measurements are a tenth of an inch larger than their predecessors.

It's worth noting that since the extra screen space reportedly comes from smaller bezels, Samsung wouldn't have to increase the size of any of its phones to accommodate the larger screens.  

... And brighter displays

All three Galaxy S23 models offered a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, which would seem to be bright enough for most people. But then the Pixel 8 Pro came along, boasting 2,400 nits of peak brightness. So you figure that Samsung is going to want to respond.

Rumors suggest the phone maker will do precisely that, with an upgrade to a 2,600-nit display. Again, this will be a move that impacts all the Galaxy S24 models, and not just the high-end Ultra.

Flatter Galaxy S24 Ultra screen

A render of the Galaxy S24 Ultra from the back and front in black

(Image credit: Technizo Concept)

The Galaxy S24 Ultra apparently will make one exclusive display change, though it won't impact the brightness or size of the display. Instead, it involves the display's shape as the S24 Ultra renders we've seen depict a display with a less noticeable curve.

The curved screen on the Galaxy S23 Ultra certainly sets the phone apart, but it has its share of critics. It can be difficult to interact with on-screen elements near that curve. Presumably, the S24 Ultra eliminates that problem while making the phone easier to keep in your grasp.

New Galaxy S24 colors

Phone Arena renders of the four rumored colors for the S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Phone Arena)

Just as you can always count on a chipset upgrade in a new batch of phones, there's always a color change from year to year. According to Galaxy S24 color rumors, the standard and S24 Plus models will come in black, gray, yellow and violet. The Galaxy S24 Ultra will supposedly pick the same colors, though its version of yellow will have a more gold-like appearance.

We've also heard repeated rumors of exclusive colors that Samsung will offer to shoppers who buy their S24 directly from the phone maker. Rumors suggest those colors include blue, orange and green.

Possible price changes

Here's a change no one wants to see, especially in light of prices going up on both Pixel 8 models as well as the iPhone 15 Pro Max. But Galaxy S24 pricing rumors suggest you could be paying more for at least one new model of Samsung's flagships.

Specifically, multiple leaks show the European price of the Galaxy S24 Ultra going up €50 over the Galaxy S23 Ultra's debut price. Price increases in one region don't always make it to other parts of the world — phone makers adjust pricing for specific countries — but it does raise the possibility of a higher cost for the Galaxy S24 Ultra elsewhere.

In brighter news, those same pricing leaks show the cost of the Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Plus dropping by €50 in Europe.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.