With rumored upgrades like the brightest display on the market, a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and an improved 200MP main camera sensor, it could be worth the upgrade. But I'm not sold yet.
I've been using the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for a while now. While I didn't expect to upgrade this generation, my Samsung Galaxy S21 died and I needed a phone. Since then, I've been pleasantly surprised with its performance and after getting used to its massive size I can safely say it's been the best phone I've ever had.
So for me to upgrade it's going to take a lot. Here are the things Samsung needs to bring to the Galaxy S23 Ultra for me to consider an upgrade.
Better battery life
All-day battery is something I haven't experienced on a phone since my HTC Droid Incredible 2. Granted, the performance boosts and additional features we got as smartphones got better were worth losing some battery life. But as upgrades get more iterative it's time to bring back a battery that will last all day.
Unfortunately, it looks like I'm currently not set to get my way. The latest Galaxy S23 Ultra battery life rumors indicate that the S23 Ultra will keep the 5,000 mAh battery from the S22 Ultra. So increased capacity seems highly unlikely.
However, we may get tweaks that extend the life of the S23 Ultra battery beyond the 10 hours on the S22 Ultra. Samsung is tipped to bring a new "light" performance mode to the Galaxy S23 lineup that promises lower energy consumption and cooler device temperatures to give users more juice per charge. If it can get close to 24-hour battery life I'd be ecstatic, but I'd settle for 14 or more hours.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||OnePlus 10 Pro (Adaptive / 60Hz)||Galaxy S22 Ultra (Adaptive / 60Hz)||iPhone 14 Pro Max|
|Battery life (Hrs:Mins)||11:52 / 12:39||9:50 / 10:15||13:39|
|Recharge percentage (15 mins)||55||29||N/A|
|Recharge percentage (30 mins)||93||58||42|
If the battery on the Galaxy S23 Ultra isn't going to get bigger, it needs to charge faster. Again, bad news here; it looks like Samsung is keeping the S22 Ultra's 45W charging standard in addition to the 5,000 mAh battery.
That's definitely disappointing. While smartphone battery size has largely plateaued, there are direct competitors to Samsung that offer superior fast charging standards. In particular, the OnePlus 10 Pro crushes the current standard from Samsung. It uses a 65W fast charger and can hit 55% battery charged in just 15 minutes and 93% battery in half an hour.
The Samsung S22 Ultra can only get to 58% battery in that same period. Given that the OnePlus 10 Pro also uses a 5,000 mAh battery, there’s no reason Samsung can’t provide similar capacity and recharge times as OnePlus.
More RAM — at least 12GB
Like many users, the struggle with devices isn’t typically doing one thing quickly. With the advances in silicon, many processors — including the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 rumored for the Galaxy S23 Ultra — can handle processing a single task with relative ease. What users need is more RAM.
RAM is basically what allows you to turn your phone from a dirt road to a superhighway; the more you have, the more it can handle doing at once. So Samsung’s rumored decision to keep the S23 Ultra capped at 8GB of RAM was an odd one, especially as competitors start to eclipse that mark. Now that we have seen leaked specs that indicate a 12GB model, I’m hopeful that I’ll actually get this upgrade.
The rumored OnePlus 10 Pro has a model with 12GB of RAM and the rumored OnePlus 11 may even get up to 16GB of RAM. On principle alone, if Samsung wants to consider the S23 Ultra a “flagship” phone, it needs to be on par with the other flagship phones, especially Android phones. But on top of that, it also just allows you to do more at once, and as smartphones continue to become our main device for everything, that becomes more and more important.
Better photos and improved night mode
Cameras are an area where the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra can really shine, in part because there’s still a fair amount of work to do. While a rumored 200MP main camera is a great conversation starter, it doesn’t matter if the iPhone 14 Pro Max produces better photos with just 48MP (or 12MP).
In our face-offs, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra fell short of the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the Google Pixel 7 Pro. When measuring the photo quality of the Pixel 7 Pro cameras vs. the Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras, we noticed that the S22 Ultra had some color issues, often making colors warmer than they naturally appear. It also would make things too bright at times, something I’ve also noticed when taking photos on my S22 Ultra.
These issues also appeared when facing off the iPhone 14 Pro cameras vs. the S22 Ultra cameras. But unlike with the Pixel 7 Pro, where Samsung’s night mode was superior to the Pixel’s Night Sight, the iPhone took the crown there too — at least outdoors. The shadows and lighting produced by the iPhone 14 Pro are nearly flawless, and Samsung’s again suffered from some unnecessarily warm colors.
One area where the S22 Ultra really excelled is its powerful zoom, and current rumors suggest that if anything we will see some telephoto improvements on the software side. But much like a 200MP main camera sensor, a 100x digital zoom doesn’t matter if you can’t win when it comes to the basics. Hopefully, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is another leap forward for Samsung, which admittedly took a noticeable step forward last year with the S22 Ultra.
Improved video recording
On paper, the video recording capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra look great. Recording 8K video at 24 fps is a big achievement, and rumor has it that the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will be able to record 8K at 30 fps.
But in practice, there are some bumps. The zoom on the camera is a bit jumpy and the colors can lack vibrancy. When compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which is capped at 4K resolution at 60 fps these shortcomings become glaringly apparent — though ironically the Pro Max suffered more from glare than the S22 Ultra.
If Samsung wants to truly compete with the iPhone when it comes to being the top choice for photographers and videographers, it needs to take a step up. Especially with Apple doing more with less.
Upgrading to Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Outlook
Ultimately, the Galaxy Ultra S23 has a couple of things going against it when I consider whether or not to upgrade. First, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is already a pretty good phone. If I am going to consider an upgrade, I need a phone that takes a noticeable leap forward. While we may see steps forward in the cameras and RAM, the battery life looks unlikely to improve by much and the charging speed looks set to remain the same.
The other thing is, it needs to be better than the competition to keep me in the Samsung ecosystem. As good as the iPhone 14 Pro Max is — and it's objectively excellent — I’d be lying if I said I was dying to make a jump from Android to iOS.
However, there are great Android phones besides the top-of-the-line Samsung phones. The OnePlus phones are great and the latest OnePlus 11 rumors indicate it could outperform the S23 Ultra. Then there are the Google Pixel phones, which we rate higher than Samsung in terms of being a better camera phone, even though the Samsung S22 Ultra is currently our top Android phone overall.
Your move, Samsung.