With the rumored release date of the Galaxy S24 Ultra drawing ever closer, anyone mulling a phone purchase before the end of the year faces a dilemma. Do you pick up the Galaxy S23 Ultra now at a discount? Or do you hope that rumors of a January release for Samsung's next big flagship are true and try to hold out until then?
It's a trickier question than you might think. While everyone wants the latest and greatest hardware, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is no slouch — it's the best Samsung phone you can buy right now, as a matter of fact. And thanks to its 200MP main camera and superlative zoom features, it also happens to be best camera phone. That's reason enough to consider a Galaxy S23 purchase, especially if you can find the phone on sale.
That said, Galaxy S24 Ultra rumors point to big changes to this particular model. Our Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra comparison goes into greater detail on the likely differences, but from what we've heard about the phone, the new model figures to be a pretty significant upgrade.
Previously, I've weighed the question of buying a Galaxy S23 now or waiting for the Galaxy S24, and I think a case could be made in that instance is to go with Samsung's current phone. I do not think the same holds true in the case of the Ultra models. In fact, if there's any way you can put off your phone purchase until the Galaxy S24 Ultra arrives, I think you should do it. Here's why.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is getting an improved chipset
Rumors suggest that the Galaxy S24 Ultra will feature the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 no matter where in the world the phone ships. And that's going to deliver a noticeable upgrade over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that powers the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
It's not just about performance, though Qualcomm says the CPU and the GPU in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 should be 30% and 25% faster than their respective equivalents in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Qualcomm promises power efficiency improvements, too, which could translate to better battery life for the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
But the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3's AI Engine also gets a boost as does the Spectra image signal processor. That's going to translate to more robust AI features — something Samsung has already touted for its future phones — and improved photo processing.
The bottom line is that if you've seen some of the AI-powered capabilities on the Pixel 8 phones and wished you could experience something like that on a Samsung flagship, the Galaxy S24 series sounds like it's going to fulfill that wish. And the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 silicon figures to play a notable role in that.
Telephoto lens improvements
While the Galaxy S24 is likely to see some camera improvements, the more substantial changes are apparently planned for the S24 Ultra. Specifically, one of the 10MP telephoto cameras on the S23 Ultra is likely to give way to a 50MP sensor, offering a 5x optical zoom rather than the 10x zoom supported by the current lens.
That would seem to be a downgrade in terms of zoom length, but the sharper resolution of photos taken with a 50MP lens should more than make up for that. If you're considering an Ultra model, it's likely because of that model's superior zoom capabilities, and it sounds like those are only going to get stronger with the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Galaxy S24 Ultra titanium design
While the overall look of the Ultra model isn't going to change dramatically, there are two rumored differences that should make quite a big deal if you opt for the Galaxy S24 Ultra. For one, it's pretty clear that Samsung is going to use titanium in the Ultra's frame. That should make the new model a big more durable than the S23 Ultra, and as we saw with the iPhone 15 Pro's switch to titanium, it can make the phone a little bit lighter, too.
Leaked Galaxy S24 Ultra images also suggest that the display will be flatter compared to the curved screen on the S23 Ultra. In addition to reducing the chance of accidental screen touches, it should be a lot easier to put a screen protector on the S24 Ultra's display.
Galaxy S24 Ultra display advances
It's no secret that phone makers are looking to include brighter screens on their latest phones, and the Galaxy S24 Ultra should be no exception. One rumor claims that Samsung will offer a new display that boasts a maximum brightness of 2,500 nits, compared to 1,750 nits for the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
We measured the Galaxy S23 Ultra at 1,444 nits, and that's bright enough to see outdoors on a sunny day. But since then, the Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have both come out with brighter screens. It sounds like the Galaxy S24 Ultra hopes to leapfrog them both.
There's another Galaxy S24 Ultra display improvement in the works that should appeal to you if you enjoy gaming. Reportedly, Samsung will boost the refresh rate on the Ultra's display to 144Hz — currently the S23 Ultra tops out at 120Hz — which should mean more immersive gaming experiences on apps that support fast refresh rates.
There are Galaxy S23 Ultra deals — but there will be S24 Ultra offers, too
There's no denying it's a good time to buy Samsung's current phones, as the best Galaxy S23 Ultra deals allow you to take a significant chunk out of the device's cost. In the U.S., for example, Samsung is taking up to $800 off when you trade in your current phone. Verizon and AT&T are offering discounts with trade-ins as well.
Those deals are certainly tempting, though in the case of carrier offers, you'll be tied to the carrier for a few years as those rebates come in the form of monthly bill credits. The larger point is that the Galaxy S24 Ultra is likely to arrive with its own set of deals, particularly from Samsung, which has a history of making some soft of offer for phone pre-orders. That could be anything from a free add-on to a discounted price.
We won't know exactly what kind of Galaxy S24 Ultra deals are out there until the phone is announced. But combine that with all of the other improvements the new phone is likely to bring, and it's another compelling reason to wait for the Galaxy S24 Ultra's arrival.
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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.