Samsung's Galaxy S phones used to represent the pinnacle of what an Android phone could do. With the backing of one of the world's largest phone makers, these devices held a lot of respect as annually innovative products. And to a certain extent, that remains true, with the Galaxy S22 lineup well-represented among the best Android phone rankings.
But that honor seems more reserved for the Galaxy S Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold models these days. The regular Galaxy S and Plus models have been rather same-y for a while now — neither pushes the envelope like their predecessors from years prior did.
And I fear that will remain true when the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus arrive early year. As competitors like the Pixel 7 and OnePlus 10 Pro made rather large leaps forward this year, I'm concerned that the Galaxy S23 won't do enough to outmatch the devices that come out after it in 2023.
OnePlus has rapidly improved its camera systems and battery life. Google has gone full steam ahead with its Tensor chips, AI/machine learning, and computational photography — all for very affordable prices. In contrast, Samsung looks like a relic with two-thirds of its flagship portfolio. The Galaxy S23 has a steep hill to climb to match what is already available.
In recent years, Samsung has thrown most, if not all, of the Galaxy S advantages at the Ultra series, leaving the regular and Plus models with scraps. The Galaxy S20, Galaxy S21, and Galaxy S22 were are all milquetoast — good phones, but far from exciting. I fear the same will hold true for the Galaxy S23 in a few months.
I base this concern on the relative lack of rumors and leaks we've seen for the Galaxy S23. Most of the industry's focus has centered on what to expect from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, with a rumored 200MP main camera, vastly improved night photography, and continued S Pen support leading the likely features.
In contrast, we've only heard rumors of some slight design changes to the Galaxy S23 as well as a report that the front-facing camera could get a bump to 12MP, up from 10MP. Obviously, I expect the yet-to-be-announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset onboard, which itself could add some excitement to the Galaxy S23.
Not only do we expect a boost in raw CPU power, but many think Qualcomm will vastly improve the GPU. That could make the Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23 Ultra really strong gaming phones. Plus, who knows what AI advancements Qualcomm has made in the last year? With beefed-up AI features thanks to its new chipset, the Galaxy S23 could be a lot smarter than its forebears.
Still, I worry the Galaxy S23 will be boring. Is that a bad thing? Not on its own. We've had plenty of boring phones lately that have nonetheless earned solid recommendations from us here at Tom's Guide. But I miss the days where a new Samsung phone launch inspired excitement and awe for what the company would do next — and that means all of the announced devices, not just the top-of-the-line model.
The Galaxy S23 will no doubt be good, perhaps landing among the best Android phones of the year. But I can't help but wonder if it'll be more like the iPhone 14 — a handset that simply draws cursory attention instead of the spectacle that all Galaxy S phones once had.