The Google Pixel 7 is one of my favorite phones right now, easily one of the best Android phones you can buy. But the Samsung Galaxy S23 is right around the corner, and it's likely to be the Android phone to beat in 2023 since Samsung sets the pace.
But the current batch of rumors paints a Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus that strongly resemble their Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus predecessors. You can expect the obvious upgrades, like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, but the rumor mill isn't as excited for these two phones as it is for the more premium Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Ultimately, I think a lot of people will opt for the Galaxy S23 when it's time to buy one of Samsung's flagships, as it'll be the least expensive of the three S23 models. And with that, it'll go head-to-head with Google's Pixel 7, a $599 beast of a phone.
Samsung has its work cut out for it with the S23, even though we all know a bunch of people will likely opt for the Galaxy over the Pixel. That said, I think the Galaxy S23 needs to get the following right if it's going to surpass the Pixel 7.
This could be a topic all on its own, but Samsung has a long way to go to keep up with the Pixel 7's cameras. While I have little doubt that the Galaxy S23 Ultra will be a photography powerhouse, I have concerns about what to expect from the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus.
Rumors currently suggest that the cameras for the non-Ultra S23 models will remain rather similar. That's disappointing, as Google has top-tier camera hardware in the Pixel 7 with its 50MP main and 12MP ultrawide sensors. Megapixel count isn't everything, but Google also leverages its software prowess to great effect on the Pixel 7.
Can the Galaxy S23 keep up with its rumored 12MP main camera? We'll have to see. At least, Samsung can likely claim one major advantage over the Pixel 7 — a telephoto lens. The Galaxy S22 sported a 12MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom, and the S23 is likely to follow suit. The Pixel 7 uses just digital zoom, leaving the actual telephoto lens to the more expensive Pixel 7 Pro.
But zoom is situational, whereas the main camera does all the heavy lifting. If Samsung does stick with the 12MP sensor for the Galaxy S23, it's going to have to seriously adjust its post-processing algorithms to match the detail and dynamic range that Google has nearly mastered.
Neither the Galaxy S22 nor the Pixel 7 wowed me with their battery life. We test phone batteries by having them continuously reload web pages over a cellular connection until they die. Just under 10 hours is the average time for smartphones, and the Pixel 7 didn't come close to that. Neither did the Galaxy S22.
With a paltry 7 hours and 54 minutes when the display was set to its adaptive refresh rate, the Galaxy S22 did not set a good example starting off 2022. The Pixel 7 didn't finish things off well, either, with a result of 7 hours, 17 minutes.
The Galaxy S23 needs to get this right. Whether that's the more power-efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, some tweaks to the display efficiency, or adjustments in the software, the next Galaxy S doesn't need to do much to beat out the Pixel 7 here.
That said, I want to see the Galaxy S23 get much closer to a 10-hour result when we run our battery test.
For more years than I count — perhaps since the Galaxy S III — Samsung has had a reputation for throwing a ton of software features at you. The company has calmed down in recent years and reserves most of its out-there stuff for the Ultra and Galaxy Z phones.
I honestly do not expect any crazy software features for the Galaxy S23 or Galaxy S23 Plus. But the Pixel 7 sports a ton of nifty things that only a Pixel can do, like Call Screen, Direct My Call, Hold for Me, and Clear Calling. Guided Frame lets visually-impaired users take perfectly-framed selfies. The Recorder app on the Pixel is hands-down the best you can get with its accuracy and speaker delineation.
The Galaxy S23 needs to seriously impress us. Bixby is a far cry from Google Assistant, especially the smarter Assistant on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series. In contrast, the Galaxy S22's Phone app and voice typing are both incredibly basic.
On a software feature front, in fact, the Pixel 7 wipes the floor with the Galaxy S22. This is the area where I doubt Samsung will outdo Google. There's too much that the Galaxy S23 needs to do right here to even match the Pixel 7, let alone beat it.
Galaxy S23 outlook
When the Galaxy S23 launches — maybe in January if you believe the rumors — you can bet that we'll be comparing it to the Pixel 7 (as well as the iPhone 14, its other major competitor). I believe Samsung's phone will be great, full of impressive power and enhancements. Though I'm not excited for the S23 per se — that honor goes to the Galaxy S23 Ultra — it'll be an important device nonetheless given how many people are likely to buy it.
Funnily enough, I think that Samsung might close the gap with Google when it comes to cameras. Whether it's just the Ultra that manages that or it's all three models remains to be seen.
With a Galaxy S23 launch on tap for the start of 2023, the leaks should pick up between now and then. That, in turn, will help us all get a better idea of what to expect for Samsung's 2023 flagship smartphones.