The Samsung Galaxy S23 misses out on true innovation

Samsung Galaxy S23 cameras up close
(Image credit: Future)

The star of the show at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2023 last week was clearly the Galaxy S23 Ultra model that brings a new 200MP main camera along with other boosts and upgrades. Trailing behind the Ultra, are the Galaxy S23 Plus and the Galaxy S23, neither of which saw much of the spotlight or significant new features. 

Not only do those phones miss out on the 200MP camera — they're making do with the 50MP sensor found on last year's Galaxy S22 — the S23 and S23 Plus seem to be on the short end of the innovation stick, with only a handful of upgrades.

While the rear cameras remain the same and there's no major design changes either, it would be unfair to say the Galaxy S23 brings nothing new to the table. Notably, Samsung has ditched Exynos for the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 custom chip that powers the phone. 

We had a chance to run some initial Galaxy S23 Ultra benchmarks, and it managed to top the Geekbench multicore results turned in by the A15 Bionic-powered iPhone 14. We would expect to see a similar result with the S23, even though the S23 Ultra model we've tested includes more RAM. 

The new Snapdragon chip is good news for the S23 in more ways than one. Unlike Apple with the iPhone 14 release, Samsung has given all its three new models the same silicon. This means that users will get essentially the same power out of the $1,199 Ultra and the cheaper $799 S23 phones.

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Lackluster innovations 

But I still can't get past how strikingly similar the Galaxy S23 is to its predecessor. As I mentioned earlier, the rear cameras are exactly the same in the two phones barring the usual improvements in low light photography and a new astro hyperlapse mode for capturing the stars over long periods of time. (We will have to test that to see if it works as advertised.) 

Samsung does not attempt to reinvent the wheel with design either and the S23 has very few aesthetic differences over the S22 this time. The new phone has got rid of the rectangular box around the cameras that we saw in the previous S22 model. 

Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S22

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As we note in our Galaxy S23 vs Galaxy S22 comparison, the display size and refresh rate are also the same. Besides the new chip, the other upgrades are so minute that they are underwhelming. The battery received a small bump in size up to 3,900 mAh from 3,700 mAh, and the front camera is now a 12MP lens instead of the 10MP one found on the S22.

Even the One UI 5.1 software that comes pre-loaded with the S23, has very few noteworthy features. One of them is Bixby Text Call that lets users reply to a caller with text messages and caller responses are translated to text as well. That is an extremely useful feature and we would have loved to see more like that on the phone. We wish Samsung had put some effort into giving us some AI-based features like Photo Unblur on the Google Pixel 7 series.

As Apple did with the its iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro launches, Samsung delivered more significant upgrades to its more premium phone — the Galaxy S23 Ultra in this case. As a result, the base Galaxy S23 model was left bereft of any head-turning novelties. Yes, the new S23 is better than the previous S22, but the differences are not groundbreaking enough for an existing S22 user to potentially switch to the S23 phone. It might be a different case for someone using the S21 or an older Galaxy model. (See our Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S21 comparison for a rundown of how those phones differ.)

It makes you wonder if there's a reason for phone makers to roll out new devices every year. Perhaps a better approach would be what Apple's done with the iPhone SE — spread out each new release so that when it does arrive, there really are true upgrades to be had.

After posting our Galaxy S23 hands-on, we're continuing to test Samsung's new phone to see who should upgrade to the new device and whether the phone maker truly delivered enough innovation with this release. So stay tuned to find out if there's more to the Galaxy S23 than meets the eye.

Sanjana Prakash
News Editor

Sanjana loves all things tech. From the latest phones, to quirky gadgets and the best deals, she's in sync with it all. Based in Atlanta, she is the news editor at Tom's Guide. Previously, she produced India's top technology show for NDTV and has been a tech news reporter on TV. Outside work, you can find her on a tennis court or sipping her favorite latte in instagrammable coffee shops in the city. Her work has appeared on NDTV Gadgets 360 and CNBC.