I review phones for a living — and the Galaxy S24 is the first truly great Samsung flagship I've tested

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy S24 in hand with the Circle to Search feature in use. The circle is half drawn.
(Image credit: Future)

Let's start by putting our cards on the table — Samsung's Galaxy S flagships have never really tickled my fancy. I can appreciate that past models have been high-quality phones, usually among the best Android phones out there. And my reviews of previous flagships have reflected that Galaxy S phones deliver on the key features that people look for in phones. But they've never really stirred my passions the way other phones have.

Yes, I'm an iPhone guy, having used Apple phones as my personal device for the past 16 years. But I can recognize a great Android phone, too, whether it's the great photos that Google's Pixel phones produce or the chances that OnePlus takes with its flagship. Heck, the Pixel 7a was my favorite phone to come out last year. But Galaxy S models? I could acknowledge their strengths without feeling particularly enthusiastic about them when people ask me which phones I recommend.

The Galaxy S24 changes that. This is certainly my favorite Samsung flagship of all the ones I've tested over the years. Expand things to include foldables as well as midrange devices — I was a big fan of the Galaxy A54 last year, too — and the S24 may prove to be one of my favorite Samsung phones ever.

So why the change in attitude? It's because the Galaxy S24 delivers strong value by nailing the most critical features in a smartphone while maintaining an affordable price compared to more expensive flagships.

Galaxy AI leads the way

Samsung galaxy s24 review

(Image credit: Future)

Yes, the Galaxy AI features Samsung has added help elevate the Galaxy S24 in my eyes. In my testing, Notes auto-formatting and summary features performed particularly well, and Circle to Search is already my favorite addition to the Galaxy's toolset. The best part of all is that these feature are pretty practical tools you'll use again and again — not just break out to show people once or twice before you forget all about them.

But it's also to Samsung's credit that the Galaxy AI features are available to every phone in the Galaxy S24 lineup, from the entry-level model all the way up to the $1,299 Galaxy S24 Ultra. That means you can get the same AI capabilities in a phone that costs $500 less than Samsung's premium model. It strikes a nice — and welcome — contrast to what Apple is doing with the iPhones lately by requiring you to pay up for a Pro model if you want the most interesting features.

But as I said in my Galaxy S24 review, a lot of Galaxy AI features remain works in progress. They'll likely get better over time, but at the the moment tools like Live Translate and Chat Assist are better in theory than in execution. What I also appreciate about the Galaxy S24 is that Samsung put in the work to make sure that less flashy features performed better than you might reasonably expect.

Beyond AI — where the Galaxy S24 excels

Samsung galaxy s24 review

(Image credit: Future)

Take battery life, an area where Samsung's compact flagships have struggled in recent years, as there's only so much space to fit in a large battery. Two years ago, the Galaxy S22 really struggled on our battery life test, and while the Galaxy S23 improved upon that result in 2023, it still finished only a little bit ahead of the average smartphone.

If you saw our Galaxy S24 battery test report, you'll know that this year's model made a big leap forward in terms of battery life. It lasted 13 hours and 28 minutes on our battery test, which involves having phones surf the internet over cellular until they run out of power. That's a 3-hour improvement over the Galaxy S23's time.

Much of the credit goes to the power management features of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset power the Galaxy S24 (at least for the phones released in North America). That same chipset also boosts the performance of Samsung's entry-level flagship to the point where it's even out-muscling the iPhone 15 on some key benchmark tests.

Throw in a brighter screen — the Galaxy S24's panel boasts the same 2,600-nit brightness as the one on both the Galaxy S24 Plus and Galaxy S24 — and the Galaxy S24 ticks the most important boxes of what I look for in a great phone. And Samsung kept the same $799 price as last year's model, bolstering the value proposition for the Galaxy S24. Even upgrading storage on the Galaxy S24 is cheaper than it would be with the iPhone 15.

Galaxy S24 outlook

It's early in the year yet, but the Galaxy S24 has set a high bar for other phones to top it during the remaining 11 months. But from my time with the S24, phone makers are going to have to bring their A-game if they want to beat Samsung's new phone on value.

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Philip Michaels

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.

  • prowler99
    What did you think of the dull washed out colors even in vivid mode? Thousands of users are complaining about s24, plus, and ultra models with the same problem all over social media yet none of the official reviews touch on this issue. Is your review sample on the AWM9 firmware or a preproduction different build?

  • HankBuck!
    The first truly great Samsung flagship phone? Good lord the Apple cult juice is a strong brew.
  • fivestringer
    After having owned a Pixel 5 for several years, I just switched to an S24. Bad move on my part!

    No review of a Samsung device is either complete or accurate without mentioning the incredible amount of bloatware. It never seems to end!

    Several observations on the S24:
    - Samsung camera app REQUIRES location permission or else it won't work. How stupid is that?
    - Most of the Samsung crap-ware cannot be uninstalled (by the normal user at least).
    - You made no mention of the now-infamous Samsung "Pending" download hangup at the Play store. Toggling wifi sometimes works, other times a reboot works, other times you just have to cancel and come back another day.

    I agree the photo editing AI feature is pretty nifty. I haven't done much with it yet, but, as you state, the best use of it is to delete people/objects. But really, can you see yourself using it on a regular basis?

    The cameras? Not really a whole lot to get excited about, certainly not enough to justify spending big bucks. If you want to take really good photos, get a real camera.

    To me it really seems like you were going out of your way to point out the gimmicks (yes, most of the stuff is nothing but gimmicks) without pointing out any of the significant drawbacks to this device.

    I will probably keep this thing for the next 2 years, then upgrade back to a Pixel device. No excessive bloat/crap-ware. Cameras may not be as good, but that's what I've got my digital Canon for - to take real photos. Does Google spy on you? - Of course, but at least you don't have to resort to a 3rd-party camera app to keep Samsung from tracking you. And why in the world would anyone seriously want or need a Samsung account? It's just an invitation to load more crapware on your device.

    I made a mistake getting the S24 - you can bet I'll never make that one again.