Samsung's Galaxy S24 after the hype: Has my mind changed? And is AI a big deal?

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Living with the Galaxy S24
In the last few months of 2023, I had settled into a cozy and agreeable life with the iPhone 15. The reason for this has mostly to do with comfort. iOS grows on you and part of that is because it has embraced consistency rather than incessant change. But also, the iPhone 15 made big leaps in camera quality and it remains the best phone for video recording. And since I also prefer smaller phones, it's not like I had much of a choice (anything with a Plus, Max or Ultra in its name just won’t work for me).

But in the beginning of 2024, I started wondering: am I missing out on something?

Samsung is currently the only other company that makes a great compact phone, and it has a number of advantages over the iPhone. So I did not hesitate much and made the jump to the Galaxy S24. Not Plus, not Ultra, just S24.

After using it for a while, I have some thoughts (and some strong feelings). So let's dive deep and see how is the Galaxy S24 holding up a month after the launch, after the hype has settled down.

Build Quality



I still find it shocking how the Galaxy S24 looks almost exactly like a slightly older iPhone with those flat sides (the new iPhone models have slightly curved edges). I have both an iPhone 15 and the Galaxy on my desk and the similarity is striking. On a few occasions, I thought I was picking up my iPhone when it was in fact the Galaxy.

And I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I really like this design, but on the other hand, this just feels like Samsung copied the iPhone design and that feels wrong.

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This aside, I have had some issues with the build quality of the Galaxy S24, which I have not run into with iPhones so far. The bottom half of the power button on my Galaxy S24 has sunken, and I’m not even sure if this happened on day one or a few days after I purchased the phone. Whatever the case, this was a brand-new phone that needed repair from the very first days. Not good.

Another small thing I noticed is when you shake the phone, there is a part inside that’s rattling. This has got to be the camera, and it's not just the Galaxy, but Apple has somehow managed to skip that rattling noise.

There are also some things I like much better on the Galaxy. The phone is just a hair less wide than the iPhone, but I found this makes a noticeable difference for reachability and it is much easier to reach icons on the far end of the screen on the Galaxy.

It’s also not quite as slippery as the iPhone 15, so the chance of me dropping it is smaller. (Please, companies, just make a grippy phone, so we don't have to use ridiculous cases!)

Display



If you have seen the new glare-free screen of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, you already know that there is a new gold standard for smartphone displays and everyone has to catch up to it now.

That is why I was a bit disappointed to see the smaller Galaxy S24 does not have the Gorilla Glass Armor technology that makes the glare reductions possible, so yeah... the S24 it’s still just as reflective as other "normal" phones.

Samsung finally uses an LTPO screen that can go down to just 1Hz on the S24, but you don't really notice that and it should only slightly improve battery life. What you do notice are the slightly washed out colors (especially compared to previous Galaxy models). I prefer neutral colors, so I don't really mind, but I can see how this might be an issue for many people.

What I do mind is the change in color when you enable the Eye Comfort Shield function (aka the blue light filter). Colors just appear washed out and bleak with it! Samsung is promising to bring the option to have more vivid colors in an update, but I am not sure if it will address the issue with the Eye Comfort Shield.

Software and AI



My biggest concern when switching from the iPhone to the Galaxy S24 was the software. One UI has a bit of a reputation, but I was hoping to see it improved in the latest One UI 6.1 iteration on this phone.

The looks certainly have as everything is more streamlined and logical. Unfortunately, one big downside of One UI remains. Some apps just don't run smooth and it feels jerky. I was surprised to see that micro-stutter was noticeable in quite a few apps, and specifically Google apps. Scrolling through my YouTube feed, Google Discover or my Google Keep notes the micro-jitter would appear over and over again.

I am using the Exynos version of the Galaxy S24, so I cannot say if the Snapdragon-powered version is better, but I find that kind of stutter very disappointing on a 2024 flagship phone. And I also found it extremely odd that Samsung still defaults to button navigation rather than gesture navigation, which seems to be the industry standard for… everyone but Samsung.

Samsung’s gesture nav does not feel as refined and for example, when I tried switching between apps by swiping my thumb left and right, it simply would not work every time. And this is not some special magic that you only get on an iPhone. Most other Android phones I have tried have perfectly functioning gestures.

Good news is the Samsung keyboard has improved, now enhanced by the magical powers of AI. I was quite hyped about AI at the start, but after a few days the novelty wears off and I just don't chat with foreigners on a regular basis to need the live translate feature, but of course your mileage may vary.

The one AI feature I keep on using every day is the smart summary in the Samsung browser. It is absolutely brilliant!

Camera



The Galaxy S24 makes a big jump in camera quality, especially when you compare it to the previous generation, which had severe issues with oversharpening.

The zoom quality is also improved so much: dynamic range, colors and detail that were completely lost on the previous Galaxy S23 are now showing on the S24.

The S24 also remains the only mainstream compact phone that has a dedicated zoom camera, and it absolutely smokes the competition in terms of quality.

Portrait mode also works super well as subjects are separated almost perfectly from the background.

However, there are still some issues that need fixing. Photos captured on the ultra-wide camera, for example, still display severe oversharpening.



But my biggest issue is with the wild colors of night time images in general. Those photographs are often closer to creative paintings rather than reality: the night skies turn out a crazy inky blue color that has nothing to do with reality, the white balance is sometimes off, and greenery is also portrayed in unrealistic colors.

Other notes



I also wanted to mention a few other things that stood out to me.

The first one is the fingerprint scanner. It’s so much faster compared to older Galaxy phones! This is something subtle, but ultimately, it makes a big difference in real life use.

And then one disappointment: the loudspeaker quality.

It lacks depth and the lower frequencies are practically not there at all, and when I compared the speakers of the S24 to the Pixel 8 and iPhone 15, it was just not in the same league.

Final Words


This has turned out to be more of a critique, but that is mostly because of my very high expectations for this phone.

I really want to see a great smaller-sized phone, and the Galaxy S24 is one of very few such phones. Despite a few shortcomings, I am glad Samsung has improved a few key areas and that we now have a new contender for the titles of the best compact phone of 2024.

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