iPhone 14 and Pixel 7 – respectable upgrades, but will the Galaxy S23 crush them? Here's why I'm excited for it, no matter what

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
iPhone 14 and Pixel 7 – respectable upgrades, but will the Galaxy S23 crush them?
We just recently reviewed the flippin' cool Motorola RAZR 2022, and a few months back – one of my favorite phones ever, and an absolute Android powerhouse – the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Whether you're a tech enthusiast or just a casual consumer, it's hard to deny that those phones, and all folding or dual-screen phones, are pretty exciting.

However, not everyone needs unique designs and major gimmicks to get excited; most smartphone users are just looking to upgrade for the sake of having the latest and greatest, most reliable flagship phone out there. And big brands like Apple, Google and Samsung are well aware of it.

Even despite this, we occasionally get more than just a standard annual upgrade with the usual better cameras and newer processors. Once in a blue moon, a brand will have the balls to shake things up even with its safest phones – the flagship series – which are normally least prone to major changes.

Did the iPhone 14 come swinging with exciting new upgrades? Did Google's Pixel 7? And what does Samsung have in store for us in the near future? Let's summarize what went down with Apple and Google's most recent flagships, and what's coming…

In Apple's own little realm, the iPhone 14 upgrades were actually significant – always-on display and no more notch, it's a Dynamic Island now

In the wonderful world of smartphone enthusiasts Apple is paradoxically known for being a huge innovator, and for being the least innovative major brand.

Like the political left and political right, there are no signs of peace on the matter, let alone the two sides getting on the same page of whether Apple is or isn't pushing any envelopes, so we'll just look at some recent, objective facts…

Since the iPhone X, Apple's iPhones have been rocking a notch. First ridiculed, then adopted by the competition, followed by everyone else moving onto holepunch selfie cameras, while Apple stubbornly kept it as an "iconic" design element of the iPhone. Which, for better or worse, it really was.

Notch aside, from a design standpoint, the iPhones went from having rounded corners to flat, starting with the iPhone 12, which I personally like a lot. Still, in recent years, Apple's annual upgrades were mostly minor, and mostly on the inside.

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And just when things started stagnating, lo and behold – the new iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max finally dropped the notch in favor of Apple's new marketing genius of a feature – the Dynamic Island. It's basically a horizontal cutout, holding the selfie camera and the Face ID array just like the notch did, except now it's animated!

Using clever interface trickery, the Dynamic Island does manage to shake the iPhone experience up a bit. Instead of Apple just quietly introducing it as just a generic, static holepunch, it managed to turn it from a downside into a selling point.

Because of how it was integrated into iOS, not just into the display as a piece of hardware, the Dynamic Island fluidly bounces while "taking in" or expanding your notifications. In some cases it even transforms into a status bar-like thing that can show icons, playback controls, and despite it being a cutout – it can react to touch. Pretty cool.

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Objectively – yes, it's just a holepunch with animations, but in the world of iPhones (and only in the world of iPhones) – it's kind of a big deal, and a notable 2022 change for both Apple's phones and iOS itself.

In addition, always-on display is finally a feature on the iPhone 14 Pro models! Sure, it's been a feature on many Android flagships since forever, but again – in Apple's own little realm, this is a big deal – a big, new, first-time feature. Not only that, but as usual, Apple made it just different enough from the competition, as to stand out.

Unlike how most Android manufacturers approach always-on display, Apple's iPhone actually keeps its entire display on, not just a few pixels – showing time, notifications, widgets, and a wallpaper, even. The phone is clever enough to shut off its screen only when it's sure that you're not looking at it – when inside a pocket, or upside-down flat on a table. And even with all that in mind, which we're reasonable to expect is taxing on the battery life, the phone can still easily last a full day.

We did an iPhone 14 Pro always-on display battery drain test, and discovered that despite keeping its display on for hours on end, the fact that it goes down to as little as 1Hz refresh rate really seems to help preserve the iPhone's already-excellent battery life.

So yeah, we have some (subjectively?) notable design and feature upgrades on the iPhone 14 Pro models. Were those more than we could've hoped for, or is Apple still slacking and trying to excite us with old "new" features, which the competition has offered for a long time?

Well, tell us in the comments how you feel about the iPhone 14 series, because I'm genuinely curious which direction the winds are blowing on that one.

In any case, let's move onto the Google Pixel 7 series, particularly the Pixel 7 Pro, and see if the search engine giant managed to surprise and excite us better, with its annual flagship upgrade…

The Pixel 7 is basically a (subjectively) worse-looking Pixel 6, with better specs, and one underrated gift from Google

Again – subjectively! I was a huge fan of how the Pixel 6 Pro looked – smooth, with rounded corners, a dual-tone back, and a sleek, unmistakably Pixel horizontal camera module. Fully blacked out, making it look like a futuristic pair of VR glasses or something like that.

Its successor, the 2022 Pixel 7 Pro, however, changes that sleek and pretty camera module for the worse, in my opinion. Most of it got chromed out, but Google surrounded the camera lenses in black cutouts, so now it doesn't look as clean, or as minimalist. In fact, in my opinion that camera module finish looks cheaper. It might not be obvious in photos, but it sure is when looking at this phone in real life. So, why did Google make this design change? Just to keep things fresh? If so, that's a fail from me.

In addition to that, which I consider a downgrade, there are no changes to the Pixel 7 Pro's design. But we do have some fun new camera features like 30x SuperRes Pro zoom on the Pro, Macro Focus mode, again on the Pro, an improved Magic Eraser feature, and a pretty cool Photo Unblur feature for making new and old photos sharper and clearer.

Google also introduced a big, new software feature, that I feel didn't get appreciated as much as it deserves. More accurately, it's a gift, and one that I'm very happy about – a free VPN by Google One, for all! Well, it's not available yet, but soon, says Google.

It's kind of a tech geek feature, not as eye-catchy as Apple's Dynamic Island, but Google could've made a bigger deal out of it, if the search engine giant had Apple's ability to create hype.

Because having a free, built-in VPN with your phone is a pretty big deal. If you're unaware – your internet provider can track where you go on the internet, what you search for, and more. Yes, your entire browser history, including all of those private things you'd probably want to keep to yourself.

Well, a VPN changes that, making it nearly impossible for anyone to know what you're doing online. Significantly higher web privacy!

And for Google, of all companies, to give us a free VPN with our new Pixel 7 phones – well, that's almost as epic as it is ironic. What's next, Facebook releasing an ad blocker?

What's the Galaxy S23 going to be like? Fingers crossed – we're in for a surprise! But either way…

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Note that this is a fan-made, unofficial Galaxy S23 Ultra trailer

The Galaxy S23 series is slated for release in February of 2023, which might seem far away, but that's actually just three months from now. Time sure flies, kids.

From the leaks and rumors we've accumulated about Samsung's new flagship, it's shaping up to be a traditional, minor spec upgrade. We'll keep our fingers crossed for surprises, though!

Most notable of the S23 upgrades we know about is the fact that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is going to feature a tremendous performance uplift from its predecessor. With a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and faster LPDDR5X DRAM, this stylus-packing multitasker's dream of a smartphone will be a heavy hitter in the Android world. A king to beat, and ironically, likely only to be overshadowed by Samsung's own Galaxy Z Fold 5.

Design-wise, the S23 series might be staying the same, though, as reputable leaker Ice Universe recently gave us a pretty concrete idea of what to expect – the Galaxy S23 will look a lot like the Galaxy S22.

In fact, he's saying that Samsung has widened the S23 series' screen bezels and made the phones bulkier over the S22 series, so it sounds like a "one step forward, two steps back" kind of thing, seemingly.

Are we getting bigger batteries or something? I'm personally always in favor of it, if that's what's up, but we'll just have to wait and see to be sure, right?

In any case, let's consider the following – I view the Galaxy S22 Ultra as one of the greatest mainstream flagship phones ever made. Unlike the iPhone 14 and Pixel 7, which did need to bring new features and upgrades to keep things exciting, I dare say the Ultra is already perfect, and so feature-packed, that there's arguably nothing left to bring.

Even if the Galaxy S23 Ultra is indeed a mere humble spec upgrade over its predecessor, it'll still have the amazing design we all know and love, with the beautifully minimalist back, and a handy S Pen stylus, conveniently stored inside the phone.

It's still going to pack a huge, nearly 7-inch 1440p AMOLED screen, and quad camera system with 8K video recording and 10x optical zoom!

It'll still have the best multitasking experience on any phone, and it'll still offer the best power user features, such as Samsung DeX, for using the Galaxy S23 Ultra as a full-blown desktop PC replacement! In fact, all Galaxy S23 phones will have those latter two features.

So I'm raising the question – should we even expect Samsung to strive for flagship changes, or are its flagships, particularly the Ultra, already amazing enough? I'd wager the answers are no, and yes, respectively. Meanwhile, Google and Apple still have a lot to bring to the table, before they can rest easy that their flagships are objectively perfect, and needn't be changed beyond the minor annual spec upgrades. But you tell me…

What do you think? Which phone upgrade are you most happy with – the iPhone 14, the Pixel 7, or are you mainly excited for the upcoming Galaxy S23 series?

Let us know – are you happy with how Apple, Google, and Samsung's newest (and upcoming, in the case of Samsung) flagships look? Are you happy with the features they brought or improved upon, or were you hoping for more?

And most of all – are you excited for the Galaxy S23 series, and do you agree that the Galaxy S23 Ultra will be the perfect flagship Android phone to get in 2023?

Or did the iPhone 14 or Pixel 7 steal your heart more so than Samsung's upcoming phones will, by the looks of it?

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