Samsung Galaxy S23 was priced starting Rs 79,999 in India. (Image credit: Nandini Yadav)
The best compact Android flagship smartphone so far
- The Galaxy S23 is a great overall daily driver.
- Battery performance is passable with maximum runtime of a day and a half on full charge.
- Its camera isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good for users who primarily use it for social media.
Ever since I saw the Galaxy S23 series phones at the Samsung pre-launch briefing in Bengaluru, my heart’s been set on the vanilla S23 variant. While I got mere minutes with the phone at the event, I was convinced I want not the S23 Ultra (review) with all the bells and whistles, not the Plus variant with the bigger battery and display, but the most basic model of the three –– and this tenacity is primarily owed to the the form factor of the device.
After a very long time, Samsung has released a phone with such a compact body. The last time we saw such a design was on the Galaxy S10e. As of today, the most accurate comparison of the S23’s form factor would be to the iPhone vanilla variants. In fact, barring the slight curves on the edges of the phone, if you hold the iPhone 14 and Galaxy S23 in each of your hands (with your eyes shut) you can’t quickly tell which one is which.
Besides the size, it also helps that the phone is very light. If you slide it into a trouser pocket, you don’t actually feel the weight. Not to be completely shameless, but most phones can drag your trousers down with their weight if they aren’t tight enough, and if they are too tight, then the phones create that ugly bulge under the pocket!
Honestly, the Galaxy S23 reminds me of the beautiful times about half a decade ago when the tech industry was moving towards compact, light and thin form factors for the phones. All the while, Samsung has also maintained all the latest specifications and performance expectations from a flagship smartphone.
The only design flaw the Galaxy S23 has is the camera bulge, which is so big, that when you place the device on its back, and tap on the screen, it wobbles on one side. That can probably be fixed with a phone case, but it’s still not fun for people who like to use a phone without a case.
As for performance, the Galaxy S23 is near-flawless. I have been using it for close to 12 days, and not once have I faced issues with the day-to-day activity on the device. It’s super responsive, and keeps up pretty well with multitasking. While I am not much of a mobile gamer, I did try out some light simulation idle games like Cats & Soup, some casual games like Hill Climb Racing and a more intense Diablo Immortal. I didn’t experience any device heating up issues, frame drops or lags during the test.
That nifty performance feels more effective with that AMOLED display on the S23. It produces great colours and has pretty wide viewing angles. Adaptive brightness has also improved on the device for it doesn’t go blindingly bright in low light anymore –– a problem I have faced in previous generation Samsung phones.
When it comes to cameras, Samsung is one of the popular choices for people who are looking to use their phones heavily for photography. But here’s something I need to tell you before we go deeper into the camera performance of the Galaxy S23: If you are looking for some Ultra-level astrophotography and trail videos kind of performance from S23, you will be properly disappointed. Video stabilisation and feature control on S23 are definitely not the best, however, if you are looking to just document your days on social media, creating videos in well-lit settings, you will mostly enjoy the Galaxy S23 camera.
In fact, in daylight and well-lit spaces, the Galaxy S23 camera performs really well overall. The portraits, selfies, videos are all A1.
Samsung is known for its ultra wide-angle cameras on its flagship phones and the Galaxy S23 also delivers great 12 MP ultrawide shots. The UW images are detailed, with proficiently cleaned noise, and good contrast and dynamic range.
While the rear camera module is pretty much the same as last year’s Galaxy S22, the front camera has been upgraded to 12 MP. The selfie camera performance is surely better and produces slightly-saturated but good, noiseless pictures.
The problem comes in low-light settings, or in rooms with bright yellow lights. In the picture below, you can see how the overall background and colours in the image are great, however, the camera is stressing on warmer tones on the skin –– but this is quite typical of Samsung cameras. With the new Galaxy S23 series, there is a workaround to these overly saturated images; you can take images in the ExpertRAW mode, which is now built into the camera app.
In darker settings, the auto night mode kicks in, and takes decent pictures of a stationary subject, however, the camera struggles to focus if your subject moves even a little.
You can see more images and videos clicked on the Galaxy S23 here.
Now for the battery performance of the phone, which honestly has never been Samsung’s strong suit, the Galaxy S23’s is also just passable. On regular usage of social media apps and work apps, the phone’s battery lasted me just about a day. On weekends, when my screen time drops dramatically, then the phone does go about a day and a half or so. The S23 does support fast charging and can fuel up to 100 percent from zero in about 40-45 minutes.
However, despite these little shortcomings in camera and battery, I would stand my ground on the Galaxy S23 being a near-perfect phone, and here’s why I say that:
-For an average user, the Galaxy S23 ticks all the right boxes, including good performance, about a day’s battery, decent camera, and a comfortable and practical form factor
-If you are looking for something more high-end in terms of specs within the series, then the S23+ is a bit awkwardly placed, with only slight improvements over the vanilla model, which means, your next best option would be the S23 Ultra, which is also priced over Rs 50,000 extra.
-I think the S23 is the best compact Android flagship smartphone in the market right now.
But the real question still is if you should buy it! So, here’s the thing, if you are looking for an alternative, within the Android world, with slight compromises the OnePlus 11 is a great option, and is significantly cheaper –– around Rs 23,000.
However, if you wish to stay within the Samsung family, I sincerely suggest you look at the Galaxy S22, which comes with a similar camera system, display, an almost similar design, but a slightly worse battery performance. Essentially, over the S22, the primary improvements you see on the S23 are limited to the improvements in the front camera –– which is now 12 MP in the latter –– a lighter and more compact design, slight changes to the camera module design at the rear, and a modest improvement in the battery capacity –– from 3590 mAh on S22 to 3900 mAh on S23. What makes the trade off worth it is the price tag with S22 priced at Rs 17,000 lesser than the S23, which starts at Rs 79,999.